As alerted previously, a Queen + Paul Rodgers interview features in a 3-page article in June’s Classic Rock (Issue 119, Velvet Revolver Cover) on sale April 30.
Starting on Page 50 the guys openly discuss new tracks including ‘C-lebrity’, ‘Say It’s Not True’, ‘Call Me’, ‘We Believe’, ‘Whole House Rocking’ and the inclusion of a cover version (‘Runaway’, originally a hit for Del Shannon), which will not now feature on the album, but used at some point as part of the new album promotion.
Other points covered included where the album was recorded, using the Queen name, John Deacon’s involvement, the loss of Freddie, the new tour and that “this is probably the most rocking album Queen has made so far… there are also some beautiful, laid back moments”.
There will also be an ‘In The Studio’ interview in the forthcoming Rolling Stone magazine out 2 May.
CLASSIC ROCK JUNE 2008 page 50
Transcribed by Jen Tunney
WE WILL ROCK YOU
In a world exclusive for Classic Rock, we talk to all members of Queen + Paul Rodgers about their brand-new studio album, their recent tour and what they think Freddie would make of it all. Words: Dave Ling
Not even Freddie Mercury’s tragic passing in November 1991 could spell the end of Queen. Four years later, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor issued Mercury’s final recordings. With global sales of 20 million-plus, Made In Heaven became Queen’s biggest-selling studio album. Clearly, Queen were too huge to die.
George Michael was among the stars who sang with the band at the Freddie Mercury Tribute show at Wembley Stadium in 1992, and a live version of Somebody To Love with Michael brought the band another hit, while various other collections, concert releases, collaborations and guest appearances fanned the flames. Then in late 2004 former Free/Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers jammed with May and Taylor on Free’s All Right Now and the Queen standards We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions at the UK Music Hall Of Fame. The resulting band, dubbed Queen + Paul Rodgers, were later seen by more than a million fans on a worldwide tour.
A few days after the appearance on the TV show Al Murray’s Happy Hour, May, Taylor and Rodgers granted Classic Rock this world exclusive interview in which they explain how the tour’s success convinced them it was OK to go back into the studio for Queen’s first new album in 13 years, and why they’re hitting the road again in September.
The three of you have more than 50 albums and around 300 million sales to your collective name, but this new record is sure to be the most scrutinized of them all.
Taylor: I hope so; the worst thing on earth would be for it come out with a whimper. For me, it’s very important to prove that we are still a creative entity. We’re a working band with something to offer, not just the old hits.
May: I’m okay with the levels of expectation. That’s life. We’re confident that what we’re planning put in front of people is good enough.
Roger, you were apparently the guy that was most gung-ho for this latest bout of activity.
Taylor: Yes. Brian is always the reluctant one, but when he gets there, he ends up loving it. With his astronomy and other commitments he has an awful lot in his life, whereas for me everything else is peripheral to the music.
May: Roger was definitely the driving force in making this happen. He wanted to get back on the road somehow. Because I knew we could never replace Freddie, I’d almost said goodbye to it in my mind. But professionally and personally it’s working out as well as I could have hoped.
How was the new music written? Did you break things down into teams?
Taylor: Not at all. Whoever had a song on the day, that’s what we recorded. Paul works in a completely different way to us. Brian and I go to incredible lengths to get things right. He’d never met two pickier, fussier individuals. We even ended up teaching him how to sing harmony vocals, which he’d never done before, but we learned from his spontaneity.
Will these new songs still sound like Queen on the radio?
Taylor: Very much so. Of course it’s not Queen with Freddie Mercury, but everyone knows that. To make music again with Freddie would’ve been a bit tricky . . . but Paul gives us a wonderful blues edge.
May: Yes, it rocks more than you might expect but it also has a lot of joy. There are lots of little conversations going on in the music, which is something rare in these increasingly calculated days.
Rodgers: Experiencing the creation of those beautiful block harmonies of theirs was incredible but sometimes I picked up an acoustic and we would just jam, so there’s also moments of delightful intimacy.
Will you give us a hint at the title?
May: Our working title has been The Cosmos Rocks. Because it’s such a fun album, we’ll probably end up going with that.
Is C-lebrity, the song that you played for Al Murray a dig at Pop Idol and Big Brother?
Taylor: It’s to do with the phenomenon of celebrity culture; the desperation to get your face on the telly. The assumption that if somebody becomes famous they’ll also be rich is so naive. It annoys me that there are so many famous, useless people.
Is obsessive fandom of Queen just anther facet of Al Murray’s been-swilling, xenophobic Pub Landlord character?
Taylor: No. Al’s nothing like that in real life, but he actually does love the band. He’s also a lot thinner and better looking without his blazer and tie.
Rodgers: I hate to tarnish Al’s reputation but he’s actually an Oxford graduate who works with kids in Cambodia. He’s a real sweet guy.
Can you tell us about other songs?
May: I won’t say which, but we’re toying with including a cover song from the 1950s. There’s one called Whole House Rocking, which is fairly basic and jolly. Paul has contributed some lovely stuff that people might compare to our Sheer Heart Attack days, including a great little ditty titled Call Me. I won’t say it’s like Killer Queen but it has that same lightness. There’s also another called We Believe, which is fairly upbeat.
Taylor: We’ve also re-recorded Say It’s Not True, the one we did as a free download for Nelson Mandela [and his World AIDS Day in 2007], but it now has all three of us singing the verses, and it gets massively heavy at the end. In fact, this is probably the most rocking album Queen has made so far, though there are also some beautiful, laid-back moments.
In the grand old tradition of I’m In Love With My Car, from 1975’s A Night At The Opera, is there a Roger lead vocal on the album?
Taylor: I do a bit of that. Brian and I sing on the album and we will be heard, but it’s so hard to top Paul.
Where was the album recorded?
Taylor: At my own studio, somewhere in the depths of Surrey. Everything you hear was put down in the old-fashioned way.
Are you ready for the negativity that inevitably accompanies the adulation?
Taylor: We know some people will moan, ‘Oh, Fred’s not on it . . .’ Of course he’s not, you dickhead. If they want to know why we’re bothering to do this, it’s because we’re still alive. It’s quite simple. If they don’t like it, just don’t buy the record or come to the show.
Queen find themselves in the same situation as Led Zeppelin. Some will cry ‘blasphemy!’, but that won’t stop you.
May: There are parallels with Zeppelin, and I know they wrestled with their own dilemma. In the end what you must do is based upon instinct and logic, and how you feel about your work.
Rodgers: I was just as wary of calling it Queen as much as anyone else. At first I thought we would use May-Taylor-Rodgers, almost like Crosby, Stills & Nash. But the charge of playing together convinced us it was right.
Taylor: That purist attitude is so stupid. Led Zeppelin were correct to do their show at the O2. I was there, it was great. Okay, one of our beloved band members isn’t here any more, but what do we do about that? Do we all die? No, life goes on.
Paul, in touring without you, the reunited Bad Company find themselves in a quandary not dissimilar to that of Queen.
Rodgers: [slightly testily] Well legally they’re not really Bad Company. [Mick Ralphs and company are using the name X-Com], and I’d rather not talk about that.
Personally speaking, I was a dissenter until witnessing the Queen + Paul Rodgers concert at Hyde Park in July 2005.
Taylor: We didn’t know we were doing the right thing until the tour started in earnest. Then it got better and better, and by the time the American dates ended that decision had been vindicated.
May: Hyde Park was a fantastic day, though of course it nearly didn’t happen [the 7/7 bombings forced the show to be delayed by a week], though in a strange way that almost gave proceedings an extra edge.
Paul, how daunting was it to sing Bohemian Rhapsody – a song so famous it now has its own shorthand of Bo-Rhap?
Rodgers: Well, Brian had the great idea of turning it into a tribute to Freddie. We went from footage [on the video screen] into the band playing live; with me doing what amounted to a semi-duet with Freddie. It was a really nice coming-together.
Was the audience response on the tour responsible for the decision to make an album?
May: Partly, yes. Reaction-wise there were nights when I thought, ‘Gosh, this is the equal of anything in the past’. It was utterly ecstatic.
As a quarter of the original band, did someone phone John Deacon and ask whether he’d like to be involved?
Taylor: John’s welcome, but if you call him, you don’t always get an answer. Nobody knows where he is or what he’s doing. He doesn’t really like people. He sent a message when our musical We Will Rock You launched in the West End saying that he approved of everything we were doing.
So no-one’s heard from Deacon since 2002?
Taylor: John’s turned into a bit of a recluse, and if that’s what he wants then who are we to pressurise him?
May [chuckling]: He accepts the odd cheque now and again, but we respect the decisions he made about his life’s path.
When do you expect the album to be released?
May: We’re aiming for September.
Brian, you apologised via your website for the fact that the tour doesn’t pass too closely by everyone’s armchair.
May [laughing]: In a tongue in cheek way, yes. People don’t realize that you can’t always get the halls you want. And of course, the fans can also travel. We’re doing our fair share of that.
The million-dollar question is whether Freddie would like what you’ve done?
Taylor: Emphatically so. They had very different styles but he always idolized Paul. Fred would love what we’re doing, and had he still been around, would undoubtedly want to have been involved.
Rodgers: Freddie will be looking down with approval. The beautiful Queen organization was sitting there, ready to go. All it needed was a singer to drop into place. Fortunately, it turned out to be me.
May: I’m still very close to Freddie’s way of thinking. When he was alive sometimes Freddie would say, ‘For Christ’s sake, Brian, are you trying to make me sing like Paul Rodgers?’ And in the studio we sometimes asked ourselves, ‘What would Fred do here?’ For all their differences those two have lots of similarities. Paul is secretly enjoying his moments of being a showbiz animal. He’s from Middlesborough, but we might even get him into a leotard yet!