Brian May on Innuendo

Source: VOX Magazine (1991)

Submitted by: Richard Orchard

It's not often that the members of legendary rock band Queen are caught talking about the day-to-day details of being the super-group that they are but below, lovingly rendered in hand-crafted typescript, are excerpts from a world-exclusive interview in which Queen's guitarist Brian May comes clean on the making of their latest album, 'Innuendo'. Remember. You read it first in Vox... 

Question: Which is your favourite track on the album? 'Innuendo? 

Brian: I think 'Innuendo' was one of those things which could either be big - or nothing. We had the same feelings about 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. It's a risk, because a lot of people say "It's too long, it's too involved, and we don't want to play it on the radio." I think that could be a problem in which case it will die. Or it could happen that people say "This is interesting and new and different", and we'll take a chance.

I also very much like the last track on the album, which is called 'The Show Must Go On'.  It's one of those things which evolved, and there's bits of all of us in it.

Q: It's very much a Queen track because it has those big, thick block harmonies.

Brian: That's right, yes. It has a little bit of retrospective stuff and it has a little bit of forward looking stuff. There was a point where I looked into it, and got a vision of it, and put down a few things, and felt it meant something special - so I'm pretty fond of that one. Sometimes these tracks have a life of their own, and no matter what you do they have a certain sound to them. 'The Show Must Go On' has a very broad and lush sound to it, which I like, whereas 'I Can't Live With You' turned out very, very close and harsh. And no matter what you do, you can't mix that out of it. It probably benefits the track, but they just have different atmospheres - you do them in different places and in different ways.

Q: Have you used any new techniques on this new album, or have you stuck with the techniques you know and love?

Brian: As much as possible we've done it live in the studio, with three or four of us playing at one time. There's a fair bit of new technology. Sometimes we would start off by programming something and working around it, but in almost every case we replaced original material with real stuff as we went along. With the digital [recording] gear you can allow yourself to do that more freely, because if you make copies you don't lose quality. What I've always said about digital is that you can preserve the "liveness". In the old days you would say: "That's very nice as a demo, but now we'll do it properly". Now you can say: "That's great as a demo; we'll use this piece and incorporate it into the finished product". So you use the first take of a vocal for instance, and it's there: sparkling and clear on the final mix.

Q: What about your own guitar techniques? Are you still learning? 

Brian: I'm pretty basic as far as technique is concerned. I don't use many gadgets, and I like the sound my guitar makes, anyway. But I'm very aware of a lot of new input into guitar playing - there are a lot of great people out there, like Steve Vai, Satriani, Edward Van Halen and Jeff Beck. Every time I listen to Jeff Beck my whole view of guitar changes radically. He's way, way out, doing things which you never expect. That's my kind of model in a way; I would like people to listen to what I do and say: "Ah, he took a chance there: this is something different", I'd like people to think it's melodic and not just "wheely, wheely, wheely" for being flashy's sake.

Q: You're clearly still very keen on playing? 

Brian: I love playing, yeah. Always do - and I always come back from doing different stuff thinkin