Eight years since his last album, Roger Taylor has reignited his solo career with a vibrant, inspired new LP, Outsider.
Though it is the result of a year without touring on account of the pandemic shutdowns, Outsider shows no signs of being merely a pet project of a bored rockstar.
Queen fans won't hear another "Radio Ga Ga" or "A Kind of Magic" on Outsider, but they will find themselves immersed in Taylor's watercolored waves of thoughtful nostalgia, sublime frustration and bittersweet optimism.
The album unfolds with the intension of a film score, arriving promptly at a place and time, ramping up on first side from soundtrack-like contemplation of "Tides" to dancehall enthusiasm of "More Kicks," then gently winding down on the latter half to "Journey's End."
Read the full QN'A below!
I've always wondered on what instrument you prefer to write songs. Despite all the beautiful keyboard work on Outsider, I'm actually more inclined now to think it's guitar.
You're right and you're wrong.
Some of them are guitar based. Like for instance, "More Kicks" — a couple others on there. But otherwise I write on the piano, really.
The chords are more accessible on the piano. You know, certain songs suit piano, I think — more melodic songs, I mean — and the more rocky stuff [is on] guitar. Yeah.
Did any of the material on Outsider exist before the pandemic? I understand you put a lot of it together during the shutdowns.
Yes, it did. A track called "Journey's End" I wrote a couple of years ago now. A kind of coming to the end of life song, but looking at the next step in a sort of optimistic way. So that that existed before.
"Absolutely Anything" — that was written for a film by Terry Jones, which was actually Robin Williams' last role as the voice of the dog. And Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale in a very underrated film, actually. It was a funny film. All of Monty Python [members] were in that movie. So I wrote it for that film, but it was only two verses in the film at the beginning. So this is the full song.
It sounds like you've never really stop writing music.
Well, that's right. I mean, I find I never try and push 'em out. You know what I mean? You have to wait for an idea or just be in the right mood. I mean, I haven't written a song since I finished this album, which was quite a few months ago now. So I haven't even thought about writing another song. So yeah, it comes in bursts really, you know?
So with some of the songs on Outsider that have existed for a while, was there ever any question as to whether they would be solo songs or Queen songs?
I just kind of write when I feel like writing and then I don't really think it out that far ahead. But I suddenly found ... in the pandemic, 'Oh, wow, we seem to have an album here!' And it just sort of came together.
The artwork came together nicely. I had the idea and my daughter then did the finished product which I was pleased with. I thought, 'Oh, this is this is a quite a nice project. This has come together nicely. So fairly organically, natural way.' Really that's it.
It really works as an album; it's coherent. There are these soundtrack-like songs, like "Tides" and "Journey's End" and there are rock songs like "More Kicks," and then there's some R&B-like tracks. But it all sounds like it's a part of this album.
I like to thank you for taking the time to listen to it again, actually, because people's attention spans are short these days. But that's really good to hear that from your relatively fresh ears, that it sounds coherent. That's very encouraging for me.
There's also an oceanic vibe to the album, too. Was that a product of the location you were in when you were writing?
I mean, I live some of the time by the sea, down in Cornwall. And we live right on it, you know, on the sea. And, obviously, there's this constant, and there's a constant in all senses of the word. The tide is the constant thing. It never changes. It's just constantly coming in and constantly going out.
And it was really kind of a juxtaposition between that immutable constancy and our short mortal lifespans, you know. Here we are, let's make the most of it. And then we do pass on. So I guess I came from there. Yeah, that's the kind of wordy explanation.
The song "Gangsters Are Running This World" strikes me as maybe a title that initiated a song. Can you tell me where that phrase came from? And how you ended up putting it together?
You're quite right. The title was first. And it just came from watching the news around the world. And it's, as far as I'm concerned, it's a truism. We seem to be sliding backwards, into sort of gangsters running countries all over the place. I just thought they're running the world. And so I thought I'd write a song.
And then I thought, 'Well, should it be a rocker? Or should it be more melodic song that actually describing the points?' So I did both. And I kind of like the melodic one more, because it actually says more as well.
There's also a saying, 'life is good,' and you know, 'smell the coffee,' and then whatever. Sun on your face; it's all wonderful. But actually, what a shame because actually gangster's are running the world, and that's what I believe.
Do you see yourself performing material from this album live at all?
Yeah, I mean, I'm actually going tour this album [through October 22], and obviously, play some old Queen songs as well in the U.K. in October. It's not an ambitious tour. But I just thought it might be really fun and let's get back into normal life as much as we possibly can.
And I think people are dying to hear — sorry, wrong word there — people are really wanting to hear live music again and be in that situation of being in an audience, you know, and so get vaccinated and come along.
That's great. I've seen a few shows this summer. The weird part about it was how normal it felt after all this time. But it did feel normal.
That is really encouraging. You know, I think people can't wait to get back to some kind of normality. You have to this weird, slightly hellish time we've all been through is a great leveler. You know, everyone has been reduced to the same lockdown level, you know, at some point, especially Europe. Wow.
You know, I think, to be imprisoned in a one-room apartment or something must be quite difficult. I mean, obviously, I'm not in that category, but it must have been very hard. And that's where that "Isolation" song came from, really. You know, we've just got to be patient, keep calm, see it through. Though it was tough not knowing what was happening.
I know you and Brian May are protective of the Queen catalog at this point and you're not really considering an album with Adam Lambert. Has there ever been any consideration of playing on Adam Lambert's solo material or having him sing on one of your records?
If Adam asked me to play drums, I would absolutely be there. Yeah. It's a weird thing; we're neighbors in L.A. We're literally next door to one another by sheer chance. It's been a joy actually meeting Adam and working with him. It's been a total joy.