The Inventory - Brian May
The Inventory - The Financial Times
Brian May, 64, a founding member of Queen, is a world-famous guitarist and songwriter. He was appointed CBE in 2005 for services to the music industry.
What was your earliest ambition?`
To be a space pilot like Dan Dare.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
Hampton Grammar. Then Imperial College London for a physics BSc, followed by four years postgrad in the infrared astronomy department. I quit at the writing-up stage for some diversions into different avenues. But I picked up the thesis 30 years later and I am now a doctor of astrophysics.
Who was, or still is, your mentor?
In astronomy, Patrick Moore and Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson. In photography, Professor Roger Taylor at De Montfort University. In animal welfare, Virginia McKenna. In music … well, Jimi Hendrix, I guess.
How physically fit are you?
Not very. But I think my regime of ice-cold showers helps my immune system to be strong. My doctor tells me I have the heart of a young man. Shame about the rest of me, ha ha!
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
Both. But it depends how you measure success. I don’t regard science or art as a competition. If that is all there is, there is no truth.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
Not seriously. I don’t believe they tell us much.
How politically committed are you?
I’m non-political. I support anyone who works for the better treatment of all creatures – including humans.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I do, but I’m more concerned with the broader issues of man’s destruction of this beautiful planet.
Do you have more than one home?
Yes. A town house with Anita [Dobson] and a country house where I work.
If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?
Foxes, badgers, stags, hedgehogs, squirrels and rats. And maybe a human or two
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
The whole of rural England. Then I could stamp out cruelty in the countryside. There would be no more fox hunting, badger baiting or futile attempts to turn back time by culling any one species.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Stereo daguerreotypes. They are exquisite, one-off pieces of mid-19th century photographic art. A Village Lost and Found, the book I wrote with photohistorian Elena Vidal, delves into the work of stereographer T.R. Williams and enables a 21st-century audience to experience 3D as they would have done in the 1850s. It includes an OWL stereoscope, which I designed.
In what place are you happiest?
With my loved ones. Or in my studio, making music.
What ambitions do you still have?
To make better music. To rock till I drop. And an OWL in every home.
What drives you on?
I love to create. And need to love.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Bringing up my children – though I am conscious of my mistakes and inadequacies.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
Like Albert Einstein, I wish I had just loved one woman all my life. I have a unique and wonderful wife.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
It would have blown my mind to foresee what a wild ride I’d have.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I don’t believe … but I sincerely hope!
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Queen will receive the Global Icon Award at the MTV EMAs 2011 in Belfast, on Sunday, November 6 (8pm MTV UK)