Yes, there's a lto of backwards stuff there. We were like boys let loose in a room full of toys. And with the old analog machines, you could easily turn the tape over. Waht I would do sometimes is say to Roy [Thomas Baker, Queen's first producer],"Just give me that tape backwards on cassette, and I'll go home and learn it backwards. I would learn it backwards and play on it the next day. Sometimes the mistakes came out better than the actual things you'd planned. That's one of the things you lose in digital. And you can't do the stuff where you'd lean on the reels and it would go eeeooouuuggghhhh.
I've become more piano orientated anyway. Ogre Battle was written on a guitar but I've given that up. I'm getting into Love of My Life- and Lily of the Valley-type things. I've always listened to that kind of music.
I missed the fairies, too, but it seemed to be getting a bit out of hand, although I enjoyed writing those songs tremendously. I feel I've got to become more disciplined. I really loved getting carried away with all those images in songs like March of the Black Queen and Ogre Battle, but it's time to move on to other things now. So, as I said, I'm disciplining myself, but I do miss the fairies.
It's very curious because [the backwards intro] comes from the end of the song and we took it home, not being very familiar with the way studio tapes were done: it was a one-sided tape, it was a full track-tape - we thought it was a two-track tape and we thought we could take it off and put it on the other way around, and play the other side. I think Roger did this and took it home and it came up backwards and the first thing there was the gong and then all this backwards stuff. And the funny thing was that the riff is palindromic - it's the same backwards and forwards, more or less - so it sounded like the same riff but backwards and Roger, at first, thought that something had gone wrong with the tape and that the riff was still there. Anyway, it sounded so good we thought we'd put it. I think Mike did the edit - Mike Stone, our engineer who's been with us all along, and he did such a good edit, which is very difficult to splice, but he managed to get it the first time, so you can't even really hear the join because the riff is the same and it just crosses over from backwards into forwards without anyone even realising.
Ogre Battle is so heavy. And I don't mean like heavy metal-heavy; just so heavy.
Freddie also wrote Ogre Battle which is a very heavy metal guitar riff. It's strange that he should have done that. But when Freddie used to pick up a guitar he'd have a great frenetic energy. It was kind of like a very nervy animal playing the guitar. He was a very impatient person and was very impatient with his own technique. He didn't have a great technical ability on the guitar but had it in his head. And you could feel this stuff bursting to get out. His right hand would move incredibly fast. He wrote a lot of good stuff for the guitar. A lot of it was stuff which I would not have thought of, because it would be in weird keys. He had this penchant for playing in E flat and A flat and F. And these are not places that your hand naturally falls on when playing the guitar. So he forced me into finding ways of doing things which made unusual sounds. It was really good.
This is heavy in that early Deep Purple way – which has a lot to do with Brian's guitars as well. And the drums are actually quite Metallica-esque – without the double kick but with the same kind of patterns.
Freddie would write some of the riffs. He wrote the Ogre Battle riff on acoustic guitar, in all its detail. He had a very kind of feverish, frenetic quality about him when he was playing. Everything was very, very fast, and with great ferocity, and with all downstrokes. It's hard to describe. People don't realize what a good player he was. He had a lot of dexterity.
They had this massive gong in the studio that Roger hit. When we turned the tape over, the gong sounded great backwards and that sound was going to be at the beginning of the track. That got us wondering what the rest of the track would sound like backwards. Well, it sounded very similar. The riff is palindromic - it sounds the same forwards and backwards. So we decided to run the entire track backwards in the intro and then we seamlessly crossfaded it with the forwards track. I don't think it's even a crossfade - I think it's a butt edit and you can't even tell. I used my fingerboard pickup and bridge pickup out of phase for that tone.
It's worth mentioning Freddie's acoustic. Freddie was really a good acoustic player. He was very modest about it, but he could really play the acoustic guitar very well in an inimitable style, very frenetic kind of, style. I remember he wrote Ogre Battle on the acoustic guitar. His fingers moved twice as fast as anyone else for the same speed of playing. Yes, I can still his kind of, horny fingers hitting the strings on this.
Freddie played the guitar very well. Certainly in the early days he used the guitar as much as the piano to write songs. His way of playing the riff in Ogre Battle was something to see, because he never used up-strokes; every one of those fast beats, about 16 to the bar, he hit with a down stroke, so it was an unusually frenetic kind of activity, Freddie playing that stuff on the guitar. Later on, he wrote almost exclusively on the piano.