It’s possible Roger Taylor has written his last song. If that’s the case, he’s okay with that. “Journey’s End” floats airily, but there’s a somber mood that’s woven throughout the track, which was first released in 2017 as a stand-alone song and mini-movie.
“It’s [about] approaching the end,” the Queen drummer says of the song that serves as the closing song on his new solo album, Outsider. “But in an optimistic way. You know, there’s nothing to fear. Have no fear, basically. That’s it, really.”
Taylor grapples with the feelings of mortality on Outsider, which is balanced by moments of lighthearted reflection, like in the rocker “More Kicks,” about the rowdy times he shared with his bandmates in the ’70s.
Recorded at home in Cornwall during the lockdown, the album is truly a solo affair. Taylor handled the bulk of the instruments himself, as he has on most of his solo work. He’ll play songs from the record, as well as selected Queen favorites, during a brief 14-date solo tour this month.
Taylor tells UCR how the album took shape and shares some updates from “the mothership,” as he refers to his main gig.
What’s the latest on the Queen front?
After [my solo] tour, I’ll take a rest. Then we have a big Queen tour next year. The mothership goes out, and I can’t wait. It’s Europe. We’d love to come back to the States, because it’s so great. It works so well there, and everything is easier to organize. We’re out in May, June and July all over Europe. We’re going to do 10 big nights in London. Maybe 11. We’re looking forward to it. Brian [May] and I are really looking forward to it. I know Adam [Lambert] is too. That’s our next major outing. But we’d love to come to America.
What’s the general theme for these upcoming Queen dates?
We have a great new production that we took out to Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. I think we’re going to continue with that actual production, although the set list might change. In light of what’s happened, we’re going to definitely rethink the set list. But the old monumental anthems will be in there.
Why do you think your solo material resonates with fans so much?
I wish I could answer that. If I had that recipe, I don’t know. I hope it does resonate to some extent. Any solo stuff outside of what we call the “mothership” has always really just been my own individual chance to express myself individually. You can never really give an opinion within a band structure, because everybody has to think exactly the same about something. We always try to be apolitical in the band, but you can say what the hell you like, really, as an individual.
You play guitar on Outsider. How did you first get started playing it?
I tried playing guitar when I was about eight. My God, it’s hard, isn’t it? [Laughs] There was no tuition available, really. Then I found had a better facility on the drums. Like many others, I started on my mother’s pots and pans upside down, and found the drums to be much easier. But I kept up guitar because I just love guitars. I collect guitars. They’re wonderful things.
How did you connect with KT Tunstall for “We’re All Just Trying to Get By”?
She’s such a cool person as well. I saw her quite a few years ago, about 15 years ago, live. She pioneered that looping technique that Ed Sheeran has made very famous. He’s very good at it, but boy, she was doing that all of those years ago, so she’s a bit of a pioneer. She’s a good singer with a gutsy voice. So it was really a joy to have her sing along with me on that track.
Watch Roger Taylor and KT Tunstall’s ‘We’re All Just Trying to Get By’ Video
That track is bookended by two different versions of “Gangsters Are Running the World.” Why did you split the song into two versions?
It’s a good description of the way I saw it actually. With the sirens … for some reason, we called it the “Purple” version. I had the Detroit Purple gang in my head, although it really has nothing to do with the track. I just like the sentiment of the title. There’s the more melodic version with a slightly different lyric, which precedes the [Tunstall] track. I just thought, “Yeah, why not have two tracks with the same title, but they’re very different tracks.”
How did your cover of Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song” fit into the context of this overall record? It’s a lockdown record in a sense, but it’s not completely anchored to that.
Yeah, I mean, I think you can’t just go on moaning about a lockdown. That’s why I’ve got things like “The Clapping Song,” which is very lighthearted and then “More Kicks,” which is a straightforward heavy rock song in the old kind of blues format, with a bit of a sort of freak-out at the end. It’s a fun thing. Then I’ve got sort of a miserable apology, “”I Know, I Know, I Know.” I’ve been bad.
What songs in the Queen catalog have you not had a chance to play live, either solo or with Queen, that you’d love to take a crack at?
I’ve got to figure that out when I start rehearsals! I’ve got to see what works best for this great new band we’ve got together. I’d probably do “Radio Ga-Ga.” “I’m in Love With My Car” maybe. “Tenement Funster.” There’s a song on my last album called “Up,” which kind of got ignored. We’ll have a look. I’ve got to see what works. I want it to be a real fun tour and a very rock ‘n’ roll tour.
Watch UCR’s Interview With Roger Taylor