Brian May on RMF Extra
Marta Grzywacz, RMF FM: You’re coming to Poland with a new vocalist, with whom you’re doing 6 shows. Why did you pick Adam Lambert?
Brian May: It’s nice to play with talented musicians and it’s exactly one of those that we have met. Adam is a great guy and undoubtedly very talented. He has an incredible voice. Freddie would have have loved him – both professionally and personally. Moreover, Adam is charming, very relaxed, he’s easy to work with and has an extraordinary instrument – his voice. Music is his passion, he lives and breathes it, just like Freddie did once. Furthermore, he’s a showman, just like Freddie was and has a natural talent when it comes to connecting to the audience, which is an extremely important part of people a rock singer. Because for me, music is not just music. It’s a conversation with an audience and it is of great importance. Oddly enough, the organisation, which on our behalf auditions vocalists for We Will Rock You in Las Vegas, didn’t notice Adam. Adam tried out for the part of Galileo and they turned him down. He didn’t make it through and we didn’t have the chance to get to know him. That is shocking to me – a guy like him enters a room and no one notices him?!
Did someone get punished for that?
Heads should have rolled because of that but that organisation does not exist anymore, because we backed out of Las Vegas.
You’ve played together for 40 years, in that over 20 years without Freddie Mercury. How do you think about that time when he passed away?
The time after Freddie’s death was very difficult for us. We all reacted with denial. Denial in the sense that we didn’t want to talk about it, we didn’t want to reflect on it. I went on tour, I sang and played with the Brian May Band then and I didn’t want to talk about Queen with anyone. I said: it’s over, let us talk about what I am doing now. When I think about that now, I think that it was my way of experiencing grief. Today, after years, I gladly reminisce about the old days because I’ve found the proper place for them in my memories.
Did you really once think that Queen was over?
Yes and most probably that part of Queen has ended. You can’t get that back, that time has passed and gone away. It was very valuable for us, I am proud that I was a part of it because we are left with a long list of songs which people still want to listen to and probably would rather want to listen to us play them than someone else. But I like my current life a lot. I like that I don’t have to be on tour constantly, lock myself in recording studios for months on end, that I can do other things that are important to me. Nevertheless, there are times when Queen calls out to me and you can’t do anything but respond to that call. Everything else must be put on hold then. You press a button and feel as if the Phoenix rises again and that we, yet again, are sacrificing life for the sake of the group. And we take it very seriously. Like for instance these rehearsals. We’ve been working in a studio for a month, even though we’re only doing a few numbers with Adam but we want everything to be as it should be. And that is what’s fun. The mother sheep calls and the children must make yet another trip to the stars.
I’ve heard that there’s a movie in the making about Freddie?
Yes, we’re making a film about Freddie’s life. Sasha Baron Cohen will play him, we’ve already signed the contract. Sasha has been waiting for it for a long time, he’s very involved and helps us move the production through its different stages. Our partner is Robert de Niro and his Tribeca Film Festival. The proceedings are already well advanced. We have the script and all the needed paperwork. We start shooting this autumn.
You’re coming to Poland to play a show in a few weeks. Which of the concerts that you’ve played in life has been the most tough one for you?
From a technical aspect probably the show on the roof of Buckingham Palace in honour of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (in 2002 - marked the Queen's 50th year on the British throne – editor’s note). No one had done anything like it before and everyone told us: you won’t be able to do it, you can’t play it live, it’s too difficult, what will you do if something goes wrong in front of an audience of billions? To which I replied: I’d rather that something went wrong in front of an audience of billions than if I made a mistake in front of an audience of billions. Therefore, we had loads of rehearsals but still, technically we only had everything in order 10 minutes before the show started. But what the audience saw was performed live from beginning to end. And it was very dangerous. Me and the orchestra were standing in a great distance from each other, connected only with wires (Roger Taylor and the orchestra were on the ground – editor’s note). People asked me afterwards: weren’t you scared that you’d fall off the roof? But I wasn’t scared of that. I was scared that I’d look stupid if I played something wrong. Thankfully, everything turned out well.
And you met the Queen in person?
Yes, a few times even. I got the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) from her. But we don’t hang out. And we’re not very close to each other.
What do you care about the most before a show?
About the 3 square millimetres on my fingertips. They are very important and if I damage them, I am in big trouble. Therefore, I need to be very careful during rehearsals because if I overdo it and the skin on my fingertips start peeling off I won’t be able to play properly. You can’t put passion into the playing if your fingers are bleeding. You must play just enough to make your fingertips hard and not more.
What song is the most difficult to play in shows?
We don’t play the toughest ones. We make life easier for ourselves. One of those tracks is for example Bohemian Rhapsody. If we wanted to play it like the studio recording, we wouldn’t be able to. There are too many voices in there and our own, of course. We recorded it on several paths. There are several guitars. That track is like a painting, put together by many colours. On stage we make it into a show with video and light because playing it live would be stupid.
What do you think about during a show?
About all different kinds of things. After all, even when I’m playing, life goes on and even though I’m immersed in music, I’m aware of many things: I see the banner at the back of the venue, on which someone’s written some kind of weird message and I start thinking about what the heck that is about, what do they mean? Your foot might start aching, something that happens more often with age. Sometimes I search for the sound, sometimes it’s difficult to hear myself or the other musicians, so there are times when I struggle with the vocals and think about how to get more information on my monitor. Because if I can’t hear myself, I’m not able to play. Then I feel like a 5-year old. I don’t play the guitar from my memory, I need to have feedback and if I lose that I’m like a blind man.
And do you care about your looks?
When I play – not that much. In other situations, a bit more. Especially when I see my photo in magazines and think: Oh my God, do I really look like that now?!
But you almost don’t change.
Of course I change, but I don’t have trouble accepting what time has done to me. I’m not glamour, I’m not a movie star and I feel completely comfortable in my own skin. A lot better nowadays than when I was young because I’ve gotten used to my looks and I’m a lot more conscious of my role in universe.
Time has been kind to your hair...
Yes, I still have a bit of it on my head. I think that the cold showers make my hair grown this well. I really like cold showers, they work wonders on the nerves, skin, self-esteem and you connect with reality. But it has to be really cold. I am sure that you have good, cold water in Poland. I’m looking forward to trying it out.
... and through-out the years you’ve never changed your hairdo.
No, I would feel weird. When you’re young, you don’t have that feeling of safety. I too didn’t have it when it came to my looks. I was always too long and too skinny. I had curly hair, which I was ashamed of because all my idols had awesome hairdos. Eric Clapton for example – I really wanted hair like his. Until the day that Jimi Hendrix showed up on the music scene and I thought: now I can feel great about my hair too. That was a moment of liberation. I have to thank Jimi Hendrix for that.
You say that you now have time to do other things which you’re passionate about. You went back to astronomy...
That’s true, I went off into other regions, but that area has some odd force of attraction. It’s my other passion. Wherever I can see stars, I only have to put in a little effort and I have a bit of happiness. I love astronomy and what it gives me – a feeling of belonging to the universe, a perspective to life. Astronomy changes very quickly, especially in these days when new things are discovered every minute. This applies not only to experts but also to amateurs, who have great equipment, some of them have better computers than those that sent people to the moon. So astronomy sucked me again. I came to the conclusion that it would be worth finishing what I once started. Today, I have a Ph.D. A Ph.D in astrophysics. And I don’t have patience for people who only title me “mister”. If you put that much work into getting a Ph.D. to put in front of your name, you can’t let others forget about it.
Did you return to astronomy because you heard a calling from the above?
More or less. It’s really a quite funny story. I was spending a fair amount of time with Patrick Moore, who is considered to be the father of British astronomy and who has lead the television show “Sky at Night” for 50 years, a show which has no precedent anywhere in the world. He became a good friend of mine, and together we observed the ellipses and the transit of Venus, and it was he who always said: Brian, you should finish your Ph.D. You have 4 years of work behind you. And I always replied that I didn’t have it in me. Until someone once asked me in an interview if I’ll ever write that doctorate. I replied that I’d like to. Coincidentally, that interview was read by Michael Robinson, head of the astrophysics department at Imperial College, that will say my alma mater and he sent me an email: Dear Brian, I heard that you’d like to finish your doctorate, if you said that in all seriousness, come to Imperial College, I’ll be your promoter. I could not refuse.
What was your Ph.D. thesis about?
It was about the dust in the solar system. And later me and Patrick wrote a book: “Bang! A complete history of the Universe”, which sold a large number of copies. It’s a type of guide to the universe that presents events in chronological order. Before us, no one had done that.
Not even Stephen Hawking?
Hawking presents the theory of the universe from a slightly different angle. We are aware of what he writes about, but we also know that no one understands his books. Including myself. That is why we wanted to write something that would be understandable by everyone. And now we’re writing another book, it was just sent to the published, “Cosmic Tourist”. It’s a trip around the universe during which we visit all sight points that matter in the fabulous scenery of the sky. So if you want to travel around the universe, we suggest the places where you should make a stop.
In that case, you probably know if 2012 will be the end of the world?
As an astronomer I ask: where is your evidence that there will be an end? In my opinion, there won’t be an end of the world.
Original article at http://www.rmfon.pl/aktualnosci/rmf-extra-14694.html
Translated by: @hellonhighheels