by Sheikh Faraaz
If you have lived in Seattle and if you are acquainted with rock ‘n’ roll in our town for at least a few years, the name HalloQueen shouldn’t come as surprise to you. A career spanning over twelve years, these guys aren’t your usual cover band. Known for the exclusivity of one big show a year around Halloween, they have always managed to play to a sold out crowd. As individual musicians, they have been playing in various bands (and still do) around town since the ’80s. On Saturday the 13th, HalloQueen played Amy Bockelman’s birthday bash at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard to a packed audience who were there for two reasons—to say hi to the birthday girl and to dance to some killer Queen tunes. Pun obviously intended.
I had the opportunity to sit down with brothers, Rick and Chris Friel (rhythm-section of the band) before the show to talk rock and here’s what transpired:
Faraaz: When and upon whose suggestion was HalloQueen formed?
CF: HalloQueen started when Sean Bates and I were playing in Carrie Akre’s solo band right after Goodness and we were driving home from Portland after a show when Sean told me that there was a Queen cover night and that we should start a cover band but nothing really happened with that for a bit. The idea came back when there was a fundraiser for the Red Cross. They had a Queen night and we played a full show. People from HalloQueen were sort of the house band but there were a lot of bands who played a bunch of Queen stuff. Sean, Rick and I put this thing together really fast and we sort of did this piano, bass, drum versions of Queen songs. I think it took about a year before we did another Queen night and then we started playing around the time of Halloween which we played at The Sunset for the first two years and then we moved to Chop Suey. We mostly played The Sunset and Chop Suey along with a lot of regional shows, maybe go as far as Portland or Tacoma but we never turned it in to an all-time thing.
RF: That’s something I would like to do at some point.
CF: It’s hard to do because everyone is in so many other groups. It didn’t used to be like that in the ’90s. We do it more as a bunch of people playing Queen songs because we love them. It’s not like we’re a tribute band. We don’t dress like them, we don’t even play the songs exactly like them but I think we capture how they were live. I think the duty of Queen was to rock. They didn’t try to sound like their records, they just did it their own way.
RF: It’s a really fun band and we’re all good friends and it’s really for the love of friendship. None of us are doing this other than wanting to have a really good time. We’re not trying re-create Queen music like Beatlemania and we’re basically having a lot of fun doing our take on Queen music. I’d seen Sean cover some Queen songs before we started the band and they’re difficult songs to sing but I thought he was great and of course, I’ve always had a habit of saying yes to playing music. When we started covering these songs, I remember thinking that they were really difficult to play and I asked myself, what did I get myself in to? *laughs* Everybody loves Queen and the best part for me to play in HalloQueen is to see people’s reaction because there’s at least one song you gotta love by Queen.
Faraaz: Being a big Queen fan myself, I have often noticed how differences lie in terms of favorite records and/or tunes. How does that come in to play when you’re preparing a set list?
CF: I write the set-list. There’s always a few songs that I personally like to play. We have a few oddities that we like to do here and there like tonight, we’re trying out a new one that we’ve never played before. Tim, Sean and Rick like to play the oddities and I like to play the hits. It’s purely because of the entertainment factor. There’s people who really dig certain songs just the same way they do with a band like the Stones or Pearl Jam for example. They know them, they love ’em and they wanna hear them live. It took us a while to really get a feel of what we wanted to play and what the audience wanted too. I remember we played The Game in its entirety once because it was a dream of ours to do that but the thing about records is that they’re very differently paced than live shows.
RF: We can’t really get up there and do all the obscure songs that Sean Bates wants to cover like the second-to-last record or the Flash Gordon soundtrack because nobody will come see us again so it’s about maintaining a balance. Tim wants to cover stuff that’s more hard rock and me, I just wanna add a few here and there. Chris usually has a better idea about what’s really going to work with the audience.
Faraaz: What is your first memory of Queen?
CF: We got in to them really early.
RF: Yeah, Sheer Heart Attack.
CF: I remember listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the first time on the AM Radio at our parents’ house and a lot of the stuff that Rick and I got in to goes back to our babysitter who was in to rock ‘n’ roll so he had all these rock magazines like Cream and other rock zines. They were such an influential group that it was hard not to like ’em.
RF: It was our babysitter who turned us on to Queen and a lot of other music. He was very cool and he had the best records. I went to summer camp in either ’76 or ’77 and I remember singing “We Will Rock You” in to my comb all by myself in front of a bunch of kids. It was great.
Faraaz: At what capacity has John Deacon influenced you when you picked up the bass and similarly, how much influence has Roger Taylor had on you when you started playing drums? Did you guys look up to them a lot growing up?
CF: Roger Taylor is one of my favorite drummers of all time so I identified with them pretty early.
RF: John Deacon wasn’t a factor for me at all. For me, it was Dennis Dunaway who played in the first few Alice Cooper records. I liked his style and he really appealed to me when I was learning how to play the bass. I really liked Gene Simmons too. I liked the fact that he never had to look at his bass while he was on stage which I thought was very cool.
Faraaz: What’s your stance on where you guys are with HalloQueen after all these years and what would you like to do differently, if anything?
CF and RF (in unison): Play more shows.
RF: I’ve thought about doing some casino shows. We started off playing a show or two here and there but now, it’s different because we’ve evolved. Time permitting, we’d like to play all the time. Casinos and fairs is what I’m thinking.
The set-list for the night consisted of:
Tie Your Mother Down
We Will Rock You (Fast Version)
Hammer To Fall
Don’t Stop Me Now
I Want To Break Free
Somebody To Love (Featuring Christa Wells)
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Another One Bites The Dust
Radio Ga Ga
Stone Cold Crazy
Fat Bottomed Girls
We Are The Champions
Tear It Up
We Will Rock You
Sean Bates on Lead Vocals/Keys (Strong Suit, Chris Friel Orchestra)
Tim Dijulio on Guitar/Vocals (The Glass Notes, Friel’s Comet, Lazy Susan)
Nikol Fiala on Backup Vocals (Detective Honey)
Rick Friel on Bass/Vocals (Jodie Watts, Shadow, The Rockfords, Danny Newcombe Band, CFO)
Chris Friel on Drums/Vocals (Sweet Water, Shadow, Strong Suit, The Rockfords, CFO)
For more photos by Sheikh Faraaz visit his Flickr Photoset.