Queen’s Brian May Recalls Recording Sci-Fi EP with Eddie Van Halen

“There was no one who could match him, no one who could come close"

Brian May and Eddie Van Halen
Brian May, photo by David Brendan Hall / Eddie Van Halen, photo by Philip Cosores

Legendary Queen guitarist Brian May has paid tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen by recalling the time the two recorded the sci-fi themed Star Fleet Project EP in 1983.

“A couple of days after I heard the news about Eddie, I went back to Star Fleet,” May told Total Guitar. “I started revisiting all the feelings I had when we were in the studio doing that, and it sort of healed my soul a bit. I thought, ‘Yeah, this is what I should be doing at this time.’”

The three-song, 28-minute release was officially released under the “Brian May + Friends” moniker on October 31st, 1983. The EP favored a heavy blues rock sound and also featured REO Speedwagon drummer Alan Gratzer and session musicians Phil Chen and Fred Mandel.

The sessions were minimally mixed and apparently not intended for release, though May was eventually convinced otherwise. The titular lead track was a rearranged cover of the theme song to the Star Fleet kids television series in England, while the other two songs were the originals “Blues Breaker” and “Let Me Out”.

As for his first encounter with Eddie Van Halen, May recalled, “I think of him as a boy back then. He was quite a bit younger than me. It was backstage in Munich when Van Halen were supporting Black Sabbath. I knew a little bit about Van Halen and luckily I got there to see them, because I was there to see [Black Sabbath guitarist] Tony [Iommi].”

He continued, “But I got there in time to see Van Halen and I was utterly blown away by Eddie. I just thought, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.’ It was almost too much to take in. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to believe this.’ It was similar to watching Jimi Hendrix for the first time.”

“He was the greatest,” May added of Eddie Van Halen. “There was no one who could match him, no one who could come close. There will never be another one of him.”

Regarding recording Star Fleet with Eddie, May remarked, “That was one of the great moments of my life, I’ve got to say — because we did it once and we got it right. … That’s a tiny little moment but a moment of great joy, playing with this guy. I was awestruck by his playing.”

At one point in the recording sessions, May and Van Halen switched guitars, but as May explained, “It’s basically all in the fingers at the end of the day. No matter what guitar Eddie picked up, it sounded like him.”

On Van Halen’s tragic passing, May added: “I haven’t really processed it at all. When I think about it, I get this kind of physical shock. It’s punched a big hole in my heart.”

In the same interview, May said he was looking to reissue Star Fleet Project. The original release is collectible, and you can get a copy on vinyl here. You can also listen to the Star Fleet Project EP below.