Interviews: Queen: Rolling Stone '95
Translated by Michael Thalmann
Q: Was A Winters Tale the last song Freddie wrote for Made In Heaven?
DR: A Winters Tale was the last song he wrote, the last song he sang for MIH was Mother Love, which Brian wrote for him.
Q: Did Brian write the song after ideas by Freddie?
DR: As far as I can remember, Brian came to the studios one day, wrote down some chords and Freddie started to sing the song. Brian handed Freddie a little piece of paper with some lines on it, where the idea or inspiration came from, I can't tell.
Q: What sort of feelings do you have about the release of MIH?
DR: We fulfilled Freddie's last wish. He wanted to make music till the last second, he wanted to sing. It was a difficult situation for all of us, but especially for Freddie, but he really wanted this project to be finished, even though he knew that the album would be released after his death.
Q: When did you realize how ill Freddie actually was?
DR: I knew that he was very ill, amazingly his voice became better and better though. "My voice is still here" he used to say, "So I'll keep on singing till the end" I personally didn't know that he had AIDS, I speculated he had cancer. I think everyone involved pushed aside the fact that it was really that serious. Everyone still had that glimpse of hope that at the end maybe a miracle would happen...
Q: Did you already notice his illness during the Innuendo sessions?
DR: I noticed that something was wrong, but I didn't know what.
Q: How much more difficult did his physical condition make the MIH sessions?
DR: We spent more time on the singing parts, cause Freddie needed a lot of rest during the recording. on the other side, Freddie wanted to be as precise as possible, because he knew there won't be anymore live tours for him, he wanted it to be perfect.
Q: Were the songs just more like demos when Freddie recorded the vocals? Or what's the reason that the rest of the band recorded the instrumental parts of the tracks last year?
DR: We always took 2 or 3 different approaches in recording songs. Sometimes a single band member had an idea for a song and had a demo of it with only some chords and some lyrics. Then the whole band came together and arranged the song, brought new ideas to the song and gave it the Queen-Sound. A simple idea evolved to a song. Innuendo on the other side evolved out of an improvisation in the Casino hall in Montreux. Freddie was upstairs in the studio and heard them playing that song and he just said: "ohhh I love it" and he ran downstairs and began to sing to it. Naturally a lot of work was put into Innuendo afterwards, but the idea came from that spontaneous jam in the hall.
Q: Again, did the band just record rough versions of the songs, so Freddie could still sing on those songs?
DR: No, they recorded the tracks live. The songs weren't rough versions, they were planned as finished versions, the spontaneity of the recording should be kept. We edited the songs later, we cut some parts out, but basically, it was recorded live, including the vocals. I remember that we had some problems because you could also hear the drums over Freddie's microphone. I've arranged the band in the studio like they would play a gig in a big hall, to create that "live feeling", even though no audience was there.
Q: How long did you work with Freddie on this album?
DR: Let's say it took us about 4 weeks for recording, in this period the songs were written and recorded. After Freddie's death no one wanted to continue on MIH, they needed some time for themselves. In the years after Freddie's death they came together again and said: "Let's do some work, Freddie wanted that we add the missing parts to the puzzle". I think this work took them again 3 or 4 months.
Q: What was changed on the songs at this time? Just final touches?
DR: Yes. Some songs remained in the original way, others, like the 2 songs from Freddie's solo work, received a queen-arrangement which transformed them from a solo product into a queen product. This kind of work takes a lot of time. But as I said, the other 4 or 5 songs that were recorded in 1991 in Montreux remained like they were recorded, there were some additional guitars, but that would have been done anyway.
Q: How did Freddie deal with the whole situation?
DR: He enjoyed it, he was glad that he was able to sing, that he still was able to sing. He was really happy.
Q: Was modern technology elementary to finish the album? or would it have been possible to complete the album also 10 years ago?
DR: Absolutely! Technology offers us the possibility to arrange songs new, but in this case we didn't arrange the songs new, so the recordings could have been done just as well ten years back with an analog recording machine. In fact "Too Much Love" was recorded on an analog recording machine. Brian wrote the song at a time when we were still using those machines, Freddie recorded it, cause he liked the song very much, but the track was never used, so " Too Much Love.." ended up on Brian's solo album. It's interesting to compare that one analog song to all the other digital MIH songs. The clearness in the analog recording is remarkable. It always takes us some time till we see where new technology takes us. We follow every technological revolution without knowing where it's heading.
Q. What does the band think about analog/digital recording?
DR: Roger called me yesterday, because I did an edit of "Too Much Love..." for a release in the USA. He asked: "what did you do with that remix? it sounds AMAZING!" I told him it was maybe because it was an analog recorded song that gave that amazing impression.
Q: Now it's very interesting that at the same time a Beatles anthology is coming out, where also a dead person is singing... now where did they probably find those songs?
DR: Probably in Paul's closet...
Q: There will be no doubt be a discussion about whether or not those kinda recordings should be released...
DR: I can't say anything about those Beatles recordings, but I could imagine that people are very curious to hear what those mysterious songs are all about. It's a bit different with MIH, because Freddie really wanted this album released.
Q: Will technology allow us in the near future to sample voices and use them even if the singer is already dead?
DR: No, that is impossible. you have to know what a sample is. A sample is a recording of something that was already done, it's nothing synthetic. It's a recording that you can access within seconds by pressing a button. You can edit it, make 1 word out of 2.But if you didn't record the voice before, you can't do anything at all. You can't recreate Freddie's voice synthetically. You have to have the voice first, and then you can maybe repeat a line for a few times, but that doesn't make a song. You need more than that.
Q: That means that it will still be impossible, in maybe 30 years, to record a voice for some hours and then use samples of it and put it together for a song?
DR: If you have hours of recordings of that voice, it would be theoretically possible. Under the circumstances that complete words exist. but you won't be able, even in 30 years, to create something out of nothing.
Q: Would you have a bad feeling about MIH, if Freddie didn't want it to be finished?
DR: Yes. if he wouldn't have wanted this album so badly and wouldn't have recorded so many songs.The only possibility would have been to search in the vaults for unreleased material, but that was not the case. The whole thing was very emotional experience. The fact that Freddie wanted this album finished gave us strength.
Q: Does a member of the group own, or has owned a house around Montreux?
DR: They stayed in hotels usually, but as Freddie was very often in Montreux in his last year, he got himself an apartment.he loved it because it was a silent and peaceful place. Montreux is a very inspiring place, especially for musicians. In the past 100 years a lot of musicians were here. When you listen to the nights in Montreux very carefully, it seems as if music is in the air.
Q: Did the media even realize that you and the rest of the band are working on this album?
DR: Well I don't think so, no. It's a very discreet place, that's why people keep coming to Montreux. We have our peace and the people in Montreux are used to celebrities because of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival. When people saw how Mr. Mercury went out with his dog, they didn't go crazy about it, he had his peace here.
Q: If you think of Freddie the showman and hits like "the show must go on", do you think Freddie would enjoy it that MIH gets so much attention?
DR: Absolutely! "The bigger the better" was his credo. Life was connected to success for him, that's what he lived for. It had to be a Number 1. And if this album would be the biggest seller of all times: Freddie would be the one who enjoys it the most!