We’re back here on The Hour. Brian and Roger, the guys from Queen. They have the musical going on, but there’s a lot more going on with these guys as well. The interesting thing about the Queen concert when I heard you play was the part when you let Freddie Mercury sing.
BM: Ah yeah, on tape. Pretty important.
GS: It is, and it seemed very intentional…
BM: … and it had to be there.
GS: … and everybody wondered how was this gonna happen.
RT: I think we didn’t really think that it would work with anybody else singing Bohemian Rhapsody, so we threw the trickery. (laughter)
BM: Ah – it was a nice thing to do.
RT: It’s a good moment. It was a good moment every night.
GS: So the band plays, and as the band is playing, the vocals come in. There’s this big video screen and it’s Freddie Mercury singing it. It was…
BM: It was Freddie playing piano too, and the strange thing is that it felt like he was there. If I didn’t look up I could hear Roger playing.
RT: Yeah – I closed my eyes every night and it just felt like he was over there.
GS: I can’t begin to imagine the surreal feeling it must be for you, cos we all know him from the story of Queen, Freddie Mercury through what we saw in the papers and what we see live in the history of your band, but that’s your friend, that’s your life, that’s your band. I mean we’re just passed the 15 anniversary, it’s been…
RT: I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. He’s sort of part of our mental wallpaper really…
RT: … and I think we both think about him on a daily basis. Yeah.
RT: The music, you know, we had a whole life together, so…
BM: Yes. It’s like a family member really. That’s the way it feels. Feels good strange enough. You know, you, to a certain extent, I mean – you don’t get over it. It never becomes nice, but you get to a point where you realise the joy of it. You realise the fantastic times that we had and what he’s left us, and what we still share, in a sense. So we feel good about what we bring to the public of Freddie still.
GS: Freddie’s death, the tribute memorial, the concert you guys did this huge one – raised a lot of attention about awareness to AIDS issues, to HIV/AIDS issues. You are still involved with that? Is that right?
BM: Very much so, yeah,
RT: We run this charity called the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which continues to generate, you know, quite a lot of money towards AIDS help – mainly help, and research.
GS: How has it changed for you dealing with the subject 15 years into it, cos it was very … (inaudible) in those very early days?
BM: It was. It still needs saying though. People tend to think that “Oh, it’s done, it’s dealt with” but it’s not. It’s still there. It’s still rampant and yeah, we still think it’s worth kind of banging the fist about.
RT: Yeah, I mean the fact that people can actually exist with it now with the drugs now, but it’s still such a, it’s really you gotta get people before that, you know.
BM: And it’s not just in Africa. It is here, you know, and it can be one encounter, which can give it to you. So you gotta think about that.
GS: Absolutely. Are the you that look back on your career. Do you look back and go over it with a fine toothcomb? Do you think about things you’ve done? Are you those kinds of people?
RT: Try not to think some…. (laughter)
GS: But do you look back on what you’ve done and say, you know, “Wish that wasn’t in the books” or…?
BM: No. I think we – may be a couple of things. (laughter) But mainly, the funny thing is that you look back with a forgiving eye sometimes, cos I look back on me and I think, “That was kid”, you know and I forgive myself making those kinda errors.
GS: I mean the Sun City apartheid thing was big in Canada at the time and you guys took a lot of heat for that for playing.
BM: We did, yeah.
RT: We were well-intentioned but maybe slightly naïive.
BM: According to our own consciences and I think we did some good by being down there. I mean, that’s another subject, but I would defend that to the death. And recently we’ve done a lot of stuff with Nelson Mandela and he certainly didn’t have a problem with us. So, if people still do – fine. (chuckles) You know, we always act – you can only act according to your own conscience. You work things out as best as you can and…
RT: … (inaudible) mind – that’s okay.
BM: Mm. The fact that we played to a non-segregated audience at that time was quite a coupe actually, but people tend to forget that.
GS: When you look at today, there’s so many artists who are very politically charged and do get involved. Do you look back with the benefit of experience and say “Careful how you handle yourself”?
RT: I think it’s up to the individual to say that. I know Freddie was always completely against politicising and he used to say “We’re entertainers, and it’s all disposable”.
BM: And that’s a good viewpoint really. I mean it’s sense…
RT: I wouldn’t go that far, actually. Actually I don’t think it is disposable, you know. It’s lasted, but is it a good viewpoint though, in some ways.
BM: Music is what we’re about. We can take it all over the world regardless of race, colour or creed – something that we’re very proud of. But I, Roger and I both find, as we get older, we get drawn more into the political side. You have to. You start to feel things and you have to make a point. You feel some responsibility. So I guess we’re becoming slightly more political in, even in our music, probably.
GS: There’s stories streaking round that you might do a new record. Is that for real?
BM and RT: We are.
RT: We’ve started a record, yeah.
BM: Yeah, yeah. We went in the studio – just Roger and me and Paul Rodgers, actually, to begin with, just to test the water, see what happens. ‘Cos we’ve already tested it pretty good on stage and that works great – but to go in the studio. We went in almost unprepared as well deliberately. Just bounced ideas off each other and came up with some tracks, which I think are really great. They’re very different. They’re very unlike anything that we’ve done or that Paul’s done, actually. Quite …
RT: Quite spectacular. Went spectacularly well…
BM: Yeah, yeah.
RT: … you know.
GS: Is it like riding a bicycle? You just get back on?
BM: Yeah – I think so.
RT: Sort of.
BM: Yeah. (laughter) It’s a different bike though, you know. A different saddle height. It gets a little wobbly at first.
RT: Change bikes occasionally.
GS: And you know what the thing is too, and I guess that’s the audience expectations as when Freddie died, did they suspect you guys would make music anymore? They just figured that that was the end of Queen?
RT: Yeah – and so did we.
BM: Yes we did.
RT: In a way it just wouldn’t die.
RT: Wouldn’t lay down.
BM: Yeah, there’s something, which we did work all our lives – all our young lives – to put together, and it is something precious, and there is a precious legacy out there, which we’ve come to realise. It was good for us to take a break, I think. We had to stop making music, but we stopped making music together for a while, and I think we came back with a real good perspective and understanding of where we fit into the growth of rock in recent times and, you know, a certain humility and a certain enthusiasm for what we had – what we shared.
GS: Has that changed the way you guys related to each other? Experience.
RT: I dunno. You know, we’ve so many ups and downs over so many years…
RT: … It’s… I think with Brian and I sort of have a mutual respect that we probably didn’t always have, you know.
BM: That’s true. Roger, in the fights in the band, it was normally Roger and I who were at opposite ends. Everyone thinks that Freddie was difficult. Actually Freddie was great. He was a great diplomat.
RT: He was a great peacekeeper.
BM: Yeah. If ever Roger and I were at opposite ends of some kind of stick – some kind of bone of contention – yeah – I think we do have more understanding of each other now, Roger and I. We know that we disagree in certain areas but we have a respect.
RT: . . . There’s also more space, there’s only two of us, you know. (laughter)
GS: Absolutely. You still have great Queen song in your head – something that hasn’t been recorded yet?
RT: Oh I think we have some great new material – yeah I really do, actually. It’s been a long time but yeah.
BM: It’s gonna be good because next time we go out, we won’t be just nostalgia. We will be, this is what we are now.
GS: I was just going to ask, cos radio has changed so much – I talk to guys like David Bowie and guys like that and Alice Cooper and big legends can’t get their songs on the radio anymore…
GS: …Tom Petty. These guys have trouble getting new songs on the radio, so for you, people have you come in, interview you, loved that Queen, but will they play your new songs?
BM: They’ll probably play Bohemian Rhapsody, yeah. (laughter)
RT: I dunno. We get played a lot in England (cos I live there, I know that), but strangely enough I don’t hear The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and I wonder why cos they did some good records, you know.
RT: The radio seemed to put themselves in a box.
BM: It is odd. ‘Course, that may change too. See our musical’s gonna change that.
GS: Your musical will do it.
BM: It’s gonna change the world. Yeah.
GS: Nice to see you, man. Thanks for coming on the show.
BM: Thank you.