Unfortunatley we didn't have enough time. We were doing The Game and an American tour at the same time Flash was going on, so it was ridiculous. We put as much time as we could in. We would do a week here and a week there. I spent some time with the arranger and orchestra to try and get some coherence to it all. It was good experince, but next time I hope we have time to really pull the whole thing together as a unit.
On using guitar for album's strange effects: Yeah, some guitar and some synthesizer. I played some of the prominent keyboard synthesizer parts, but I think Freddie played most of them.
It’s a Queen album with a difference but, we wouldn’t have put it out with the name Queen on it if we didn’t think it was musically up to scratch in that sense. So it was music written for a film but with the idea that it will stand up as an album even if you’ve never heard the film. Which is I particularly why wanted bits of the dialogue in it as well rather than just a dry music soundtrack album. I wanted to be able to put the album on and to be able to visualise the whole thing even if you hadn’t seen it, virtually. So hopefully, it tells a story, you know, like those children’s records you buy which I like very much. Where they tell the story and then they have the music and everything. You don’t need anything else it’s just your own little world. You just get carried along by the story.
After [Howard Blake] had delivered his stuff, I think he was needed elsewhere, as were the rest of my band! There were still many ends to tie up, and I was more or less the only one around, so I was called in to finish the soundtrack. It was odd. I remember being in Anvil (or was it De Lane Lea), with the film running on the screen, and all the production team sitting there watching me run about playing all the parts which I’d sketched in my head for the battle scene. I’d play a bit of guitar, then go over and play a bit of synth, and bass, and… using some out-takes of drums that Roger had left us, piecing the sequence together.
[it's the new Queen album] Well, not strictly no, although it is an album by Queen, it's not our new studio album, it's something that we did for a film, you know, which is a first for us, it was interesting, very strange to do, working in the dark at first then working to film, and we're quite pleased with it. With this we really sort of could do almost anything we wanted, as long as it fitted in with the film. We've been offered quite a few films, but 'Flash Gordon' was something which I think Brian and I were quite attracted to, because of it's sort of sci-fi, thirties connotations, you know, it's like a sort of Superman for people on drugs, you know.
We did this really totally off the top of our heads, we'd go in there and have a look at a few video clips of the film, which bits we wanted to, and drink a bottle of vodka each, and er, see what came out, you know, it was very strange yeah, we didn't really realise how much we were getting done, we thought we were getting nothing done, all of a sudden we found we had quite a lot of music
Yes the album was totally under our control, and we used, it was our idea to actually put dialogue on the album, that wasn't the original idea, we thought we'd make it a little bit different from a normal soundtrack album, say 'The Empire Strikes Back' or something, it's just orchestra really, we thought we'd just get little snippets to give some idea of what was happening in the film, and some atmosphere of the story.
[there will be synthesisers on the next studio album] Oh yeah almost certainly because there's so much synth on this, it all started when I bought this synthesiser last year, because I was going to use it on my album, which I have done, and we ended up using a bit on The Game, but with, there's a lot of 'Flash' was done using the synthesiser, with the help of it.
Really there had never been a rock soundtrack to a movie that wasn't about rock music before. Up to that point, it was considered impossible. Even Mr De Laurentiis said it'd never work. It was Mike Hodges, the producer [sic], who brought us into the project, and I think there was a fundamental gap between his view of the film and Mr De Laurentiis'. Mike Hodges really made it into a cult film by being very self-consciously kitsch, whereas Dino regarded it as an epic and not to be messed with. I'll never forget: He came to the studio, sat down and listened to our first demos and said, “I think it's quite good, but the theme will not work in my movie. It is not right.” And Mike walked over and said, “A chat with you, Dino. You don't understand where this film is going to be pitched…” But I had a really nasty moment there, “Oh no, he hates my “Flash… aaaahhh-aaaaaahhh”, and it's going to go on the cutting room floor.
For the record, as far as I remember, I played piano on: Doin' All Right, Father to Son, Now I'm Here, Dear Friends, Teo Toriatte, All Dead All Dead. Notably NOT on Sail Away Sweet Sister - I got Freddie to learn it and play it with Roger and John for the backing track - I wanted his marvellous rhythm and percussive feel on piano - but yes on Save Me, Las Palabras de Amor, Flash and The Hero (plus organ on the Wedding). But from here on in we began using synthesisers and there were many excursions from us all into keyboard territory… The only pure piece of piano from this era from me is Forever - which was a doodle done live in the studio which I rescued for a bonus track later on.
I played the backing track all on piano … using a fist on the low keys to make the “explosion” sound … unfortunately the rather crummy video we made doesn't show me doing this … only Roger hitting a Cymbal … so a few people have been mystified by this. But the rest is guitars, stacked to make the harmonies… I layered the Vox guitars with double-tracks using the small Deacy amp, I think … I often have done this when overdubbing multi-guitar parts (for instance in God Save the Queen). It makes the harmonies richer, and somehow they blend more.
We were engaged to do the job by Mike Hodges who was the director of Flash and Dino De Laurentiis, who was that famous Italian film producer who always thought big and some people would have said didn't have any subtlety. But, in fact, he had a sense of something unusual. He made that huge remake of King Kong – billions of dollars – but the combination of him and Mike Hodges was very odd because for Dino it was a very serious film engaging the top-level talent in Italy and to Mike it was a spoof. So there was this clash, and I'm pretty sure it was Mike's idea to engage us for the job and what happened was we went in and saw some of the rushes of the film and loved it, and we all went away and made some demos separately, Roger, John, Freddie and me, and there came a day when we all got in the studio and played them back to Mike and to Dino and asked: “This is what we've come up with. What do you think?” There was a horrible moment when Mike jumped up and down saying, “it's brilliant, it's brilliant”, and Dino sat there with a face ashen and white as a sheet and obviously didn't enjoy it, and when it came to the theme I had written – you know, Flash – well, Dino said: “It's very good but it is not for my movie.” So we all got a bit glum and went away. But what I think happened was Mike went to Dino and said: “You got to have faith here. This is something that is going to work and Brian has actually captured the essence of the movie in this piece of music.” But it was a big adventure in those days. I don't think there had ever been a feature film with background music done by a rock band before – it was a real dangerous departure. You had to have your base of strings to create emotion. It had never been done. And to his credit, Dino did come around and was very supportive.
The opening Flash's Theme by Brian, with its pulsing, clunky piano intro was done at Richard Branson's Townhouse studios in west London. Brian was working on it late one night, but he couldn't get the exact piano sound he wanted. “What about using a pick-up like we do live?” Some keen fool suggested. “Great!” Getting the section of Helpinstill piano pick-up and it's [sic] ancillary parts to fit to the studio piano and blend with the microphone sound involved jumping in the van and making a cross-London trip to our warehouse at Edwin Shirley Trucking in West Ham. After waking up the night-watchman and scouring 2,000 square feet of equipment-packed space by torchlight, we finally arrived back at the Townhouse with the various component parts - some three hours later. The things you do for art…
[arrangement] Those things go back a long way with us because, you know, we did ‘God Save The Queen’ and we did the beginning part for ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and we did ‘Procession’ on the first (sic) album. Those little guitar pieces go back a long way. I had heard Hendrix’s thing but his approach is very different really. The way He did those things was to put down a line and then sort of improvise another line around and the whole thing works on the basis of, erm, things going in and out of harmony, more or less, by accident. It’s very much a freeform multi-tracking thing whereas, My stuff is totally arranged. I’ll make sure that the whole thing is planned and treated like you would give a score to an orchestra to do. It’s a complete orchestration. So, it’s a different kind of approach really but I enjoy doing those things. It’s sort of indulgence really but, at the same time, I thought it would be funny for that ‘Wedding March’ to come out that way. Because, all our people, who know our music, would recognise that immediately as one of our treatments and anyone else in the cinema would think of it as a strange ‘Wedding March’. It’s meant it to be a musical joke anyway, in the film, so it was just heightening that joke really.