Photo special to Fargo Monthly
When it comes to iconic musical groups, Queen was on a level all their own. Although there are several Queen tribute bands out there, only one has been around for 25 years and counting.
Killer Queen formed in 1993 and is the longest established Queen tribute band in the world. They’ve performed all over the world, including in several stadiums and theaters where Queen had performed years earlier.
The whole group, but especially Myers, is known for their accurate costumes and performances that many say are almost identical to actually seeing Queen live.
I talked with Myers before Killer Queen‘s show at the Fargo Theatre on Friday about the legacy Queen left behind, the origins of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and more.
The doors for the all-ages show open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $35-$56 and can be found here.
How did your interest in music first begin?
I’ve got American grandparents, and I went to stay with them back in 1980 and they reckoned after a few months that I might be interested in music, so they just sent me a guitar and I didn’t know what to do with it. It just sat in my room for about a year and I was going, “Well, I don’t know what happens with a guitar.” Eventually, I got some lessons, and I discovered rock and roll and Queen and the Beatles and loads of other bands, and it was just a bit of an explosion. I got into a band at school, and we used to play Queen songs there as well. And then I was basically a musician all the way through my teens, playing different bars and festivals and things, but the Queen thing happened just when we went to college. We got the news that Freddie had passed and we were just kind of in shock, really, so we started playing Queen songs just as a natural reaction, not as a thought of doing a concert.
And then we thought, “Actually, hang on, we’re the people who will never see Queen. We’re the first generation that kind of hit as a prospect, so let’s just do a concert for ourselves so we can say we’ve been to a Queen concert anyway.” We made it happen for ourselves because no one else was doing that at the time. There weren’t really any tribute bands around then, so we put that one concert on. We thought it’d be great to do another one if another one comes around, but we had no plan at all. That first concert was going to potentially be our first and last. We had no idea. And then the guy who put the show on, who agreed to put us on, liked the show so much he said, “Right, I’m going to manage you guys,” and he booked us a 20-day tour of the UK, colleges and stuff, the next week, more or less. So it kind of just took off, really. It was extraordinary.
That’s when it got really surreal, playing the same places that Queen played. That’s extraordinary.
Wow. So it’s something you just meant to do for yourselves and then it just grew into something that was so much bigger.
Yeah. We didn’t have a year with that when we were offered the West End, which is kind of like Broadway for London, and we were offered some shows there, which was the first kind of tribute band ever of any sort to go to the West End. Then the millennium passed and a new sort of dawn came for us. The arenas and stadiums that Queen had played at their heyday got in touch with us and said, “Hey, would you like to do a show here? We’d very much like you to be our Queen act. We want to design a show for you that’s exactly like a Queen show would be.” And we did that a few times at Ahoy Stadium and the place where Queen shot all their massive videos in Brussels, in Forest National, and Beirut and Edinburgh, and it’s just been amazing, really. That’s when it got really surreal, playing the same places that Queen played. That’s extraordinary.
I’m sure since that wasn’t something you first thought of when you started doing this.
No, we didn’t think at all, to be honest. Our main thought was on the one show we were preparing for to make sure that one was really good. We didn’t think beyond that one show, so the idea that it would continue and now we’re at 25 years and we’ve been all over the world and we’ve played Red Rocks and things like that, it’s just been extraordinary.
Obviously, Freddie Mercury was known for having such a unique and powerful voice, so when did you first realize you could sing like him?
Well, I’ve always sort of enjoyed harmonies and I’ve always sung. You know when you’re going up and down a staircase that’s got a really good echo in it? In the residence halls where we were rehearsing, I was always the guy going up and down the staircase singing full belt, so everyone just kind of assumed I’d be the guy to sing just because I never seemed to stop singing. But once I realized that we were doing a Queen tribute, you realize just how amazing, as you’re saying, Freddie Mercury’s vocals are. They are extraordinary, so I do a lot of work, and I’ve done a lot of work over the last 25 years or so on my voice. I do a lot of exercises and training of the vocal cords. It’s something we take really seriously.
The vocals are so important with Queen, and not just the Freddie vocals. There’s a lot of stuff in a Queen show that’s… the more you look at it, the more you realize how daunting it is to try and emulate that. So it was a big challenge for any band or musician to approach that material, but the advantage is we really loved the material. It’s a pleasure to play so for us, it’s a fun challenge.
I’m sure there are a lot of details that go into it, whether it’s costumes or makeup or different things for the stage. Since you do so many different shows, I’m sure it’s a lot to get into every day, so how do you get into the mindset of being in a Queen tribute band as Freddie Mercury?
It’s just all I’ve dealt with for the past 25 years, so I mean you’re right, there’s a lot to take on board with the costumes and the performance and the technical aspects of the show, whether it’s production wise or musical wise, but we want to give people a good time and want to put on a good show, so that’s the main emphasis and everything goes towards that, really. It’s a full-time job, singing, performing and traveling with the band. It doesn’t really leave much other time.
I know this is something you’ve mentioned in interviews before, but you tend to get a mix of people who attend shows both for the nostalgic factor and a lot of people who weren’t able to see Queen live before, so what’s it like to help keep that music alive for people?
I think the music keeps itself alive in as much as everybody loves it. We’re not doing anything other than just sharing the music that they want to hear, too, so it’s great to be able to perform the music live because Queen wrote the songs with that in mind, songs like “We Will Rock You,” “We Are The Champions,” they are written to be performed in arenas and stadiums and concert halls, so they’re written to get the audience going, you know? Queen was very conscious about that. They always write with an audience in mind, and that’s why their songs are so entertaining and so diverse, so that helps us, really. The music is so well-written and well-presented and beautifully arranged. It sets the audience on fire. It’s just fantastic to do.
Queen produced almost like the blueprint for a perfect rock concert, I think. You’ve got all the audience interaction there, you’ve got all the amazing songs, you’ve got the perfect embodiment of a rock performance from the whole band.
So it’s great that there are people who saw Queen back in the day who really like our show, and we love getting emails about that because they’ve seen the real thing, you know? But a lot of people bring their kids to a show because Queen produced almost like the blueprint for a perfect rock concert, I think. You’ve got all the audience interaction there, you’ve got all the amazing songs, you’ve got the perfect embodiment of a rock performance from the whole band, and Freddie obviously in particular. So a lot of parents want to bring their kids, and the kids have seen Queen on YouTube, they’ve seen all the footage they’re in. And these days, because you can access any footage, you can see any show from any time on YouTube whenever you want to, it’s almost as if Freddie really hasn’t ever died because he’s always there.
The kids who come to see us don’t necessarily realize that they’re being taken to see a tribute. They thinking, “Yeah, these are the guys we saw on YouTube,” when they’re really, really young, and they say, “Yeah, that’s a Queen concert!” It’s almost like a rite of passage, you know, like Thanksgiving or something. You go to a Queen concert, of course. “It’s my kid’s first concert, I’m taking him to a Queen concert.” Well done, that’s good parenting right there. It’s very much that vibe. They’re just not aware that Queen has stopped. They’re not aware that anyone’s gotten older. Because the footage they see of Queen primarily seems to be the footage from the ’80s and that period, so when they see a band that’s looking exactly or very, very close to that, they just regard it as, “Alright, it’s a Queen show.”
And there are a lot of people from the same generation as us or a little bit younger that really wanted to see Freddie and almost did and just missed out. We get a lot of emails from people who say that they really value what we do for that reason because they feel like they can take something off the bucket list, so to speak. And they enjoyed the show, which is a big accomplishment for us. We wouldn’t take anyone writing in like that for granted at all. We’re absolutely bowled over when people write in and say stuff like that. But as I was saying, it’s something we love doing and the audience loves us doing it back and that makes it great. I mean, that makes it a really nice job for us as far as we’re concerned. So what’s it like in Fargo? I’ve never been.
That was going to be my next question, actually, to see if you’ve ever been to Fargo or North Dakota before.
No, no, no. I mean, I guess you must get a lot of people saying I haven’t been to Fargo, but I’ve seen the film or the TV show.
Yes, all the time.
And that’s probably going to be nothing like Fargo.
It’s not. Although it’s funny because at our Visitors Center here in Fargo they have the wood chipper from the movie on display.
Oh really? Excellent. That’s a strange sort of town emblem considering what happened with the wood chipper. [laughs] As I was saying, my grandparents were American, but they were down in North Carolina, and I never really traveled very much when I lived in America only very briefly as a kid. We’ve toured America a couple times. America seems like the home of rock and roll, really. You feel that straight away when you switch on a radio and get to America. There’s a lot of rock, and people love it, which is fantastic. With a band like Queen, that’s going to be great.
Plus, they have so many iconic songs, too. I agree that their music has never really gone away because it’s everywhere you go.
It does feel like they’ve never gone away, so I think what I was saying about young kids, from a young kid’s point of view, Queen is still here and they’re still 35, you know, or 30 or whatever it was, because they’re ever-present and you see their videos from back in the day, you hear their music on the radio all the time, and it still sounds so fresh. If you hear a Led Zepp, I love Led Zepp, but if you hear a Led Zepp track now, you know it’s from that period, that real classic rock period. And you kind of get that a little bit with Queen now and again, but a lot of it almost sounds just timeless. I’m not sure how they managed to do that, but it’s definitely featured on their recordings.
Yeah, that’s interesting because with all of their unique voices and all of their unique showmanship things and how timeless the music is, they were just such an iconic band for so many reasons.
Yeah, and they lasted as well. I know they had their sort of moment in the sun in America kind of like at the end of the ‘70s and beginning of the ‘80s but across the rest of the world, Queen were massive all the way through the ‘70s, all the way through the ‘80s and into the ‘90s as well even though Freddie only lasted a couple of years into the ‘90s. They were still having hit albums up until ‘95, so there’s a massive range of music to choose from and the songs have just grown, whether they were hits in America in the ‘80s or not, people have still taken the songs to their heart, songs like “I Want It All” and “The Show Must Go On.” People really love those tracks, along with the classic stuff like “We Will Rock You,” “You’re My Best Friend” and all that. It’s a great body of work to be left with. For a band like us, it’s brilliant. We’re really lucky to have such a large selection of songs to choose from.
Definitely. As you mentioned, you’ve been performing with Killer Queen for about 25 years now. So what’s next for you and the band?
Well, we’ve got the Eastern Europe tour coming up in 2019. We’ve got three tours of America coming up next year, as well after this one coming up in November. We’ll be going back over there three times. And then we’ve got tours of Norway and Scandinavia coming up in 2019, and I think from what I can gather, there are rumors that we’ll be going to the Far East and doing some work out there towards the autumn of next year, so there’s a lot. There’s a lot of traveling and a lot of work, but the whole world loves Queen, really. They seem to be bigger as a band now than they were 15 years ago, 20 years ago, especially with the new movie that’s coming out as well. There’s a lot of people very excited about Queen right now. It looks fantastic. That whole production, it looks like they’ve got the visuals looking amazing.
That was going to be my next question for you, what your thoughts are on that new movie, so that’s awesome.
Yeah, I’m really excited. They look like they’ve got an excellent, excellent cast and I’m just really, really looking forward to sort of finally settling down and enjoying the show. It opens when we’re over in America, actually. That was completely by accident. There’s no way we could’ve planned that.
[Bohemian Rhapsody] is such a big song in a lot of people’s lives, and it’s a beautiful song to sing. It’s wonderful.
There you go! And I know like you said, there are so many different songs to choose from, but do you have a favorite song or a couple favorite songs that you love to perform, or is it just all of them?
I enjoy performing the set as a whole, but obviously there are certain songs. There’s a song written by Roger called “Days Of Our Lives,” which I really love singing. There’s a song called “The Show Must Go On,” which was mostly a Brian song. And I like “Save Me.” I like singing a lot of the Brian songs, but I love “Bohemian Rhapsody” as well. It’s an obvious choice, but it’s such an amazing song and it has such a profound effect on the audience. It’s brilliant. It’s such a big song in a lot of people’s lives, and it’s a beautiful song to sing. It’s wonderful.
I mean, you talk about an iconic song. That’s probably one of the most iconic songs I can think of.
Oh yeah, and it’s just so unique. What’s funny in the origins about that song is that originally, Freddie had it in a song from the late 60s, but it was just the first part in the beginning, the “Momma, I just killed a man.” It was called “The Cowboy Song.” It was supposed to be a parody of a cowboy song. It was just a joke song that he did with a silly accent, and no one took it seriously as a song. And then he slowed it down, and you’ve got that amazing piano riff all of a sudden from a standard sort of folk guitar riff into an amazing, iconic rock piano riff. And then how he came up with the middle bit, I have no idea. [laughs] That whole opera bit is just inspiration from another planet, you know? But it was fantastic. It just all came together so beautifully.
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