Geoff Tate of Queensryche
Queensryche have paved quite a musical legacy throughout their three decade career. Unfortunately, the past year has been focused on the breakups and shakeups within the band, rather than the music. The strife between Geoff Tate and his former bandmates has resulted in two versions of Queensryche, at least until the courts decide.
Drama aside, Geoff Tate and Queensryche recently released their latest disc Frequency Unknown and are now out on the road in support of it. The tour hits New England this weekend with a trio of dates starting tonight, June 7, at Lupo’s in Providence, RI, followed by the Webster Theater Hartford CT on Saturday, June 8 and the Wilbur Theater in Boston on June 9.
TWRY had a chance to chat with Geoff Tate about the new disc, the pending lawsuit and his love for wine.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
As we go to press you have started the 2nd leg of the 25th Anniversary Tour celebration of the epic Operation: Mindcrime. The album is meant to be played in its entirety live to enjoy the full scope of the stories and characters. When you look back to 1988 did it frustrate the band (at the time) to be playing only a handful of those new songs randomly as an opening act for bands like Def Leppard & Metallica?
No, I don’t think so. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys but for myself I realized the reality of our situation that we were an opening act and we actually felt very fortunate to be on those tours. Those were huge tours at the time and we were very lucky to be on them.
You’re also out touring in support of brand new music in Frequency Unknown. Now that the album has been out close to 6 weeks are you playing any additional new tracks live than you did on the first leg or due to the length of the Mindcrime set are you limited in any way in terms of a nightly set list?
We are really focusing on the Mindcrime set at the moment. It’s the 25th anniversary of that record and it’s very special. It doesn’t come around every day. We have been playing that along with a few of Ryche’s greatest hits. We are adding in one or two songs from the new album.
Speaking of Frequency Unknown. when I was writing my review of the record, in the wake of the tragedy of the Boston Marathon Bombings, I couldn’t help but think of “In The Hands of God”. In your mind did that event mirror your intent of that song?
It’s a song about terrorism. It’s a song about what goes through the mind of a terrorist. It’s one of my favorite topics really. Mindcrime itself is a story of terrorism. The song lends itself to a certain justification that a lot of terrorist make for their actions. Sometimes they take no responsibility of it at all..It’s out of my hands..It’s in the hands of God. Or in a way to appease their ego they take full responsibility themselves. I find it to be a very now subject, topical of our times.
Speaking of my review, one of the key points I mentioned in my piece was “listen to all of it before you judge any of it”. No matter what happens with the pending litigation regarding ownership of the name later this year, as a Queensryche fan I can’t see why others can’t sit back and enjoy both and take each for what it is..new music. Why do you think fans feel the need to “take sides”?
Because we’re in litigation (November court date is set to decide who has the right to use the Queensryche name: Geoff Tate or Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson & Scott Rockenfield) there is a concerted effort to create a personality for me, to try and create a smear campaign really. They have a pretty sizable amount of people that are participating in that. If you do a little bit of research you will find that most of the negative comments are coming from a small group of people that have multiple internet sites and multiple Facebook sites. Multiple personalities are really arguing with themselves in a sense, as Americans we love our controversy.
As a fan,, I enjoy when bands play an album from the past in its entirety regardless of whether it’s a concept record or just a standard studio release. When a band consistently tours year in and year out regardless of whether they are touring in support of new music or not they feel compelled to play the hits or at least songs that are more recognized by the masses. Do you see yourself maybe tackling another Queensryche record in its entirety moving forward?
Oh yea for sure. We’ve done Mindcrime a couple of times. We did one night in NY where we did Rage For Order in its entirety. I think it’s a really cool thing to do. Especially if you do something different with it. Like now I’m playing with a completely different band all who were fans of the original record and all who are very excited to be playing it. I’m really excited about them playing it because they are bringing their own interpretation to it. I love sharing different interpretations of my music I think it’s fascinating.
The first leg of this current tour started out with Simon Wright on drums and Nina Noir as Mary. On this leg you know have Brian Tichy on drums & Sass Jordon filling in on the Mary role and even had John Moyer from Disturbed filling in on bass for Rudy Sarzo on a few dates. You seem to be able to add an abundance of talent within the hard rock community whenever the need arises. What do you attribute this to?
Gosh..I just asked them. These are all people I’ve known over the years and I’ve always admired their playing and had a lot of conversations musically with them over time. In the case of the Sarzo (Rudy & Robert) brothers for example, they’ve wanted to make music together for years and have just never been able to for various scheduling reasons mostly. This is a dream come true for me because I get to play music with some of my great favorite players and wonderful friends as well so it’s a win-win situation for sure. It’s amazing the difference between the different players we have out with us so far. Simon (Wright) is an incredible drummer but so different from Brian (Tichy). Completely different kinds of styles but they are both playing this music and giving it their own twist. Another great thing for me (personally) is this is the first time this music has TRULY been played live. Queensryche in the past always relied heavily on clique tracks and backing vocals being flown in and guitar parts being flown in and all of the keyboard parts and all that stuff was on clique tracks and the computer in a sense controlled our tempo. We just all played to it. We incorporated this technology years ago because it gave us the ability to present our songs live the way they sounded on the records. Something that was very important to us at the time.
We always went into the studio with the idea that we never wanted to be limited. We never wanted to say well we can’t write this song or record that way because how would we ever be able to pull this off live? We will just imagine whatever we can and record whatever it is we can from that imagination. then we will just worry about it later. That’s when we came up with the clique track idea. It works very well on one level because you get an exact sounding performance and all the tempos are laid out for you so that the drummer just needs to follow along in a sense. Night after night it’s an exact representation of our sound and the band sounds incredible. On the other hand it just kills your spirit to play to that machine. There’s no band camaraderie, there’s no human element, there’s no ability to jam. You’re stuck to this arrangement that you cannot change. Right now I can look at Simon or Brian and give them a nod and we can extend a section out on a song on the fly. We can adlib or stretch a guitar solo out if somebody is in the mood for it. I can do an impromptu talk to the audience thing. It makes for a more interesting show I think.
Do you feel that your 2nd solo album Kings & Thieves having come out only 6 months prior to Frequency Unknown sort of got lost in the shuffle with fans seeing a Geoff Tate solo record and then a new Queensryche album with a new lineup?
I’m actually fine with it and followed the path I had hoped for. I’m actually trying to put a record out every six months if I can. I wish I could put em faster. I love making records and for the first time in my life my hands aren’t tied. I can put out a record at my own pace. I don’t have to wait for other people to catch up or understand what’s going on. I look at music as art. It’s a reflection of the times we live in and my life. What I’m thinking and what I’m interested in. I want to share that. I don’t want to sit on a song or an album for a year and wait and wait and wait to put it out.
How long do you plan to tour for in 2013?
As long as I can really. We have dates booked up until August right now. Through the end of the year hopefully with some breaks in between. I’m working on a new record right now and I want have a little bit more time to compose. It’s hard on the road to do that.
When Queensryche did the MTV Unplugged in 1992 the highlight to me was the inclusion of “I Will Remember” & “The Killing Words” maybe my two favorite Ryche tunes of all time. You often do unplugged performances out on the road when you do radio appearances. Moving forward do you see an opportunity to possibly do another unplugged type session with additional rarely performed tracks?
Yes, I would like to do a whole album with something like that. I would be interested and open to the idea of doing an acoustic album. I have a whole bunch of various recordings of different live unplugged performances. I’ve been kind of sitting on them. I might put something out at some point.
Is there a Queensryche album of material that you will simply not play live now or in the future?
I can’t really think of one, not off hand. Honestly, I’m not that interested in looking back. I’m more focused in on what’s going on in the present. When you perform live you kind of have to play material from the past because that’s what fans know the most. Your audience almost “tolerates” any new material in your set. Music needs time to sit with people. I try not to perform that many new songs in a set because the audience simply doesn’t know them that well. I will probably wait a few years before you play it live. Gives the fans time to get a feel for it and understand it better. These songs off Mindcrime people have been listening to for 25 years now. It means more to them.
What do you think is up next for you in 2014 Geoff more writing more touring or something else we don’t know about?
I have a new album I’m working on now. I hope to have it out in early 2014. Then another tour and will continue on both in the creative process and on the road.
Are you still out promoting your wine Insania when time allows you while out on tour?
Yes I do. As often time allows for me in between cities. (More info here)
Geoff, no one could ever accuse you of jumping on the bandwagon of celebrity product endorsements – you started making wine at a very young age correct?
I started when I was 14 years old. I have been collecting wine seriously since the band first got signed back in 1983 and we were touring the world. I’d make special arrangements to leave at certain point of the tour and take off and head into the wine regions. I started to become even more interested in how it was made and how grapes were gown and which grapes grew best where and that type of thing. I live in Washington state which is the second largest wine producer in America. We have amazing industry there. It’s really a lot since its inception during the 1970’s. It’s growing strong now. We are starting to see Washington wines on menus all over the world now. I just got back from a trip to Singapore and I saw Washington wines on almost every menu.
Geoff anything else that you would like to relay to your fanbase that we didn’t get to touch upon?
Thanks for the support all these years and the continued interest in the music. Hope to see everyone out on tour!
For tour dates, locations and tickets visit the Queensryche website here.