Ashleigh spoke with Gary Mullen about One Night of Queen, the iconic Freddie Mercury, meeting Brian May, and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Ashleigh: Hello everyone and welcome back to Behind The Scenes with The Hanover Theatre. Today we have a very exciting guest, Gary Mullen from One Night of Queen! Hello, Gary!
Gary: Hello there!
Ashleigh: We’re so excited to have you on today. I know that I’m especially excited because I’m a huge Queen fan and I am just obsessed with Freddie Mercury! I’m so eager to have One Night of Queen performed by Gary Mullen and The Works at our theatre on March 29. Welcome aboard!
Gary: It’s going to be great to come back to the US to do it again. I didn’t get a chance to do a full tour. Once we were out in American summer, we did five weeks and of course, the year before we just got started when the pandemic it. It’s going to be great to go back there and actually do a beginning, a middle and an end to a tour.
Ashleigh: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been so exciting to have everyone being able to enjoy live theatre again and having our audiences back. I think that they’re really excited to have a concert where they can just let loose, have fun and sing along. I think this is just perfect timing.
Gary: Yeah, we’ve had sold out shows since we started again. We started last summer in the UK, then went to shows in the US, and then went to Europe. We found that now more than ever, people really want to come to shows and you can see the joy and feel the energy. We always could feel the energy from an audience, but now it’s something a little bit special, you know? Suddenly there was an extra oomph to it. It’s like, ‘oh my god, you guys really want to be here, we really want to be here, and we’re just going to have a great night.’ That’s how it seems to be, the energy matches on both sides, on the stage and off stage, it was incredible.
Ashleigh: Our 2022 crowds have really brought it so far! It’s been lovely to see everyone so excited and happy to get back into the swing of things. I know that I mentioned that I’m a huge Queen and Freddie Mercury fan, but I know that you are also a lifelong Queen fan and you’ve always been a keen singer. Let’s talk a little bit about you and how you found yourself on this tour.
Gary: I suppose going way, way back now, because I’m old… I mean, it all started for me just being with my mother and especially one of my uncles who were really good singers. Every time we had a party or family party, the guitars would come out and we would literally hold court and sing. I thought that’s amazing, I’d love to do that. Then when I was four years old, I have a vivid memory of two things… hearing my uncle singing with a guitar for the very first time at a family party and seeing Queen perform “We Are the Champions” on Top of the Pops in the UK. It made me think to myself ‘I want to be a singer, and I want to be that guy.’ That pretty much was the beginning of the journey, and I’d been in bands in my teenage years ironically with John our drummer, he was 15 and I was 18 when we formed our first band and did the amateur band thing for a while. It never got anywhere, so we stopped gigging. Then this TV show came along in 2000 and everything just changed overnight. I found myself tuning in and this year is the band’s official 20th anniversary year.
Ashleigh: Wow. So, we get to be a part of that. 20th anniversary. That’s so exciting!
Gary: Yeah, we’re having a 365-day party for it on stage, so it’s going to be good.
Ashleigh: That sounds perfect. So, I’ve done a little bit of research on One Night of Queen, and I thought that it was exciting that you were personally invited by Brian May to attend a Queen and Paul Rogers show. How amazing is that?!
Gary: Yeah, that was a Wayne’s World meets Alice Cooper moment for us. I went along with Billy – a bass player with us – and we went backstage, and we went to the show which is incredible! We had these passes to go backstage and it’s that kind of, you know, Wayne’s World ‘hey, we’re going to be in the band!’ We went backstage and Brian came in, sat down and started chatting to us. It was kind of like an out-of-body experience for the first couple minutes because it was like… is this actually happening? We had just been on our first American tour in 2008 in the same year, so he asked us how the tour went. I didn’t know what to say. I actually talk quite a lot, but I was actually speechless, I didn’t know what to say. I thought ‘oh my god, he knows we’ve been on tour,’ and it was like, ‘yeah, the tour was great. Thanks. How’s your tour going?’ That’s all I could think of saying! He’s such a nice guy, so nice and complimentary, it was just great. You know, they always say don’t meet your heroes because you’ll be disappointed in them. In my personal experience, that wasn’t the case.
Ashleigh: I know that if I was in your shoes, I would have dissolved on the spot. I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself.
Gary: It’s interesting, our bass player Billy was probably sweating more than he does on stage. I was like ‘am I sweating as much as you?’
Ashleigh: I know! I think that’s just amazing. It’s amazing to have that kind of endorsement. I mean, as a Queen tribute band, to have someone as amazing as the former guitarist and songwriter for Queen raving about you like that… I would be glowing until the end of time!
Gary: Let’s just put it this way… We went to see them in Wales in Cardiff, which is about a seven-hour drive from Glasgow, and we both managed to just get home after the show because we were so hyped. Which was just like ‘Alright, cool. Weren’t we in Cardiff seven hours ago?’ We were so hyped that we only stopped for a coffee and that was it. It was just like “oh my god, we just met Brian May, that’s incredible, but we’re home.”
Ashleigh: Yeah, I know, it’s incredible! I know that Gary Mullen and the Works has performed throughout the UK, the US, Europe, South Africa, and New Zealand to sold out audiences. I think that it’s incredible that One Night of Queen is just so large and amazing and has this great following. We’re really looking forward to having you here in Worcester. I’m wondering what the set is like, what can the audience expect to hear? What are a few of your favorite songs that you guys cover during the show?
Gary: Well, this year we’ve kind of brought – because it’s a 20th anniversary – we brought stuff back that we did on our first ever show. Dave Rocker, our guitarist, is kind of a band archivist when it comes to setlists, so he’s got every set list we ever played. There are songs we’ve forgotten we played. We’ve kind of put this set together this year to be a greatest hits package with a couple of surprises for the diehard fans, because Queen was such, you know, they were sort of musical chameleons. They covered everything from sort of heavy metal to rock and roll to opera to vaudeville to pop to soul to funk, everything was kind of there under the Queen banner. We’re trying to build a set with all the hits.
You obviously want to hear “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You,” but there are a few little hidden gems, where the diehard fans will go “oh my god, wow!”Gary Mullen
Gary: Sometimes we just need to throw a curveball that people may not be expecting. The ironic thing or the most amazing thing is that it’s not the older Queen fans that get the deep cuts that we play, it’s for younger guys and girls that have seen the movie. They have now discovered the music, and you hear kids shout out things like ‘play Ogre Battle!’ Oh, my God, that’s from Queen II, which was released in 1974. How do you know what that song is? One of the songs we do from way back is “Keep Yourself Alive,” because it is so pivotal in the movie. It’s the song that they play together on stage in the movie as a unit for the first time. All the kids know it, like five and six-year-old kids stand and sing it and I’m blown away. We all just look and think, how do you know these words? We’ve tried to put something for everyone in the show this year. We try and design the shows differently for Europe and the US because a hit in the US wasn’t necessarily a hit in Europe and vice versa. We try and look to see what songs are popular on both sides of the pond and incorporate them into the show.
Ashleigh: Yeah, I know. A personal favorite of mine is “Princes of the Universe,” I love “Invisible Man” and those kinds of more obscure ones.
Gary: We’ve played “Invisible Man” before, which is tricky. It’s a tricky one to do because there’s a lot of keyboard. It took Malcom, our keyboard player, three days to program it! You just never know what you’re going to hear!
Ashleigh: I think that’s really exciting. Our audiences, I think, will be really excited to see the variety that’s in there. It’s not just the greatest hits, it’s little pieces of everything, and that’s what makes it special.
Gary: Yeah. Because, you know, Queen was a hit band. They had an incredible catalog of hits, but also, something that I don’t think a lot of people know is that every single member of Queen wrote songs within Queen’s records. They were one of the only bands with all four members having a top 20 hit, which is unusual. You’ve usually got Lennon and McCartney, or you know, you’ve got the Plant and Page of Led Zepplin. These guys independently, within that band, had top 20s hits with those songs. That’s incredible, to have that talent, and that diversity in that band. I think that’s why they’re still, to this day, so well loved and so iconic.
Ashleigh: Yeah. I think that it takes a lot of talent to replicate that sound. A lot of practice and a lot of patience. I’m wondering, how do you prepare to step into the shoes of Freddie Mercury?
Gary: Well, for me, it’s… I don’t really analyze myself, I’ve been a fan for years. I just feel like I’m basically a grown man playing dress up. We all know these costumes and things. I sing the songs because I love them. And I don’t hear it, people say ‘oh my god, you sound like Freddie’, and I just say ‘thanks very much’, but I don’t hear it. I hear me. I don’t hear what other people hear. I just go out and sing, but these hardworking musicians…
We have got some world class musicians in this band. You’ve got to be as good as the original musicians to be in a good tribute band. You can’t just fake it, you’ve got to really commit to it, and you’ve got to play the songs with passion. You’ve really got to commit.Gary Mullen
Gary: I’m the guy from a TV show, but when we’re on stage, we’re a band. We’re a team. Same with the crew, we’re a team, we go to every town as a rock and roll team. And lights and sound, we give a show. The musicians work those absolute socks off to get the song sounding as good as they can possibly sound, so it’s great to be fronting a band of musicians that good.
Ashleigh: Yeah, and I think that that’s incredible. And it’s not a sing along. It’s not karaoke. It’s so much more than that. The audience can still have a lot of fun and really enjoy an incredible performance.
Gary: Yes, it’s not ‘sit down and clap your hands’. Let me assure you, if you want to go head banging, head bang. You want to go on air guitar, you know, make sure you tune your air guitar on the weekend. If you want to go and sing your heart out, go for it. It’s the audience’s show. We’ll just provide them the music and energy, and we hope that everybody that comes can get lost in that moment because we’re trying to create a moment in time that you’ll never see again. And that’s Queen and Freddie, you’ll see Queen and Adam Lambert and they’ll put on a phenomenal show, but it’s not Queen and Freddie. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to create that moment when it was the four guys from Queen on stage. I mean, we have a keyboard player, Mark the keyboard player because Queen had a keyboard player later. They still have that guy with them, he’s been with them since the 80’s. He is actually the musical director of Queen and Adam Lambert now. We’re trying to create a moment in time that you’ll never see again.
Ashleigh: I think that is just incredible. If you are listening and you haven’t gotten your tickets for One Night of Queen performed by Gary Mullen and the works, what are you doing? Go to TheHanoverTheatre.org and get your tickets for this incredible show on March 29 at 7:30 PM because this is not one to miss. Gary, do you have any parting words for our audiences today?
Gary: Just to say I hope you come along and have an absolute ball and join us on our 20th anniversary tour. We’re going to try and give you the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
Ashleigh: Thank you all for joining us for yet another very exciting episode of Behind the Scenes of The Hanover theatre. We’ll see you again next week!