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Roger Taylor Talks About Solo Work, Queen in the ’70s: ‘We Were Just a Heavy Rock Band’ – Exclusive Interview by Matt Wardlaw October 21, 2014
For more than 40 years Roger Taylor has been the drummer behind the kit for Queen. And in that seat, he’s traveled the world many times over and been a part of nearly every magical musical experience a musician could hope to have. In that time, he also found time to dabble extensively in solo work, releasing albums under his own name and also with a separate band, the Cross.
Omnivore Recordings has collected material from all of his solo journeys in two new collections. ‘Best,’ which comes out on Oct. 27, collects 18 tracks — from Taylor’s 1977 solo debut single through ‘Fun on Earth,’ his 2013 solo album. The set will be available on both CD and vinyl with many of the tracks making their vinyl debut for the first time. ‘The Lot,’ meanwhile, offers a deeper dive and will be in stores on Nov. 10. It presents the entirety of Taylor’s solo output, spread across 12 CDs — including four discs of singles and remixes, plus a DVD of additional video content and a 64-page book.
Taylor spoke with Ultimate Classic Rock about the new releases, as well as his activities with Queen, both past and present.
Eight albums’ worth of work gives you a lot to choose from. How did you arrive at the final batch of material that we’re hearing on ‘Best’? What made each one of these songs really stick out in your mind?
Well, I wanted people’s opinions, really. So it’s been put together with what people seem to think ws the best, given the fact that I sort of vaguely agreed. So, I listened the other day in the car, as you do, and I thought it hung together pretty well. I don’t spend a lot of time listening to my stuff. You know, I find that you get so close to it when you’re making it. Then when you do this a few years later, it’s sometimes a nice surprise. So really, I think it’s a good bunch of tracks. They’re probably the more accessible tracks.
Then there’s the box set, which brings together all of your solo albums. From your end of things, what was involved in pulling it all together?
Well, it was just a great idea, and the record company was keen to do it — and I just thought, “well, how nice to get all of that stuff, bring it all out and get it all in one box.” For me, it’s great. You know, I’ve got several boxes of half of my life, and it’s amazing to just have it all there in one thing. It’s like tying up a bundle and making a neat [collection] of it. It’s great, so I feel I can move on now. [Laughs.]
Collections like this are nice, because often there’s stuff that’s been out of print.
That’s right! I think that some of it has been, and then it’s been back in and then it’s been out of print again. But you’re right, yeah, and there it is if you want it and it’s great. It’s really nice to have it all in a box. I’m very pleased with that. I have to tell you a funny story, we’ve been putting this box together for months, and I eventually get a finished box from the factory and in my huge excitement, I tear off the cellophane and open it up and there’s no CDs inside! [Laughs.] So there was a little manufacturing problem. I can imagine that you’ve paid this money for the box. and there’s nothing in it. But the book was in there! Anyway, we fixed it!
When you’re in a successful band like Queen and you start having these thoughts about doing some recordings on your own, how difficult is it to find the confidence to step outside of that normal world?
I guess the lead singing is the hardest thing to be confident about. It’s so subjective, and it’s also so innately you. We also had a hell of a lead singer, so that was tricky. But everybody in the band was always supportive of everybody else’s solo work. You know, we understood, if John [Deacon] wanted to go off, or Brian [May], or even Freddie [Mercury], and do something on their own? “Yeah, fine. Hey, good luck,” you know? And we used to play on each other’s solo stuff occasionally, as well. Freddie even sang on one of my tracks. So it was good; it was all friendly.
Queen has been out touring this year with Adam Lambert and folks have been really happy to get a chance to see the band in arenas again here in the U.S. What was it like for you, going back out on an extended tour?
It was about four months, because we went to Asia and Australia as well. I have to say, it was just great. You know, we got on so well with Adam. He fitted in so well with us and he brought so much to the show. [He’s a] great frontman and he looked great and he sings beautifully, and his style is very suited to our music. You know, it’s pretty theatrical music, some of our stuff. He’s the greatest. So, we really had a ball and I think it came over in the shows. They were very well attended and the reception that we got in every city was great. So, it was a really great experience and I’m thrilled. We’re going to go on and do Europe in January and February. It’s all good.
After the European run that you mentioned, what sort of thoughts have you all had? Do you want to record with Adam?
I think it would be great to do something, yeah. Not an album, probably. He’s got his own stuff to do, and that’s very much a priority for him. I think it would be very interesting, because his voice is so extraordinary and I think we could really do something great with it. I see no end to the possibility and the potential of Adam Lambert. He’s a fabulous performer, and I think it would be very interesting to do something with him.
There is a new Queen compilation coming out on November 10th called ‘Queen Forever.’ There are some interesting things on this set, including several unreleased tracks. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of getting those tracks ready for release?
Well, in a nutshell, Brian and I worked on the three tracks to get them ready. The track featuring Michael Jackson [‘There Must Be More To Life Than This’], which is an old Freddie song that he recorded with Michael, we had our version — which was a very stripped down version with alternating lines. Then we got our friend William Orbit to do, I guess, a more radio-friendly mix. He has some alternating verses, so it’s very different. They’re two very different versions. The version you’re going to hear on the album is William’s version. Another track, ‘Love Kills,’ was an old dance record, really, with Giorgio Moroder, which Freddie did as a solo [track]. But we all actually played on it at the time without telling anyone. That one, Brian had the idea of doing that one half-time and just completely replacing the instrumentation and really bringing a new sort of gravitas to the song, I think vastly improving it. It’s a beautiful vocal performance from Freddie.
The third track is an old Queen track [‘Let Me In Your Heart Again’] which we never really quite finished when we were recording ‘The Works’ in L.A. Brian and I just did a little more work on it, [added] a little bit of backing vocals and that track comes out great and you can hear the old Queen rhythm section in full swing on it and it sounds good to me!
I know that there was some other stuff that Freddie worked on with Michael. Did you guys look at those tracks too? We did, yeah. But we had to really go along with what Michael’s record company and his estate would release. So, we had talks with them and that’s what they would agree to.