Music interview: Roger Taylor of Queen on Queen Extravaganza

Queen Extravaganza
Queen Extravaganza
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It is well documented that a lot of rock bands hate tribute acts. Queen are no exception.

One of the biggest bands in the world, they have sold over 150 million albums and given the world hits like Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions. In a career spanning four decades, the group have had 18 number one albums, 18 number one singles and 10 number one videos. Fronted by the late great Freddie Mercury, they have become one of the most iconic groups in rock.

Since Mercury’s death in 1991, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May have continued touring under the name Queen, despite original bass player John Deacon retiring in the 1990’s.

They are currently at the end of a world tour with Adam Lambert, but this month, Britain will once again see Queen return – this time, the official tribute band, Queen Extravaganza.

This tribute group was assembled by Taylor through online auditions on YouTube. They are currently on a UK tour, which stopped at Leeds’s O2 Academy.

Speaking to him as he sits backstage in rainy Sydney a few hours before the original band perform at the Allphones Arena, Taylor explains why he decided to create a tribute group for his own band. “It was a difficult thing, really. I’d got so fed up with seeing rather cheesy tribute bands, and it looked like we were playing down the road in the village hall or something. I thought if anybody can put a band together with our music, it’s us, we know our music better than anybody else.”

“I went through a very long audition process in America, and through using YouTube we trawled the bedrooms of America and Canada and we found some amazing talent, including a man who sounds an absolute dead ringer for Freddie; strangely enough, looks a bit like him, as well.”

That young man was Queen Extravaganza’s lead singer, Marc Martel. The American singer says that he was made aware of the auditions by his friend. “It was a friend of mine in town here who caught wind of the audition and immediately sent me the online link to it. All there was in the subject line of the email was ‘a must’; anyone who had seen me or heard me sing before knew that I had an uncanny resemblance to Freddie Mercury. Once I clicked on that link and realised that Roger Taylor was involved in it, I was very interested.”

It is natural to assume that Martel was a huge Queen fan to audition for such an important part, but apparently this was not so. “I had their two greatest hits albums and that was about it.”

However, this did not deter him, and Marc got the gig. None the less, he says that it was still a very daunting project to take on. “There was a lot to live up to,” he begins. “They were very meticulous about the fine details of the music, making sure everyone was playing and singing correctly. There was a lot of very intricate background vocals to learn and all that. You sort of realise that this is their legacy and not just a job.”

“They play our stuff more exactly than we do in a way because they’re more faithful to the original arrangements.”, says Roger when asked how well the band play.

Despite his distaste for cheesy tribute acts, Taylor does admit how good it feels to be in a band with such awesome longevity that tributes abound. “It feels great, because we’re here at the moment in Australia and we’ve just been to Japan and Korea and it’s just been sensational. Brian and I never thought we’d do it again, but it goes with Adam Lambert, he’s a sensation. He just works so well with us, he has all the right ingredients.

That being said, he does hint that the original Queen may be ready to abdicate before their 50th anniversary. “Let’s face it, we’re no spring chickens anymore, and I can’t keep doing like two and a half hour sets. I can’t see myself doing it in five years, to be honest, I don’t think I’m physically capable. But right now, we are playing on the top of our form and Brian and I have never played better than right now. Not yet but soon.”, he laughs. “We’re constantly amazed, actually, at the longevity of the band, and how young the audiences are. We have all ages, it really is extraordinary.”

Until then, the band continues to play. Do they have any plans of their own, besides Queen Extravaganza? “We’re thinking about something next year, but there’s nothing concrete, yet,” teases Roger. “...If I survive this tour!”

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