On the Spot … Neil Fairclough [Pre-2023 QAL tour]

Q+AL Europe 2017 tour (© Thilo Rahn)
Q+AL Europe 2017 tour (© Thilo Rahn)

Ahead of Queen + Adam Lambert’s European tour last year, bassist Neil Fairclough took part in a video interview with Dave Fordham that premiered at the 35th Official Queen Fan Club Convention in Lowestoft. The below adaptations from the summer 2023 fan club magazine were among questions Neil fielded from members (the full video interview is available exclusively at the official Brian May website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saB4IpYc4h0). For Dave’s exclusive interviews in the winter 2023 magazine with Tyler Warren and Steve Gregory [One Year of Love saxophonist], join the fan club now at www.queenworld.com.

– – – – – – – –

Dan Dunmore and Susyn Elise Duris: Having briefly inserted some of Queen’s deeper cuts into your bass solos over the years, which lesser-known Queen tracks would you add to the Q+AL setlist if the decision was down to you?

NF: Going back to my childhood, I’d love to do the Prophet’s Song. Most Queen fans love it, don’t they… and for all the right reasons – its great! When I went to see the Queen Extravaganza and they performed it, I was thrilled (I am a big QuEx fan!).

I’d love to do Millionaire Waltz, and even though it’s not a deep cut, Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy because Adam would be amazing at it.

I actually love Princes of the Universe and if we ever got a chance to do that then it would blow my mind – it’s such a fantastic track! Can you imagine it?!

Tyler [Warren] and I would also like to do Let Me Entertain You – Adam would be great on it and what an opener that would be. We keep quietly suggesting it, but don’t want to annoy people too much! We did once jam it with Brian and Roger in a soundcheck which was great.

Alex Dunmore: How are the setlists finalised and what songs have just missed out?

NF: What’s difficult about set lists is it’s not just that we have all these songs, it’s how they follow. There are times when they tried to shuffle things around and sometimes it doesn’t work or doesn’t feel right. There is a shape to the performance and they are very aware of that.

The problem is what do they leave out of the set list? The truth is that they have got so much that they need to play and it’s difficult for them as they don’t want people to feel like they are not hearing the stuff they expect. If you went to see them and they didn’t do Another One Bites the Dust, Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen etc, it would be odd. You have to remember that while there might be people who have seen them 14 times and wish they did a deep cut, there’s others that are at their first gig, so they have to be sensible about it.

One of my favourite memories is from 2012. Brian had the double neck he used briefly on Under Pressure (I think it weighed heavier than a tank!) and we played Long Away. I was blown away (I love A “Day at the Races”, it’s up there with my favourite Queen albums). And we did Tenement Funster – hearing Brian play the psychedelic part in the middle was amazing.

Q+AL America 2017 tour (© Thilo Rahn)
Q+AL America 2017 tour (© Thilo Rahn)

Alan Fordham: Did you feel ‘at home’ from the very first gig with Q+AL?

NF: Yeah, I did. Once we started to fire through the set a few times, I was comfortable with them [the band] and they were great with me. We all felt like a little family on stage… but I never let myself assume that that’s where it was going because in the music industry anything can happen. So it wasn’t really until 2016/2017 when we continued to do stuff that I felt even more comfortable in my position. But I was always made to feel welcome and they’ve always been lovely with me.

Keith Prentice: I look back to the first five or six Queen albums and still think the musicianship was outstanding from the start and the music ‘scores’ and lyrics appeared more complex compared to the latter part of the band’s career. So as a bass player/musician, what is your opinion and experience of the foregoing – are they trickier and more complex to rehearse and play?

NF: To a certain extent, yes – and with tracks like Killer Queen you’re not just playing three chords! I think all of those early songs were a different kind of composition and there might be more backing vocals going on too. But usually we are prepped so know what’s going on.

The song is king and for any tracks up to 1975–76 I’ll try and use the flatwound bass because that’s what John used, but it’s not always possible if we’re going from one song into another. In fact, John would sometimes play with a pick on songs compared to what he did in the 70s, like Now I’m Here where he originally played with his fingers but then with a pick on the Magic tour. And with other things like Under Pressure I always use a pick as it needs that hard edged sound.

Sarah Chapman: How much fun did you have making the birthday YouTube videos with Tyler Warren? And who edited them and how long did they take? They look and sound amazing – Rock It (Prime Jive) is so good!

NF: Opportunities like that during the pandemic were great because we weren’t doing anything else.

I can take no credit for any of the editing, only the playing. I would do my bit and film stuff and send to Tyler for him to do the heavy lifting!

I’d do my best to edit my video parts of what Tyler needed and give him little bits that he might want to use. I’d have ideas but the mixing is all Tyler and he’s so brilliant that it probably only took him a few days!

Tammy Sparks: You and Tyler covered so many deep cuts in summer 2021 for everyone’s birthday and for Brian after his heart attack. They were absolutely fantastic! Any chance those might make an appearance on tour?

NF: It would be great. I’d love to do any of the things we’ve done; it would be amazing wouldn’t it? I mean, Sail Away Sweet Sister and Prime Jive – they are great and people would love it.

Brian and Neil in the studio in 2015 (reproduced with permission of brianmay.com)
Brian and Neil in the studio in 2015 (reproduced with permission of brianmay.com)

Stephen Merton: If you could put your name to any creation that we’ve ever had, what would you choose? Could be a song, book, film, invention, medicine, anything – it’s yours and that is what you’d be credited with in history! 

NF: Good question Stephen! If it’s an invention beneficial to mankind, things like the toilet and sewage systems changed the world. And stuff like MRI scanners – amazing.

But I mean, Bohemian Rhapsody is just stunning isn’t it? I know we are all used to it as Queen fans but I was six when it came out and I remember seeing it and even at that age thinking it was amazing because it had so many sections to it. But I suppose Freddie was there first, as it’s his song!

– – – – – – – –

This article is © Dave Fordham and the Official International Queen Fan Club and is not to be reproduced without permission. Join the fan club at www.queenworld.com.

Many thanks to Thilo Rahn and brianmay.com/Jen Tunney for kind permission to reproduce images. Neil’s extended two-hour interview with Dave Fordham in a not-for-profit video by Dan Dunmore (in support of the Ronald McDonald House Charities) is exclusively available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saB4IpYc4h0

Check out Neil and Tyler’s videos at https://www.youtube.com/@TylerWarrenMusic and follow Neil on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/neilmfairclough/?hl=en. For more information on Neil’s band the Deccan Traps, visit www.thedeccantraps.com.