On the phone, Randy "Elvis" Friskie sounded stoked about his upcoming tour of six "soft-seater" venues in the southwest region of B.C. - his first tour in several years.
The 12-show tour, which includes a pair of performances at Surrey's Bell Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, Jan. 12, involves Friskie's large, Vegas-worthy show band recreating parts of Presley's landmark "Aloha from Hawaii" concert to mark its 40th anniversary.
Friskie, a veteran Elvis tribute artist who lives in Abbotsford, answered a few of the Now's questions about the upcoming shows, his recent hiatus from touring and his unwavering passion for Mr. Presley's music:
Why are you doing a tour to mark the 40th anniversary of Elvis' "Aloha from Hawaii" concert?
Friskie: "Well, first of all, it's funny, because someone said to me, 'You're doing your 40th anniversary tour? Wow, you've been at it a long time,' and I just laughed, because sure, I've been doing this for a long time, but not quite that long, you know? It's the 40th anniversary of Elvis doing it, not mine (laughs). Like, how old do you think I am, man? So yeah, we're taking what I feel are some of the best Elvis moments and bringing them to the stage - the first half of the show is all 1950s and 1960s and the second half is all the via-satellite show from Hawaii. That was a landmark performance for Elvis, so it's pretty special. We're doing something for charity, too - we're getting jackets and blankets brought in for those who need those things, homeless people. It's called Phil and Friends, a Christian group.
He does those pickups and hands them all out to people."
How long has it been since you played here? It seems like quite awhile.
"Locally, it's been about five years since I've done a tour like this in the B.C. area, because I took off some time when my mom got sick. She had a stroke and I took a hiatus for basically three years - I'd go and do a few big shows here and there but was always back within a couple of days, because I did home-care for her. She passed on a couple years ago now, so it's been about five, six years since I've done something like this locally. And I'm stoked about it."
I'm sorry to hear about your mother. That must have been a difficult time for you.
"I do live for music, but I also live for my family. It was special to have those times with mom toward the end there, so it was a choice I had to make. But I'd always go out and do a few shows to pay the bills, because I don't have a pension plan doing this, right? I can't live on royalties."
Growing up, was music a huge part of your life?
"My dad played, like, 14 different instruments and I was brought up playing music, along with my brother, who still plays and all that. I love doing it, but I hate
the politics of it all, for sure. I'm just a musician, and I love doing Elvis - that's what I do, and I promise people who come to see me that I will deliver the very best Elvis show they will see."
It seems like there are more and more people doing Elvis tributes these days. Have you noticed that?
"I want to be politically correct here, so there's a lot of competition - uh, well, there's a lot of people out there doing stuff as Elvis.
I'm not here to say yay or nay to anything else. There's a lot of people performing as Elvis, but are they competition? Really? I don't know. I'm not saying they're bad or anything - there are some that are - but I just focus on what I do. I try to put on the very best show possible, and that's what I bring to the stage."
Why are there so many tribute acts these days?
"At one point, karaoke came in and everyone thought they were a singer who could sing these songs. They buy a cheap Elvis suit and bam! And that's not a good thing, man, because I heard a story of one concert organizer who said he pays a guy in cheese - he runs a dairy, and the guy will do the show in return for some cheese. I mean, are you serious? I can't work for cheese."
How do you rise above all that and do your thing?
"A lot of people have called me the most normal, natural Elvis they've seen, which is a huge compliment. People tell me it's exact, but it's not exact, no. I do my best in tribute to the man, not an impersonation. There's a big difference there. And yeah, I sound like him, even when I talk - I mumble a lot, and so did he. That's just me, how I talk, and my brother is the same way, trust me.. There is, and was, only one Elvis Presley, who I think was the best live performer who ever lived. So I just give people a chance to see what they might have experienced seeing him in concert, live."