"We've had some really nice stuff said about us over the years and been offered some really nice shows on the back of that so yeah, it's been fantastic," says Killer Queen front man Patrick Myers on receiving glowing reviews from multiple websites; including that of Queen's own guitarist Brian May.
Prior to recent gigs in New Jersey, Myers discussed what it's like to be part of what is considered to be one of the world's penultimate tribute bands, their formation, their place in music, his role as Freddie Mercury and his feelings on Queen and their songwriting.
"We didn't come together with a view to forming a 25 year running tribute band," he began with a tone of wonder in his voice. "We were not familiar with the term tribute band when we first thought of doing this because there weren't that many; as a matter of fact there weren't any because there wasn't a scene for that of any sort. It was as simple as the fact that we left home as kids and had just gotten a hold of a residence and about eight weeks later we had gotten the news that Freddie died. We realized that we were literally the first generation that wouldn't see Queen live because there wouldn't be another tour. So we thought that we'd do a show for everyone our age and do the songs because I was so, so desperate to be in the audience and do, "Radio Ga Ga" with my hands in the air, "We Will Rock You" the whole thing; do the call and response with Freddie. I couldn't wait to do that and it never crossed my mind that Freddie was in any kind of trouble at all and that it would never happen; so when we got the news we were really, really shocked. That sounds crazy today because everybody follows everyone's health in minute detail with social media but back then in 1991 if you didn't read the newspapers you wouldn't know. The only thing that I had to go on was, I hadn't even seen the videos because I didn't have MTV or YouTube; I only just heard the records and that was it. The record sounded fantastic, his voice sounded better than ever and the songwriting sounded so strong at the end with, "Innuendo" and that whole album and I just couldn't believe it. I remember hearing some of those tracks on the radio for the first time and thinking, oh my God this is fantastic it sounds like Queen but it can't be Queen and it was Queen and I thought, oh my God they're right at the top of their songwriting game again this is fantastic! So long story short, we thought we'd do a show or two; through some weird things we managed to get our first gig in front of a thousand people, they were all going to be at the student ball. It was great, perfect, exactly what you wanted to do but there was no second gig booked or third or fourth gig booked; there was nothing and that could've easily been our first and last show and we didn't really expect too much from it necessarily. We thought, well we're not against it but we hadn't taken the steps to make that happen but we managed to get the big show, we did the big show and it was such a lovely warm reception. The guy who put us on there and took a risk said, "Look, I want to manage you and I'll book your tour tomorrow," which is virtually what he did. So we had a 25 or 30 day tour around the universities up and down England which led to Europe and then we started doing the West End which is like Broadway and that led to more arenas getting in touch; we really couldn't quite believe it because it just exploded very quickly."
So why choose Queen and what did they hope to gain from their early success?
"Obviously Queen had recorded everything so we were never after a record label, that didn't even cross our minds; for us it was the live work and making the live show work as good as we can. People all want the same thing, the producers that we work with say hey we want to put on a Queen show because we all love Queen. People come to it from the same point of view; they want to do their jobs as producers too but at the same time there's a lot of heart that goes into it from all of the angles really. So it's been great fun and something that we couldn't have predicted so we remain dazed and delighted that it happened (laughs)."
The funny thing about many classic rock bands is as they advance in years they lose some validity due to age, health issues or a member wanting to carry on the group's legacy; even though they may be the only one willing to do so. Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd had only one original member left by the time they wrapped up their touring days; so are these acts essentially tribute bands or should they still be considered the original despite only minimal authenticity?
Myers feels that Queen is smart in their approach as they have remained intact and haven't tried to bill themselves as, "Queen" when they go on the road and seemingly have no plans on releasing new music as their fans clamor for the older material; the Queen which they grew up on as teens or young rockers.
"Weird isn't it when it gets to that stage? Queen was quite clever; when they go out as Queen with Adam Lambert it's not somebody trying to be Freddie and it's someone with his own distinct voice. There is no way that he's ever going to sound like Freddie and he's never going to sound like Adam Lambert and I think that's kind of crucial if you're going to move forward as a band. I wish they'd write together, I wish they'd put more music out because Brian May and Roger Taylor are both extraordinary writers; I'm not sure whether that's ever going to happen again but I miss their writing and I'm so glad that they're touring."
"I think that's what's stopping them from doing anything new. I think they tried that with Paul Rodgers, they wanted to go out and push new songs and they realized that no one wanted to hear them, they wanted to hear the other stuff. I think that's partly the reason but I think Brian is also so busy with other elements of his life that it makes it difficult. I can see why they might be thinking, well if we do spend ages recording and making stuff great we're not going to be able to tour with it anyway because no one is going to want to listen to it over and above the stuff we've already recorded so let's celebrate the stuff we've already recorded. I can see that but at the same time I miss their writing because I just love that and it'd be a shame if they decided to just close that off. Maybe they should record new stuff and just release it when they decide not to tour anymore; just quietly keep recording songs and when people want some new Queen they can say, here it is."
So how does Killer Queen fit into the equation? What keeps the audiences coming to the shows?
"The thing is, I think that Queen fans want to remember Queen as they were in their heyday and get that feeling of going to a concert that they couldn't get to because they were born in the wrong time. Then of course that's why people come in large numbers to see our shows, so it's obviously got appeal on that level. I think also it's that the songs are so good and they were written in order to be shared live, "We Will Rock You," "We Are The Champions" were written because they wanted to get the audience engaged. They were written in order to make stadium shows work and function so that really helps."
Having performed in front of crowds as large as 25,000 and regularly selling out ten to twelve thousand seat arenas; how do they adapt to playing smaller venues with smaller audiences?
"It's great getting to play big shows but we kind of get off on any audience whether it's 20,000 or 2,000 people because when you've got the whole crowd no matter what size and they're really going crazy with their arms in the air and just completely releasing; that's the stuff that's exciting. Generally the music energizes an audience from the start and we play to different size crowds but whatever the size of the crowd, it doesn't change what we do on stage; we don't have to have a fix of 20,000 people to raise our interest levels. I think what's great about Queen music is it lets you do that. You're dealing with really quality material and excellent writing that's designed to work and slot into a live environment so it's just exciting. It's not like having to muster up energy because there's less people there; for us as a band the music gives us any shot in the arm that we need because it's just really good stuff."
When one thinks of Queen, stunning vocal harmonies and the intricacies that accompany them come to mind. Myers says that this part of the re-creation of their music is time consuming but essential to the success of the show; adding that the group as a unit realizes the importance of staying true to the original works and never do they stray into inserting their own nuances.
"It's the thing that slows us down most; getting the harmonies right," he admitted readily. "The arrangements are very tricky but if you don't have that signature Queen sound on the harmony block then you're missing a trick; so we work hard on that. It would be inappropriate to vary from them or any part especially since I come from an acting background and I'd never ask an actor; you're playing this part aren't you tempted to stop and do it your way? You'd never do that in a stage play, it would be no, of course not, I'm doing this and presenting someone else. So no but the only thing you want to do as your voice develops over the years is that what your presenting is still what people would expect to hear from a Freddie Mercury style voice other than your own. Any musician is taught to play in a certain style, I mean you're not going to do a Van Halen solo in the middle of a rag time song; although that sounds like a good idea actually, it might work very well (laughs). It's not that difficult or complex; if I feel the need to do my own stuff, which I do from time to time I can do it from my own studio at home. I can just do that and that's fine but I don't ever regard it as frustrating that I can't sing in my own voice style doing Killer Queen songs because that's not how I judge the success. The success is letting people think that they're at a concert that they couldn't ever get to; at the end of the day, the first thing they'll forget about a tribute band is who on earth was singing. They'll just think; was it live Queen or not? They're not there to see me particularly, they're there to see someone who can do their rock 'n' roll hero well because essentially in their heart of hearts they want to see their rock 'n' roll hero again and they can't. So you sort of write yourself completely out of the equation and I kind of like that about it. Everyone kind of forgets everything eventually and people aren't going to remember a tribute band they're always going to remember the original and I think that's how it should be because that's the whole point of thing. It's supposed to be an amalgam of us and it's supposed to be Queen."
Terms such as, "Scarily Real," "Uncannily accurate" and "Very accurate, almost frightening" have been attached to reviews of their shows. Since they are in such demand; what does their future hold?
"We've got a whole tour of America coming up again then we're back again next year. America for us is getting bigger and bigger and as we've discovered America is huge," he said with a laugh."We're delighted but we'd held off on coming to America because we weren't sure on how to do it. I don't know if you're aware but if you're a UK band or coming from abroad it's very difficult; getting visas is very hard and very, very expensive and it stops a lot of musicians from coming over. It costs thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds just to get a visa for the band; you can't just turn up with your guitars because it's really quite difficult. We had offers but we had to turn them down for quite a long time because we had to get some sort of prestige offers to make it worthwhile to put it together and give us the ability to put on the show. It wasn't really until we got an offer from Red Rocks who had seen our arena show and said they'd like us to come there and then basically we've been back there and may be again next year or the year after we're not sure. America has been so great because we didn't how much of the material would translate well in America because Queen didn't have that many hits in the 80's even though they had huge hits everywhere else in the world but it turns out that everybody knows all the songs anyway whether they were hits in America or not. So it's been great because we can play a whole range of material here and the audiences so adore rock 'n' roll which is great. It's fantastic, it's really great so we can just pull stuff out like, "Tie Your Mother Down" and it gets such a great reception over here. Like I said, I never thought that it would last more than five minutes 25 years ago and there's a part of me that still doesn't; there's a part of me that still thinks, well it's going to stop at some point. I don't want it to stop but I'm thinking; how long can it go on? It keeps building and growing and the audiences keep coming out and more and more different opportunities keep coming and with the new film coming out recently that helps too. It seems like it never stops and I think the film offers a fresh set of eyes; people who half know them or didn't know them, they'll know all about them with this film and I think it's great."
To keep up to date with Killer Queen, please visit their website at www.killerqueenonline.com .
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!