Here’s the exclusive interview George Michael did with Dutch DJ Hans Schiffers for his show The Best of 2Night on Radio 2 on Saturday, July 21, 2012. It was to be the last interview George Michael did for Dutch radio.
[speaking in Dutch]
HS: And now on the telephone, George Michael. Good evening, George Michael! Is this really you?
GM: Good evening! Yes, this is really me. One and only.
On His Vienna Hospitalization
HS: Oh that’s great. Ok great to have you with us tonight here on radio 2. This is your new song “White Light” it’s meant as a thank you to all the fans who have supported you after you fought for your life in hospital last year. I’m pretty sure we all know what happened to you there. How are you? How do you feel?
GM: I feel great. I feel great, never better. Never better.
HS: And how’s your voice?
GM: The voice is doing great. I mean I’ve been recording for the last three or four months so the voice is warming up nicely. I’ll be doing a lot of rehearsal before I go out on tour again, obviously, in September. But no, the voice is doing great. Sounds just the same.
HS: Is it true that you woke up out of coma with a funny accent?
GM: Yes it is true. You will like this story. Okay I sounded a bit like that; she wouldn’t understand but that’s what we call a West country accent
HS: A West country accent
GM: West country accent
HS: And it changed after a few days.
GM: Yeah it did. It was only just for a couple of days. That there’s basically there’s a comedy show that I love here in England called Nighty-Night. Myself and a good friend who had been travelling on the tour … one of the people that was travelling on the tour with me had spoken to each other constantly in this very, very strange accent because we both love this particular show. And when I first came around from my coma I basically first spoke … I made jokes for two whole days apparently. And partially, I suppose because of the relief but I made jokes for a couple of days and there were all in this West country accent which my family and friends found very funny but the doctors were actually quite worried about. Because apparently there’s a strange condition where people wake up from comas with a certain type of brain damage, which means that they sometimes actually speak a different language — a language that they’ve learned but never really used or … but they lose their original ability.
HS: I see … what a strange story.
GM: I mean it’s very strange, isn’t it. But with me, it was just me mucking about. And I stopped. Actually I got much worse; I got ill again and I went back into … I was very heavily sedated again, put it that way. And it didn’t happen again after that, thankfully. I’m back to my normal voice
HS: Yes. Okay, well, we were listening to White Light here and who is this she?
GM: I’ve got a good reception. I’ve got a really good reception to it.
HS: I think it’s a good record especially if you know what you were going through. Who is the “she” you were referring to in the song?
GM: Well, really, I was referring to both Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston in the second verse. The “he” I’m referring to is really Michael Jackson. So I was really talking about the other singers of my generation or (obviously the generation below me as well).
GM: Talking about these wonderful singers that we’ve lost and wanting to celebrate the fact that somehow it was not my turn, you know. But it came very close, but it was what not my turn. To celebrate I’m still here, really. So there’s a kind of darkness and light to the song in the video which I think perfectly reflect the kind of limbo of someone fighting for their life, you know.
HS: Yeah, that’s what I heard. You are back in business. Can you live up to the expectations? There’s a danger that people will say he’s not in shape as he was before the pneumonia.
GM: No, I think the voice is just … The vocal cords seem to be intact, which is quite amazing when I think what they had to do to me. I had one of those big, you know, tracheostomy to me when they basically open a hole in your neck and stick a tube down there.
HS: You have a scar?
GM: But they were very very, very careful to avoid my vocal cords when they did that. Yeah, nasty scar.
HS: In October, you will also release a new album, which was not planned. Did you write all the songs in the last couple of months?
GM: No, some of them were written a couple of years back. But I was still .. I think the tour was the most important thing last year. Some of them written a while back; some of them are brand-new. But they’re, they’re all very … I’d like to think very much harking back to an earlier point in my commercialism when I was really just writing for the radio and
HS: The others, Faith, you mean
GM: Yeah, the album Faith, yeah, which is really … I mean that was really when I … what mattered to me more than anything was a hit record. And I think I’ve had the luxury of being able to go on my own journey since then. But this is a very direct album: the lyrics are very direct; the melodies are very direct. I think you know pretty sure, pretty quickly whether you like this stuff or not, you know.
HS: In White Light, you sing “there’s so much more that I want to do” but you’ve also done a lot. You are 49 now; you sold hundred million records. You are one of the most played British artists on the planet. What still to achieve?
GM: Um, well, I still have ambitions, put it that way. I have definite ambitions in musical terms. I don’t really want to talk about at the moment. But I always like to feel there’s a progression in what I do. And it’s true, there are very few ambitions that I have left, but I do have them.
HS: And one of them is?
GM: Ahh, I don’t really want to say at the moment. I don’t want to say it at the moment.
HS: Oh, it sounds secret.
GM: I don’t want to jinx.
HS: Well, looking back on your career, that was a moment that the world saw you as a good replacement for Freddie Mercury in a group called Queen. And we spoke to Roger Taylor at the time and asked him if he thought it was a good idea that you would be the frontman of that band. This is what he said:
ROGER TAYLOR (QUEEN): Yeah, but I think George’s music is too soft for us now. It’s too lounge music these days, I think. It wouldn’t suit Queen. Although he has a fantastic voice; it’s a great singing voice but I think for us, it’s
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HS: Not rock and roll enough. You heard what he said?
GM: Never was, was it. I don’t think it was ever rock’n’roll enough. They’re Queen: I mean, really, they’re the ultimate rock band. Well, I suppose there’s a couple of others that I would put in that same class. But no … I mean, I don’t think I ever did suit them, really, you know. I think, the performance I did of Somebody to Love, even though it was I think it was one of my best live performances, it’s very much a complete copy of what Freddie did on the record because I listened to that record so intensely when I was a child. I knew every inflection. I knew exactly … I didn’t … I wasn’t capable of doing some anything more than an impersonation. I think it just was a quite good impersonation, really, you know. But no, I I don’t make rock records really.
HS: Wouldn’t it suit you to make a good guitar-driven album or at least …
GM: I think … that’s actually something I am thinking about doing at some point in the future. I listen to so much rock music even though rock music is not the way I portray myself. You know, the music we listen to and the Music that you are naturally capable of making are not necessarily the same things you know.
HS: You’re not rock’n’roll enough?
GM: Yeah, I’m a big fan of the best rock bands, absolutely.
HS: That’s true, yeah. Or maybe a stripped album in the style of Johnny Cash or Tom Jones ..
GM: Just because I went to prison?
HS: Yeah. Yeah.
GM: Johnny Cash .. I didn’t think about it but you bring me all ideas here.
HS: Okay well you reschedule your Symphonica tour in Vienna where you fell ill last year. It seems pretty scary to me being at the same place where it all began.
GM: Well, no, I mean .. the main point of playing – opening – the tour in Vienna is to open the tour and play to the people who saved my life, who hopefully will all be there – the surgeons and the doctors that that dealt with me at the time. They’ll all be in the front row. I hope.
HS: The doctors gonna show up as well?
GM: Yeah, I mean that they have been given tickets in the front row so I hope they’ll once come. I think they’re all coming.
HS: Do they know you?
GM: I wanted to start it there just as a thank you, really.
HS: Did they listen to your music? Or did they say they were big fans?
GM: A couple of them, I think were big fans, yeah.
GM: I’m sure they fight just as hard for everybody else’s life but, you know, obviously, it might have helped, I don’t know.
HS: I hope not because we all want the same chance
GM: They fight the same way, I’m sure they do, you know. I watched them. I was in that ward for a long time and they’re very, very dedicated people there.
On the Artist He Wanted to Duet With
HS: We look back on your career, there are collaborations — Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Whitney Huston, Mary J Blige. Who would you like to duet with in the future?
GM: There aren’t many people that still to go that I’d really love to. I mean, I’ve made no secret I would love when she’s ready to record again, which I don’t think it’s for a while. I’d love to do something with Adele because I think Adele was very much, you know. She came from the Brit school just like Amy and I think she was taught how to use her heart in her music, you know. And I think what she achieved is remarkable. She’s a lovely person and yeah, I would love to work with her at some stage.
HS: It would be the first name to think about when I see you doing something with somebody else. Is there any other name?
GM: Ahh let me think. Not really. Not people that are still alive.
HS: Well you can do something with people who are not alive as well.
GM: I’m sure I will work with other artists, probably younger artists. Yeah, I’m sure they’ll be other duets to come in the future.
HS: Yeah. You will get to sing “White Light” every night, I guess. Tell me honestly, you are an experienced … you are an expert by experience now. Do you fear white light?
GM: Do I fear it? No. I finally enough … I never have actually been afraid of death particularly. I’ve been afraid of illness. I hate the idea that with age comes illness, you know. That’s not a nice thought but … but no, I’ve never really had any resounding fear of death. No, it’s never kept me awake at night, put it that way.
HS: That’s good. I hope you sleep well. And it was great talking with you. On September 14th we can see you on stage here in Amsterdam. This show is called The Best of Tonight. Is there any song you would like to hear being played on Saturday night apart from your single that we will play all night?
GM: What are the songs that I’m proud of? It’s very hard to say. It’s very hard to say. Just play “White Light” all night.
HS: Will do okay, I promise. Thank you very much and have a great life.
GM: Thank you very much, you too.
HS: Okay bye-bye George Michael.
GM: Take care
- An Audience with George Michael: Interview with Chris Evans (1996)
- George Michael in Q Magazine Interview (October 1990)
- George Michael Interview on Q Magazine (June 1988)
- George Michael’s Interview by Phil Marriot on Health Recovery, Symphonica and White Light (2012)
- George Michael Interview in Blitz Magazine (June 1988)