Interview with Rudi Dolezal – Part.1
Mis à jour : il y a 6 jours
“I make music for the eyes”
No need to present his famous official videos for Queen - he made 32 of them - among which mythical clips (Living on my own, One vision, Friends will be friends, Breakthru, Scandal, I'm going slightly mad, These are the days of our lives...among others!) and documentaries (notably Magic Years in 1987, Queen: The champions of the world in 1995, and Freddie Mercury: The untold story in 2000).
He has worked for many artists (the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Whitney Houston, Tom Waits etc) and has an amazing career. He holds a record in terms of hours of music archives in continental Europe. But who knows his background, his career and has heard him talk about it in depth?
Today he is about to finish a book about his friend Freddie Mercury -My friend Freddie- and he has become very active on social networks to the delight of fans all over the world.
I had the pleasure to get an interview from him, despite his busy schedule. He was very generous in his answers, and for me and my translator Estelle Malvy (thanks again Estelle!) this interview will remain unique. Here is Rudi Dolezal exclusively!
You had an early start to your career as a TV reporter in Vienna. How did you become a journalist? At that time, were you already thinking of becoming a film director?
Rudi Dolezal : I became a film director more or less by accident because...When I was 17/18, I finished high school - «Matura»* in Germany - before you go to university. When you do this between 15 and 18, I was in a football club (very good) and wanted to become a football star, I was in a basketball club, I was the master of Vienna in athletics (like 100 meter running, high jump etc...), I was the speaker of all school speakers of Austria elected in Austria, I was also in a theater group together with a certain Mister Waltz** who has now won two Oscars and two Golden Globes (an Austrian actor), I was with him on stage, and I had been playing classical guitar for 7 years when I was 18. So I thought I would either become a musician, a politician... yeah and I was doing the school paper! So I was even becoming a politician, a football star, a basketball star, a journalist etc etc... but never a film maker! Or maybe an actor, you know. So when they ask you before you leave school for the last year they make a little book and say you know what happened in one year and they also have a page of all the people who are leaving the school and you have to say what you are going to study at university. I said put there three question marks because I didn't know, I had no idea! 'Cause there are so many things that I was interested in that!... School was great 'cause I could do everything, I could do sports, I could do school politics, I could do journalism and to decide on one I was saying: “Oh my god!”
Anyway, to cut a long story short, because in 1976 in Vienna, there was a sort of “Woodstock 1968”, there was a place which had a very very nice old architecture, where the famous Vienna culture weeks take place every year with opera,... the young things like pop music, theater groups etc... And that year they said they were going to kill this architecture and make a shopping center. And we who were there -it's a little bit long I'm sorry but we who were there said: this is such a great architecture in 2 000 years! It is a pity if you are destroying it, and we did not go after the last concert. We took over that place. And it stayed under the control of young people for 5 months, before we had to go... 5 months! And we were founding a theater group and the children groups and music and so on and all over Vienna people were signing and in the end there were hundreds of thousands of Viennese people saying «Do not destroy that! The young people are right».
And there was one television crew only, only one, which was the youth program of Austrian television. Because all the programs during the day ignored it «Oh this is the young hippies and they are doing their bullshit whatever...» So they always interviewed me because I was one of the speakers, 'cause I was always one of the speakers on everything, I was the captain in the soccer team, in the football... So after that was over, they said to me: «Don't you wanna work in the youth program?». I just finished high school and had no idea about what I wanted to become and I said: «Yeah I'll try it». And I tried it, and I liked it and this is how I became a director.
And I was also on television when I was 18, I was the first long haired presenter in Austria and Germany with hair like here, well the hair that I still have and it was a big scandal of course, you know. But I was kind of the cool guy and it was the only program that also showed pop music. And that’s how they started to do more films on pop music and then I got to know Frank Zappa, the Rolling Stones, Freddie Mercury...and this is how everything started.
* «Matura» is the exam at the end of secondary school in Austria.
** Christoph Waltz is an Austrian actor, script writer and director. He is the award-winner of two Oscars and Golden Globes for his roles in the films Inglorious Bastards and Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino.
Your encounter with Freddie Mercury turned out to be quite significant. At what age did you first meet him and what was the occasion? Do you know what he liked about you at that time?
Rudi Dolezal : I started doing Queen films and short films in the late 70's. But I didn't meet Freddie personally, I was for example allowed to film once in Vienna two songs of the concert with two cameras but no interview. So I was filming Queen and then I got an interview from the record company or whatever and I put it together...
So I started filming with Queen in the late 70's but the first time we really met and it might be a short interview somewhere backstage in the early 80's, I think 82, but we didn't really meet... And then in 1984 I think, the famous "prostitute interview" in Munich. I was at the time already well known for my music features on television, the only program in Austria but there was only one channel (there was no private television yet. Only ORF, nothing else). I was the only person who did something for the young people with my team, not me alone. And I was on screen also but I became more and more interested in music, I said “there's people like the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Freddie Mercury, they come to Vienna to play in a concert, why doesn’t anybody try to interview them?” I would be so interested to know them because it was the culture program that people criticized: “Oh pop music is not culture”, and the entertainment department said: “Oh pop music is not entertainment”. It was all you know old school you know, what I am talking about the 70's to 80's. “Oh yeah yeah Freddie..., Mick Jagger will talk to you Rudi Dolezal, of course”, and they were making fun of me until I talked to Mick Jagger for the first time on an interview! And so on. I was kind of a pioneer and I liked it because it was my interest.
Yeah I did it not to make a career, but I did it 'cause I was really interested to speak with these people. And I only did musicians or bands that I liked, you know. But later there was also punk rock, Sex Pistols… So I was like so. So the first time we really had an [encounter], we both knew who we were, was in Munich and I am writing about these in My Friend Freddie. I had very sweaty hands because everybody said Freddie Mercury didn't like interviews. He hated journalists. He was also “famous” for being very snappy and not easy to talk to in an interview. So I was nervous, I had prepared, I don't know, I think, a hundred questions you know, and was driving in a little Volkswagen bus with two people, the cameraman and the sound man, I was putting up the lights, just the three of us, we were driving to Munich and filming. I did an interview with Brian May in the hotel, in his hotel room, which is also the same day actually I think or one day earlier or later and then I did it with Freddie and you probably know the prostitute interview. And from the first moment when we sat down, there was a special chemistry. And I was always a very good interviewer, I mean, I think I also became a really good director, oh I cannot say it... Frank Zappa once said to me “You have been practicing for so many years you are finally getting good at it now”.
I was always a good, not a bad interviewer because my English was not bad and I was really interested. Then I was also interested in knowing the history of those musicians - because what you and what I'm experiencing when I am now on the other side and people are talking to me, they have no idea, they always ask the same questions. I’m doing it because it's yeah especially for Queen. So you're really happy, as Rudi today, if you meet for example two beautiful ladies like you, who I know are prepared and sort of are also good journalists who ask questions. Anyway, Freddie the interview you know, and I was so “full of myself” as the Americans say, I was so convinced of myself, that at the end I said something to Freddie like “And by the way if you want a really good director for your videos, give me a call” and I gave him my number. Which was completely naive because they were working with the best of the best of the best in England and in America, and as an Austrian, being asked to do a Queen video, it's the same percentage as if North Korea became football world champions. So no way you know.
But I was convinced AND he gave me the feeling that I can say that, if you weren't very inclusive, you know, he was very open in this interview, I was very good and spontaneous like when he said “if the people stop buying my music we'll do something else, I'll become a strip artist” and I immediately said “Ok to what music would you strip?” he said “All the songs I’ve written”. It was like a ping pong, there is also a chapter in my book which is called the ping pong. That is how it started. And then a few months later, and I make it short now, I get a phone call from Jim Beach [Queen's manager] asking me to Munich because they want me to make the next Queen video because I also did something which all the television people were always promising and 99 out of 100 were not doing it, they said “I will send you a copy of my little film”... well, I sent them a copy of my little film, again with my address and phone number, and a few months later a certain Mister Jim Beach called me to invite me to direct the Queen video 'cause they liked what they saw and Freddie, remember, this is the guy who did the good interview and then a few things came together which are all in my book and that’s how it started and the rest is history. 32, I counted now and then I’ve even forgotten a few. 32 Queen related videos I directed over the years. I think that’s more than anybody else. This is of course including the solo videos of Brian, the solo videos of Roger and the solo videos of Freddie and also the posthumous videos when Freddie was not alive anymore. But they were official Queen videos. So that's quite nice. I was happy to do one. When I did the first one “One Vision” I said “Hey I found a footnote of the real story of rock'n roll of this band, video directed by Rudi Dolezal, wow!”. I was so proud. And 31 shoots happened after that.
During your career, you worked mainly on music videos and documentaries. Why this choice? Have you ever considered fiction?
Rudi Dolezal : Yes, actually... First of all, what nobody knows : I produced a feature film in the year 2000, it was called Vienna. I was the producer -not the director- but it was a DoRo production because at that time I was founding a department in DoRo which was called department F for fiction, department fiction, and I wanted to do a feature film on Falco* for which I also wrote a book which is written already with the thing in mind to do the feature film and I already had a contract one year after his death, which was 1998 he died, with a very big German film studio called "Bavaria Films" that still exists. Queen was doing some video stuff by the way which had nothing to do with it.
And I already had the script put together with two very very talented script writers. But then came a political thing in it that the boss of the Austrian television was changed and the new boss -because the Austrian television was part of the financing- wanted somebody else to do the feature film. So the feature film on Falco which is existing is not by me and it's very bad. And I couldn’t fight it because Falco not knowing that he was going to die, was making a written statement one year before he died and said “if there is ever done a feature film on me the director must be Rudi Dolezal”. His manager that has that. And also I had to give them the rights so they can refilm my famous videos Rock Me Amadeus and Jeanny and Vienna Calling but I finally said yes and I'm not fighting. Because I said maybe one day I am gonna do an international Falco feature film where then I don't know Brad Pitt plays Falco, you know what I mean, or Johnny Depp...
Then after the year 2000 came 2 harsh catastrophes in my life: one was that I had to separate from my long-term partner** because he did something which was absolutely not tolerable after 27 years of working together. So I took over the company on my own, I own everything, I own DoRo, I own the name, DoRo is Rudi now.
And the other thing is after that disappointment I focused more on my private life for some time, therefore the feature film went in the back and I produced my best productions in the world, my two children, than any films : this is Ruby he's now 17 and Benjamin is still 13 but soon 14 which is the best things have ever done. And I had 10 years when I was more a father. I still was doing films but I was not trying out some anything new. And therefore it came a little bit back now because I am making this important step.
I’ve written three books already: I've written one book on Falco and two on Austrian pop music. So that not the first book*, but this is the first international book [*My friend Freddie]. The first one that I write in two languages -I write it in German and English at the same time- and that will be released in 11 languages minimum. So I’m becoming a real author now, a real book writer. I was always a journalist but I was never an author like I see it where you also could write a novel or something, you know. I know that I can do this. The same thing is, I know I can do a feature film.
I already had one idea, a great idea for the Falco feature film and I had already the yes of Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, I think one person of Queen and a few other famous people, yeah Tom Waits!...because I asked them as I am doing my first feature film, you have to do a cameo appearance, like a very short appearance or a very small... I'm still going to do this with my first feature. So Tom Waits would have been the guy at the gas station because he had one album where he was on the cover at a gas station***, and I did this famous interview with him on a gas station, so whenever there was something with a gas station, there would be Tom Waits and you'll tell then “Is that it's Tom Waits?”. Or Keith Richards would have been the bar keeper in a bar and of course you know Keith Richards. But only short 'cause it would have been all in one day of shooting, I couldn't pay them OK money, and I have to say to do it as a favor, it's my first feature film. So whatever is the first feature film of Rudi Dolezal you can be sure it will be something very very outstanding. And I want the whole world to talk about it.
Yes, it's in the background but now I made the plan: 2020 is Freddie book, 2021 is Rudi on stage with Freddie book and Rudi book tours all over the world, and after that I’ll probably do another book – I am not telling you what it is but I have already the idea and I’ve written the first chapter. Because now as we say in German and I don't know if it's the same in English or French, “I was licking blood” [I acquired a taste for it], I’ve now found out that I can do this. The person who was co writing the Falco book and who was my “Lectorat” [reader], she said to me “Rudi you don't need me anymore, you’ve become so good”. Because she was helping me a lot with the Falco book 20 years ago, because I was writing more like a journalist, and now I am writing more like an author, I am writing scenes like there could be in a feature film and then describing then better and better and better. And it's really a lot of fun because I don't need anything. I was always so frustrated because to do my art, to do what I'm good in with these films I need a budget, I need cameras, I need sound, I need light, I need editing, I need this... then why I was “Oh the company, the company”. I am finished with that role. Because it was too much burden on me, I want to be the free artist again that I was in the beginning.
* Falco was an Austrian musician, pop rock singer and rapper, who died accidentally in 1998. He is the only German-speaking singer to have become number 1 in the United States; it was for Rock me Amadeus in 1986, in which the video clip was directed by Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher
** Hannes Rossacher, with whom he had founded DoRo Productions and who was with him in the famous set up called the “Torpedo Twins”
*** He is referring to the album cover Blue Valentine by Tom Waits
Are you currently at a turning point in your career?
Rudi Dolezal : I am reinventing myself. Thanks to my children who are responsible that I am on social media, and thanks to my decision that I said “Now I want to finish the book” and then also because of my conclusion because of Corona, where all my film projects were canceled. I was always thinking “I have to make a change” but now I have to make a change because I have to re-think and now I am much more happier with what I have here than what I was until last year. I still will make films and I still will make all that but not series. I was doing series to feed my children “OK 15 episodes of this series one year”. It was one after the other, all very good, I became really good in that. And you hardly see a program of mine in the last ten years which is not really good quality. But I, as a human being, was getting more and more degenerated. No personal time, not enough private, not enough time with my boys, a lot of ideas here and always I had to do something else. So now I'm going, I’m re-inventing myself and it's basically because of my boys. I was a single dad for nine years so when the little one was 3 and the big one was 6, the mother of my children went out of the door and never came back. So they were 6 and 3 and I have to suddenly be mother and father at the same time. Unprepared. And I managed, then I did it, I was a single dad, a single father for nine years, with being a rock'n'roll filmer, with having companies in Austria and America, with, with... Believe me if any single mum tells me about this I've been there I am exactly the same. But just because I am a man, which is very rare.
And I got the full custody of both of my boys because I said “I didn't become a father with forty, to then not take care of my boys”. So I skipped the international career for ten years, I still had the American company but was doing like one production in a year or something, which is nothing in America, and I focused on my boys. I was getting up at 7 in the morning, I was waking them up, I was cooking breakfast, I was getting them to school, regardless of whether it was winter or summer or whatever. I'm not an early riser as to say it, I don't like to get out in the morning I hate it usually. So I was up and couldn’t go to sleep, I was usually working until one and two in the morning and I had this for nine years. And I made a pretty good job in educating my boys, I'm very happy with the result. And now, two years ago my ex, mother of my children, has now married somebody but we were never married, I never married in my life, I'm still a single I was never married. I was once with a woman for 17 years but we were never married. So I was sort of married but not on paper. So the mother of my children now is married for 6 years to another man and became stable so I said to her “We can now live an equal parentship” and she can take the boys when I'm not in Austria. That's my background. That is the most important thing I’ve ever done to become a father and I am not regretting a second, but I had many many many days when I went to bed in the evening and I was afraid of how I would manage the next day with everything on my shoulder like children, school, job, company in Austria, company in America, film project, creative decisions, money problems, budgets... Ugh...you know what I mean? And now I’m getting rid of a lot of it and I love it.
I stop smoking 202 days ago, and started every “Run Rudi Run” every day, every fucking days, and I haven't drunk a drop of alcohol since 160 days and it opened doors in my brain, to rooms in my brain of energy and creativity which I didn't know that they still exist. And it is so fantastic than I’m planning -I was really often not drinking in America, in Austria “Oh come on let’s have a glass” even in France- to go back to Austria and not drink at least for some period of time. Because it's just too good what happens out there with that energy. So I re-invented myself and then came, yeah I've been out for dinner, once a week, the men you know, the 13 year old man, and the 16 now 17 year old man and the old man which is me. And then they said: “Papa, papa you're so uncool you're not have an Insta”. I said: “What is Insta?” He said: “Yeah Instagram, yeah you don't have a YouTube channel I mean you have nothing!”. I said: “okay, I'll do that” and so it’s how it started.
And I started with zero follower, zero knowledge, everybody said always “You have to have social media company advising you” I found out myself, in small numbers and you can just add a few zeros at the back. My YouTube channel [Rudi Dolezal’s DoRo TV] will have one million soon, maybe it takes a year maybe two. Now the first 2,500 will receive a gold friendship certificate signed by me and we are now at 2,000 I don't know 400 something. So if somebody reads this and still wants to subscribe. But there will be a million, there will be 100 000 yeah and it will be interesting who are the first 2 500 who’ve believed in Rudi from the real beginning 'cause those are the people that I care the most about because I'm really loyal to people who are very loyal to me. And that's why I am re-inventing myself and of course “Rudi Backstage” will sooner or later again become a television program but on my terms, like I want it and not with the stupid channel wants it; one who says “This is it, you wanna have it, that's how it much it costs”,] I answer: [“you don't wanna have it, fuck off, I don't care”. It's Freddie Mercury’s style. You know what I mean? Now I have enough ideals that I know, I can make a living with that, sooner or later. I don't live such an expensive life style and I could, it was possible for me to live on and not do one program after the other.
I start thinking again what would I want to become? I have the next ten years probably the most productive years in my life. You know 60 to 70 if I stay fit of course, if I leave the hand off all the stupid things that we did including Freddie Mercury and myself when we were young, the unhealthy, I'm talking cocaine and all that shit that just destroys you more or less. I'm glad that I'm alive and I'm not making stupid mistakes twice. I am re-inventing myself and “Rudi Backstage”, “Rudi Dolezal’s DoRo TV,” the book etc... that’s all the new Rudi, as I call it new times. It's the new times of Rudi.
You are particularly keen on filming musicians. What do you like about them? Would you have liked to be a musician yourself?
Rudi Dolezal : First of all, I was a musician or I still am a musician from the beginning. I’ve learned classical guitar since I was 9 years old. Classical guitar that means I could read the notes and I could play. When I started filming, which was when I was 17 / 18 / 19, for some reason I stopped playing the guitar. Because I just realized: “Oh no I haven't played in a year”. Because I was playing every day five hours to be a classic, I was playing little concerts as the super talents in the conservatory. So I was really good.
I think I had a new creative output, like I'm now having the creative output of writing a book, and I still like to do films but usually I always had a new idea for a new documentary, a new film, now I have permanently ideas for new books. Because I'm in the book world, and then maybe I will always come back to film world then I...
So this is how I went from the musician world into the film and television world. But I say until today that being able to play an instrument that well was one reason why I became a really sensitive music filmmaker. Because a lot of people always said “Oh that editing is so much on the beat of musicians. Oh great!”. Because I knew where the one was, where the beat was 'cause I was a musician myself. So I always say today I see myself as a musician still, but my instruments are the camera and the editing rhythm. These are my two instruments and my music is the vision. I make music for the eyes.
A little addition to the last question. People think that I'm only doing musicians because the other things that I have directed are not so well known. I started directing documentaries on social problems. Like my first film was on heroin drug addiction or on young girls who become mothers at 15 and their problems etc... Later I also did a lot of art, this is why #ArtRudiArt is a hobby of mine, I did for example a portrait on Andy Warhol, I did films on opera singers like Placido Domingo, or I did, there was an Austrian painter that you maybe don't know - his name is Nitsch, he's in the Museum of Modern Art, he is actually the guy who invented to paint only with red paint and blood. So I did a lot of other things. I did a famous portrait on an architect. But those things have very little audience and therefore when somebody reads my biography they are mentioned but everybody talks about Freddie Mercury, Rolling Stones, Rock Me Amadeus etc...
And also a very strong part of me always was later on social initiatives like I was part of Sting's Rainforest initiative and made a film on it, I was the first one with Harry Belafonte, the famous American civil rights singer on Artists for Peace in 1980, I made a film, I made a film just a few years ago for the United Nations on refugees, the refugee problem and telling the stories of 50 different people of 50 different countries that they had to flee their country because there either was war or whatever. So I'm doing those things but they are not so well-known. But of course, my big love is artists and then of course the most things I have done, because I also did more than 5 000 and still doing music videos, is music.
* Hermann Nitsch is a contemporary Austrian artist
As a reminder:
Rudi's book will be released in 11 languages and you can always pre-order a signed copy on this secure site: https://www.myfriendfreddie.com/
It's an original idea from Rudi, as he explained to me during our conversation: "It is the first time I have ever heard that when somebody is still writing a book, you can already secure a copy - that’s something which I think has never been done before, especially with a signed copy”.
You can also find Rudi on social networks:
- on his Instagram:@rudi_dolezal
- on his official Facebook page (Rudi Dolezal official) : https://www.facebook.com/Rudi-Dolezal-official-101706558272297
- on his Twitter account: @DolezalRudi
- on its YouTube channel (Rudi Dolezal's DoRo TV) : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsaZF4OKvhtGmOxPJUsKLMg/feed
As Rudi mentions in this interview, he reserves a signed certificate and some benefits for his first 2,500 subscribers. If you haven't subscribed yet, don't hesitate to do so, it's free!
Rudi also hosts a live show every Sunday at 8pm, called 'Rudi Backstage'. It's a chance to hear him tell anecdotes, answer questions from his followers, and follow his news, while chatting with fans from all over the world! You can see her live on Instagram, Facebook (official page) and her YouTube channel.
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