QUEENSRYCHE singer Geoff Tate gives a very in-depth interview on mindcrimes, the new industry and more
Queensryche has sold over 20 million albums since rising out of Bellevue, Washington in 1981. Over the years they’ve cultivated their fanbase and produced music spanning several sub-genres of rock, everything from the classic metal sound on “The Warning” to the more polished “Empire”. Of course, we’re talking about a band that hates traditional categories and has made a career of sorts out of re-invention and boundary pushing. We talked to lead vocalist Geoff Tate about all this and more including their latest album, a sometimes sexy and swanky affair, “Dedicated to Chaos”…..Read on…..
Q: You’ve done some new interviews for this new album, “Dedicated to Chaos” and have stated that the album is best listened to with headphones and it was sort of created as such and has a heavy emphasis on the drum and bass grooves. What led to that kind of songwriting this time out?
A: With each album we do we sort of sit down and map out where it is we want to go, and how we wanna get there. We have long conversations that sometimes last for weeks where we don’t even play notes of music at all but just sort of sit and talk about what it is we want to do, what we want to accomplish. Out of those conversations, the music starts happening. Usually, with each record we do we have a jumping off point. This time around, that point that we jumped from, started from, were the tracks that Scott (Rockenfield, Drums) and Eddie (Jackson, bassist) had written and brought it. We just really collectively liked those tracks that they had brought to us first and of course because they’re composing them they have more of an emphasis on drums and bass. Like, Eddie’s tracks that he brought to the table, he also played guitar on them and he just has a very different approach to music and songwriting that launched us off in a new direction as a band. One of the other things people are surprised about in regards to the new album is that we tried to come up with new ways to play our instruments. Scott set up his drums differently but especially with the guitar we wanted to take it to a different place and make different use of it. We felt that the rhythm section was already established on these tracks with the bass and drums and we wanted to use the guitar as more of an accompaniment. Michael (Wilton, guitars) and Parker (Lundgren, guitars) really played around with different sounds and effects/amp combinations to try and bring something different, other than the traditional wall of rhythm guitar on every track.
Q: Kind of like creating guitar “lines” as opposed to standard riffs?
A: Yes. Exactly. Taking a more melodic approach to the instrument. In fact if you listen to the record, a number of people have made comment that it’s a keyboard heavy record but I must say it really, really isn’t. We only used keyboards on 4 or 5 tracks on the entire album but what sounds like keyboards is often actually guitars. We used some really cool and interesting guitar effects and things like slide and e-bow and things like that to bring a different sound to the guitars. We did a lot of cool, mutlitracked experiments with the guitar stuff. The third thing we were trying to do on this album was to write a collection of songs rather than writing under any type of conceptional format. I mean, we’ve done two conceptual albums back to back with Operation Mindcrime 2 and American Soldier so we just wanted to sort of take a break and spread out and experiment.
Q: Operate and write as a “normal” band for a spell…..as opposed to continuing on with the concepts that so many have associated with you guys?
A: Yeah, and it really sort of frees you up as a band cause you don’t have to connect all the dots. You can have all these completely unrelated song ideas and not have to tie it all together. You can write much more when you’re working on each thing as a stand alone piece. You don’t have to be concerned with whether each song fits lyrically or whatever and it sort of made it a fun project to do honestly.
Q: Does it make it harder or easier to promote an album when it’s a collection or songs or a playlist as opposed to a concrete, linear concept album?
A: Well, as far as the industry goes, they’re not calling them records or albums anymore, or even singles for that matter. They’re actually predicting the end of “complete long playing albums” now. I guess at this point (laughs) they might as well be called playlists or mp3 collections or whatever (laughs).
Q: I want to tackle a few of the misconceptions that people have about the band these days. I’ve seen and heard grumblings about some moves the band has made these last few years…..like the cover album or the Queensryche Caberet (adult themed carnival type show).
Is it difficult for you guys to introduce different or novel concepts to a crowd that still consists of lots of the original ‘headbanger’s ball” core audience?
A: No. It’s been real easy (laughs). I really strongly believe that music is a personal journey for everyone. It is DEFINITELY a personal journey for the artist or composer, you’re writing about how you feel the world or look at the world. You’re utilizing your inspiration and craftsmanship to come up with ideas and compose songs. It’s also a personal journey for the audience ideally. How they take it, and how they hear it, varies so much. One person we meet will love a song like “Take Hold Of the Flame” from THE WARNING album and another person will not like any of that older material but they’ll like something like “Della Brown” off the EMPIRE album. It just varies so widely from person to person and you can’t just use someone’s opinion as a gauge because everyone enjoys things differently and everyone experiences things differently and personally. So…….what we’ve always done is we just write what we like you know?? We write what inspires us, we write what collectively is interesting to us and when we’re done with it, we share it with the world and what they think of it or what they do with it, you never know. What we do know is that we don’t ever wanna be in the position of where we’re trying to cater to people because once you start doing that you lose whatever it is creatively that was special about you to begin with. You have to create music you enjoy, that inspires you, not cater to your audience or you will totally lose your inspiration. Then it becomes totally a situation similar to clocking in to a job and putting in your hours, where you can’t wait to be finished and be gone. None of us have ever been interested in feeling like that. We like to and we NEED to experiment and try new things as a band. From our perspective though, we hear just as many people liking the new material and new sounds as we do people who are into the old output. It’s really hard, as artists for us to be subjective about our work and differentiate about the old versus the new and things like that. To get back to your original question though, yes the albums have to originally be “for us”. They all have been, “RAGE” was for us, “EMPIRE” was for us, the cover album you spoke of was “for us”. The covers album was all very well thought out and personal to us. They were all songs that were individually inspirational to us and we selected them from a very large pool of songs that we considered. That was the approach of that covers album, it wasn’t to cash in, it wasn’t to appease fans, it was for us. I don’t mean any of this to sound arrogant, I’m just trying to tell you the truth. This is the way artists work. I know a lot of bands use the slogan “we do it all for the fans” but it’s not really 100% accurate, it’s more of a marketing slogan (laughs).
Q: Well, if it is true then it’s almost worse because then they’re just laboring on a product to appease the fanbase and not really being artists at all but more master marketers.
A: Exactly. At that point, when you’re not creating to satisfy yourself it is no longer art and I truly believe that music is and can be art. People can enjoy it either way and many do in many different ways, that’s why it’s so extremely subjective. Some people listen to music and they just hear a wall of sound, other people listen to music and they immediately pick out an instrument and follow the drums or the guitar and that’s how they listen. Neither one is wrong, just different. Then there’s also the way that people attach music and musical moments to their lives. If you’re a young person and you don’t have a lot of experience listening to music, you may hear something and identify with it and you latch onto it and it becomes important to you. The way that modern marketing goes, they put music into different genres and categories, “well, if you like artist A, you’ll probably like artist B”. It’s strictly a marketing tactic.
Q: Maybe there is something in the DNA of the band, that experimental nature, that tends to ruffle feathers. I will admit something. Sales wise, EMPIRE might have been one of your biggest landmarks but as a fan I could not STAND it aside from the title track and “Anybody Listening”. It really rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I can see there’s a lot of quality in that era but as a fan of Operation Mindcrime that left turn pissed me off. (laughs). Is that a good sign in the sense that your fans are so passionate and emotional that they have negative or positive reactions like that?
A: Yeah, absolutely. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way actually. I wouldn’t want them to become complacent or just blindly like everything we do. And it’s funny you say that about EMPIRE because I’ve heard that about every album we’ve EVER made (laughs). I heard the exact same thing when “MINDCRIME” came out, people didn’t like it, they didn’t understand it, get the concept. Dating back to when we came off of THE WARNING to make the album RAGE FOR ORDER…….people really, truly hated RAGE FOR ORDER because of how much different it was from the album that came before it. When THE WARNING came out, the critics just slammed it. With each and every new album we make there are people who get it and like it and people who don’t. From our experiences over the years, the people who initially didn’t get it tend to find some appreciation for them over time.
At one point or another some song from that album they didn’t like will grab them.
Q: Is there a segment of the fanbase that for whatever reason thinks Queensryche isn’t supposed to write “sexy” or “romantic” songs?
A: I don’t know what they expect (laughs). I live my life with very few expectations, I find that way I am always surprised and not sure what’s around the corner. I think in terms of writing, that LIFE in general is just one big source of inspiration as far as things to talk about. One of the most interesting things that I tend to find inspirational is the dynamic of personal relationships. All relationships, friends, family, as well as intimate relationships…..there’s just so much there to work with and talk about. It’s also a universal experience, almost everyone has at least some relationship in their life and even one relationship has a lot of different aspects to it. One of the driving forces in my life are my wife, and my five daughters. I am constantly inundated with their lives, their thoughts, their dreams and a lot of times they become the inspiration for a lot of my ideas. There’s a song on the new album, “Broken” which is a song written from the experience of my grandmother passing away and her relationship with her husband. They had this beautiful relationship where they were very much in love for their entire adult life and were together, side by side for 55 years. Even when he died, he was still a part of her life, she constantly talked to him, he was there around her, constantly, in her thoughts. I suppose in her way of looking at the world, he never left. That song is really a conversation between he and her because as she was laying on her deathbed she was talking to him. I was in the room at the time and could hear the whole conversation happening. It was surreal and like he was in the room because she was definitely having a conversation one on one with him, answering questions from him, making statements. It was a very, very strange experience for me.
Q: I think that’s just it. A lot of people don’t expect that kind of raw, emotional content in a Queensryche album. They expect this cold, clinical, robot, insect band….(laughs)
A: (laughs) Well, I am absolutely interested in that as well. I like a lot of things and I like to use the music as a vehicle to talk about a lot of those colder things. Everything from our dependence upon computers to our relationships to technology to ACTUAL relationships……In this band we don’t have any rules or any things that are considered off limits to talk about or write about.
Q: Tackling some other misconceptions…..It seems like some people on web pages or message boards are laboring under the delusion that Queensryche is the Geoff Tate show. That you guys are like a lot of veteran acts that have one or two core original members when in reality you have 4 of the five members from the 1981 lineup.
A: Right. Well, I would caution you to begin with to not really read too much into what’s said on the internet to begin with (laughs). It’s a great technology but it seems that there are a lot of whacked out people that suddenly have a voice and a stage on the internet. Some of these people are people you normally wouldn’t be friends with or strike up a conversation with if you actually met them on the street but you find yourself reading what they think or feel about whatever because it’s the internet. A lot of people, the loudest people often, base their argument from a platform of complete ignorance about whatever it is they may be talking about…..including music.
Q: You said something great in your interview with Bravewords.com where you said “Queensryche albums don’t ‘suck’” ….. you were talking about some of these internet soapboxers.?
A: Well yeah. People use that term without any basis or often any deep thought. It’s just something dismissive to say about something that personally doesn’t sit well with you. Again, not saying it to be arrogant or defiant but …..we’ve been doing this for over 30 years and we’re all professional, career musicians. We’ve all had plenty of musical training prior to that even. (laughs). If we’ve made this much of a career out of it and we “suck” than what does that mean to that person??? It’s impossible to think in those terms. Now, someone can not LIKE what we do but that’s just subjective and that just means that for whatever reason they don’t get it or appreciate it compared to something else they do “LIKE”. Maybe it’s something that’s very personal within themselves, something about what we’ve created doesn’t fit into their interpretation of what we do. There could be a million reasons why, a billion reasons why someone would have an opinion about a song or record. The thing is that the internet has now given a voice to all the people who choose to have an opinion and shout that opinion. What’s happened now is we often spend inordinate amounts of time reading WHAT SOMEBODY ELSE THINKS….rather than just forming your own opinion about things based on experience. (laughs). Years ago, nobody would ever hear most of that which in a sense makes this a fascinating time to be alive. There is so much information out there and we are communicating at an unbelievable rate of speed, I think society at large is changing and I think for the most part that is a very good thing.
Q: I’m afraid that the crud, not the cream rises to the top often times though. The more negative, sensational or abusive the topic the more interest it generates.
A: Well, I think it’s important that we try and remember if we’re going to all collectively focus on those dark aspects than it’s important to try and offer not just an opinion but a solution. Try to focus on finding something that may be constructive or helpful rather than just adding more bile and negativity to the stream. Who wants to spend their precious few moments on earth in such a negative mindset? Life is amazing. Ge out there and live it.
Q: My thinking was that if they were really following the band they would know it isn’t like Foghat where it’s just the drummer left from the original band. I mean if it were truly a fan page, the fans should know it’s you, Scott, Michael and Eddie the same guys that played on EP in 1982 right?
A: (Laughs). Well, you know a band is a delicate mechanism. It has leaders and followers, ebb and flow. There are times in a band’s career where certain members are more prominent as far as what they bring in to contribute. In some bands there’s periods of time where some members of the band don’t contribute at all and that’s just life. You can’t expect everyone in your band to be prolific ALL the time. So we acknowledge that in our band. We realize that there are some times where someone might have a LOT to contribute and we encourage that, and explore that. You have to try their ideas if you want them to continue to function and be in the band and be happy. I would not be able to stand it or be in the band if I brought an idea in and nobody gave it a glance, if everyone just dismissed it right off the bat. I wouldn’t like that and I wouldn’t want to continue to bring ideas in. So we recognize that and you’d be surprised at the results sometimes when people don’t feel shut down. Like on this album, Eddie and Scott had a lot of really good things for us, things that made the rest of us wanna pick up from and go in that direction. Other times, in the course of the band, they haven’t and that’s just normal.
Q: I wonder if sometimes people underestimate the importance of the rest of you guys in songwriting by overemphasizing the importance of Chris (De Garmo, former Queensryche guitarist)…..That’s no slight against Chris, I love his playing but if you look at a lot of the song credits there are quite a few names listed in addition to his.
A: Well, let me maybe clear up another misconception (laughs). A band is not a democracy. It’s not an equal situation on everything. But…..it’s not that way that was as a commandment from another member, it’s that way because that’s how others sometimes operate. Michael (Wilton, guitars) is not a songwriter in the sense that he comes to us with a song and hands it to us and says “Ok, this is how it goes…….” and shows it to us. He has never been that way, he’s always been a guy that comes in with a riff and it might be something we all work on and build on and something happens based on that riff. Years ago, he would contribute quite a few riffs as a result of Chris working together with him on riffs, they’d collaborate and bring a lot of ideas to the band like that, just by bouncing ideas off each other. Since Chris left, Michael hasn’t really had anybody to collaborate with in that sense. He will still, to this day come in with a great riff and we’ll work it out and build a song around it but he’s never been a prolific songwriter. He and Eddie are not prolific writers that have written tons of material but when they get on a roll over the years they have done some pretty cool stuff. It’s not a matter that they don’t write quality it’s more of a matter of where are you at at a given time, how much can you contribute at a given point. Everyone has a life outside of Queensryche, wives, kids and you just never know, sometimes they’re not writing much at all and other times they’re writing EVERYTHING. I really wanna make clear that I’m not trying to disrespecting Michael or anyone at all. He is a fantastic guitar player and an amazing musician he just hasn’t written a lot on these last few albums for whatever reason. On the other hand…..his guitar playing has never been better, he’s just incredible on these last few records on the performance side.
Q: You sound like you do sort of understand the mindset of the fans who are big Chris Degarmo supporters. Is that accurate?
A: Well, I think as a performer you just like it when someone appreciates something that you’ve done in your career. If they’re big fans of some of the stuff Chris wrote that’s great. We’ve done something they enjoy, that’s cool.
Q: Back in the day, Chris used to help you a lot in terms of interviews and promotion and things. Do you ever feel overworked on that end of things?
A: (laughs) Well, its part of my job. It comes with the territory I guess. Eddie’s never been one to do interviews, very very rarely. Same thing with Scott and Michael actually (laughs) so it’s just something I’ve gotten used to. It’s my job to pick up that end of things.
Q: Did some of that non-music stuff start to wear on Chris before he left the band or is that something you’re even aware of?
A: I can’t explain Chris Degarmo to you. I really can’t. It’s not that I don’t want to or don’t understand why people ask it’s just that he is hard to explain and I’m not in his head. (laughs). It’s up to the man himself to explain himself. When he left the band, he never gave us a reason WHY. He just said “This is a thing I’ve gotta do and he left”. I will tell you honestly John that it was a very, very difficult pill for us to swallow. He left us there in the lurch without any warning at all really. It was a really tough time for the band. We had to figure out how to continue on without him which was really difficult to do. Like you said, he shared all the interviews with me, he was a big part of the songwriting and business side of things in the band. It was basically a big, giant hole to fill and we were left there to figure it out on our own. It was an adjustment, definitely.
Q: There was never a moment of shock when you guys thought, to hell with it, let’s go do our own things and go our way?
A: Oh, heck no. No way, no way. That would be terrible. We love what we do. We really NEED to do this, it’s not something we could all live without. I have to create. I have to write.
Q: That’s a great thing to think about….you don’t just WANT to be in Queensryche, you NEED to be in Queensryche….it’s your salvation.
A: (laughs) It’s true. I need to be in a musical, functional, creative environment in order to be happy and live. I could do it without Queensryche but I choose not to, I like working with the band. These guys are my oldest, oldest friends. We’ve been together over thirty years. We work together, we hang out together, all of our kids have grown up together, we barbeque at each others houses and we’re just really, really intertwined together as people. It’s a real family at this point.
Q: Back to the business, are chart peaks and sales kind of goofy measuring sticks for an artist to be aware of? I’m looking at the figures for RAGE FOR ORDER which peaked higher than OPERATION MINDCRIME but as a fan it sure feels like that’s kind of an odd thought to process.
A: (laughs) To use your term yes…very GOOFY. I like that term actually. I would wonder why an artist would give such a rip about such things. There are better things to be focused on for sure. When you start focusing on things like charting and marketing you start putting music into like a sporting event category. Music is not something to keep score of. So much of our art in this country is looked at from a competition standpoint and viewed only on those terms and in some ways it is kind of disheartening. There are countless artists that you know that are great and creative that don’t rack up massive sales, sales that don’t really MEAN anything other than massive monetary returns. As a country, we’ve been taught, we’ve been trained, as a population to think in those terms. Art in general, music in general, I don’t believe there’s any BAD music or GOOD music, there’s just music. It’s people’s expression, it’s their heart, it’s their artwork. You wouldn’t say to a kid that shows you their cartoon drawing (laughs) “Man ….that SUCKS!!” (laughs). You know what I mean? They put their soul into it and worked on it and love it, they may have worked on it for days. You don’t tell them that you tell them “Ohh, that’s interesting” or “I see what you’re going for’ or something. You may look at it 3 years from now and say “Wow, I really like that cartoon drawing of the orange cow”. You may end up framing it and putting it up in your house.
Q: You have sort of become a beacon or statesman of the metal community over the years, looking back on the old albums, the tours, I mean you did HEAR N’ AID!! Is it true that you were initially hesitant to join Queensryche because you didn’t want to be known as a metal singer?? The demos of your old band MYTH recently made it onto a Ryche compilation and that material in of itself still sounds pretty heavy to my ears. Is this another misconception?
A: Well…..there’s a sort of a little bit of truth in that rumor. The truth is that at that point Queensryche didn’t exist. They weren’t a band. The band did not exist until I joined. Prior to that they were called “The Mob” and they were a cover band that I knew of. I had played some shows with them at various points while we were both coming up in the Seattle area. It was all covers of other bands music, mostly like Scorpions, Priest, Montrose, things like that. It was like an hour long set of cover songs and I wasn’t interested in doing that, I wanted to work with a band that was writing it’s own stuff. So I left and worked with the band MYTH and were were working on all original material. Consequently, because of me leaving The Mob, Chris and those guys started writing their own material. They came to me a year or so down the road and said “Hey, we have some song ideas now, do you wanna check them out, we wanna go into a recording studio and cut some demos”. So I did listen to it, and it was really cool stuff and I stepped in. We started Queensryche at that point. So, long story short I didn’t want to be in The Mob because I didn’t want to be a cover singer.
Q: I’m gonna go ahead and sound like a total fanboy nerd here because I’m 36 and I don’t care. I love, love, love the bands visuals and cover art over the years. I really love the art and logo on the debut 1983 EP. How did that original logo design and cover art come about?
A: That is something that we came up with when we were getting set to release our first release. First off, of course, we came up with the word, the name Queensryche. A friend of mine Wes, who was my roommate at the time came up with that logo design. I had said to him “Hey Wes, you can draw can’t you?” and he’s actually a really great artist. He just sat down and came up with that artwork.
Q: The Queensryche logo, the spear, the tri-ryche, has been a part of your art and presentations for as far back as I can remember. You may not want to give it away, I don’t know but I have to ask….what personal meaning do you attribute to that symbol?
A: Queensryche is not a normal or usual word in language. It’s not something that’s easy to understand or pronounce or even spell and it doesn’t really mean anything pertinent to civilization…(laughs). So we thought, well we have this symbol that has always been with us….it’s on the back of the first EP. Maybe we should use it to sort of represent the band and people can identify it with us even if they don’t understand the name or how to pronounce it or even recognize the name of the band. We started to make it a focal point to include it on each release and in our presentation to sort of symbolize the band really.
Q: You could go crazy with interpretations of what it “means” I imagine…..it’s got the three levels…it sorta looks like a tripped out space needle….
A: (laughs). Well, being from the Washington area, we tried to put it up on top of the Space Needle actually (laughs). We were shooting a video actually in Seattle but the family that owns it wouldn’t let us place our tri-ryche on top of the Space Needle.
Q: Some of the videos that the band has made are obviously expensive, almost cinematic or high art and then some of the earlier ones could be considered a bit more typical for bands of that era. What do you remember about the whole evolution as far as coming up with those video concepts?
A: Oh no! I enjoyed them a great deal. I’ve always enjoyed every aspect of the creating process. I can’t imagine not liking it. Back in those early days of course, “Gonna Get Close to You”, “Queen of the Ryche” it was a learning experience as far as how to do it. We would come up with the ideas, and try to figure out, like a movie and try to find a way to make it actually happen economically. The whole entire process was always one of the most enjoyable aspects of the band for me.
Q: You are literally the first person to ever tell me that in hundreds of interviews. If someone else has ever admitted anything other than disgust it’s news to me. Most artists tell us they were an incredible pain in the ass.
A: Really? That seems kind of…I don’t know. We have always viewed anything of that realm as just another creative thing. We’ve always been involved very closely with the directors who make the videos. We talked to them about what they can do and what we wanna achieve. We would map it all out on storyboards and figure out every aspect in the planning stages. We were very involved and interested. It’s all connected to our art so I don’t know how to not do that. We couldn’t just hand it over to management or director and not be involved in something so important.
Q: You guys toured with KISS on the WARNING TOUR in 1984. Was that as strange of a combination as it sounds or did it go over perfectly?
A: I really enjoyed the KISS tour. That was a really interesting time of course, it was our first full length album. We toured with KISS, Ozzy, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi who were also just getting started. We had a great time out on that tour. We had fun and got along with all those bands including KISS. Really it’s always an interesting experience opening for other acts like that. In theory, they are not only sharing their stage but they’re sharing their audience with you. Most bands that we have toured with have been very confident in their own show and their own abilities so they tend to be very generous. KISS gave us full lights and sound and that sort of thing, they were really great in that they gave us the full run of the entire stage, anything we wanted they gave to us. I think from the audience’s point of view it went well, we were definitely different and throwing some curve balls at the audience but at least a large segment of them seemed to still appreciate what it is we do. Prior to that tour we had just toured Europe with Dio and in the United States we had toured with Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister on a tour.
Q: You’ve said before that most artists don’t sit around listening to their own music but I have to ask…..Have you ever had a “Stairway” moment, like they allude to in the Zeppelin biography where they were all sitting around and realized they struck a bit of genius with “Stairway to Heaven”?
A: (laughs). That’s a good one. Usually, what we do which is kinda “our thing” with each record, we all sort of get together and we go to the studio and listen to it on the monitors, the whole thing all the way through. We celebrate the finishing of the record and then we put it away and go on to the next one…..we already have with this one.
Q: So you guys weren’t sitting around the campfire with jaws on the floor, high-fiving when you wrote “I Don’t Believe in Love” like I always assumed you were?
A: No….(laughs). We high-five upon each record completion, we listen and if somebody, anybody is not happy with some aspect of the record that’s when we go in and voice our opinion about it. Collectively we either tell them that they’re off their rocker or we agree that they have some sort of merit to what their concern is and we work on fixing it. Most times we are almost always on the same page and there’s nothing we want to fix or correct. We open a bottle and celebrate. I will tell you though, recently, it was the 25th anniversary or celebration or something of EMPIRE and the label called up to contact us because they wanted to release some sort of SPECIAL EDITION of the album. They were looking for us to see if we had any extra tracks or stuff we could contribute to the package. We dug out the masters and we listened to all these different takes of songs and versions of songs and stuff and we actually found 3 or 4 songs we recorded that we never put on that record. But what was funny about it was that NONE of us actually remembered writing those songs (laughs hard)….and here they are. They’re pretty much totally finished material with all the solos and vocal parts and we just did NOT remember writing any of them at all. We did do the Special Edition but didn’t include those songs….they are sitting there still, waiting to be released. It’s weird when that happens, when you can’t remember writing something at all.
Q: Being a veteran band from the Seattle area did you guys have a unique perspective on the whole grunge thing that happened and the media hype over the scene in the early nineties?
A: It was brilliant to watch. It was a complete and utter focus on marketing with the Sub Pop record label really being the instigators of it all. It was great to watch how they constructed this “scene” that honestly didn’t really exist. Ironically, because of their focus on it as a ‘scene’ a true “scene” actually happened (laughs). Pretty amazing really. (laughs). Musicians started traveling and moving to Seattle like they had in the past to L.A. It was because all these media outlets and movers and shakers made it appear that it was the place to be discovered or signed or something. It was fascinating to watch and I’m really happy for a lot of the bands that got noticed because there really were some great bands that came out of here at that time like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana….all really great bands.
Q: Before we wrap it up do you mind answering some questions about the MINDCRIME series?? I would kick myself forever if I had you on the line and didn’t ask…..
A: No, that’s fine. Shoot.
Q: I was thrilled that you guys decided to go back and revisit Operation Mindcrime. Releasing the second act is still a culmination of a dream of sorts for me as it was always one of my favorite albums. Was that something you had always dreamed of doing as well?
A: Yes, thank you. It was pretty satisfying for me as well. We had always planned on doing it. The original plan was to release it after the EMPIRE album but it didn’t happen. We ended up putting the whole idea on the backburner. BECAUSE of the EMPIRE album actually. EMPIRE was so commercially successful that it kinda fucked us up (laughs). It really changed everything. Financially, we all changed tax brackets after that album and as a band we somehow entered the pop realm and started being asked to do all these awards shows, TV shows, grammys and all that shit. They were talking to us about Queensryche action figure dolls (laughs). We just put the breaks on the whole machine and said “hey, this is not what we got into this to do, we don’t intend on being big STARS, be it big pop stars or rock stars, we just want to be musicians. Yet all these things were pulling us in all these different directions. It was a very interesting time for the band, a big changing point and it effected us in the sense that we didn’t really even make music for about 3 years. When we finally got back together nobody wanted to do Mindcrime. Nobody wanted to finish the story and jump on all that again, we all wanted to write about what was happening to us at that time, what we were going through as a band. That became the “Promised Land” album which was almost like a diary entry into our lives at that time, to me it was about looking for something out of life other than commercial success.
Q: It kind of worked out perfectly and made sense though with the storyline being that Nikki is released from prison 18 years later and the album being released 18 years later.
A: Yeah. I’m glad things turned out that way too. Looking back on Mindcrime II now, it was an interesting record to make for us. We got out all the master tapes from Operation Mindcrime and listened to all the different tones and sounds and really tried to recreate that same atmosphere based on those original recordings. It was a challenge to make…. actually it was a challenge to finish (laughs)….we had worked on it in bits and pieces over the years. We actually had portions of it recorded and mapped out years ago so it was fun and probably therapeutic to actually finish the story.
Q: Is there going to be a final presentation in the form of a movie or Broadway production? We keep hearing that. Having grown up on the albums, to me the visuals in the original VideoMindcrime are the perfect counterpart and the live stuff has made use of those videos further burning the images into our heads…..(laughs)
A: We have been approached many, many, MANY times over the years by many different people who would like to take the Mindcrime story and make it into a film. We’ve had countless meetings about it and it’s actually gone into screenplay form at least three times that I know of. Each time something has happened, either the people behind it lost their production funding or on some occasions people had wanted to change or modify the story from what we intended it to be and we disagreed. So it’s been shelved since then and for all these years. However, as of right now there are two companies that are actively working on pretty serious productions based on Operation Mindcrime. One is a film company that looks like it’s going to be a pretty serious project, I actually just had a meeting with the yesterday about it. The other is a Broadway production of it that is already in progress and looking like it should debut next year. They want to start out by doing a series of regional performances of it as a gearing up to actually doing it on Broadway.
Q: Who wrote the original concept for the OPERATION MINDCRIME story? I had heard the entire story was pretty much written well before you wrote the individual song lyrics, is that accurate?
A: I wrote that. It was a story that I had finished and outlined and I brought it to the band and at the time we had just finished the RAGE FOR ORDER album and were really keen on the idea of having a thematic album, we wanted to really get deep into having a concept for our next album. So I started working on the story. When I brought that into the band, they all read it and liked it as a story and we started piecing together the songs and lyrics based on that original story.
Q: Were there ever moments in recent years, the new millennium, where you looked at what was going on with politics and bank scandals and conspiracies and thought to yourself …..Mindcrime….Mindcrime…because I know I have. I’ve listened to a song like “Speak” when it comes on Satellite radio and I’m driving along and thought. Wow, it’s all happening again.
A: Well, those stories in Mindcrime are really timeless, time honored tales for better or worse. It’s nothing new, there’s always been political and government corruption. There have always been evil people pushing for power, it happens and has been happening ever since we got past the ice age and started becoming agricultural societies. Some people started “having” stuff and they started guarding their stuff and desiring to attain more stuff. It’s really part of human nature and that’s why I say that we really weren’t talking about anything new in regards to that on OPERATION MINDCRIME as far as that goes. There are always greedy, power hungry people that will do anything to keep their power and their stuff and there will always be people that are manipulated by those people and led down dark paths. There’s always been addiction to drugs and alcohol and there always will be, so there’s nothing new under the sun at all with those themes. Back in the Greek golden ages the same themes were happening. All MINDCRIME really is at the heart of it all is a relationship story between Nikki and Mary. All the other stuff is just sort of happening around them, Dr. X, the Revolution, the Drugs, that’s all the setting, the scene in which their relationship develops. It’s a love story really and even that’s nothing new. Back in the time when Mindcrime came out it was the ending of the Reagan era and the beginning of the original Bush era. These two administrations were incredibly oppressive towards the middle class. They were all about making programs to benefit the people who were rich already and keeping the lower and middle classes in check. At that point, a lot of economically challenged people were justifiably pissed off about the types of legislation that was happening because it was obvious they were only working to help the economic status of those who already HAD economic status. For the average working stiff, it was a REALLY rough time. Everyone was sitting around waiting for trickle down economics to work. We saw the same sort of thing during the second BUSH era and that was one of the main reasons we wanted to finish up the MINDCRIME II record during that era. So much of what had happened was happening again and it was affecting so many the same way and they could relate.