QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS TOUR 2005

Q CLASSIC
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Q CLASSIC: STONE COLD CRAZY
BRIAN MAY INTERVIEW
PART 4

THE STRAIN OF always being away on tour was reputedly one of the reasons why Brian's marriage to his first wife, Chrissie, ended in divorce. Queen had ceased touring when, in the late-'80s, May met his current partner, former EastEnders actress Anita Dobson.

 

MW: How worried are you about the likely impact of this tour on your home life?

BM: The only thing that I'm worried about this tour is what it's going to do to my home life. Is it going to go back to those days of getting disconnected? I actually have a home life now and it's going to take some work… It's a seven-week tour in Europe, then maybe a little bit in the summer, and then I would guess seven or eight weeks in the States in the Autumn. That's the plan… Of course, America's a very serious thing in terms of time spent, because you can't nip back home from the States.

Elton John once said of Queen without Freddie Mercury that "for May, Deacon and Taylor, it must be like keeping a fabulous Ferrari in the garage and not being able to drive". There must be part of you that simply can't wait to get back out there?

Yes, there is. It's incredible what happened to us when we lost Freddie. Apart from the grief of losing someone so close, suddenly your whole way of life is destroyed. All that you have tried to build up for the last 20 years is gone. And it has been very strange for us. Very frustrating. You look at the Tokyo Dome and in the old days you would think, Yeah, maybe we'll play there next year. Now there's this huge vacuum in your life. Roger's toured on his own. I've toured on my own, and I put a lot of work into that. But it was never Queen.

So having run away from it and actually having built a good life… there is always that feeling of: there it is and why is it that we can do nothing with it? I'm aware of what people are saying. How could they? How could Paul Rodgers do this? How could Queen do this? Basically, it's just a bunch of guys who want to make music as they have wanted to do all their lives. That's the beginning and the end of it. We want to get out and make some great music and hopefully people will enjoy it?

What's your take on The Darkness?

I like The Darkness and I'm very much looking forward to that second album [currently being made with Queen's old producer Roy Thomas Baker]. Strangely enough, I don't think they're that much like Queen. I know the singer wears leotards, and I'm very happy that they like us and quote us as an influence, but they have their own thing, they're not an imitation of anything.

They have a great connection with their audience live and there's a great honesty in it, and I think that's a feature of many great performers. The Darkness let you into their hearts and that disarms you… And the fact that they don't take themselves totally seriously is great.

Do you think they would have brought a smile to Freddie's face?

Absolutely, yeah. Freddie would have loved them instantly, as I did. I totally love those guys. Anything I can ever do, I will do, if they ever need any help…

If Freddie hadn't died, could you have seen Queen continuing into the next century?

Yes. I think we would have carried on. We would have all kept doing our solo projects and we were well able to do that as the time went on. But we would have always stayed as a unit.

What about before Freddie became ill: how close did Queen come to splitting up then? The most famous story has you leaving the band during the making of The Game album in 1980.

Yes, we all walked out at various times. You get hard times, as in any relationship. We definitely did. But it was usually in the studio, never on tour. On tour you always have a clear, common aim. But in the studio you're all pulling in different directions and it can be very frustrating. You only get 25 per cent of your own way at the best of times.

Can you expand on the root cause of those arguments?

Music - almost always. That feeling that you're not being represented, that you're not being heard. Because that's one of the things about being a musician, you want your ideas to be out there. It was a difficult compromise to find but always worth finding once you did find it.

How true is it that Freddie and John Deacon were the ones pushing Queen into the funk-disco direction with singles such as Another One Bites The Dust, while yourself and Roger were the once urging the band back towards more traditional rock?

That's an interesting question. I don' t know how far to take it… Freddie and John definitely shared an interest in exploring that funk direction, if you can call it that. And, yes, for Roger and I, it was more instinctive to pursue the rock direction. But it wasn't to the point of causing a schism, we were always into trying each other's ideas out. Though I remember Roger's first reaction to Another One Bites The Dust, which was unprintable! [Laughs] But he got into it in the end. And I did. I make no apologies for the Hot Space album now. It took me a while to get into that philosophy of sparseness but it was very good for us, it was a good discipline and it got us out of a rut and into a new place.

Isn't that what made Queen different though? That ability to be more than just a rock band? Even Led Zeppelin, who tinkered with everything from folk to reggae, never thought of introducing opera into the mix…

It's true that to us there were no boundaries. Alongside trying to never tread the same ground twice, there was always this great challenge of how far we can push things?

There's a received wisdom that the change in Queen's musical direction in the early '80s, allied to Freddie's change of image to short-haired, moustachioed pop diva, was what scuppered the band's career in America. How close to the truth is that?

I think there's a grain of truth in that but there was a lot more going on. One was the video for I Want To Break Free. We're talking about a bit later on [in April 1984], but I know that that was received with horror in most of America. They just didn't get the joke. To them it was boys dressing up as girls and that was unthinkable, especially for a rock band. I was in some of those US TV stations when they got the video and a lot of them refused to play it. They were visibly embarrassed about having to deal with it. [Laughs]

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