From Queen Archives: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, Interviews, Articles, Reviews
Interviews > John Deacon Interviews > XX-XX-1977 - Innerview
Transcribed by Champs
Interviewer: Jim Ladd
This is Innerview. An inside look at the people whose music has changed our lives. Innverview is brought to you by Elektra Asylum records and tapes. We'll be back with host Jim Ladd, and Innerview, right after this.
Jim Ladd (JL) :Good evening everybody and welcome. Tonight we'll spend the next hour with John Deacon, bass player and composer for one of rock and roll's most interesting and progressive bands. Their music is a study in variety that ranges from "up against the wall" rock and roll to extremely complex and intricate ballads. They're highly proficient both in the studio and onstage, a unique combination of both musical talent and showmanship. And we're about to find out how it is all accomplished in tonight's Innerview of Queen.
[Keep Yourself Alive]
JL : The song "Keep Yourself Alive" I like that. Who wrote that?
John Deacon (JD) : Brian May wrote that, our guitarist. That was one of the very early songs we had with the group Queen. I met them when I was at college, and we used to just rehearse and that was one of the songs that we had then. And they were essentially songs we just used to play you know, live, all of those...to audiences. And quite a lot of the songs on that first album were songs that we had had for a long while, and songs that we just used to play together, songs like "Keep Yourself Alive," "Liar" "Great King Rat," and other numbers. They're songs that we just used to play. And we just went in and recorded them. And there were one or two numbers on that first album which were more sort of that first sort of sign of getting interested in doing things in the studio. "My Fairy King" was a number Freddie wrote which we only wrote when we were in the studio and it was built up in the studio. Whereas, you know as I said, there's other numbers where essentially live songs, basically just the track and then just a few .......backing vocals and guitar solos over the top and that was it.
[Modern Times Rock and Roll]
JL :If you can, would you give me a brief personality sketch, you can be as either complimentary or otherwise, as you would like of the other members of the band?
JD : Well, I could do that, yeah. (laughter)
JL : Of course I'll leave that to your conscience.
JD : I don't know Roger is sort of the rock and roller of the group, Roger. I mean he loves touring. I like touring, I like being in the studio, a bit of both. I like to have a bit of time at home as well.
JL : But Roger he just wants to....
JD : He just likes to get out on the road and tour, and do the gigs. He loves it, you know.
JD : Fred, Fred loves doing the shows. He really likes the big shows...you know, the New Yorks, the Chicagos and the LA's, the more prestigious ones, where you get all the people coming to see you. He likes.... sort of hopes, there's someone..... people in the audience watching him...but he's a total professional. Every night.
JL : But he's into have people of renown coming to see him?
JD :Oh yes, he likes all that side of it as well. But he's a very, very hard worker. Cause he really goes through a lot every night on stage. He really sort of abuses his body onstage running around.
JL : He gives his all.
JD : Yes, he does, every night.
[Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy]
JD :Brian, Brian is a bit more sort of a thinker. He puts a lot of thought into his songs, and the ideas. We don't actually write songs on the road, but Brian sometimes often picks up ideas on the road, which he'll develop later into songs.
JD : I tend to be the quiet one of the group. There's always one. And it's often the bass player as well.
JL : Yes, "the rock" of the band
JD :John Entwhistle, a few people like that. Yes I tend to be the quieter one. But you know it takes, it's a balance of four personalities, and them all being different, it's very healthy in a way. And also with four people there's plenty of ideas you can bounce off each other. And also you don't get too extreme in any one direction that could be bad for the group because there's always sort of three people to perhaps pull it back.
[Stone Cold Crazy]
JL :I'll begin with a question of how a song as simple and uncomplicated as "Bohemian Rhapsody" ever got to be a hit single in the United States of America with disco things going on, and that.(sarcasm) I don't know, but did you guys expect that?
JD :Um, no we didn't really. When we finished the album, the Night at the Opera album, that was the track on it that we thought we were gonna release as a single in England first. And when we released it in England we didn't necessarily think it'd be released in America, cause we know even over here, you know, the AM tastes are even more (hesitates) stricter. Anyway we did have thoughts about even in England, perhaps editing it down at all, but we listened to it over and over again and there was no way we could edit it. We tried a few ideas, but if you edited it, you always lost some part of the song, so we had to leave it all in. And luckily it took off anyway.
JL : Do you see Queen affecting people on a sociological level, or just entertainers?
JD :First and foremost I'd say it's entertainment. But I think Brian puts a little bit more, there's quite a lot of meaning in his lyrics. Whereas Freddie's songs are more sort of in a fantasy vein. It depends on particularly who has written the songs. I don't know, it's how big we tend to take them, but I would say we're mainly more on the just entertainment side. We're not sort of deep politically motivated in any way at all, I don't think.
JL :It seemed like English musicians, or English kids in general, were much more educated to American music than Americans ever were. You know, it was English bands who brought back over to America a lot of the things that American kids had missed for a long time.
JD : Yes, possibly, possibly. There was always a lot of American music in England until, obviously when the Beatles came around, then there was a shift towards English music, but before then American music was the main thing...It was sort of the Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, especially all that the early R & B stuff. Cause that's what the English bands used to listen to, they started up then...the Bo Diddley, and that sort of thing, those records. American music was a big influence.
[Bring Back Leroy Brown]
One of the first things one notices about Queen's music is the accuracy with which they execute their songs. They seem at times to be able to create almost impossible effects, both electronically and vocally, and have learned to play the studio, almost as well as their instruments.
JD : We always find quite an interest on the recording side because of what we have on our records. There's a lot of stuff on our records, you know. Especially when you get the headphones on, you can actually, you know....I suppose our thing is fairly modern in a way, because we do use the studio a lot. I suppose it sounds more modern in a way because of all the various multi-tracking we do. That wasn't done five years ago because the facilities weren't around. When we recorded our first album sixteen track machines were the thing. And we just used the facilities that they could do. Whereas a few years previous it was only eight tracks and four tracks and people were very limited to what they could do. It was more like playing music live, they would go in and they would play the music as they performed it onstage, and that would be it. But now working in the studio is an art in itself, because you can come up with sounds that you could never reproduce onstage.
[Tie Your Mother Down]
JD : We had a chat with Roy Baker, who's very well known now, who did our first three albums. And we needed him, cause he's like a really good super engineer, he knew all the technical ins and outs of the studio. So he was able to tell us how we could do this, sort of record our vocals over 50 times, or do this "phasing." The ideas that we wanted to do, just how he could actually, physically record them. But Night at the Opera, was the last album we did with him. We had done four albums with him, and we came to the position where, we had learned ourselves in the studio what to do, and one didn't really need the services of the producer, because we had within the group, within the four of us, we had plenty of the ideas. All we really needed was a good engineer. So that's what we did with the new album, A Day at the Races, we more or less produced it ourselves with an engineer. I mean Night at the Opera and Sheer Heart Attack, we had co-production credits on it, so it was sort of a slow thing when you're first in the studio you're new, you're beginners, you have to learn. And then it depends how long it takes. You have to get that confidence in the studio to know what to do in time, and then you can sort of perhaps take it over yourself. Whereas it depends on different people, some artists just don't know what goes on in the studio at all. But we've always been very interested in working in studios, how to get the best out of them. It's just been a natural extension really, to just produce our own.
[Somebody to Love]
JD : Our albums just tend to be collections of songs really, because we all write in the group, all four of us. Freddie and Brian tend to write the majority of the material. I think on the new album Day at the Races they wrote four each and Brian [sic] and I each wrote one, so there's never particularly a concept for the whole album. It just depends on what songs come out when we individually made those. We usually have, before we go to record now, we usually have a few weeks where we've been writing songs.
JL :Anything else that you can think of that you've always wanted to tell American radio...where to go...or something you'd like to say?
JD :Um...I don't know...I must say American radio is good in a way because for new groups, especially like English groups that's how the interest picked up on us over here. All we did was the first album was released, right, and radio stations picked up on it, and it's a very healthy situation.
JL : What's the thing you're most proud of, Queen?
JD : I don't know ...different things for different people. We're very very happy with the tour we've just done. It's our first American tour that's really taken us into some of the larger halls. That's quite a big step. Our concert audience has really grown quite big this year. And also we've done some very big shows around the country this year, which we're very pleased with. You know, we've done some of the larger halls, like we did the LA Forum, and in New York we did Madison Square Garden, we did one show there. Those are gigs you know, you've always sort of heard about, and this is our fourth time here, going around doing the small theaters, and it's sort of our ambition in a way to play those. I know Roger, it's really one of his ambitions to play Madison Square Garden. and LA Forum and things like that. I'd almost say we've done some very good shows this time around. Because in a way, our show does seem to come off very well in that size auditorium.
[You and I]
JD :We do take a long while in the studio, especially Freddie, with the songs he writes. He has all the ideas sort of up in his head of what he wants to go on top and all the little things here and there.
JL : Right down to the production of the song?
JD :Oh, yes, yes. All the way through. We do spend a long while in the studio, listening to songs at each stage, and making sure it is correct as we put it on, you know.
JL : Have we run out of time here? OK.
JD : Are you closing me off, or something. (laughs)
JL : Thank you very much.
JD : Ok thank you very much indeed, yeah.
Well I hope you enjoyed this last hour and that perhaps you may at this point feel you know a little bit more about these four very talented musicians known as Queen. And of course you're invited to join us next week for another Innerview.