Nailed To The Cross (Sounds, Feburary 6 1988Nailed To The Cross
Roger Taylor pumps the gas pedal of his Aston Martin The engine snarls venomously from underneath a fat, silver bonnet that barely contains the beast beneath it.
"These are the greatest cars in the world," he says affectionately.
I bet it's been a long time since Roger Taylor has had to tolerate second best.
However far from adopting the statutory, filthy rich rock star's pursuits (the solo concept album, an illicit affair with a schoolchild or some dangerous narcotic extravagance). Queen's sticksman has chosen to line-up a brand new outfit, The Cross.
Featuring guitarist Clayton Moss, bass player Peter Noone, drummer Josh McCrae and keyboard player Spike Edney, Taylor himself takes care of rhythm guitar and vocals.
"What I really wanted to do was the one thing that excited me most - being in a working band and appearing on stage," he explains "But I wanted to be at the front, like a kind of conductor."
The motor screeches to a halt in front of a gorgeous Holland Park restaurant. Inside, Taylor sits beside dashing bass player Peter Noone and talks from behind a pair of Ray-Bans which do not leave the end of his nose all afternoon.
"Queen just isn't working enough," he says "It's been going for so long now, it's like an institution. When we do work it's fantastic. But one album every two years is plenty. We've got to try and maintain a little mystique!"
Thus, The Cross evolved out of Taylor's refusal to accept graceful semi-retirement with Queen.
Nevertheless, after working with the likes of May, Mercury and Deacon, It must have been tough to find musicians who made the grade.
"I chose Peter because he was by far the best in bed," quips Taylor.
Peter: "And I had to prove it."
Taylor: "Now we've almost worn him out."
Peter: "I've got terrible bags under my eyes!!"
Taylor orders celery and stilton soup.
"That was definitely a joke by the way," he adds with a cautious smile. "I was actually looking, firstly for musicianship, secondly attitude and for people that would make a great working unit together. We didn't want any session musicians getting paid by the note. We wanted a real group.
U2 are a real group. They're all in it together. There's a lot of kinda!.half groups around these days; one or two people are getting money the rest are on wages. Foreigner for example and Dire Straits. There are only two people in Dire Straits who are actually making the real money.
I mean it's none of my business, but most of these people are just hire hands. That's not a band. When you go to see a band, you don't go to see a particular person, you go to feel the spirit of the whole thing.
We ant to get that kind of aura and atmosphere with The Cross."
I wonder why Taylor has decided to leave his drum stool in favour of mic and occasional six string. Perhaps beating the tubs has become a mite tedious after all these years?
"Actually, right now I'm recording a new album with Queen and I'm really enjoying it," he muses "But I do get fed up with the restrictions imposes sometimes."
Have you ever been envious of Freddie?
"No, never. He does his job brilliantly. He's also probably my best friend. I could never be envious of him. The more outrageous he is with Queen, the better, because it helps all of us, and it's for all of us."
But the prospect of performing at the front of the stage, without three musicians and a barrage of drums to hide behind must be scary.
"I've got a few butterflies but that's very necessary," he insists, "When I first started singing it felt very strange; it didn't feel natural at all. I felt inhibited, but I think it's getting a bit more natural, don't you Peter?"
Noone: "Oh yeah, definitely. He's not shy!"
Taylor: "It's funny to see yourself back on video as well. You think, Yeah, I was really grooving to that song, throwing a few shapes around. And it turns out you were only tapping your foot! I've learned to exaggerate everything."
"Clayton was the best," giggles Peter "He goes, oh they must have cut out all the bits I moved on!"
Isn't Taylor failing to admit that The Cross will inevitably start interfering with his Queen commitments and cannot, therefore, ever become a serious and permanent fixture?
"The Cross is permanent. I'm just an accessory; one member of a solid unit." He insists.
There is an inseverable umbilical cord between Taylor and Queen, which Roger confesses, will always influence his own song writing. But although 'Shove It', The Cross' debut album is peppered with Brian May samples, not to mention featuring an entire Mercury vocal, it does boast a vivacious independence of it's own.
"'Shove It' is more of me than the next album will be," explains Roger. "Unfortunately, I had to go out and get a record deal first, so that we could fund this thing and get it all going. It was a case of the chicken before the egg, but it was the only way to do it."
In his effort to create some sort of street level identity for The Cross Taylor is guilty of one rather ironic statement.
"VIPs and royalty get treated like they're special see. So why do people scrape and fuss , when every man's the same as us?" he rants throughout 'Shove It' (the title track and most recent 45). Seems a little hypocritical considering Taylor's own celebrity status, doesn't it?
"I do try not to take advantage of it," he says earnestly. "That song was written because I was in a very snobbish ski-resort called Gstaad and a good friend of mine was turned away form a snooty hotel.
There's a terrible class structure, and I think it should be smashed and broken down. It operates on three levels. The middle class aren't that bad; it's the extremes"
And where do you and the Aston Martin fit in?
"I was brought up a middle class boy, sickening isn't it? But that's the truth. However, I'd like to think of myself as classless. I don't want to belong to any class."
C'mon Roger you're rich, famous rock star. Surely you have people bowing and scraping all the time.
"Not really. You do get doors opened, but mainly to nightclubs."
We return to Taylor's expectations of The Cross.
"I think we'll live or die on our live performance," he answers bluntly. "Because battling against the radio in this country is like climbing up a wall of indifference. I fucking give up."
Bitter sentiments indeed!
"I am very bitter, I'd like to burn down Radio 1 actually. I just can't listen to it. It's fucking disgusting. I mean what the hell is 'Big Red GTO'?
Stock, Aitkin & Waterman are crap and people like Jonathan King should have been strangled at birth. In fact, judging by the state of his head, I think he probably was!
The kids have always been years ahead of the business. They really understand what it's all about, and that's all that matters," he concludes.
Will The Cross incite Roger Taylor's artistic resurrection or perhaps, his political crucifixion? Don't let the Romans decide for you.