ST. LOUIS — Queen drummer Roger Taylor was back home in his native England, walking by a local hole in the wall when something caught his eye. It was a poster for an upcoming Queen tribute band concert.
Later, in another nearby town, he saw a poster for another Queen tribute band concert, this one from a different band.
“It’s outrageous,” says Taylor, of the band fronted by Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991. “There’s hundreds of Queen tribute bands. I have nothing against tribute bands. Some are OK. Some are not that good and cheesy. It’s just so misleading, and it’s a cheapening of our music.”
But rather than grumble, Taylor decided to lauch an official Queen-endorsed tribute band, the Queen Extravaganza.
“Nobody does our music better than us,” says Taylor, who produces the show. Queen guitarist Brian May also is involved. “I feel I have the right to fight back and make sure the music is presented in a better way.”
Taylor had more to say about the Queen Extravaganza.
Q. Why aren’t you and May in the production yourselves?
A. We do still play, Brian and myself, what’s left of Queen. We’re doing shows in Europe, going out with Adam Lambert. But with the Extravaganza, I wanted it to have its own life. I didn’t want to put our personalities over it. And I didn’t want to commit myself to a lot of touring. These are young people. I am not.
Q. What makes Queen Extravaganza different from the typical tribute band concert?
A. With tribute shows, the band usually dresses as whomever they’re playing tribute to. They’re trying to look like them, basically imitating them. We’re not trying to do that. We’re just trying to present the music in a way that’s very true to the records and our live performances. We have Marc Martel singing with us, and the weird thing is you close your eyes, and Freddie Mercury is in the room. It’s an extraordinary and uncanny audio resemblance. That gives us a head start.
Q. How are concertgoers reacting to the show?
A. I feel a real glow when I see people light up. We really have re-created those songs in a spectacular way.
Q. Why did you take the search for musicians and singers online?
A. I thought I’d drag myself into the 21st century and try to do it the modern way. It was the most efficient medium. People in their bedrooms in Idaho could get into the process by sending in their auditions.
Q. Why are four singers necessary?
A. It enables us to cover the massive harmonies that Queen couldn’t cover live before, though we could in the studio. I have a fantastic rock performer in Jeff Scott Soto. He puts over the hard rock stuff great. There’s a girl, Jennifer Espinoza, who does the ballad stuff and has an incredibly low voice for a woman. She puts over some great stuff in a more melodic way. Yvan Pedneault is just a fantastic performer with a high, pure range in his voice. … We get to do “Bohemian Rhapsody” from beginning to end, which we would have never have been able to do before because we didn’t have enough singers.
Q. Was Adam Lambert ever looked at to front the Queen Extravaganza?
A. I think that would be foolish, the wrong thing for Adam to be heavily associated with at this time. He has a flourishing career. He would be crazy to do that. He should concentrate on his own career. In the meantime, we have a fantastic temporary association with him. He’s an exceptional talent.
Q. Did you ever consider a Freddie Mercury hologram?
A. Those aren’t holograms. They’re two-dimensional projection done with new technology. We looked at it, but I didn’t want to attempt to resuscitate Freddie like that. It didn’t fit into our plans. … It felt weirder than weird.