Interviews: Roger Taylor: USA '76
Roger: Haven't done an interview for a long time, by the way!
Speaker: I haven't done one in 5 minutes!
OK - erm - now I remember reading way back at the beginning when Queen first started that err, personalities aside, the one person of the band who you would call a definitive rock n' roller, who was into it the most, was you. Which gets us into the area of image and a performer's image to the public, media and wotnot. Erm, do you think that can be a problem in that people expect you to act a certain way, when infact you may not want to act that way?
Roger: You mean we don't break up enough hotel rooms??!!
Speaker: Yeah, either that or - err - it's like everybody expects Freddie to be really flamboyant and all, and he pretends that that's the way he is naturally, and it isn't an image and it isn't built up. But anybody who goes on the stage is gonna have a certain amount of - err - you're in an exagerated position to begin with.
Roger: Yeah, absolutely, yeah. I dunno, I think it's probably a case of just projecting your natural personality really, I think we do that. I think that comes over on stage, but you just probably do exagerate your own natural personality. I think it's impossible to come across genuinely if you're trying to project something that you really aren't. I think, I'd say Freddie is a naturally flamboyant person - yes - but that doesn't mean to say he's ultra-loud all the time 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 more reserved I'd say, and I think he probably comes over that way on stage, I dunno. And I'm just as I am really.
Speaker: He's the one who doesn't smile!
Roger: <laughs> Yeah, I really think it's just an extension of our normal personalities really. You know, there's certainly no pre-conceived notions. Has he gone? We can talk about him now! There are no real pre-conceived notions, you know, about how we define our image at all. But the rock n' roller tags have sort-of stayed with me a lot. I dunno why. I've been in it for quite a while now, since I was very young, so I don't really know, you know. It's probably true.
Speaker: Your rock n' roll look?
Roger: Possibly, yeah.
Speaker: Other than the sessions that you did with Ian Hunter last year, you're the only one in the band I know that has 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 was rather an insular unit, in that you don't get out to see many people, you don't get out to work on other albums.
Roger: Yeah, that's true.
Speaker: Do you think that can be detrimental?
Roger: Err - it can be both. I think it can be detrimental - yes - and it can be advantageous as well. It's advantageous in the fact that you can get entirely your own thing going and err, possibly without too many outside influences. So err, it's a difficult question. It goes both ways really. But also to be too insular is dangerous in that you're lacking any sort of inspiration from the outside, you know. You find it all coming from just amongst yourselves. So I think - I dunno - we do try and get out to see people if we can. I saw Linda Rondstat when she was in London, and a few other people.
Speaker: You're thinking about the Fox album last summer?
Roger: Fox album?
Speaker: Yeah, it's got Tales of Illusion.
Roger: Genesis, is that?
Speaker: No, no, no - Fox.
Roger: Oh! Fox, yeah! Sorry - yeah, I was on that wasn't I? Yeah, I'd forgotten all about that. <sniggers>. I'd forgotten all about it actually, yeah. I was on it, yeah. Oh you know the track?
Roger: 'Coz Kenny Young is - he wrote Under the Boardwalk and a lot of old things, and he's a friend of mine in England. He's an American and he's a nationalised English person now, and he's a friend of mine. They just asked me to come along one afternoon so I did, and ended up singing some of the highest notes I've ever sung I think.
Speaker: Is it on stage or even more so on record - I mean, the Queen sound has always been distinctive with the harmonies. Erm, would you agree, though, that they're more effective because you have such a hard, steady rhythm section underneath, vetting (??) it? Do you think you'd 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 cosy , you know. And too sort-of bland and smooth. Erm, we're lucky with the combination of voices, I think, 'coz the three of us who sing - who do most of the singing - have very different voices, but they do tend to blend quite well because of the differences. I've got a lot of 'edge' in my voice, 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 in the low range, he's also good in the high range. And I think - I dunno - I mean we use harmonies in very different ways, I think. For instance on You Take My Breath Away, that's mostly Freddie, and the beginning and end of that song 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 - we're using very hard, blasting harmonies, really, in sort-of old English rock n' roll sense, with a rhythm section.
Speaker: Yeah, it's really great because the engineer that I work with to record the show - the first time he heard Somebody To Love was on the car radio. He remembered thinking "Wow, that's really odd". He said it sounds really good, but he didn't want to admit that he liked it right away 'coz he was afraid it was somebody like the Partridge Family, or somebody -
Roger: Aahh, uurrggh, yuk!!
Speaker: But then they mentioned that it was Queen, and he went "Aahh, yeah well it makes sense after - you know - Bohemian Rhapsody".
Roger: You'd never find a record by them with a guitar break like that!!
Speaker: But it was the same thing with a band called Capability Brown -
Roger: Oh yeah, used to be Tony Rivers & the Castaways.
Speaker: And now they're the Crazy Cats.
Roger: Are they? Yeah
Speaker: And I played that record to somebody one night and they said "Aahh, sounds like an English Boys' Choir".
Roger: That's funny, 'coz what we were trying to do was trying like combine our sort of sound with almost a Gospel sound on it. Err, I dunno - we wanted to try and get some sort of real feel, yeah. It's a very hard song to do live - we're very nervous about doing it on this tour, by itself, because there are so many harmony parts on the record. And on stage there are only basically three of us singing, so it's not easy to get that whole feel, but it seems to come across very well. It goes down well, anyway.
Speaker: Err - did 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 it away on the small club circuit, making a name for yourself by your sweat?
Roger: Err - I think it's the most viable way. We did, 'coz we did it the way we wanted to do it. But I've been asked that sort of question before, quite a bit. A lot of people forget, I think, that erm - most of us have paid our dues anyway, before, in different bands, you know. I mean, I've been playing since I was thirteen, earning money in bands, which is quite a long time. And err - you know, Brian and I were in a band before. We did all our trips up the M1, which is a big freeway in England, to a lot of the gigs. I dunno - we've been around for years, working at it, and when we got Queen together we wanted to do everything right, and get as little as possible wrong, drawing on all our experience. And we did try to avoid the real basic slogging, we tried to go in at some sort of - a few steps up the ladder. And I dunno - it seems to have worked quite well, yeah.
Speaker: Do you think that as - I think you'll find, maybe now, that more and more bands are trying to enter the business at a higher level, say at a concert level, or wotnot, as opposed to working in clubs.
Roger: Yeah, I mean it's not an easy thing to do, because to enter at a concert level you've either got to support someone big, you know, and get all the record companies' support behind you, or you got to have some - I mean, you've got to be a draw if you're gonna headline. I mean, you can't do concerts unless you can attract the people to the concerts. I mean, the first time we came to America we supported Mott the Hoople, which was a good way to get ourselves to larger audiences than we would have been able to play to by ourselves. But erm - unfortunately, that tour was stopped short. And I think we were lucky the next time, through the relative record success, to be able to come in and start to headline on our own.
Speaker: Yeah, I remember that first tour. It seems almost like the band learnt a lesson last year, and the year before, as far as support acts go.
Roger: I think we learned a lesson, yeah.
Speaker: And now it's like a really nice, compatible bill.
Roger: I think it's a great bill.
Speaker: Do you see a time when you might - err - drop the idea of a support act altogether, and just do a solo thing?
Roger: We were thinking about that, but - I dunno - I think an audience likes to see some sort of diversity. It's nice to have a support act, and it also warms up the audiences, etc, etc.... and they get just used to being in the hall, and used to everything. I dunno - but it's not a necessary thing, but I think it's a good thing to have. I haven't got any really strong feelings on it.
Speaker: And you invite them to the party after the show too.
Roger: Yeah, true, true. It's nice to have other musicians around. You know, who you can bounce off a bit socially, etc.
Speaker: Do you think that - would you agree that the current punk rock thing that's going through London and New York, too, is kind of like a backlash towards the big, successful rock acts? It's like a vicious circle.
Roger: Yeah, well it's being portrayed as a sort of backlash. But it hasn't really affected us atall. Err - and really I'm not convinced that the so-called punk rock has caught with, like, the real public. Because there hasn't been one hit record from it yet. There might be - you know - and if something good comes out of it, great. If nothing good comes out of it - you know, I don't think it'll be successful for long. It's interesting.
Speaker: I just started thinking that when it started, it's like a manufactured thing, it's like all this press........
Roger: Yeah, I think there's - you know, you've got to come up with the goods, no matter who you are or how much - I think there's a lot more hype behind a lot of the punk stuff than there is with the so-called rock establishment, who at least - I mean, the Zeppelins, etc., of the world have gone out and proved themselves on the road, and - you know - people will go to their concerts because they like them..........
Speaker: Mmmm, hmmm.
Roger: .......because they're good, and they come away.
Speaker: I think a lot of the tours (??) is self-manufactured hype by either the media or record companies, who are afraid of - it's like, you know, it's like when you & I were growing up the music we were listening to, our parents said, "Well, that's a load of rubbish", but now all of a sudden we're turning round saying "Well, that's a load of rubbish". And you think "Oh Christ, are we getting old?" I think that's what's bothering a lot - I know it's got to be on EMI's mind, and sure it's on Melody Maker's Mind.
Roger: Yeah, I mean, I like rebellion, etc., and whatever. It's nice to....
Speaker: It would be nice if they could play!
Roger: Yeah. I mean, it's nice to stick your finger up at people, etc., but err - at the same time I think - when I was 16, you know, I still was saying "That's good, that's bad, I like that, I hate that". And to combine the whole thing with an anarchy feel is quite funny, and the bands are out trying to scrape the biggest advances they can get.
Speaker: Hhmm, I think EMI just dropped the Pistols.
Roger: Yeah, this is true - yeah.
Speaker: Would you like to sing lead more on stage? I read in several places that it is said you had the best voice in the band.
Roger: Err, ahh, erm - yes I would. However, in the context of Queen it's not an easy thing to do. Because - I dunno - I sing a lot from the drums, but to sing lead on stage I think you have to have - the vocalist should be a focal point in a concert, when there's singing going on, and for the drummer to sing I think the whole thing loses a lot somehow. So in that context it's very hard. I'd like to play guitar aswell on stage, but that's hard again, you know. It really means bringing in somebody else, so really - you know - I think I'll just have to be patient. You know, I'd like to do some things of my own that err - but that would be completely outside Queen. I dunno, to be in a band like this you have to sort of give and take, if you see what I mean.
Speaker: Yeah, sublemate part of yourself?
Roger: Exactly, yeah - you do have to sort of sublemate part of yourself, to check your worth.
Speaker: 'Coz I was thinking about whether, as Phil Collins told me last year, he said "Like, I can sing lead vocals, I know I can do that, but I can't play drums at the same time".
Roger: Yeah, I used to do that!
Speaker: It's difficult - I don't know very many people who do.
Roger: But 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. And it'll detract slightly from the drumming, it'll detract slightly from the singing, as well. It's very hard to do both. Erm - I dunno, I enjoy singing a lot, and I like to sing some lead stuff. I like playing guitar too, but it's impossible within the context of Queen on stage, definitely.
Speaker: Especially as you're playing drums.
Roger: Yeah, you have to sort of make some sort of allowances to make
the overall thing - to give the best result overall, I think, within the group context.
Speaker: The thing I find interesting about the band, singles wise, is that - there's Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody To Love - are 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, or Brighton Rock - and I find it curious that that type of single seems to be the one that does better for you, as opposed to the hard sort-of rocking things, 'coz the people I know who got into Queen got into them because you're a damn fine rock n' roll band.
Roger: Yeah, that's how it happened in England really, 'coz the hard rock was the stuff that really caught on.
I dunno - really we never record singles as singles. What we do is basically record a load of material for an album, and we just sort-of come to a choice of single off that. So really it's just a reflection of one of styles, I suppose, or a number of our styles, as to what tracks come out as the singles, you know, which are invariably really the better known tracks, I suppose. Because a single is heard more, I suppose overall, than an album track. But err - they're certainly not err - not prethought of as you know, let's record something lighter for a single, 'coz we never know what the single's gonna be.
Speaker: Yeah, I was talking to Freddie about that. I said, it struck me that he was seen as a memory of a type of musichall type approach, almost.
Roger: Yeah, he's got quite a few different sides, really.
Speaker: Whereas, you know, where Brian writes - the stuff Brian writes is a little more driving, as a general rule.
Roger: Yeah, but he writes some softies aswell.
Speaker: Have you got a few things hanging around on the shelf yourself, that you haven't gotten round to?
Roger: What, me? Yeah I've got quite a few now that I'd like to record, you know. Possibly some of them by myself, I don't know. It depends what the band gets round to, really. 'Coz we're not - we do take quite a long time in the recording studio.
Speaker: Any chance of you ever building your own studio?
Roger: Mmmm - yeah, we're just buying out a country place in England at the moment, which we're thinking of converting into a really good studio according to our needs, and sort-of hiring it out aswell, you know, when we're not using it. I think, you know, we're quite excited about that. I mean, it's a new thing for us.
Speaker: Yeah, it's sounding to be a good idea.
Roger: We have very strong ideas about recording equipment, etc., you know, so err - just pool all the knowledge.
Speaker: Why do you think it is that British bands seem to do better in America than American bands?
Roger: Do they?
Speaker: Well I think they do, yeah.......
Roger: Aahh, I dunno........
Speaker: And the ones that are the most successful are the copying of British stance.
Roger: I see what you mean, yeah. Well, Aerosmith are very good friends of ours, and they're a very successful American band. But I suppose they're basically English influenced - Yardsbirds, Jeff Beck, etc. Erm - I dunno, perhaps you are right, I'd never really thought about it.
Speaker: It just seems to that over the years, like, the personalities in the bands to come from Britain are strong and individual. Then it's like, you look at an American band, and - take Aerosmith. Alright, you know Steve's outstanding person-wise.........
Roger: Yeah, I think Joe Perry is great actually.
Speaker: Yeah, but the rest of them - erm - they just kind of - it's almost neutured. You know, I mean Joe is a really nice guy and all, but it's a kind of low-profile thing, whereas - err -
Roger: Mmmm. I dunno though, there's a lot of American bands that seem to stand out. I mean, I suppose if you take the West coast, I think it's a completely American thing.
Speaker: That's like a whole studio trip, too.
Roger: Yes, I suppose so. I dunno, you know, different styles. I think America is one of our relatively err - we're not as well known here as we are in a lot of other countries, so I think we'd like to work over here quite a bit this year to really establish ourselves over here,
Speaker: Would you - err- if Queen were to fold tomorrow, would you - erm - be working for another band? Would you still want to continue composition?
Roger: I really don't - oh I'd definitely continue in the music business, yeah. Erm - I never really think about it, you know, 'coz as long as we do go on - I think really, to sort of plan things like to think "Well, if the band split up tomorrow" - you know, is not a good, not a positive direction of thought, really. So until it happened, I dunno. I'd definitely record some of my own stuff if that happened I think, but I dunno - I don't really think about it happening. It doesn't look like it's gonna break up. I think it's very important to keep a band identity, to keep the same members, and to persue that as long as it's actively bringing out good songs, good recordings, you know, and good concerts.
Speaker: Do you think that one of the secrets of success of bands in the 70's is being able to simulate a different number of styles, and more or less combine them with something else? I think it might be very error-wise (??) if Queen were to, like, be a combination of Yes and Led Zeppelin, and it seems like the bands in the 70's that have been successful have been able to do that.
Roger: Yeah - I dunno, it's very hard. I think the longer we're in it, the we sort of analyse really, if you know what I mean. We just sort of keep going ahead, doing our own thing, as much as possible, possibly being less influenced all the time. Erm - I think the most important thing is for a band - basically, it has to be good, and it also has to stick together, I think. Really you just got to stick together, and know each other backwards, you know. You've got to almost know what the other person's thinking. Erm - but so many people don't seem to stick together, you know, and they just sort of fall just as they're getting somewhere.
Speaker: Then I say you're probably rather unique because, if you really do live in each other's pockets for so long, then you've got to come to the bottom of it all sometime.
Roger: Definitely, I mean I'm sure - yeah.
Speaker: Which is why, you know, I asked about playing with other people and doing other things.
Roger: That's interesting and stimulating, definitely. But erm - for such a longevity of success, I think a band has to stick together until it's - there's no longer any point in it, sticking together, if you see what I mean, instead of breaking up before it's reached it's peak or it's logical height of creativity or whatever.
Speaker: Rather like being an athlete.
Roger: Yeah, yeah. But mind you, when it is all over and there's not really much coming out of it anymore, you've got to quit then, I think. And I'm sure we will, when that happens, or when we feel that happens, anyway.
Speaker: You want to have the option of walking out yourself, rather then being booted out the door.
Roger: Oh yeah. I mean, the band doesn't work like that anyway. It's very democratic, but you know - I think we'll all probably come to that conclusion at the same time, I hope.
Speaker: 'Coz I remember reading an article that compared the ageing rock bands to dinosaurs. They go around, they play the 20,000 seater halls and all this, and they know it's gonna be a million selling album before they put it out, and they start getting.......
Roger: It's just taking the money and running, yeah, in the words of Steve Miller.
Speaker: Exactly. Err - let's see - oh, one of the criticisms I read of the band was they come across occasionally on stage as too rehearsed, or too - erm - too sterile.
Roger: <laughs> If they only knew! Too rehearsed, yeah.
Speaker: Well it's like obviously it got to be rehearsed because the lights have got to hit on a certain cue and everything else. Erm - do you think - aside from the fact that whether or not that's a valid, point, do you think that it's gonna be any more of a problem for you on this tour when you're playing larger halls, to establish any sort of - an issue with the audience?
Roger: No, for a start I don't agree with the over rehearsing. We did some shows in England this year, which were really literally - erm - we didn't feel we had anywhere near enough rehearsal for the shows, and we were working on that thing I was talking about before like an almost sort of telepathic bit, and you try to get that going with the guy on the sound board, and guy on the lights, aswell. And you know, the audiences were great, the shows were very successful, but some of the write-ups we had in the famed English press said things like "too slick - Queen were too good, it went too well". So I really just don't understand that sort of criticism, because to us the shows are different every night. You know, there are definite spots where things are extended or things go very differently from night to night, and really if people knew, it really is not over rehearsed. And I don't think it's over slick, you know. Erm - but to present a show that comes over as being - I dunno - sort of polished, but to present energy. There's got to be a certain amount of polish in it, and you know, it's all part of being professional, I think.
Speaker: It's rock n' roll grown up into a major entertainment thing.
Roger: Yeah, really, yeah, and I mean people say about sloppiness. I don't like 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 - you know, a show that seems to run well. I'm not saying it will every night, because you don't know what's going to happen.
Speaker: Well, if it does run exactly the same every night, then it's time to get out.
Roger: Yeah, really, yeah.
Speaker: Hit it on the head.
Speaker: I think I've reached the end of my list. Unless there's anything else that you want to add that I didn't go over.
Roger: Good. No, that's fine. Thank you very much.