Queen Online: Nick Weymouth Interview
Your first job with Queen. How did it come about, and what were your initial thoughts on who you found yourself working for? Who did you meet first and what were your first impressions of them?
Once I got the job, my first Queen related meeting was actually in a Costa Coffee! Not at all rock n' roll and not how I had imagined it, no big record company board room, or in a recording studio or some huge rock star mansion - nope, huddled around a small table that did not have enough room for all of us. It was with Jim Beach, Phil Symes, Richard Gray, Ant Cauchi (head of Outside Line) and maybe one other guy from EMI. I think it was about the QOL online store and a few extra bits, including selecting images for a gallery for the 10th Anniversary of Freddie's passing. It was September 2001.
With regard to the band...Brian came in to see us a few weeks later about some design aspect of one of the old sites and then I met Roger when Outside Line worked on the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert DVD. I had to take down an early version of it to a studio and sit through the playback and take notes on any amendments they wanted. It was cool, they were friendly and just very comfortable to be around, it is surprising how quickly I forgot who they are and what they had done and that was the beauty of it, you have a job to do after all.
How did your career path lead you to Outside Line and Queen? Was it always a goal of yours to work on publicity or have you fallen into this position through other skills?
Always wanted to work in the music industry in some capacity and it has been down to knowing people, studying, gaining work experience and, I guess, making myself useful. I studied Music Industry Management at Bucks College in High Wycombe between 1995-1998, it was a joke of a course in which the students knew more about the industry than those teaching. However, during that time I gained work experience at the Tip Sheet (then run by Jonathan King...hmm), watched loads of bands, spent all my money on CDs and beer (and wasted the rest!) and made many great friends, four of which were in a band at the time and I became the unofficial fifth member. One of the guys, Ant, went on to work at EMI and then set up Outside Line, who I joined in 2001. Before that I worked all across the industry in records stores, at live shows, the odd day here and there at Essex Radio, the PPL (the Performance royalty organisation), then I worked at peoplesound.com, which was about selling new music via the web.
I ended up at a company called e-channels, providing content for other sites and I oversaw the music content. I would write reviews, source video material and interview bands all week, I used to walk in every morning to packages and packages of CDs...they were good days. Best interview I ever did was with David Coverdale, a complete master. We got on great. I had 15 minutes with him, but he gave me 45, he was such a great guy, total respect for him. The worst interview was Ocean Colour Scene. I was there last interview, they were bored and I was promised the whole band, but only two turned up and then one went off to look at his scooter or something, I was never that into them anyway....
Obviously you were aware of their music, but did you own any Queen or solo albums at that time? If not, did you quickly warm to them?
I was a Greatest Hits 1 and 2 man, plus I had A Night At The Opera - I have this thing about having a 'best of' or 'greatest hits' of a particular artist and also the need to have the 'vital' studio album from their catalogue and this was the case at the time. My first day was actually 9/11, so as you can imagine not a lot of work was done that day, but I did manage to get on the phone to EMI and order a copy of every album by the band. I did know a fair bit about the band and had always taken an interest in them, but never took a deep dive - this was my chance. The next few weeks was all about listening and funnily enough I ended up making a couple of what we would now call 'Deep Cuts' albums. I must admit I chuckled a bit at the Hot Space album cover and was almost spat my drink out when I started listen too it...thing is, I actually really liked it, but I just couldn’t get my head around it - This was Queen?!
What's your proudest moment, Queen-wise, so far?
Personally, The Freddie Mercury 60th Birthday party at The Dominion was all down to me pretty much. Jim Beach let me run with it and I think it turned out really well. Getting BM and RT to play at the end, getting Ben Elton to make some Freddie like changes to the script, introducing a new screen to mention Freddie’s birthday at the start of the show (when I saw they had spelt Freddie with a 'y' I leapt from my seat looking to kill) hiring the glitter cannon, ordering balloons, conducting interviews with fans, encouraging all those attending to dress up, looking into special edition programmes - it was all a bit manic and part of the Lover Of Life, Singer Of Songs release period, but it is something that I was rather pleased with. Other bits that were down to me in part are the 'Let Me Live' wrist bands and the Q+PR live downloads in 2005/2006, plus I really pushed for bonus material on these re-issues and I am part of the team that expanded and developed the Freddie For A Day initiative.
The other moment that made me beam with pride was when I saw the first Q+PR show in South Africa. OK, it had nothing to do with me but having the connection and working with the band it made me feel proud - like a moment I had always been working towards with my time around the band. The anticipation amongst those in the Queen team who were working at the show was pretty HUGE. As time drew nearer, band family and friends all made their way to the pit near the walkway, took our positions and BAM! - 'Tie Your Mother Down'! It kicked my ass and rattled the senses. It was not their best show, but was a moment and all of us were just beaming and looking up at the boys from our positions with full support - just egging them on. You know that shiver you get... I have it now just thinking about it.
What's your favourite piece of product?
My favourite release in my time working with the band is probably On Fire At The Bowl. To me it was a slightly off centre release (i.e. The Hot Space Tour) which I really liked. Sure it was packed with hits too, but was not the most obvious of choices. It has a cool feel about the way it was shot, almost an eerie atmosphere in places, but contains the most stunning version of 'Somebody To Love' - the release was worth it for that alone.
Other releases that got me excited were the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert DVD (I remember being glued to the TV screen - huge Guns N' Roses fan at the time) and The Cosmos Rocks (when I got sent the streams to listen too, I literally locked myself away in a meeting room). And We Will Rock You, I saw a few rehearsals (one which included Tie Your Mother Down, which obviously didn't make it) and it was so cool to see it take shape...plus attending the premiere and the after-show party was rather special, particular when I had Elaine Paige on one arm and Lesley Joseph on the other, dancing to the Stones 'Start Me Up'....one very funny evening.
What's your favourite non-Queen bands/artists, and pieces of music?
The Stones. I love the Stones. I adore them. In my little world 'Exile On Main Street' is the greatest album ever recorded and the song 'Let It Loose', (track 14 on the album, check it out) is just the most soaring, soulful track ever. I could bore you senseless talking about them, so will push on instead. My tastes are pretty broad and have expanded with age. I tend to be less snobby these days, but you will generally find me in the hard rock / rock n'roll section. I enjoy anything from old school soul and Motown, to early hip-hop and rap, to folk and country, to metal and swing. I am a grunge child too. Favourite bands outside of the Stones and Queen are: AC/DC, The Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, The Beatles, Sabbath, Alice In Chains, The Faces and the mighty Guns N' Roses. Newer bands include Black Spiders, Rival Sons, The Jim Jones Revue and Endless Boogie.
Do you work closely with other bands? How do they compare to working with Queen?
Not anymore really. I am now a freelancer, but my time is 90% Queen now or Queen related projects, so apart from one other music client I am all theirs at the moment. With regard to comparing Queen, well you just can't can you?
Who else have you worked with in the past and is there any other artist you would like to work with?
In the last ten years I have worked on many projects for many acts, all on different levels, but nothing else on the scale of Queen. I worked for Paul McCartney for about 6 years and got quite close to him to the point where I had a meeting every two weeks for about a year, this was around 2007, just me and Macca in his office. I have worked for Dido, Blur (drummer Dave Rowntree sat in our office for about 3 years, lovely bloke) and Spandau Ballet, whom I still have close links with. Other acts that I have worked on campaigns for, but never met, include Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Turin Brakes, George Harrison (dealt with his son Dhani who is a double of George). I worked for Ronnie Wood, but never met him, which was a bit gutting as I am huge fan of both the Faces and The Stones. I worked on the BRIT Awards in 2008 and 2009. I even ran the Craaaaaaig David website for a little while!
I was also extremely lucky to work on 46664 too and got to go to South Africa (twice) and the Arctic Circle in Norway, plus hang out backstage at Mandela's 90th Birthday show and therefore got exposed to a variety of bands and artists – at all of these events, I was over seeing the filming of little video clips of rehearsals, sound bites from artists, uploading images and gathering as much material as possible, just so much fun and a thrill to be part of. As part of the launch in 2003 I spent three days in New York with Dave Stewart filming him record Beyonce, Bono and Pharrell Williams for 46664 tracks. One highlight was (and will be for the rest of my life) seeing Bono record his vocals on a version of 'Amandla'. It was just him, Dave Stewart, me and a video camera. He sang straight into the desk, not out in some booth surrounded by stands and headphones. It was just incredible. He did it so raw and off the cuff in about 3 takes. My mouth was on the floor, so the footage I shot was a bit wobbly to say the least. But I truly did feel there was magic in that room at the time. It sounds so corny but it was uplifting and really emotional.
At this point I have no interest in working with anyone else. The Queen world is such a colourful, interesting and varied place, it ticks all the boxes for me. Now if Mick Jagger called up, that would be tough...!
How would you describe your working relationship with the band?
Very good - I am part of the team and recognised for my contribution, both inside and outside of my role. Ideas on all manners of things are pushed around between 'the departments' as it were and we all get on very well. With regard to Roger and Brian, I don't see them that often, but when I do it is always very nice. I had a great meeting with RT just a few weeks ago and it only took 3 minutes before a lovely bottle of wine was opened! I speak to BM over e-mail weekly, on various bits, but mainly non-Queen related topics funnily enough. I always send him any tracks or music recommendations that I think he might like. He has also in the past asked me for my opinion on things he’s worked on in the studio - which is always a thrill and something I report back to him on with complete honesty - no point otherwise. I deal with Jim Beach mainly and will speak to him at least once a day.
If you had access to the archives and a free rein, what would you like to see released?
Like many of the other guys whom I’ve asked this very question of, it’s the rare demos and out-takes that I want to get my hands on, especially from the News Of The World / Jazz / The Game eras. The band was changing all the time, but these periods really interest me. It’s like they were taking stock and seeing where else they could take this thing that was Queen. I would also like to see a Queen + release, a best of collection of tracks they have done with other artists, live and otherwise. I have pushed this a couple of times - not everyone's cup of tea, but hey. Oh and the Freddie Tribute Concert on CD, but the full thing, even Spinal Tap… I would like to see a significant package released for this, next year maybe? It will be the 20th Anniversary after all.
What does an average day in QueenOnline world consist of?
Updating Queen Online, Facebook, You Tube, working on Schools Will Rock You, the Mercury Phoenix Trust, Freddie For a Day, plus sticking my nose and opinion into all the releases and other areas. I deal with the online store guys too. A combination of all of the above really. There are a few other bits I am involved in that are coming up, all to be revealed in due course. I very much work outside of my brief and get pulled into many things that are not always QOL related. I have just overseen the iTunes LPs, set up a few promotions for the rest of the year, spoken to Carlton about the book launch, etc. I have an update meeting with the WWRY team every month, checking the message board for ideas and feedback, and I’ve just worked on a few bits for Yellowire. I’ll get involved in any ticketing of events if required...I am kept busy.
What is your favourite Queen album and why?
It was always a toss-up between 'News Of The World' and 'A Night At The Opera'. Despite this, for several years, up until recently, I would play 'Hot Space' and 'Made In Heaven' more than anything else in the catalogue. However, with the recent re-issues I have really become attached to 'Queen' and 'Queen II'. I have also re-assessed 'Jazz' which, I think, if it was a 10 track album, would really stand firm as a bit of a classic. OK decision time, I am going to go for the debut album 'Queen'.