Behind the Scenes with Randy Gregg from Almost Queen
Sarah Garofalo spoke with Randy Gregg from Almost Queen about his career, the tribute band, the show and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 8:30 AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Sarah: Good morning! Welcome to Behind the Scenes with The Hanover Theatre. This is Sarah Garofalo and today we’re here with a super exciting guest, Randy Gregg from Almost Queen. Welcome to the show, Randy.
Randy: Good morning, Sarah. How are you?
Sarah: I’m great. How are you?
Randy: Doing good, doing good. Keeping busy.
Sarah: Good! We’re gearing up for Almost Queen: A Tribute to Queen, coming to The Hanover Theatre on Saturday, February 18 at 8 PM. Before we start chatting about the show itself, I hear that you’re a bit of a jack of all trades in the band. Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your background as a musician?
Randy: Sure. I played in a bunch of bands prior to Almost Queen that allowed me to do some touring. I was in some of my favorite bands, to be honest. Growing up, I loved the band called Angel and I got to tour with them for about eight years. I played minimal shows with Dee Snider from Twisted Sister and it was all really fantastic. I wound up going into another band called Lauren Harris Band, who was Steve Harris’ daughter from Iron Maiden. Eventually, we became main support for Iron Maiden and I did a ton of touring with them. I was on their airplane tour twice so I got around a lot. I was a stagehand at Nassau Coliseum, and Jones Beach Theater for a while. So, going on these tours, I just started to learn a little bit more and a little bit more, and sat in the production office with Iron Maiden and learned a little bit more. When the time came, I eventually started to apply those things to Almost Queen. I wound up being the tour manager for the band, with managerial duties and stuff. So, I wear many hats, if I could say it that way. It’s all to just keep it within the band and our interests and not have any people outside. When Almost Queen started, there was a lot of people nibbling at the table and not really doing the job that we wanted them to do. Eventually, things kept growing and growing for me. I just became more managerial, all the things needed for Almost Queen. It’s a bunch of a learning experience for me and it was for years. I’m very happy to apply that and keep it within the band. It’s just been this family business for us.
Sarah: That’s awesome. I’m glad you mentioned all those projects because I was poking around on your website, which is very cool by the way, I enjoy your “Star Wars”-esque logo.
Randy: I’m a bit of a “Star Wars” fan. I have about 17 Star Wars tattoos. When we’re playing “Bicycle Race” live and Joe sings the line, “And I don’t like Star Wars,” there’s always this grunted look on my face.
Sarah: That’s awesome. I like your little timeline you’ve got on there. You mentioned most of your projects, but one that stuck out to me was that you worked with Thin Lizzy for a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Randy: Oh, yeah. I got the call and just got out of the shower, I had a towel wrapped around me and got a call from the tour manager of the room. It was a friend of mine at the time and said, “You’re in a new band.” I said, “What do you mean I’m in a new band?” “You’re in a new band. You’re just going go into rehearsals, there’s no tryouts. I’ve already spoken very highly about you.” I just kept waiting and waiting. I’m like, “What is it? What is it? What is it?” When he said Thin Lizzy, I just dropped. They were another big band I grew up on and loved, so getting into that was this big jump for me. Now I’m on a tour with tour buses and we’re doing a whole United States tour and Europe. Then, the second tour, we opened up for Deep Purple. To be out with Deep Purple was just mind-blowing. I remember the last day of the tour, I was dragged on stage by Roger Glover to play “Smoke on the Water” with the guys and Thin Lizzy joining Deep Purple on stage. That is one of the top five moments in my life, playing the biggest air guitar song you could ever think of on stage with those guys. What an experience playing with Scott Gorham and John Sykes. It just really leveled me up a lot. I couldn’t have been happier. Every time we played, fans would see me and I was always smiling. It was always a joke because fans will go, “Wow, you really like Thin Lizzy.” I love Thin Lizzy, I love being here and I love playing these songs. It was really just an unbelievable honor to even be a slight smidgen of that band for its existence.
Sarah: That’s so cool. I read a story that you heard two Queen songs at a neighbor’s house, and you were immediately inspired. Can you tell us a little bit that about that story?
Randy: Sure. I was in kindergarten, and just around the corner from my house, there was a teenager and he would just play records for all the kids on the block. One day, I had been there by myself. And he played “Tie Your Mother Down” by Queen. I guess my face dropped because because I saw him go, “Oh, you liked this?” I just shook my head, “Yes.” He went, “Wait a second, wait a second,” took the record off and put on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I said, “I want to do that.” The moral is, be careful what you wish for, because then I wound up being in a Queen band, which was a very easy choice. When I was coming out of Thin Lizzy, there was an opportunity to play with Almost Queen as they had just started. Someone said, “Do you want to play in a Queen band?” I’m like, “Boy, do I!” I mean, this was the band that I drew their logo on my kindergarten book 73 times. I grew up with Queen and I’ve watched “Live Aid” 632 times because anytime it comes on, I have to stop what I’m doing, to this date. I’ve been playing in Almost Queen for almost 19 years now. There’s never a time I’m sick of playing a song or not watching a live clip of Queen. They’re just such an incredible, incredible band. My whole life, I’ve always thought, “Everyone in the world should love Queen.”
It was a pretty easy decision for me to join Almost Queen and it was a nice little notch in my personal belt to perform the songs. They’re really difficult to perform musically, and more-so vocally.Randy Gregg, Almost Queen
Randy: It was a nice little test for myself and the rest of the band to see if we can pull this off. I really have to step outside of myself and pat ourselves on the back. We’ve been doing a really, really good job, especially the last 10 years. We’ve just been on fire. It’s been really, really great feeling to pull the songs off live.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. I want to talk a little bit about the show on February 18. You guys are a lookalike and soundalike band, correct?
Randy: Pretty much. Our singer Joseph Russo looks like Freddie, with the mustache and the garb. He plays piano and sings the vocals, plays the acoustic guitar and does everything Freddie does. Our guitar player Steve Leonard needs a wig, he’s got pin straight hair, but has the wig and the Brian May guitar and plays the part. John looks a little like Roger Taylor, as well. There was a fight for me to try and look like John Deacon, which is a really hard thing to do. You think it would be hard to pull off Freddie but John Deacon was not a very nihilistic kind of guy. When I joined the band, I said, “Guys, the only thing I’m not doing is wearing gym shorts and tube socks on stage.” I love John Deacon, don’t get me wrong. He’s always been one of my favorite bass players, so I tried to mock the outfits with what he wore in the 70s, even down to the News of the World Tour. He wore overalls, which I got made. Trying to look like John Deacon was very difficult thing for me. We’d always get complaints along the way, “Your bass player doesn’t look like John Deacon.” I do have long hair so I tried to emanate the 70s. After a while, someone in the band was like, “Yeah, I think you should just be the rock guy.” So now, I usually say that I’m a mixture between John Deacon and Adam Lambert and that kind of connects everything because I’m a little bit flashier. Our show has such an entertainment value at all times. I also don’t stand around like John Deacon, I’m very involved with being on stage and trying to be as entertaining as possible. I think, in the end, I’ve been winning some people over the last few years so it hasn’t been such a problem. For the most part, the band is a look- and soundalike version of Queen.
Sarah: Cool! I want to ask you, what are your favorite songs to perform on stage with Almost Queen, and what songs can the audience expect to hear when they come to the show?
Randy: When we go into a new venue, we try to do as many as the hits as possible and try to make everybody happy. Then, if we come back, we might switch up some of the B sides a little bit. If we come back again, we might even throw in some deep cuts, because we’re always getting requests for crazy songs from real avid Queen fans. There’s always this line that we feel we need to hover around to try and make everyone really, really happy. We’ve never not played “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or “We are the Champions,” or “Under Pressure.” I mean, the list goes on of the big songs. We usually try to do that, and we also try to sneak in little things to make the real big Queen fans happy and for ourselves as well. We don’t really want to do the same setlist all the time. It’s like a marriage; you have to keep it fresh and exciting. But, there is not one Queen song that I do not want to play. Even after 19 years, I know a lot of big, touring bands are sick of their hits. Cheap Trick is done playing “I Want You to Want Me.” They hate doing it, right? You ask an artist, “What’s some of the favorite songs you have written?” You’ll usually hear that artists refer to their songs as like their children, right? “They’re all my children, I love them all for different reasons. I can’t really choose one song.” For my case, I feel like Queen songs are my stepchildren. Although I didn’t write them, we’ve been playing them for 19 years and they’ve become a big part of everyone in the band. There’s never a time that I’m like, “I don’t want to play that song,” because that’s the Queen fan I am. I’m sure it’s the same way with the rest of the guys in the band. No one has gotten sick of any of the songs or said, “Oh, do we have to play that again?” It took us a little while to get “Somebody to Love.” It’s very difficult with the vocals. “We are the Champions,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it was very hard to really get under our belts. I remember years and years ago, me the guitar player, Steve, and the drummer, John, locked ourselves in John’s house one day and didn’t come out until we had the harmonies that would work for the four piece that we have. We all do four-part harmonies in the band.
It’s a real plus that we are a four piece band just like Queen. We’re lucky that there are four singers in the band that can recreate the studio versions. It’s such a great accomplishment to do four part harmonies.Randy Gregg, Almost Queen
Randy: These days, a lot of bands don’t have the vocal ability to do four part harmonies. It’s always a thrill playing live on stage and pulling off what I feel are some of the most difficult songs to recreate.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. That sounds amazing. I’m definitely, definitely looking forward to the show.
Randy: So are we!
Sarah: I’m glad! for those of you who are just joining, I am talking to Randy Gregg from Almost Queen: A Tribute to Queen, which will be performing at The Hanover Theatre on Saturday, February 18 at 8 PM. Tickets can be purchased at TheHanoverTheatre.org. Randy, do you have any parting words for our audience before we wrap up?
Randy: if the audience wants to check it out, we do have a website AlmostQueen.com. They can go on, see some video and photos and get acquainted with the band. There’s also tour dates on there, as well, which might make it easier for them to click the link to the show.
Sarah: Sounds good. Well, we will see you here in February. Everyone listening at home, thank you for joining us on Behind the Scenes with The Hanover Theatre and we’ll be back next week.