By Jordan Mooney.
Photos courtesy of The Mack family.
Of all the people we’ve interviewed on ‘The Wall’, one of my favourites has to be Freddie Mack. Or Freddie Meat. Or Freddie from Liquid Meat. You get the idea!
Liquid Meat are one of those bands you don’t come across very often. A true rock group with metal lineage – with a real family heritage behind it.
When I first spoke to Freddie Mack, It didn’t take very long to piece together who he is. The son of the legendary record producer, Reinhold Mack, and, thus, as legend dictates…the godson of Freddie Mercury – perhaps the, scrub that, certainly the most legendary frontman in history.
Freddie Mercury doesn’t need introduction. From 1973, up until his death in 1991, he was quite literally one of the biggest rock gods of the music industry in its prime. With a colossal vocal range, album after album of inspired, unique material and the greatest stage performances of any band, anywhere, he and Queen positively changed not just the world of music, but the world as we know it. Their music exists on a legendary, irreplaceable threshold that is yet to be challenged.
Everybody has godparents. Some closer than others. But Freddie Mack had an internationally esteemed musician of a godparent – and the saga provides a rather incredible dive into the realms of the dearly departed Mercury, closer than many people – and there are many – would dare dream of.
From the off, when I finished Liquid Meat’s double feature – which you can read here – I had agreed with Freddie Mack that a feature of this ilk would be a wonderful addition to our Webzine – but only after his music had been covered by itself, judged and promoted independently of this fascinating tale.
But the time is nigh, ladies and gentlemen. A slightly tipsy Freddie Mack received our questions and replied promptly, thoughtfully and thoroughly with his answers.
Please, get some Queen playing, grab a bottle of your finest English ale, and get some cheese and crackers plated up. This is a sharp detour from our usual reads here. And both I, and Freddie hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s the first time a British establishment has heard the story so purely.
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, Mr. Mack! A pleasure to have you with us again, although for quite different reasons. How are you today?
Freddie Mack: I’m doing pretty bloody fantastic, thanks! The sun was out today, which can only mean one thing in Munich… Beer garden time! Pardon me if I slur… but the Hefeweizen treated me well today!
COTW: We’re here today to talk about the rather unique relationship you had with the most legendary frontman to ever live, Freddie Mercury. You were of course his godson – ‘Little Freddie’. And he was ‘Big Freddie’. Before we move into that territory, I suppose it’s best to talk about your equally legendary father..!
FM: He certainly is a legendary father, but you’re probably referring to his undeniable prowess as a music producer and engineer… not to mention his insane roster of clients… Queen, ELO, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Sparks, Meat Loaf, Rory Gallagher, Scorpions, Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Billy Squier… jeez… it is just – and not to be repetitive – insane!
A lot of people say they wish they could’ve grown up in the generation their parents did…well, at least those whose folks grew up in the 60s and 70s (Before then it probably wasn’t so cool!) but in this case, I think it would have just been… unbelievable.
The thing is, I’ve heard a lot of the stories, but there is always more. For instance, I just really got into the Ramones, and my father was like.. “oh.. almost forgot about that, Johnny Ramone wrote me a letter once and asked me to record them… But I just didn’t have the time”
I was like…WHERE IS THAT LETTER!!?!
Of course, we are focusing a bit more on Queen here, so I’ll try not to digress too much!
They’re the band he’s associated with the most, that’s for sure, and, well… I mean, that’s understandable, since they did so much work together for so many years!
It started a long, long time ago – and about a 15 minute drive from where I am sitting right now, at the MusicLand Studios. My father was in Los Angeles at the time, and he got a call from Giorgio Moroder, who – very casually – told him there was this band called Queen in the studio and he should totally record them. I think my dad might have been more anxious (!) But – I hope I recall all of this accurately – he packed his bags and basically was on the next flight to Munich… but no one was at the studios, and he wasn’t able to track down anyone. So he flew back to LA.
And then got another call, and of course, it was a pain in the ass to fly for 12 hours, but he wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. Back in Munich at the studio, my father first encounters Freddie- Hawaiian shirt, short bermudas, a sort of Magnum PI style, I imagine, and ballerinas.
I think Freddie said something like: …who are you supposed to be?
My father replied: … um..your producer.
Freddie said: well, alright then… let me show you this song I’m working on, before Brian gets back..because he’s going to hate it!
This might play a bit into the german stereotype, but my dad, being super efficient, already had everything set up – and when Freddie showed his song, my dad, to Freddies surprise, recorded it straight away.
That song was called Crazy Little Thing called Love.. which I think a few weeks later was released and went to the top of the charts! good beginning to a professional relationship – that later blossomed to a great friendship as well…wouldn’t you say?!
Freddie really took to Munich, and, as most people know, lived there, too. So, between work, and the fact that Freddie spent so much time in Munich on a personal level, my dad, my mother and him became great friends.
COTW: The story of how you came to be Mr. Mercury’s godson is one that’s familiar to German press – but to British readers is likely to be relatively unknown – to even the most devout of Queen fans. Would you care to retell the tale?
FM: Well, sure! Why not! Since it’s you who asked!
As I mentioned – he became very close to my parents. I think, besides the fact that my folks are just the most awesome people, Freddie really liked the whole family vibe, y’know…I think him being out and about, partying at clubs and such was a lot of fun, but I think he also appreciated the times he could lie low and relax, and be himself. I don’t think he got to do that very often, but around my family he had the opportunity to. And kind of became extended family.. My mother never says- your godfather said so and so.. its always- your uncle said this or did that. Uncle Freddie. My uncle Freddie!
In 1981, Queen was in the studio recording Hot Space..and it just took forever. Somewhere in that time my mother was pregnant with me, yet there was still no end in sight of this album.
To the point where my mom said “I think it’s easier to be pregnant for 9 months and give birth than getting this album done“! Then, she added a stipulation… a gentleman’s bet if you will!
“If I have my child before the album is finished then everyone in the band can be my son’s godfather!” The album took longer, and it was done.
However, I think Freddie told my mother it would just be silly for her son to have 4 godfathers. What’s more, my mother asking Freddie and John to be my godfathers was done on a very personal level and much more formally, than simply saying “well, a bet is a bet!”
Both Freddie and John were very close with my family. I believe John even baby sat my brothers and later me as well, so it was an obvious choice to ask them to be my godfathers…and both agreed..as we all know by now!
COTW: Freddie was particularly excited when you were born, I understand. Something about a truckload of plants..?!
FM: Yes, yes! One of my favourite stories actually, my mother had just given birth to me – and word got to Freddie who immediately told his assistant Phoebie to buy some flowers. Phoebie asked which ones, and Freddie answered…
“Fuck it, buy ’em all!”
So there my mother was in a recovery room filled with an entire flower shop’s worth of…well..flowers!
COTW: Freddie was always known to be a very pleasant, rather charitable individual. It’s a reputation he’s maintained in both life and death. Did you ever get his generous side in person?!
FM: I definitively have and many times. He spoiled the shit out of me actually, haha!
Although as I’ve been told, I was often scared of his presents! Because they were just supersized! This huge teddy bear, or this fancy rocking horse which had very life like-fur. Or hide, I guess? ..And I just cried and cried and cried. Freddie felt really bad about that, but always stuck by me until I stopped crying and made sure I felt comfortable around his gifts!
Another time, we met him in London, and before my mom took me to Harrod’s, Freddie told her I could pick out anything I wanted. If remember correctly, i asked how many toys.. and he just said as many as I wanted, of course I didn’t say no to that!
COTW: A lot of press, of course, covers your relationship with Freddie, but far less is said about John Deacon, your second godfather! Was your relationship as close to him as it was to Mercury?
FM: I’m told it was, and I remember things here and there. Obviously, he must have been close – otherwise my folks wouldn’t have asked him to be my godfather! As I mentioned earlier, he baby sat on occasion, I remember the Deacons going to Dinner with us, and a few other joint family events… those Deacon and Mack outings are what I remember the most.
I think it’s a shame that we lost touch, but I know that Freddie’s death was very hard on him, and I very much respect the fact that he decided to leave the spotlight and everything Queen related after that. Sorry Adam Lambert/Queen fans, but I think there is no Queen without Freddie… and in my humble opinion, there shouldn’t be, either.
I tried to get back in touch with John when I was about 20 or so. Basically, around the time i started Liquid Meat, and decided I wanted to be a musician. I started out playing bass, so, of course, it would have been awesome to pick his brain a bit… But, it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to get back in touch with him. I’d like that a lot.
COTW: At what age did you start realising just how important your family were, and how important their jobs were? Do you recall seeing your godparents on television at the height of their fame?
FM: I do recall. Before I can even remember, actually!
My mother always told me that it took me a while to get comfortable when Freddie arrived. Because a second ago, he was on the television… and all of a sudden he was in front of me! This may be a bit too cute to tell for such a machismo rocker, but my mother told me she took me along to a concert when I was very, very young – and she was holding me up. During Radio Gaga my little arms wre already mimicking the famous outstretched arms during the chorus.
COTW: Are you yourself a fan of Queen? Do you think they’re truly as extraordinary a group as they’ve become so reputed?
FM: Definitely. I mean, it’s very different for me, obviously. I am not fanatical about them as I am about, say, Motörhead or Metallica. That’s not because I don’t like Queen as much as those bands, it’s just that Queen is in my blood and a part of me!
It’s the same with my brother Julian’s music… it is just a part of me, and, I think, between the greatness of the music and mypersonal relationship to it…it becomes very emotional for me to listen to Julian’s, Queen’s, or Freddie’s music.. if it’s in the background.. i can deal with it, but if I sink my teeth into it and really focus in, it’s an emotional charge like no other. Tears have been shed!
On the other hand, even though I had a close relationship with Freddie, I idolise him. It’s no secret his voice is second to none, but his ability to entertain a crowd and rock the stage like no other…that’s the true greatness. He once said that he sees himself as a performer first and foremost, then a musician, artist… and that speaks to me, because that’s how I see myself. And my momma always tells me that I get that from him. Awwwwww..!
COTW: We’ve covered this in a separate feature to stop this heritage overshadowing your fantastic debut album with Liquid Meat. Have you found this a problem when promoting your band’s work?
FM: A double edged sword, my friend. I tried keeping it on the down low for a long time – I didn’t advertise it at all. Besides those people I let into the circle of trust.
It’s precisely because I did not want to be prejudged… But that was much simpler to do so in the States. I’m guessing it’s because Europe, and Munich in particular, has a much closer relationship to Queen, plus, perhaps, in Los Angeles… someone is always connected to someone famous in some way… over here it’s not so common.
So, over there, people kept it on the down low, no big deal. Over here… it is not like that!
There’s a huge wow factor, and people don’t keep it on the DL and, instead, name drop. To the point where a friend of a friend of a friend…a complete stranger to me.. came up to me and the first words they said were…”are you really Freddie’s godson?!”
I even had a job here, and on the third day a boss asked me about it, because she heard it from someone else… I still don’t know how the connection was made, there, but it just…happens. So, now I just say, as Mr. Mercury would, Fuck It! I just go with it now… it comes out sooner than later anyway, it’s definitely not something to be ashamed of, and anyone who negatively prejudges me for it can go fuck themselves!
I don’t know if it is positive or negative as far as my band goes and promoting it… info like that could open doors or slam them in my face. It’s probably done both. It is what it is, but more importantly, I am who I am, it is a part of me – as much as Liquid Meat is. So you can’t have one with out the other.
COTW: Do you ever find it strange how much your godparents – and indeed your father – have been immortalised as figures in the industry? Would you aim for a similar level of success, or do you think that’s shooting a touch too far?!
FM: I don’t think it’s strange at all. They all worked hard for it, and made some incredible music that everyone in the world has probably heard, so, of course they ‘re recognized for it – and I think they should be.
I do aim for a similar success. It is the dream. Of course, the music industry has changed so much… many agree that it will never be the same, and that success like that is impossible these days, particularly for a rock band…but you know what? I say, aim high…! I’ve got to believe it is possible, I believe rock will rise again, and i believe Liquid Meat is a band that can do it. If you don’t believe in yourself, your music, your band, and that you can get to the top of the mountain, then you never will. You won’t even make it to 50 feet above sea level.. as Tommy Peacock (Who I highly respect), said in his lyrics… make the impossible possible!
COTW: Finally, you are of course attending a Queen Convention near-imminently. Do you plan to attend similar events in the future, and step out a touch in the United Kingdom, where Queen are (arguably) their most synonymous with the scene?
FM: I am looking forward to the convention. It’s the first time i have been asked to attend, so I will see how that goes. But a lot of Queen fans have tracked me down on Facebook, we chat…it’s fun! So I think it will be a blast.
Yes, the UK is on our radar. I believe I said this in the last article… the only thing that is stopping us are the finances, once we got that sorted, we will rock you 😛
Our sincere thanks go to ‘Little Freddie’ for this interview about his life with the world’s most legendary frontman.
Queen are of course releasing a new album – Queen Forever, on November the 10th, which is set to be spearheaded by three never-before-released Freddie Mercury tracks, including the mythical collaboration with Michael Jackson, There Must Be More to Life Than This.
You can preorder Queen Forever now at http://www.queenonlinestore.com.
Don’t forget to visit Liquid Meat for some true sleazy, slimy and throaty rock and roll rebellion here! http://liquidmeatlocker.com