Interviews - Brian May

Richard Skinner Interview (Virgin Radio, Live Tuesday 15/6/93)

INTERVIEW: BRIAN WITH RICHARD SKINNER
VIRGIN RADIO, LIVE TUESDAY 15/6/93


[Started off by playing Brighton Rock]

RS: You're in the last stages of a UK tour. How's it going?

BHM: It's been incredible. Very exciting for me, a great challenge. It takes everything I've got to get through it, just physically! But it's wonderful We've had a fantastic response.

RS: Why is it particularly gruelling this time? I mean you've got plenty of experience of touring.

BHM: It's just that I have to sing which is incredibly consuming physically. I understand what dear old Fred went through all those years because we used to go out and party after the show and go out and shop in the morning. And Fred always used to say "I can't do that - it takes all I've got" and that's the way I am now. I check into the hotel, I rest and prepare, I do the gig and I go to sleep.

RS: You're not slowing down, Brian?

BHM: I'm fun on days off!

RS: I read that when you first found yourself centre stage, you found it quite difficult to cope with - rather than hanging round the edge with a guitar

BHM: It took a little while. The first three gigs or so down in South America I thought "I'm not absolutely sure I can pull this off. It's an experiment and we'll see what happens". I didn't know if the voice would last more than thirty minutes. But strangely enough if you have the will to do something then it's amazing what you can do. And the voice seems to get stronger the more you do this as long as you treat yourself reasonably sensibly.

RS: Did you have to go to singing lessons? A lot of people have been surprised by the range that your voice is displaying, on record and live.

BHM: I didn't really go to lessons. I just applied myself in the way that, I suppose, my Dad taught me to. My Dad taught me that if there's something you really want to do more than anyone else then you can do it better than anyone else. I wanted to do this. I didn't want anyone else to sing after Fred - my stuff - and I just had to do it. I'm continually fascinated to see how far I can take it. In the studio in the beginning I couldn't get above an A. That's what I've done all my life when I used to sing with Queen a bit - the harmonies and stuff - that was my limit. And I just gradually pushed and I kicked it until it bled really, to see what I could do. And at the end of the album I could sing three or four notes higher than that. And now on tour I can do things I couldn't do on the record.

RS: Isn't it strange you've discovered this latent talent for hitting the high notes relatively late in your career?

BHM: It's not just the high stuff, although that's a nice little challenge. It's getting the strength and getting the power to express yourself. There is a knack to it. I mean it still kills me. I can't speak or walk for the first half an hour and then I'm fine. There's a recovery curve.

RS: Is it my imagination or is your voice deeper than it used to be?

BHM: Maybe it got stretched!

RS: I can understand why you didn't stretch yourself before, because with such a fantastic singer at the front of Queen, there was no impetus.

BHM: That's right. I always thought once Fred got hold of something there was no point in anyone else singing it.
Because he always gave it something incredibly special.

[Played Driven by You]

RS: Is your life the rarefied one of the rock star?

BHM: It's a strange life. You can't be totally normal otherwise you can't survive. That's the truth. You can't be the boy next door. But I prefer to keep a balance and to the things that a normal person does. Sometimes it's very hard. The actual life itself and the travelling means you're very pulled away from it a lot of the time. It's very hard to have a family life. It's just a very difficult thing to get right. The fact that I'm easily recognisable now makes it harder to do some of the normal things.

RS: America preceded the UK tour. You were out on tour there with Guns n' Roses. A band who know how to party a bit

BHM: They do, and they also know how to work. They work and they play hard, same as we used to as Queen. There are a lot of similarities in fact. They're very nice to be around. They're very considerate to us, so it's been a great vehicle for us, and we're going to go out and do some more after this British leg.

RS: Was it odd for you to be in a support slot?

BHM: It is, yeah. There's a lot of things you have to swallow technically. You don't get sound checks. You normally go on in the daylight and not all of the audience are in. There's all that stuff to deal with. But having said that, it's a great opportunity because we virtually have nothing to lose. A lot of people coming to that show aren't quite sure who I am, so I have an education job, and I have a job to get on there and play and do a proper show. If I'm playing to a Queen audience or to my own audience then it's kind of to the converted. But if you're going on to someone else's audience then you have to work and you have to learn your craft. It's been an apprenticeship. The band, my band, is now incredibly tight, very professional and can face any kind of disaster.

RS: We talked about this before. You are determined this is a real band. We're not talking about Brian May and a load of backing musicians. Do you feel you're in competition with yourself? When you go out with new stuff you're competing with what you achieved before, with Queen?

BHM: There is an element, and in certain sectors I have to say "hang on, this is not Queen. This is what I am doing now. Queen was then and this is now". I've found in Britain, and in parts of Europe, where the records have had some success, that people understand and I'm allowed to move on. People have been great. I sort of had faith that they would, because the Queen audience always moved on and didn't trap us into any format. I took a few risks on this tour. There are some things I'm doing where I thought "now what are people going to think about this?", because it is consciously breaking away, but the reaction has been great, even among the diehard Queen fans people have come up and said "we understand what you're doing and we're with you". And it's not just Queen fans. There are new people there. It's a new life and a new world, and I'm happy to provide the continuity with the people who have been with us. I have a certain loyalty, but I have a loyalty to do what I should be doing, not to traipse out Queen for ever.

RS: There are rumours about material in the can, taped with Freddie performing on it that hasn't seen the light of day. Will it one day? Or is it better put on the shelf?

BHM: It's a difficult question and it's something we don't find it easy to agree about at the moment, I have to say. I won't push the point. Yes there is a bit of material but probably not enough for a whole album but then you have the difficult question of whether you go in there and kind of pad it out to make a Queen album, or just put it out as it. I would favour at the moment not pretending that we're Queen. In my mind, it just seems like there cannot be a Queen without Freddie and we should probably rather not pretend that there could be.

RS: So don't add new material, recorded recently?

BHM: Difficult area really. I mean it's possible. We did do tracks without Freddie in the past, but I don't feel we should be clinging that much to the past. We should be moving out and moving on.

RS: I must add my plea to at least have the tracks that were recorded released. Maybe as an EP.

BHM: Well I'd love to have them out there. They have to be definitely out there. They're the last things that Freddie did, and they're very precious. It needs careful handling.

RS: Here's another track. Cozy Powell played on this.

BHM: Yes, Cozy was very inspirational in many ways when I was trying to get the album together. He still is, and he's one of the best, as everyone knows. It's a privilege to be able to hook up with someone like that. That's one of the things which, I suppose, the success of the past gave me - that I could ring people up who are world class and say "Do you want to do something"

Interviews

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