He revealed the “surprise” approach to their work in an interview with BBC Radio 2 – broadcast to mark the 30th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death – after explaining the band also didn’t talk much about the singer’s AIDS diagnosis.
“I remember we had a short discussion about it and thought it was something to watch out for,” May said. “But we didn’t really talk about it much. Freddie certainly didn’t talk about it much. But was certainly in the back of my mind, and probably all of our minds for a long time. And if we jump forward, I guess, two and a half years or so, we started seeing Freddie suffering from something and we didn’t know what it was. … [W]e didn’t have a conversation for a long time because it didn’t seem to be appropriate. And it was much later that Freddie came out and said, ‘Look, you know what I’m dealing with, I’m sure.’”
When asked if he thought the lack of discussion was “strange,” the guitarist responded: “Yeah, it’s true. We were very, very close – but there were areas that we weren’t going to. That was one of them, but I think he felt normal because the other area we didn’t usually go into, and this might surprise you, is the meaning of the songs. When we brought a song in we didn’t say, ‘Oh, I’ve written this song about so and so’ …It was always like, ‘Here’s the song, here are the words, the tune; listen and let’s try to do this.’ … We never sat down and said, ‘What’s this about? What are we trying to say here?’ It was all under the carpet, unspoken.”
He continued: “It was like the art was separate and it didn’t want to be talked about – it just wanted to be done. We had brushes in our hands, we were putting paint on the canvas, but we weren’t saying, ‘Hey, you do this here and we do this there.’ It was kind of an instinctive interaction.”