Interview with Queen V
|The band members are photographed left to right as follows:|
Chris Altenhoff, Aaron Brooks, Queen V, Jimi K. Bones, Derrek Hawkins
Photo by Mia Tyler
Having just released a career-spanning CD ("The Decade Of Queen V), which is simply fantastic (there's a link for it at the bottom of this interview), I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing rock musician Queen V. I want to thank her for taking the time to talk with Heavy Metal time Machine about the new compilation CD, how she got into the business and much more.
Andy-For those who don't know who is Queen V?
Queen V– Nice to meet you, Andy! In the rock world, I am known as Queen V. I’m a singer, songwriter and guitarist with a rock n’ roll band (also called Queen V).
A-Tell us briefly who influenced your sound and when did you (Queen V) first decide that this is what you wanted to do?
Q V– I was bitten by the music bug at a very young age. When I discovered bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin and The Who, I just knew that music was the place for me. I was totally infected with rock’s raw power, and when I saw Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N Roll” video, I remember thinking “Huh, I can do it too.”
A-You started off in musical theater right?
Q V– More like, I fell into musical theater… I was fortunate enough to be in a school with a great arts program, and ended up auditioning by chance. I was actually very shy at first, but I soon realized how much I loved being onstage and I took it to pretty quickly.
A-I read somewhere that you were also a songwriter before taking on the persona of Queen V. Was that just on a personal level (as a hobby) or did you write for other artists?
Q V– I started writing songs when I was 8, but was very quiet about it until I found the courage to form a band. Once that happened, I started writing all kinds of music, and not just rock. But it became clear that the “Queen V” sound and vision was very specific, and that’s what need my attention. I do still write sometimes with other artists in mind, but mostly just for me.
A-Hailing from New York meant that you’re right in the heart of one of the greatest punk and rock scenes. What has that been like?
Q V– First off, in order to understand what it’s like here, you have to remember how DIVERSE and INTENSE New York is. All these people and cultures in these cramped boroughs (and islands!) have a heavy influence on the music, in my opinion. I’ve always been very proud to have been born in the city (and raised nearby in NJ) partly because it’s my home turf, but also because of all the music this town has to offer. And it isn’t an easy place to be a musician (try carrying an amp on a subway!). I felt the weight of history in places like Electric Lady Land Studios, CBGBs, and Madison Square Garden, knowing who played there and what it meant. I didn’t know it at the time, but years later I would have the chance to share the stage with people like David Johansen, Vernon Reid and Lenny Kaye…. All seminal parts of our great musical history as New Yorkers, and in my own way, I am part of that history too, just by being here and doing what I do.
A-You worked at CBGBs before it sadly closed its doors. That must have been something right?
Q V- Louise and everyone at CB’s was very supportive at an important time for me. After my band had played there a bit, they let me book my own nights in the early 2000s before it closed. You wanna talk about history… WOAH. The first time I walked through those doors, I was in high school and I felt like I had landed on some other planet in an alternate universe. The cool, dingy feel of the place (and smell – you could smoke in a club back then) with the layers and layers of posters on the walls, coupled with the ferocious sound of the music … they’re all burned in my brain. The club didn’t seem to change much by the time I got to playing there myself. But really, it was all the people and all the shows that made that place unique. I always loved the sound there and being on that stage as a little part of CB’s history was very, very special to me.
A-Moving on to your career as Queen V, and your just career-spanning compilation, is there a favorite song in your back catalog?
Q V– I am very proud of every single song in this collection so it’s hard to pick a favorite. There are songs like “America” and “Right or Wrong” that stand the test of time for me and keep taking on new meanings. When the band plays “Cry For A Minute” at a show, it’s usually a good time for me to get some extra stuff off my chest which I appreciate having the chance to do. And I am always excited to listen to “Good Enough” and “Cry Your Eyes Out” because I am so thrilled with how those recordings turned out.
A- This compilation covers quite a bit of ground. What's it like to put a package like this together? I'd imagine that it's quite the emotional experience to be able to step back and see how far you've come.
Q V- It is emotional, and that’s a good thing. It’s been an incredible journey. Each song on this compilation marks an important stop along the way that explains where I came from and what I am about. As we tour and meet new fans, I wanted to be able to hand someone a single album and say, “Here, this is a good place to start. This is Queen V.” And being an independent artist, it can be really tough to get your music heard, and I felt like some of the songs needed a fair chance. So I am excited about what we’ve been able to do and I’m very excited to see where we are going and what’s possible. The “Decade” is just beginning!
A-You've worked with a lot of different musicians over the years. Any favorites?
Q V-That’s a huge list, Andy! Seriously, check the liner notes of the album. I learn something from everyone I work with. And it is humbling…
A- I can appreciate that. Now, a lot has changed, musically speaking (especially in the field of hard rock and heavy metal), since you started out in 1996. Does it surprise you to find that we've come full circle again? Suddenly hard rock and traditional heavy metal is in vogue again and that wasn't really the case when you started out.
Q V– I’m not surprised at all. Things go in and out of fashion, and that’s just the way it goes. Personally, I’m interested in things that are built to last, and things that are classic with a modern twist. There is always room for invention and re-invention, and it’s not to say that my tastes are narrow by any means… but rock and metal never really went away. The fans made sure of that.
A-You've toured/shared the stage with quite the list of who’s who in the music industry including Twisted Sister and Billy Idol. Any shows that stick out the most?
Q V– Playing in Portland with Billy Idol was pure magic for me. It was my first tour, and Billy had invited me to sing onstage with him during the “Mony Mony” finale. Something about the combination of the room, the band, the song, and the electric energy of the night just knocked me out. I knew that I’d made the right choice in sticking with music. What a thrill! Playing acoustic shows with Tom Morello was also amazing, in that I got to perform unplugged and jam with incredible musicians like Tom, Ben Harper and Kid Lightning. And of course, opening for Bon Jovi the Meadowlands was nothing short a dream come true, being from NY/NJ, seeing my first shows and games there… it was surreal!
A-Your Facebook page mentions that you've been involved in various benefits. Is there any that you'd like to share with out readers?
Q V– I am a big supporter of IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), which is an organization that helps veterans transition back into civilian life once they come home. They’re not affiliated with a political party, but they do make an impact on capital hill and have helped get the national conversation going about vets. Basically, if you send them, take care of them. We will be releasing a music video in a few months for “Right or Wrong” which we shot at a VFW in Pennsylvania and the story-line focuses on the human aspect of family members coming home from service.
A-Personal preference time. AC/DC with Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?
A-Very true. How about Van Halen? With David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
Q V– David Lee Roth. Sorry Sammy. I do like Montrose though.
A-I agree about Montrose. It's a shame that more people don't know about them. Black Sabbath with Ozzy or Dio?
Q V– Ozzy! Dio’s fantastic though… you’re killing me here!
A-Switching gears some here, but it's well known that you are also a very accomplished guitarist. Who influenced you're style or, if you will, inspired you to learn how to play?
Q V– Thank you, but I don’t know if I’d use the word “accomplished.” Guitar, for me, has always been a tool for writing (and rocking) so I primarily play rhythm. I picked up a guitar initially when I was 15, because 1. I couldn’t jump around with a piano (I tried), 2. I wanted to play along with those songs I loved so much, and 3. I wanted to write differently. I taught myself 3 chords from my brother’s acoustic guitar and my world changed forever. A few years later, I finally picked up an electric guitar for the first time, and then everything changed again. I couldn’t get enough of the feeling you get from cranking up an amp and playing a cool riff or some power chords. Style-wise, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen probably had the most influence on me, but in the band I just wanted to be a Malcolm (Young).
A-For those people who might be new to Queen V how would you describe your sound?
Q V– ROCK.
A-I like that answer. It's straight and simple. So, what does the rest of 2013 hold for Queen V?
Q V– Lots more rock n roll! We will be performing more in places like NY, Pittsburgh and LA, and maybe some special surprise appearances…
A-Anything you want to say to your fans?
Q V– Thank you for all the support and we look forward to seeing you at a show sometime soon!
A-I'll give you the last word. The mic is all yours...
Q V– Never let the music die. Long Live Rock. Peace!