When Roger Taylor (original Queen band member) noticed a need for a high quality tribute act that brought fans back to Queen’s extraordinary moments on stage, he formed Queen Extravaganza, the world’s leading Queen tribute band.
Echo Factory students were taken behind the scenes at De Montfort Hall in Leicester to get a taste for what life is really like on the road, the efforts that go into a full production tour, and find out about the survival tips needed to succeed in today’s music industry.
Sitting in an empty 2,000 seat auditorium, which would be full a few hours later, you wouldn’t have guessed that half of the band members had been struck down by the lurgies! The synchronisation of the band playing together was insane. A HUGE hat off to the sound guys, providing a fully immersive experience through the festival-sized sound system they take with them on tour. This recreated the famous signature sound of layered harmonies and high range male vocals.
The band gave some vital tips on the importance of being full rounded versatile musicians, to ensure they make a living out of what they do best! Here is what they had to say….
Darren Reeves (Keys & Synths) tells us about the transition from the ‘Greatest Hits’ tour into the current ‘Night at the Opera’ tour.
“We had just finished the greatest hits tour, and then I was told straight after that we were going to do a ‘Night at the Opera’ tour, so I then had to learn pretty much two hours of new material on top of what we already had. I couldn’t memorise it all from simply listening, there were no dots as such, so I wrote every single note out, all 4 and half-hours of it!
“When you start to write things down it starts to sneak in gradually. And it took me 2 hours a day for 3 months. Then you go into rehearsals and I’ve only just (laughs) come off the IPad!”
Nick Radcliffe (Guitar) also comments on the discipline of learning a whole new set. “After two or three hours your brain just says stop! I’m quite hard on myself, if we are half way through and I make a mistake I make myself start again.”
Luckily enough Nick was referring to a single song. Although we couldn’t help but make a joke around the irony of making yourself start the entire set again with the last song in the show being ‘We are the Champions’. Can you imagine?
Marc Martel (Vocals) explains the career journeys of the band members and how Queen Extravaganza started. “We have all played in various bands throughout our career. I’ve been doing this full time for 16 years; I was in an originals band before this. This band started in 2012, Roger Taylor put the band together through online [YouTube] auditions.
“Our first two tours were in North America, in 2012 and 2013. Then we moved to this side of the pond and we have pretty much been here ever since. We have done maybe ten tours now.”
When we ask what they do in their down time, Darren puts everything into perspective by simply stating, “I teach, I go out solo, just whatever it takes to be a musician really, to earn some money.”
François-Olivier Doyon (Bass) who is originally from Canada explains that one band is simply not enough to make a living as a musician, and that he is in 5 or 6 different bands back at home.
We found ourselves discussing crucial survival tips necessary for aspiring musicians in the challenging 21st century music industry, and again some excellent tips were given.
Darren chats about reading a book on ‘How to be a working musician’ which accumulates laughs in the room, to which he responds, “Oh God! It just told me everything about actually running the business of the music industry, not just how to play your instrument.
“It doesn’t matter how much practice you do, if you don’t get out there, the work won’t come. It’s all about talking to people, being personable and networking as much as you can. Saying YES to every gig! This is crucial when you’re under the age of at least 30! And it doesn’t matter if you like it or not, you’ve just got to do it and learn how to be versatile.”
Tyler Warren (Drummer & Musical Director) honestly tells us about how he has had to resist the urge to say ‘I am too good for this!’ and we know he has every right to say that!
The other thing that helped Darren was when he decided to be a singer as well as a keys player. “Suddenly loads of doors opened for me. I was then a singing piano player. I can go out solo; I can go out with a band. You can do a lot more. I believe everybody has a voice.”
Not only did we receive great advice from members of the band, Paul Bond (Tour Manager) explained how work comes in and the importance of acting professional at all times. “One production manager taught me very early on that you can judge the quality of the production and the tour, in how the team treat the support band. If they treat them with respect, they are professionals.”
When you’re performing every night, for months on end, you are bound to have at least one bad gig, right? We wanted to know how the band keeps that energy up on the days when things seem to be getting on top of you.
Sometimes it’s hard to put personal issues aside, however Tyler is straight to the point in his opinion on this. “We have lots of people who have paid money to come and see us. You’ve got to give the audience a show. You have to put anything personal aside. Once you get on that stage it is about them.”
Now that’s what we call true dedication!
Darren added “We all make mistakes; you just need to let go. If you let it affect you it will affect the next set of notes, and so on… Let it go and worry about it the next morning.”
We then asked Tyler about the challenges of musically directing whilst on stage from behind the drum kit. “Musical Directing is kind of tricky, because I’m not playing a melodic instrument. It’s hard sometimes when demonstrating things behind a drum kit. I can’t get up! However backstage we can gather around a guitar and chat about vocals and arrangements. It’s not so bad.
“My job is pretty easy when everyone comes in prepared knowing the music. We love trying new things with arrangements to see what works and what doesn’t. This keeps things fresh, for the audience and for us. We all get along so that makes it easier.”
Nick justifies the professionalism of the band members, stating the importance of everyone doing their homework before tour rehearsals start. ‘There is nothing more irritating than someone turning up unprepared. It’s usually the drummer! (Makes a joke at Tyler)’
It became apparent whilst chatting to the band and team, that not only was Tyler an outstanding musician, who knew how to play every instrument in the show (making him a great Musical Director), he also displayed encyclopaedic knowledge of Queen’s back catalogue, when Marc mentions that Tyler probably didn’t have to rehearse as, “he has known the songs since he was 4!” We now fully understand the importance of his job role in the band.
Tyler explains his role as Musical Director in a little more detail. ‘I try to be as personable and understanding towards the band as possible. If I’m not, this tends to bring a sense of tension that doesn’t need to be there. It makes the ride smoother and everyone else happier. Then they only want to do their job better.’
Darren explains the process Tyler uses. “Tyler will give us notes from the night before and one of my notes yesterday was all written in capital letters. So he doesn’t have to verbally voice something that might have gone wrong.
“We will let him off, seen as he did put a smiley face next to it!”
It is great when you speak to musicians who have the perfect balance of passion, skill, creativity and stage presence, but still hold a sense of humbleness around them.
Darren sums up the band, this interview and why you should go and see them in a couple of sentences.
“We came off stage and we had just finished The Prophet Song and Roger turned round to me and he said ‘I just don’t know how you guys do that’ and I feel the same as he does, really. But the fact that he doesn’t know how we do it, says to me we are doing OK! Its pretty cool he said that, actually!”