Interview with Roger (Boston, 1977)Roger 1977
INTERVIEW WITH ROGER - BOSTON 1977
Roger: I haven't done an interview for a long time by the way.
Interviewer: I haven't done one in 5 minutes.
Interviewer: Okay-erm- I remember reading way back in the beginning, when Queen first started that-er-personalities aside, the one person in the band that you would call the definitive rock and roller, or was into it the most, was you. Which gets us into the area of image and a performers image to the public or to the media or whatnot. Do you think that could be a problem in that people expect you to act a certain way when in fact you may not wanna act that way?
Roger: You mean we don't break up enough hotel rooms [laugh].
Interviewer: Yeah, well that or-er-its like everyone expects Freddie to be really flamboyant and all, and he maintains that that's the way he is naturally and it isn't an image and it isn't built up. But everybody who goes out onstage is gonna have a certain amount offer.
Roger yeah, I think it is.
Interviewer: You're in an exaggerated position to begin with.
Roger: Absolutely. I don't know, I think its probably a case of just projecting your personality really. I think we do that. I think that we come over onstage. You just probably do exaggerate your own natural personality. But I think that its impossible to come across naturally if you're trying to project something that you really aren't. I'd say Freddie is a naturally flamboyant person, yes, but that doesn't mean to say that he's ultra loud or ultra flash all the time you know, when he's relaxing or anything. I mean he probably perhaps he is! I mean for instance John is fairly fairly more-er-reserved Id say and think probably comes over that way onstage. I don't know And I'm just as I am really!
Interviewer: [Unclear word, poss. You're] the one who doesn't smile!
Roger: Yeah, I think its just an extension of our real personalities really you know. There's certainly no preconceived notions [Chair moves] -Has he gone so we can talk about him now? No preconceived notions about how we define our image that's all. But the rock and roller tag seems to have stayed with me a lot. I don't know why, I don't know, I've been in it for quite a while now, since I was young so I don't really know you know. Its probably true.
Interviewer: The rock and roll look.
Roger: Possibly, yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: You're the-erm. Other than the sessions with Ian Hunter last year, you're the only one I know in the band who's really gone out to a certain extent and done, played or sang, on other peoples albums. Erm, and John was talking very much about how Queen is rather an insular unit and you don't get out to see many people, you don't get out to ....
Roger: Yeah that's true.
Interviewer: ...... perform on other albums. Do you think that can be a detriment?
Roger: It can be both. It can be detrimental yes, and it can be advantageous as well, is that-er-its advantageous in the fact that you can get entirely your own thing going possibly without too many outside influences. So-er-its a difficult question, it goes both ways really, but also to be too insular is dangerous is that you're lacking any inspiration from the outside. You find its just coming from amongst yourselves. I don't know, I think we do try and get out to see people if we can you know, I saw Linda Rostandt when she was in London and a few other people.
Interviewer [unclear bit] Fox album last summer?
Roger: Fox album?
Interviewer: Yeah, I think its called Tales of Illusion.
Roger: Genesis is that?
Interviewer: No, no - Fox.
Roger: Oh Fox! Yeah, sorry! I was on that wasn't I! Yeah, Id forgotten all about that. Id f- [missing piece] - he's a friend of mine in England, he's an American. I think he's a naturalised English person now, and he's a friend of mine and they just asked me to come along one afternoon so I did, and I ended up singing some of the highest notes I've ever sung I think!
Interviewer: Onstage or even more so on the record, to me the Queen sound has always been distinctive for the harmonies. Would you agree though that they're more effective because you have a hard, steady rhythm section underneath it? Do you think it would be as successful if there wasn't you and John playing?
Roger: Hopefully, I think harmonies can be dangerous. They can get you into a rather middle of the road type feel and we try to avoid that. We try to be fairly extreme with the harmonies and not make them too easy, you know, and not too bland and smooth and err-were lucky with the combination of voices. I think because -er-the three of us that sing do most of the singing have very different voices, but they tend to blend quite well because of the differences. I've got a lot of edge in my voice and a lot of...quite a lot of roughness and can go high. Brian has a good soft, round voice and Freddie has a very powerful voice with a good range at both ends. I'm not so good in the low range, he's very good, he's also good in the high range. And, I think I don't know, I mean we use harmonies in very different ways for instance on You Take My Breath Away and that's mostly Freddie and thats the beginning and the end of that are real harmony showpieces without any rhythm section at all. But then say Tie Your Mother Down or something really hard like Liar or something like that were using very hard blasting harmonies really, in a sort of old English rock and roll sense, with a rhythm section.
Interviewer: That's really weird cause the engineer I work with when we tape the show, the first time he heard Somebody To Love was on a car radio and he remembered thinking Woah that's really good. But he didn't want to admit that he liked it right away because he was afraid that it was something like the Partridge Pamily or something.
Roger: [rather pained] Ahhhh!!
Interviewer: or something equally MOR
Roger: URGH! Yeah.
Interviewer: And it came to a finish and it was Queen and he said yeah, it makes sense after something like Bohemian Rhapsody.
Roger: You'd never find a record by them with a guitar break like that!
Interviewer: But its the same thing, there was a band I remember called Capability Brown who specialised a lot [missing piece]
Roger: Used to be Tony Rivers and the Castaways.
Interviewer: And now they're Crazy Cat.
Roger: Are they?
Interviewer: I played that record to somebody one night and they said that it sounded like an English boys choir! [Laugh]
Roger: That's funny because what we were trying to do we were trying to combine our sort of sound with almost a gospel sound on it
Interviewer: I like the live version.
Roger: We wanted to try and get some sort of feel Yeah, its a very hard song to do live. Were really nervous about doing it on this tour, by itself, because there are so many harmony parts on the record and onstage there are basically three of us singing so its not easy to get that whole feel, but it seems to come across really well. It goes down well anyway.
Interviewer: Er- you already answered a couple of questions I had written here. Do you think that the way that Queen was organised and presented to the public when you first got together erm- is a more viable way for a band to go nowadays? Rather than slogging away on the small club circuit and making a name by their sweat.
Roger: [deep breath] Er- I think its the most viable way, we did because we did it the way we wanted to do it. But -er- we've been asked that sort of question before quite a bit. A lot of people forget that most of us have paid our dues anyway before in different bands. I mean I've been playing since I was 13, earning money in different bands, which is quite a long time now! And-er-you know Brian and I were in a band before and did all our trips up the M1 and, which is the big freeway in England, to a lot of the gigs. Wave been around for years working at it and when we got together Queen together we wanted to do everything right, get as little as possible wrong, drawing on all our experience and we did try and avoid all the basic slogging. We tried to go in at some sort of a few steps up the ladder, and it seems to have worked quite well, yeah.
Interviewer Do you think that you'll find more and more bands trying to enter the business at a higher level say at a concert level or what not as opposed to working the clubs?
Roger: Yeah its not an easy thing to do because to enter at a concert level you've either got to support somebody big and, you know, get all the record company support behind you or you've got to have some sort of you've got to be a draw. If you're going to headline, you cant play big concerts unless you're going to attract the people to the concerts. The first time we came to America we supported Mott the Hoople, which is a good way to get ourselves to larger audiences than we would have been able to play ourselves but unfortunately that tour was stopped short. We were lucky the next time, through the relative record success, to be able to come and headline on our own.
Interviewer: Yeah, I remember that first tour. It seems almost that the band learned a lesson last year and the year before as far as support acts go, whereas now
Roger: I think were learning lessons.
Interviewer: Now its a nice compatible bill.
Roger: Its a great bill yeah.
Interviewer: Do you see a time when you might drop the idea of a support act altogether and just do a solo thing?
Roger: We were thinking about that but, I don't know, I think the audience likes to see some sort of diversity. Its nice to have a support act, it also warms up the audiences etcetera, etcetera, and they get just used to being in the hall and used to everything. I don't know, but its not a necessary thing but I think its a good thing to have. I haven't really any strong feelings on it but this is a very good
Interviewer: Someone to party with after the show.
Roger: Yeah, its nice to have other musicians around, you can bounce off a bit socially, etcetera.
Interviewer: Would you agree that the current punk rock thing that's going through London, and New York too, is kind of a backlash towards the big successful rock acts? Its like a vicious circle
Roger: Well its being portrayed as sort of a backlash-erm-it hasn't really affected us at all. Really I'm not convinced that the so-called kind of punk rock has caught on with the real public yet because there hasn't been one hit record from it yet. There might be, and you know if its good, if something good comes out of it then great! If nothing good comes out of it I don't think it would be successful for very long. Its interesting.
[Unclear speech from interviewer]
Roger: Exactly yeah, you've got to come up with the goods. It doesn't matter who you are, how much I think that there's a lot more hype behind the punk stuff than there is behind the so called rock establishment who at least The Zeppelins etcetera of the world, they've gone and proved themselves on the road. You know people go to their concerts because they like them, they're good and they come away.
Interviewer: I think a lot of it too is self-manufactured hype by the media or record companies. Its like when you and I were growing up the music we were listening to our parents were turning around saying that's rubbish and now were turning around and oh Christ are we getting old? And that's what's ogtta be going through EMIs mind and Im sure Melody Maker too.
Roger Well I like rebellion etcetera. Its nice to stick your finger up at people but at the same time I think When I was 16 I was saying that's good, thats bad, I hate that. And to combine the whole thing with an anarchy feel when bands are trying to scrape the biggest advances they can get.
Interviewer: I think EMI just dropped the Pistols.
Roger: This is true.
Interviewer: Would you like to er [ phone rings] get the phone! [Unclear] Would you like to sing lead more onstage? I read in several places that it is said that you have the best voice in the band.
Roger: Erm, yes I would, however in the context of Queen its not an easy thing to do. Because, I don't know, I sing a lot from the drums but to sing lead onstage I think you have to have the vocalist should be the focal point in concert-er-when there is singing going on and for the drummer to sing I think the thing loses a lot somehow. So in that context its very hard. I'd like to play guitar onstage as well but that's hard again, it really means bringing in someone else. So really I think Ill just have to be patient. Id like to do some things of my own, but that would be completely outside Queen. I don't know, to be in a band like this you have to give and take, if you see what I mean.
Interviewer: And sublimate part of yourself.
Roger: exactly yeah, you do have to sublimate part of yourself.
Interviewer: Cause I was thinking of what Phil Collins told me last year he said look I can sing the lead vocals but I cant play drums and sing at the same time.
Roger: I used to do that!
Interviewer: Its difficult, I don't know many people who do that.
Roger: He's right, he's a fine drummer too, but he's dead right. I used to sing lead vocals and play drums and the thing loses a lot visually for a start. It'll detract slightly from the drumming and it'll detract slightly from the singing as well. Its very hard to do both. Erm, I don't know, I enjoy singing a lot and Id like to sing some lead stuff, I like playing guitar too, but its impossible within the context of Queen onstage definitely.
Interviewer: Especially if you're playing drums.
Roger: Exactly, you have to make some sort of allowances to make the overall thing, you know, to give the best result I think, within a group context.
Interviewer: The thing I find interesting about the band singles wise is that there's Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love, all kind of in a style that's a little bit lighter than what you would - They're not like Liar, they're not like Keep Yourself Alive, not like Brighton Rock. And I find it curious that that type of single is the one that does better for you, as opposed to the harder rocking things. The people who I know are into Queen got into you because you're a damn fine rock and roll band.
Roger: Yeah, that's how it happened in England really. The hard rock was the stuff that really caught on. I dont know really, we never record singles as singles. What we do so we record a lot of material for an album and we just come to a choice of single off that. So really its a reflection of our styles or a number of our styles as to what tracks come out as the singles. Which are invariably the better known tracks because the singles are heard more than an album track but-er-certainly not pre-thought of as lets record something lighter for a single because we never know what the singles are going to be!
Interviewer: I was talking to Freddie about that because he seems enamoured with the musical type approach almost.
Roger: Yeah, he's got quite a few different sides really.
Interviewer: You know, where Brian writes the stuff Brian writes are a little more driving as a general rule.
Roger: Yeah, but he writes some softies as well!
Interviewer: I bet you've got some stuff hanging left on the shelf that you haven't got around to.
Roger: What me? Yeah, I've got quite a few now that I'd like to record. Possibly some of them by myself, I don't know. It depends what the band gets around to really, cause were not we do take a lot of time in the recording studio.
Interviewer: Any chance of you building your own studio?
Roger: Yeah, were just buying out a country place in England at the moment which were thinking of converting into a really good studio according to our needs and sort of hiring it out when were not using it. I think, you know, were quite excited about that at the moment, its a new thing for us.
Interviewer: Yeah, it sounds like a really good idea.
Roger: We have very strong ideas about recording equipment etcetera, so you know just pool all the knowledge.
Interviewer: Why do you think that British bands in America seem to do better than American bands?
Roger: Do they?
Interviewer: I think they do, the ones that are most successful are copying a British stance.
Roger: I see what you mean. Well Aerosmith are very good friends of ours and they're a very successful American band, but they are basically English influenced yeah, Yard Birds, Jeff Beck, etcetera. I don't know, perhaps you are right, I never really thought about it.
Interviewer: It seems to me like over the years the personalities in the bands that come from Britain are stronger individually and you look at an American band alright take Aerosmith. Okay, you know Steve's outstanding person wise.
Roger: I think Joe Perry's great actually.
Interviewer: But the rest of them, they're just kind of neutered. Joes a really nice guy and all but its kinda low profile.
Roger: Hmmm I don't know. There are a lot of American bans that seem to stand out. I mean if you take the West Coast thing, a completely American thing [Unclear]
Interviewer: don't know different styles. I think America is one of our relatively ere not as well known here as we are in a lot of other countries, so I think wed like to work over here quite a bit this year to really establish ourselves over here.
Interviewer: If Queen fold tomorrow would you be looking for another band? Would you still continue as a musician?
Roger: I'd definitely continue in the music business yeah. I never really think about it cause as long as we do go on I think to sort of plan things, like to think Oh if the band split up tomorrow is not a positive direction of thought really. So until it happened I don't know. Id definitely record some of my own stuff if that happened I think, but I don't really think about it happening. It doesn't look like its going to break up. I think its very important to keep the same members and-er-to pursue that as long as its actively bringing out good songs, good recordings and good concerts.
Interviewer: Do you think that one of the secrets to success of bands of the 70s is to be able to assimilate a number of different styles and more or less combine them into something else. I was thinking the very early comparison of Queen was like a combination of Yes and Led Zeppelin. And it seems like the bands in the 70s who have been successful have been able to do that.
Roger: Yeah, I don't know, its very hard. I think the longer were in it, the less we sort of analyse really. We just sort of keep going ahead and doing our own thing as much as possible, possibly being less influenced all the time. I think the most important thing for a band is basically to be good, and also to stick together, and know each other backwards. You've gotta almost know what the other person is thinking-erm-but so many people don't seem to stick together and seem to fall just as they're getting somewhere.
Interviewer: - Id say you're probably rather unique because if you really do live in each others pockets for so long dont you you've gotta come to the bottom of the well sometime.
Roger: Definitely! I mean I m sure, yeah.
Interviewer: Which is why I asked about playing with other people and doing other things.
Roger: That's interesting and stimulating definitely, but-erm-for sort of longevity of success a band has to stick together until there's no longer any point in there sticking together, if you see what I mean., instead of breaking up before it's reached its peak or its logical height of creativity or whatever.
Interviewer: It's kinda like being an athlete,
Roger: mind you, when it is all over and there's not much coming out of it anymore you've got to quit then and I'm sure we will when that happens, or when we feel that happens anyway.
Interviewer - You wanna have the opportunity of walking out yourself rather than being booted out the door.
Roger: Oh yeah, yeah, I mean the band doesn't work like that anyway, it's very democratic but, you know, what I think we'll all probably come to that conclusion at the same time, I hope!
Interviewer: Because I remember reading an article that compared the ageing rock bands to the dinosaurs!
Interviewer- They go around playing 20,000 seat halls and they know it's going to be a million selling album before they put it out, and they start getting -[unclear]
Roger: It's just taking the money and running yeah, in the words of Steve Miller.
Interviewer Errr let's see. One of the criticisms I read of the band was that they come across onstage occasionally as too rehearsed or too sterile.
Roger: If only they knew! Too rehearsed! Yeah.
Interviewer: Well it's like everything is timed right down. Obviously it's gotta be rehearsed 'cause the lights have got to hit on cue and everything else. Do you think - aside from the fact whether or not it's a valid point - do you think that its gonna be any more of a problem on this tour when you play larger halls to establish any sort of intimacy with the audience?
Roger: - No, I mean for a start I don't agree with the over rehearsed thing. We did some shows in England this year which were really literally - We didn't think we had nearly enough rehearsal for the shows and we were working on that thing I was talking about before. An almost telepathic thing, when you try and get that going with the guy on the soundboard and the guy on the lights board as well and the audiences were great and the shows were very successful. But some of the write-ups we had in the famed English press said things like 'too slick' or 'Queen were too good', 'it went too well'. I really just don't understand that kind of criticism because to us the shows are different every night. There are definite spots where things are extended or things go very differently from night to night. It's really, if people knew, it's not over rehearsed. I don't think it's over slick, you know-erm-but to present a show that comes over as polished but to present energy there's got to be some amount of polish in it. It's all part of being professional I think.
Interviewer: It's rock and roll growing up into a major entertainment.
Roger: Yeah and people say about sloppiness I don't like to see sloppiness, I don't like to see sloppy musicians or even sloppy shows, they don't entertain me for very long, and I wouldn't make any excuses for presenting, apparently, a show that seems to run well. I'm not saying it will every night! Because you never know what's going to happen.
Interviewer: If it does run the exactly the same every night then it's time to get out!
Interviewer: I think I've reached the end of my list.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to add that I didn't go over?
Roger: No, that's fine.
Roger: Thank you very much.