Just five years ago, Adam Lambert auditioned for American Idol by singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You.” In his wildest dreams, he couldn’t have imagined he was kickstarting a series of events that would make him the newest Queen frontman. The trio played together on the show and teamed up again for a small series of overseas gigs last year. Now, they’re launching a full American tour this summer. Rolling Stone sat down with Brian May, Roger Taylor and Lambert to talk about the the tour, future plans and their relationship with former Queen bassist John Deacon.
Adam, how did Freddie Mercury inspire you as a young singer?
Adam Lambert: Freddie had so much power and intensity to his voice. I was always a loud singer, so I identified with the way he attacked things. He had such an amazing attack. On the flip side, he could give you something so lyrical and smooth. He had so many different colors, and I’m very inspired by that.
Tell me about seeing Adam sing for the first time. What struck you about him as a singer and performer?
Brian May: It was both at the same time. I always think that singing is a very physical thing. I’m now famous for attacking The Voice in Britain. I think it’s a stupid idea to put someone behind a screen or turn your back to them. A singer is full-on in every respect. It’s a physical thing. It’s the sound, the look, the animal magnetism. You don’t question it. When you see Adam, you see a performer. He’s performing from his heart. He’s interpreting the song. I never had any question that he’s the real thing. It’s a rare thing to find someone with that much talent and the instrument to put it forward.
Roger, how did you first see Adam? Was it on Youtube?
Roger Taylor: Yeah. A musician friend of mine in America was like, “You’ve gotta check out this guy on Idol.” So we Googled you. His voice was phenomenal. I was just like, “Wow.”
Adam: Thanks guys!
Taylor: I said you had this sort of slight Elvis look going on. I just thought, “Wow, what a voice! Those octaves!” That was my first impression. It was just like anybody else hearing about someone with an extraordinary talent.
At the press conference you said he was a “diva in the best possible way.” Can you elaborate on that?
Taylor: To me, diva means an extraordinary, outrageously theatrical, brilliant performer.
May: [Sarcastically] But he is really difficult.
Lambert: You ain’t seen nothing yet! You should see my rider.
Adam, have you taken a crash course in the Queen catalog. Do you know every song by this point?
Lambert: When we did our run overseas in Europe, we had about ten days to rehearse. I’m very familiar with a big handful of the hits. That’s what I grew up hearing. There were definitely some songs I wasn’t familiar with. It was a bit of pressure to know I knew them and to learn them. That pressure and that intensity of the process gives it a lot of power. I like pressure.
There’s a lot of younger fans that never got the chance to see Queen live. This won’t be nostalgia for them, but a new experience.
May: We were very conscious of that in making this decision. This is the closest that you’ll ever get to see Queen as it was in our golden days, but it’s not a reproduction. It’s not an imitation. We’re here live and real and we have a great singer. They’ll be a lot of newness about this. I think that’s very exciting. It’ll be loud and dangerous and all the things that people used to look for in us.
Lambert: I think the thing that’s really special is that this is the real deal. This is live. In today’s music world, you go to a concert and you’re getting a lot of playbacks. There’s click tracks. It is what it is. I’m not hating on it. But this is the real deal. This is pure. We’re not playing to a click. We’re not playing to tracks. This is all live instruments. I’m singing all the vocals with these guys on vocals. It’s purely organic. I think in today’s day and age, it’s very exciting for an audience to see something that has that much heart.
I know you’ve played a bunch of gigs with them overseas, but it still must be surreal to be standing onstage with these guys.
Lambert: It’s beautiful. It is surreal. I feel honored. I feel inspired by it. It’s also one of those things where you’re going to sink or swim, especially when we were onstage for for the first time in the Ukraine in front of 300,000 people. I was like, “Well, it’s now or never. You gotta run with it.” It’s similar to be in camera with Idol. You go for it.
Are you thinking much about plans behind this tour? Maybe doing more overseas gigs?
May: Not specifically, no. There is a possible… We might take this a little bit further. There’s some good proposals coming our way, but for now we’re just concentrating on this.
Are you open to the idea of cutting new material with Adam?
May: I’m open to anything.
Taylor: It would be nice. We’ll see what happens on tour. I think we’re going to make sure we enjoy it first.
Lambert: I think the thing that’s special about this is that it is a limited thing. It’s this special engagement. It’s not like, “Now we’re off to the grind.” It’s a once-in-a-lifetime tour.
Do you still keep in touch with John Deacon?
May: We don’t, really. He doesn’t want to. He wants to be private and in his own universe.
Taylor: He’s completely retired from any kind of social contact.
Do you ever see or talk to him?
Taylor: No, no. I think he’s a little fragile and he just didn’t want to know anything about talking to people in the music business or whatever. That’s fair enough. We respect that.
May: He still keeps an eye on the finances, though. John Deacon is still John Deacon. We don’t undertake anything financial without talking to him.
Adam, you’re still going to focus on your solo career, right? This is just a side project for now?
Lambert: This is a side-by-side project. As a creative artist, I do a lot of different things. If I’m not busy, I get bored and restless. Earlier this year, I did a stint on Glee. I was in Sweden this last month working on solo material. I’m actually going back to Sweden on Saturday to continue working on that. I like doing a lot of different things. The beauty of that is that something like this is completely inspiring. I’m learning a lot from these two gentlemen. I’m learning from the audience. I think that will help inform and make my material stronger.