Article by Dave Fordham
Hailing from Long Island, Danny Miranda has played bass with a myriad of distinguished and varied artists and his versatile talents were recognized by Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor when they came together with Paul Rodgers in 2005. In an exclusive interview by Dave Fordham that originally appeared in the Official International Queen Fan Club’s summer 2020 magazine*, Danny reflected on his time with Queen + Paul Rodgers that covered over 100 concerts across four continents.
How did the opportunity to play with Queen + Paul Rodgers come about?
I had been playing with We Will Rock You (the musical) in Las Vegas since the end of September 2004. Brian May came to visit in December of that year on his way to Los Angeles and he mentioned to us that they would be playing some gigs in 2005. Then in January, Brian called me directly and asked me to come to London to tour with the band.
Is it true that you hung-up on Brian when he made the initial call?
The call didn’t sound like it was somebody I knew. It sounded like a solicitation, so yes - I hung up! John Miceli (the WWRY Las Vegas drummer) called me later and said that hanging up was really not the right thing to do and to call back immediately! After Brian explained that John Deacon would be staying in retirement, I naturally thought he wanted me to suggest some names… but he told me that they wanted me to be their bass player! It really didn’t register at first, but five days later I was in London. I don’t know if they ever had anyone else in mind or not, but when I arrived it was just the band and me, and we began rehearsing immediately.
Were you already a Queen fan and if so, did you ever see them perform live with Freddie or have a favourite song/album?
I was a huge Queen fan from my high school days. Sheer Heart Attack was the first record I heard from them at the age of 13, but I never got to see them live. I really love the News of the World album… It’s Late really got me. Under Pressure may be my favourite Queen song to play and listen to; it gets me every time!
Oh absolutely! Paul was always my favourite singer… and then to be in a band with him, I loved him even more! He is everything I love about rock and soul music (Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, the Four Tops etc). Paul just melts me with his soul and every note he sings gets right to my heart.
When did it sink in that you would be an integral part of the first touring incarnation of Queen for 18 years?
It sank in when we played our first show in Fancourt, South Africa (Nelson Mandela’s 46664 festival). It really became a reality then.
What was the rehearsal process like in the build up to the 2005 tour?
We took our time, rehearsing for about six weeks. As they hadn’t played as Queen for quite some time, it really felt like a new band for everyone. We tried many different songs and really enjoyed becoming a band.
Did you receive any advice from John Deacon?
No, I never had any communication with him.
Did you study John’s playing in any detail and have to adapt your style accordingly?
Very much so. Also considering the preparation for playing WWRY in Las Vegas, I was an intense student of John Deacon! Him and Dee Murray (from the Elton John Band) were the first two bassists I admired as a young player… they were both very instrumental in shaping my playing and were a tremendous inspiration to me.
Without a doubt, playing bass on Queen tracks for WWRY and Q+PR further increased my appreciation of John Deacon’s playing and Queen’s musicianship in general.
From the fans, there was terrific anticipation leading up to the fan club gig in Brixton, London in March 2005 that kicked off the tour. What was the mindset of the band approaching that big night?
It was a very big deal for all of us! That gig was also a very thoughtful gesture on the part of the band because the hardcore fans had waited a very long time for a night like that. It was certainly a magical night and was very emotional for everyone.
Were you surprised how the collaboration escalated into two world tours from the concept of ‘a few gigs’ that Paul describes he originally signed up to?
Yes, I was very pleasantly surprised! It just felt so good that everyone wanted to continue. It sounded great and everyone was having a lot of fun.
In general, how would you describe the chemistry between the Q+PR line-up?
The chemistry was great; it was a real band in every way.
Which Queen songs did you especially enjoy playing?
Under Pressure, The Show Must Go On and ’39.
So it must have been fun to be on the mini-stage for ’39 with the whole ensemble?
That was great fun! I always loved that song; it’s just a fun piece of music where everyone in the room can dance, sing and have fun.
Were any songs particularly tricky to play?
Actually, they’re all pretty tricky!
You were always credited with backing vocals in addition to bass with Q+PR. How important were the harmonies to proceedings?
Very important. Roger, Brian and Paul wanted it to be real – six guys, six voices. Even if it was less than perfect at times, there is no substitute for real singing and real playing.
What did you make of Paul’s vocal takes on the songs?
I loved his approach! I love anything bluesy by nature, and it’s in Paul’s blood. I loved that he grabbed different elements from Freddie’s vocal approach, accenting the tremendous soulful melodies and lyrics from Freddie’s voice and from his heart. Even though Fred wasn’t a blues singer in the traditional sense, he certainly had a ton of emotion and soul. He was a soul singer; not necessarily soul music, but he sang from a pure place. And Paul definitely took notice of that.
And of course, his Free and Bad Company songs always went down well too. How was it to play on those big hits?
I cut my teeth on Free and Bad Company. That music to me is what the Four Tops and Muddy Waters is to Paul. It’s the bible for me.
Was it fun to play the upright bass duet with Roger during The Cosmos Rocks tour in 2008, and how did that come about?
Roger wanted to do a drum spot, but not entirely by himself so he suggested bringing me in for part of it. One day we were watching an old Gene Krupa video where he was drumming on his bass player’s upright bass. But we took it one step further and made it a ‘duet’ between my left hand playing bass lines and Roger being the ‘right hand’ but drumming the strings. We threw some Queen riffs in there as well. It was very exciting and different every night… I loved it!
With the emergency services amongst the 70,000 in attendance, the atmosphere was electric at the Hyde Park concert that took place just after the London terror attacks in July 2005. Does that concert stand out in your memory?
Absolutely – if I could relive just one Q+PR concert, it would be Hyde Park. It was the last show (in the European leg) in a whirlwind of touring that had started with rehearsals in the winter in Surrey. It was me reflecting on how much my life had changed since September 2004 when I moved to Vegas not knowing what was in store for me. It was many dreams coming true. With the Hyde Park show delayed for a week because of the bombings, it was all very emotional for me and I’m sure for everyone else. At soundcheck that morning, it all hit me – a bit of anxiety and being emotionally overwhelmed. But at showtime, it was all totally fine!
How was it to play in front of 350,000 at the ‘Life Must Go On’ concert in Ukraine in 2008?
It was very surreal with a lot of beautiful and positive energy.
And then there were the two massive Nelson Mandela concerts of course?
The best way I could describe it is being in the presence of greatness. Nelson Mandela had a truly great spirit and it was amazing to meet him in his home country. In fact, meeting him was one of the greatest thrills of my life. He made a profound effect on the whole world, but it was beautiful to see the effects in his homeland.
Paul tells the story of Brian disappearing down a hole in the stage at one gig. Is that an incident you recall?
Yes, I remember that vividly… very scary! We had the piano rise from under the stage. It was a great effect but it did leave a huge hole. And not long after Brian, Paul fell in as well!
Across the tours, how would you summarise the reception from the fans night after night, and did the reaction from any particular region stand out?
Everywhere we went, the reception was surreal. Especially in Europe and South America, the crowd was often louder than we were!
Was it a surprise to you when the Q+PR collaboration came to an end after the 2008 tour?
Yes, but all good things eventually come to an end. I enjoyed every minute of Q+PR and am grateful that it lasted as long as it did.
Looking back, how would you describe your personal and professional relationships with Brian May and Roger Taylor during 2005-2008?
The relationships were great. Just perfect. They couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.
Do you still keep in touch with the other band members?
I haven’t spoken to most of them for a while, but I’m hopeful we will all talk and possibly meet again. I’ve seen Paul now and again; we’ve done the Rock Legends Cruise together and we run into each other on the road from time to time and keep in touch.
Was it ever in the reckoning for you to be part of Queen + Adam Lambert when they came together in 2012 and have you seen them live?
Not to my knowledge and I’ve not had a chance to see them.
In general, what do you make of the collaboration with Adam in comparison to that with Paul?
I don’t think it would be fair to compare the two bands as they are two very different versions and interpretations.
Considering your work with other major acts such as Meat Loaf and Blue Öyster Cult, where does your time with Q+PR rank in your career?
The best… by a long shot. It was a dream come true.
Bohemian Rhapsody (the movie) further escalated Queen’s status as one of the biggest acts of all time, even more so since your time with Q+PR. In your opinion, what will Queen’s legacy be in decades to come?
They will always be recognised as one of the best bands in the history of music… forever!
* This article is © copyright Dave Fordham and the Official International Queen Fan Club (the longest running fan club ever for a band: www.queenworld.com) and is reproduced here with permission. The full interview is available in the fan club’s members only magazine archive.
For details on Blue Öyster Cult’s 2021 tour with Danny on bass, visit www.blueoystercult.com. Thanks to Sarah Simpson and Thilo Rahn for kind permission to reproduce photographs (Thilo is the author of ROCKMOS, a 342 page photobook featuring 800 pictures and stories about Q+PR 2005-2008).