Queen Rock 'N' Roll Royalty
- Brian May interview by launch.com (March 2001) -


By Darren Davis (launch.com):

Queen is finally getting the respect it deserves, as the band is heading into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with a cast that includes Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Paul Simon, and Michael Jackson. No doubt that at the inauguration ceremony, bassist John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Brian May will sorely miss lead singer Freddie Mercury, who passed away in 1991.

Queen released its self-titled debut album back in 1973, and has released more than 17 albums since, including some classic live discs.

LAUNCH recently spoke to Brian May, who shared his thoughts on the Rock Hall induction, Freddie Mercury, a possible tour or project with English pop idol Robbie Williams, the Queen's loyalty to its fans, and the fans' loyalty to the Queen.

DD: How did the word come down that you were nominated?

BRIAN: My manager called and said, "Oh, by the way, you've been inducted into the Hall Of Fame." I mean, I have to confess, I'm a little dimly aware of it over here (in England). It doesn't get very much coverage over here, and people aren't very aware of what it is. It's probably not as big a deal as it is over there (in America). We weren't as disappointed as people seem to think we were. I'm just very, very happy to hear. When I looked at the list of the other guys who are being inducted, I felt very good. Seeing Michael Jackson there, seeing Aerosmith there, my old buddies, I'm very, very happy to be included to be in the same bag as them.

DD: Have you ever visited the Rock Hall in Cleveland?

BRIAN: I haven't been there. We donated some stuff at one point, but I haven't really been able to get over there, really. I'd like to do that.

LAUNCH: What do you think it is about Queen that made the folks in the Rock Hall committee nominate the band? They tend to shy away from bands like yourselves that, at the time, didn't enjoy critical acclaim.

BRIAN: It's an interesting question. I don't know. I mean, the things that we cared about, Roger and John and Freddie and myself, all along were really what we regarded as reality - were the folks out there, the ones who would come and see you and buy your records. I don't think we were ever the friends of the critics or any of those other people, and I don't think they liked us and I don't think we liked them. I think the committee that voted on this, I guess, has an element of critics, journalists, or whatever. It's a new generation, and I probably don't know them that well. So if you're asking me what they see in us, I would think that from this distance what they probably see is genuine effort, and some genuine inspiration. Whatever else you might say about Queen, we were just totally dedicated to our audience for that 20 years, I guess. We still are, in a slightly different way. But basically, we toured and made albums and just lived that totally for those years. I have to say, though, that it was great.

DD: It's customary at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony to get up there and play. Do you have anybody in mind that may do Freddie Mercury's vocals some justice?

BRIAN: I guess there are various thoughts. It would be nice to get out there and team up with Aerosmith. That's one thought that I had, which has never happened. We have been talking about various other things. There are lots of rumors around, but I'm not going to confirm any of those rumours (laughs). They don't care. They'll print anything in England. I don't know what it's like over there. The English press would rather print lies than truths, really.

LAUNCH: The big rumour is that the remaining members of Queen will be hooking up with Robbie Williams. Is there any truth to that?

BRIAN: I'll be honest with you. We've been talking to Robbie, and we've been playing around with Robbie and we like him, and we've pushed various ideas around. Nothing has been decided yet. I think he's a great entertainer and one of the few, I suppose, entertainers with a capital "E" that I've seen emerge out of England in recent years. They're hard to find - someone who can actually sing. Even singing is a rarity these days. People tend to mime. The guy can sing and the guy can entertain an audience. He's got a lot of courage. He's got a lot of disregard for what people might think, which I like. He's got that in common with Freddie: Courage. Courage of your convictions. But as I say, we don't have plans to do anything at this moment.

DD: I know you can't really speak for Freddie, but how do you think he would react to the concept of Queen being in a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

BRIAN: I think Freddie would just kind of smile and go, "Well, it's about time the f...kers got it right," you know (laughs). I think that's how he would be. We're very lucky people and we've got a hall of awards and plaques to put on our mantle piece, but the things that really counted were always the moments of actually playing and actually getting a response and actually making a record. I think the reality for us - I'm not trying to say that I'm ungrateful for being awarded stuff - but really it was the doing of it that we loved more than anything else. I think Freddie would go, "Should we go? Yeah, let's go." (laughs)

DD: So what are you up to these days?

BRIAN: I seem to get busier and busier, although I'm keeping a harness on it right now. I do like a balance in my life these days, and that wasn't possible in the Queen glory days. It was all-consuming, and a little damaging to your private life, to be honest with you. So I've kind of reclaimed my private life a little bit. Basically, I keep busy. I did a film soundtrack that went out in Europe and just out in England called Furia, and it's kind of an arty film. I doubt if it will see much general release in the States, because it's in the French language, but it's something that I'm very proud of. It's the first full soundtrack that I've done. You know, I've done loads of bits and pieces for films, including Highlander, and Flash, and all those things, but this was a complete soundtrack. I do a lot of stuff. I've done a lot of blues recently, for some strange reason. I was beginning to have this feeling that I'd like go get back to blues, and I've been playing it with a number of people. That will probably see the light of day - not as a solo album, but as a couple of projects. The big thing at the moment - it's going to sound strange, but it's in essence not to do with music directly, because I'm acting as a producer - we're putting together a film, me and my friend, about a subject that I've been passionate about for a very long time. I'm not going to tell you what it is right now, but it's a kind of historical film, and it's about putting the record straight in history as best we can and as honestly as we can. It's a long-term project. I've been on it for about a year, and we have a few appointments with studios. That's been my biggest passion at the moment.

DD: How does being a producer for a film differ from your experiences in the music world?

BRIAN: Well, I guess you feel humble, because it's a very big road, and it's a different road than the one I've traveled. I do get a certain amount of respect from the film business, which is nice. But I don't get every door opened to me, you know? I have to work at it. My friend is a writer from the BBC, so we kind of go in at the bottom level and see if we can excite people with the ideas.

DD: You said it's a long-term project - how long term?

BRIAN: Well, I think in a year and a half, we may be shooting. I hope so. Shooting film, not shooting people. I'll only do that if really pushed [laughs].

DD: What new bands are floating your boat these days?

BRIAN: I'd have to say the Foo Fighters... it's always difficult to give names when I'm asked that. I do hear things and I like 'em... Spacehog...

DD: What do you think about an abundance of Queen music and greatest-hits releases?

BRIAN: Well, I suppose we kind of own the fence, really, because we have a good relationship with our record companies. We have two different record companies: Hollywood Records in Los Angeles, which covers the States, but for the rest of the world we're with EMI. We have a contract, which states that we can pretty much dictate what happens. We don't fall out that much. Most people hate their record companies, but we've been very lucky. But we talk about it, and I think it's nice to have a few repackaging things out there, as long as they're tasteful and not overdone. And if there's a chance of getting some of the old stuff to a new audience... yeah, I'm in favoUr of it. It doesn't bother me at all. It would bother me if it was too much or if it was in bad taste.

DD: At this point do you think that in your life you've done everything there is to do?

BRIAN: I think there's always a lot of stones unturned. I'm very proud of what the band did, my old band, Queen. And I'm pretty proud of what I did on my own in the period following that, but there's just so much I'd like to do. You always want to write the perfect song. I'm sure I'm not the first to person to say that, but you just want to get further and chart new ground. I feel as impassioned about that as ever. And another cool thing is to work with new people. I worked with the Foo Fighters, and that stuff is so challenging, exciting and interesting and new, I just really enjoy that. That's sort of one of the great perks. There are negative things. There are people who hate us and will always hate us. And you've got to take that on. I guess having access to people who are excellent and who are heroes is just a great thrill. And I never get over it. It's always like being a boy. I always feel like a boy who's excited about going to a concert or a recording studio.