It’s a bold move to cover Queen.
It’s one thing to play a song behind closed doors in a studio, or maybe rifle a song out amidst your set list, but it’s a whole other beast to take on the whole image of Freddie and the boys. To take that iconic image and perform Queen songs in a theatrical display, trying to emulate the raw power and energy Mercury and company exuded seems like a daunting and difficult challenge.
But Paulie Z, frontman of rock band SWEET and former Z02 member, is one such performer with the brass chops willing to take on that challenge.
But this new endeavor isn’t simply to put another notch in his musical bedpost, if you will, but rather acts as part of a two-tier initiative raising awareness for the current Covid-19 mental health crisis, and continued support for the David Z Foundation. Paulie Z and his new band Bohemian Queen have released their anthemic rendition of the iconic Queen hit “The Show Must Go On”.
“The Show Must Go On” video, which was produced by Paulie Z part of a series of lockdown videos the band has made, gives the viewer a glimpse into the world of the newly formed Bohemian Queen project. And I’ll be damned if Paulie Z doesn’t both look and sound a hell of a lot like Freddie. Justice is done- as much as one possibly can.
Aside from frontman Paulie Z, BQ features an all-star musical lineup including: bassist/vocalist Aaron Samson (Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses, Odin, George Lynch), guitarist Steve Zukowsky (Sheer Heart Attack, Led Zepalive, Acoustic Graffiti), drummer/vocalist Glenn Jost (ReLoVe, Bostyx), and keyboardist/guitarist Victor Bender (Sheer Heart Attack, Bostyx).
The band describes itself as a “theatrical Queen experience” performing a range of songs from Queen’s catalog, and features multiple costume changes by Paulie Z to showcase Mercury’s iconic outfits throughout the years. The band is currently booking 2021 dates with its debut show slated for January 9th at the Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon, CA.
Paulie Z knows about pushing forward. His brother David Zablidowsky, better known as David Z, tragically died in a roadside accident in 2017 while on tour with Adrenaline Mob. Before joining Adrenaline Mob, David had been the bass player for the popular Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Along with his brother Paulie, the two had been a part of the power trio ZO2 and starred in their own TV series “Z Rock” on the IFC network.
The David Z Foundation, in which Bohemian Queen is helping raise awareness for, was created to raise money for music education in David’s memory. Its latest initiative is a new partnership with the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way to bring a pilot after-school program to the Central PA region. The program is designed for at risk students and will focus on channeling the students’ emotions into original songwriting and music video production.
We had the pleasure of asking Paulie Z some questions regarding his pursuit of Bohemian Queen, his brother’s foundation, and much more.
There’s a number of iconic bands one could choose to cover. What aspects of Queen make them a perfect band to pay tribute to, in your opinion?
To me, they are the perfect band to pay tribute to because of the extreme vocal and visual diversity of Freddie Mercury. As a singer, diving into Queen’s catalogue is like having a shopping spree at a candy store. There’s just so much great stuff to sing. Also, I love costumes and having an over-the-top presence on stage, so I love the fact that Freddie has so many iconic looks for me to recreate.
How did the band come together?
I was inspired by the Queen movie, and started performing Queen shows here in LA where I did multiple costume changes as Freddie. I was soon approached by Glenn Jost, of the band Bostyx, who has years of extensive touring experience, and was interested in starting a high-quality Queen tribute on a national level. He heard about my shows and contacted me. We hit it off right away, and I could see he was as determined as I was for greatness, so we partnered and filled in the rest of the band with the best guys for the job– Steve Zukowsky, Aaron Samson and Victor Bender.
“…I channeled all my pain and emotion into music and education. I knew the “show must go on,” so I picked myself up and started to move forward one step at a time. The only difference was that now I had a new guardian angel by my side.”
I see where you released a few videos covering some classic Queen songs while in isolation. What was the production of those videos like?
They are so much fun to make. I love video editing, and when I recommended that we start doing these, I was happy that the guys agreed and put 100 percent into the process. The first one was tricky because I wasn’t really sure how to make a lockdown video, but I saw what other people were doing and then just adopted that template. As we went on, I started to experiment with different looks and production techniques like green screen, and the videos started to look more and more professional and exciting. Also, our keyboard/guitar player is an amazing producer who recorded and mixed us wonderfully.
As a band, how do you pick the songs to cover?
With a band like Queen, there are a bunch of songs that you kind of have to do because they are such big hits. So we pick the hits that people will like, and then decide as a band what other songs to add in that interest us. Half the band are old school Queen fans, and the other half are more into the ‘80s stuff. It’s a nice balance overall.
When covering Queen, what are the attributes most focused on to do Queen justice?
Musically, the band focuses on rocking hard! Queen was a great band musically, and sometimes that gets lost in translation when bands cover their music. The focus can be too much on Freddie and the big choruses, but not enough on the groove and musical prowess. For me, though, it’s about delivering a larger than life performance as the frontman both vocally, visually, and energy-wise. My goal is to sing those songs with passion and authenticity while still maintaining my unique personality. I am NOT Freddie Mercury, but rather Paulie Z as Freddie Mercury.
The costumes in the videos are very elaborate. What efforts went into perfecting them?
A LOT of effort, lol. It takes quite a bit of research to figure out exactly what he is wearing, and then find some of those outfits. Thank God for Etsy and Amazon! Most of the stuff is just put together a la carte piece by piece, but some of the more unique outfits had to be hand made by people on Etsy. I have so many more outfits that the public hasn’t seen yet, but they will soon. I really enjoyed putting theses outfits together and can’t wait to wear them on stage.
Your rendition of “The Show Must Go On” doubly promotes the band and helps advocate for mental health and the David Z Foundation. In what ways is the rendition most symbolic?
To me, it is extremely symbolic, because David Z was my younger brother, my bandmate and best friend. He was killed in a tragic roadside accident while on tour on 7/14/17. My world was shattered that day, and it was very difficult to find the will to move forward because he and I were so closely connected in life and in our careers. Luckily, I am blessed to have an incredible network of family and friends who helped me through it and I channeled all my pain and emotion into music and education. I knew the “show must go on,” so I picked myself up and started to move forward one step at a time. The only difference was that now I had a new guardian angel by my side.
How will the band continue to advocate for the David Z Foundation?
We will stay closely connect to the foundation as we move forward by participating in fundraisers, donating a portion of ticket sales to the charity, etc.
You all are in the process of adding live shows for 2021. What are the kinds of venues you hope to play, and how difficult is that process not knowing what the future holds?
It is very difficult, because like every other band out there, we have no idea what to expect. At this point we are aiming for bigger outdoor shows and/or streaming events. We are open to any opportunity, but as a band we are also very safe and health-conscious, so we won’t take a gig that we don’t feel comfortable with. Health and safety are the priority.
Piggybacking on that, what do you hope the future holds for Bohemian Queen, and how long do you envision maintaining this project?
We are manifesting a big and bright future for this band, and will maintain it until we no longer enjoy doing it. We see ourselves as an epic show more than a club band, so we are planning on doing bigger production type events as opposed to the standard venues that we’ve all individually done so many times in the past with our previous bands. As the group grows, we want to push the limits on what a Queen tribute show can look and sound like. People are not gonna know what hit them!