by Luke Voogt
By day he’s an IT worker but at night Jason Hess transforms into the ‘Freddie Mercury’ of one of Australia’s longest-running Queen tributes.
“I take the responsibility of playing this role really seriously,” the 49-year-old told the Independent.
“It’s a great challenge to bring him to life and create a Queen experience for people who come to watch our shows.
“I take singing lessons every week, and I get out there and give it all that I’ve got!”
An important part of that commitment was growing a mo in time for a run of shows, much to the chagrin of his wife, Hess explained.
“I’ve been growing a beard,” he said, ahead of his first show for the year at Camberwell last weekend.
“Tomorrow I’ll shave it down to a moustache.
“If I don’t have a gig for a while I’ll shave it off – I don’t really want to look like Freddie Mercury all the time.
“It’s not my first choice and it’s certainly not the missus’ choice, I can tell you that!”
Hess and his cover band Queen Rocks would play at Sphinx Hotel for the first time on February 8, he said.
“We’re looking forward to playing there. We hear it’s a pretty big room and an enthusiastic crowd.
“I love coming down to Geelong because I’ve got relos down there and down Torquay way too.”
The band began in 2000 after he and Luke Mullens, the group’s ‘Brian May’, met while lining up for tickets to see the Queen guitarist himself in 1998.
He and bassist Martin Boult knew each other from since high school, while he met drummer Dave George and keyboard player Brendan Grabau from Australia’s ‘Queen’ community.
“We actually started the band to play at a Queen convention,” he said.
“All five of us were already mates.”
The band went under various names in various line-ups, like Q-Rock and Fat Bottom Girls, before reuniting recently.
“The recent Bohemian Rhapsody movie has really reignited interest in Queen in a big way,” Hess said.
“We just got together for old time’s sake and had a bit of a bash.”
Hess dons Freddie Mercury’s outfits like his iconic yellow jacket and ‘the Live Aid look’ with the white singlet and armband during shows.
“I have the utmost respect for Freddie Mercury as a performer. And we use the same equipment Queen used when they play.”
Hess even mimics the “theatrical, flamboyant” showman’s famous vocal gymnastics from Live Aid.
“There’s a couple of points in the show when we get a call and response going with the crowd,” he said.
“That’s actually one of the most fun things. He poured his heart into performing – that was one of his strengths as a vocalist.”
With dozens of Queen hits to choose from, the band leaves the biggest singalong anthems for last.
“Once the punters have had a few they get right into it,” Hess said.
“We’re all about having fun – at the end of the day we’re all massive Queen fans in the band.
“We’re lucky as a band to be able to play some of the best pop and rock songs ever written.”