Pamela Moore has been singing her whole life. She has made solo albums, toured with big name artists, done session work, gives vocal lessons and has played in several rock bands. However, despite such an impressive resume as a professional musician most people know her as a result of her fateful portrayal of “Suite Sister Mary” on the Queensryche albums OPERATION MINDCRIME and OPERATION MINDCRIME II. Instead of having a chip on her shoulder about it and wanting to steer people towards other topics like some artists with such a noteworthy moment might do, Pamela is more than happy to talk about her time as “Mary. Throughout our recent conversation the sweet and stunning Seattle singer made quite clear her mutual love and respect for both the Queensryche fans and band. I talked recently with Geoff Tate about Mindcrime and was totally psyched to talk again about those classic albums once again with Pamela. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: You grew up in the Seattle area, what was your childhood like and your early leanings towards art?
Pamela Moore: I moved back here to Seattle in 2008 after living in Chicago. I love it here and my family lives out here as well. My childhood was great actually…that’s what got this whole performing thing going for me. My mom had a background in Theater and brought us kids into it….mostly because she needed to watch us (laughs). We went there and watched her do her thing and you know, to as a little girl that whole world is like a dream come true with all the lights and makeup and costumes. I really did get involved with it and she had me cast in a couple of the plays that she did and that’s what got that ball rolling. I just really, REALLY enjoyed it and the whole experience of being on stage and performing for an audience. I kept at that and did some plays in high school although at that point I had started really getting into the music scene and songwriting as well. I remember joining my first band when I was like 14 and the other band members had to come and get permission from my mom in order for me to do it (laughs).
LRI: You recorded and toured to support some solo work prior to getting involved with Queensryche. How much do you think that early period of your career prepared you for where you are RIGHT now?
PM: I’m sure that everything I have done has prepared me for the music I’m making now. I think as an artist you’re always changing and the more life experience you can get the better. All the little things teach you big things and you learn a lot about your quality of life and about how you’re going to write songs and create. I’m very grateful that at this point things have fallen into place for me and that the music continues to be there for me. Everytime a life change happened for me the music was always just right there.
LRI: Since you were from the same general area you must have been somewhat aware of Queensryche prior to working with them on the OPERATION MINDCRIME album. Were you at all surprised to hear that the band was interested in bringing in a female vocalist for their album and what were those initial meetings like?
PM: Yeah I was surprised. I was in a really popular Top 40 band in the area at that point. We were a club band and we did very well in the Seattle scene and I did that for a while also working in a music store where I actually met Chris DeGarmo. While I was working at the music store I used to also do a lot of studio session work like little bits for commercials and stuff. One of the commercials I cut was for the music store I worked at, it was just one tiny little line that people from Seattle in that era know but it was just that one little bit. The Queensryche guys were looking for a female singer for this role that they had written for OPERATION MINDCRIME. They heard this little jingle and wanted to know who the singer was and next thing I knew they were showing up at a club I was playing with my band. I was wondering what they were doing there (laughs) and we were introduced. I’m not sure how much time went by exactly but following that I received a phone call from Chris asking me if I could come down to the studio and would I be interested in singing with Geoff for this album. Of course, I was floored. I remember asking “Well, are you sure that I would be right for the band??” because although I had some experience with rock but the stuff I was known for was a little more pop. Chris DeGarmo said “Oh yeah, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for”. I remember wanting them to get me the cassette tape at the time so I could hear it and he said “No, no , no,” because they wanted to keep it pretty close to the vest at that point and it was a concept album which was a pretty novel concept at that point. So, I went up there not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I got to Montreal and they gave me the cassette tape and told me the story and I met everyone and rehearsed that night and I remember thinking, “I think I can do this”. Even though I’d been in the studio before it was pretty mindblowing to be working with this progressive metal band and it was just a pretty amazing experience all around.
LRI: You got to work in an amazing studio with an amazing band and producer and contribute to a now CLASSIC album. Geoff even admitted to us though that when it was first released there were some naysayers and it took on a very slow burn to success. What was your life like in the aftermath of the initial release of the album as you and the band both went on about your business?
PM: I was given the CD release when it came out and I was still up here in Seattle doing my club stuff and writing which is something I am always doing. I remember Chris DeGarmo coming into the music store I was working at and presenting me with the gold album which was the first time that I realized they WENT gold (laughs). I didn’t know that it was doing so well
LRI: The story and album is one of my all time favorite recordings and tells it’s own story audio-wise. However, after the success of EMPIRE the band found itself in the position to be able to truly realize their vision of performing a stage adaptation of MINDCRIME on the EMPIRE tour. I saw one of the shows recorded for the OPERATION LIVECRIME video in Madison and was blown away. You had some experience in theater but still…. were you completely prepared for what the band wanted to do VISUALLY as far as bringing Sister Mary to the masses?
PM: In 1990 they approached me to play Mary on the Empire tour, we worked out the logistics and I was able to go which was great. I went to Europe and Japan, I did a few of the stateside shows not all of them some they used my recorded parts but I definitely did the Madison show you were at John (laughs). They recorded my parts at that show for the LIVECRIME box set and I really enjoyed doing that show. It was an awful lot of fun to be involved in such a big production. Looking back now, it was pretty unreal because I wasn’t aware of the steam that MINDCRIME was picking up and I was really lucky to have gotten back with the guys just as things were REALLY taking off for them on EMPIRE. It was a pretty special time. To answer your question, I am sure my acting and theater experience helped me because it was a really emotional and theatrical scene but I was amazed at how much I LEARNED out there on that first tour with Queensryche. The whole thing was a big learning experience as it was such a big production with all the staging and riggers and lights but just also working with the band. Geoff and I just clicked musically and the way that we sang together and that helped a lot. He’s a very unique singer and it was a huge compliment that they wanted to bring me along but also a big compliment to be able to just work with a frontman of his expertise. He is such a true performer and I love watching him, whenever I watch him I am struck by how engaging and charismatic he is not only with the band onstage but with the audience. It’s like watching a maestro at work, everything from the way he uses his hands to the way he speaks, I just love the guy (laughs). I have learned so much from those guys, I hope I can pass on just a little bit to some of my vocal students
LRI: Being a very attractive girl on a national tour with a heavy act had to be quite interesting at times. Were there any particular mishaps or concerns involved with rowdy fans or any marriage proposals?
PM: Queensryche fans overall are the kindest, most respectful fans, they are so informed and generous. There were a few proposals (laughs) but I havent really had that much trouble with anyone and they are very respectful of your space and things like that. It was a nice time and really to the credit of the men in the band who are so hard-working and respectful; they all have families that they adore and miss while they are out on the road. I don’t know if I would have been able to handle being out on the road with another band that didn’t act so professional and respectful. It’s business to them and they are serious about that but they also know how to take care of the fans because they know that is such an important part of what they do. The fans are behind their finances and the ones who keep them able to do what they do and they are very conscious of that. I find that fact very refreshing.
LRI: While you were away from the band did you ever think they were going to actually get around to doing MINDCRIME 2 and were you surprised at the increased parts for the “ghost” of SISTER MARY?
PM: I came back to do different things over the years, I did the LIVE EVOLUTION album with them and went out on the road with them pretty regularly in 2003 and 2004 and that’s when all of that started evolving. I remember being on the bus with the guys and them telling me “We’re going to record Operation Mindcrime II and you’re gonna be a big part of it!” I remember telling them “Well, how can I be a big part of it when my character is DEAD???!!!!!” That’s what’s so great about part 2 is that I did have so much to do with it because I was playing his conscience or a ghost or whatever and it was really interesting the way it was written in. I also got to play different parts as a result of Nikki’s flashbacks, I got to play a hooker and put on a black wig which was the first time anyone’s ever seen me as a brunette (laughs). I also got to come out and sing “Spreading the Disease” and turn that song into more of a theatrical thing which was really fun for us as well.
LRI: So you got to record AND tour again, even getting to work briefly with Ronnie James Dio on the second Operation Mindcrime. What was that like?
PM: Yeah, we did one show in California with Ronnie playing Doctor X which was just amazing, huge venue. Thank god they filmed it and it’s on the DVD. I got the chance to meet Ronnie and he was just such a sweet, sweet man. He was very genuine and very kind, he always seemed to have time to talk to every single person in the room and especially every fan. It’s so cool that he is on the album and the video and that he’s documented as Dr. X since he is no longer with us. Ronnie was a big help with Queensryche when they first started so it was really fitting to include him, he just gave SOOO much to the metal community over the years. He was a wonderful and awesome man and is really missed.
LRI: Was it particularly challenging to perform BOTH of the albums back to back in a live setting???
PM: Oh yeah. That was a lot of singing, especially for Geoff. It was a pretty long set for everybody doing the whole MINDCRIME saga back to back like that. You had to get rest and keep your stamina up because if you didnt….whoa, you were in trouble. On top of the length of the set we were also doing 5 or 6 shows in a row and often times we would have one day of travel which is difficult because you’re not really resting like normal when you’re on a bus and traveling. You have to be really diligent about taking care of yourself and your body and getting the right rest and all that. It isn’t as glamorous or whatever as people think to be out on the road. It is fun and it’s awesome to do but it can be pretty grueling on your body. You have to stay healthy and you’re meeting all these people and shaking all these hands and passing germs all over and if one person gets sick then everyone on the bus gets sick. You really have to be careful doing a tour like that but we really did it and we did it pretty well as I remember.
LRI: The band was carrying quite a few semis worth of gear at that point and the show had grown to be a serious PRODUCTION. Do you recall any times where the set, wardrobe or staging led to goofs or technical errors and were any of these gaffes visible to the crowd?
PM: When I toured with them again and we did the back to back MINDCRIME and MINDCRIME II albums there was a lot more set and costume changes. On the EMPIRE tour I only performed “Suite Sister Mary” and didn’t have as many elaborate changes or anything but by the second album my role had expanded greatly and we were playing different kinds of theater venues that could accommodate the show. There were a lot of actors and costume changes and that was where you would run into some of the situations you’re talking about (laughs). At one point on the 1 and 2 tour I had an elaborate entrance where I had to do a quick change and I was on one of those Genie lifts. There was a couple of times where I was not sure if I was going to get my whole costume on (laughs) it was a pretty crazy scene sometimes of people whirling clothes and garments everywhere trying to get dressed in time for the spot. When we didn’t have enough space for the Genie lift we had to come up with different ways to do things like there is a scene where I commit suicide and die and I fall backward and disappear into a cloud of smoke. It was easy to do with the Genie lift but without it I would have to do things like fall backwards offstage onto a makeshift raft or into the crew guys arms (laughs). I’m NO stuntwoman so that was kind of strange for me (laughs). It was pretty tricky and you have to hand it to the crew that somehow pulled it all off no matter what venue we were in. That was a really fun tour though because the concept was so different.
LRI: You’ve continued to work with the band over the years whenever they require “MARY’s services but have released an album since that time. The “Stories From A Blue Room” album came out in 2006 and really has a lot of different atmospheres. If pressed to describe it I would refer to it as “dreamysexrock” with an electric undercurrent. What is your take on the album since its’ release and what led you to make such a personal album?
PM: (laughs). Dreamy Sex Rock…there you go… Yeah, thank you John…it has kind of an electronic undertone but still has plenty of heavy bottom and rock feel. Michael Wilton from QUEENSRYCHE helped out on guitars as well as Jeff Loomis of NEVERMORE, also Neil Kernon who produced and engineered it of course did RAGE FOR ORDER for the band. I wrote a lot of the material with a good friend of mine who was in a band called Rorschach Test named Ben Anderson. He is now in a band called MISSIONARY POSITION. We had a lot of great people working with me on the album, my cousin Terri Nunn of BERLIN also worked with us. It was a lot of fun involving so many people on what was otherwise a really personal album.
LRI: Yeah, there’s quite a bit of production and instrumentation on the album but it still comes across naked and raw all the same. The lyrics and the music are real intimate. Did the album take some people by surprise?
PM: Yeah maybe. I was going through a lot of things including a rough divorce and that’s why I called the album that in addition Ben had a recording room that had a lot of blue lights in it (laughs) so we just ended up going with that. A lot of those songs are personal stories that have happened to me in my life or have happened to people I know or am close with. Usually when you write like that you are really leaving yourself open and vulnerable but you’re also being honest and a lot of people can relate to that and apply a lot of the lyrics or moments to their own lives which is always nice. I think that Queensryche fans that hear it are open to it because they are by nature a little bit more open and experimental but in general I got a really good response to it. Since I am not super, super famous or anything I am able to kind of do the album that I wanted to do and explore and it was really pretty well received by people. It was critically acclaimed and won awards but ultimately a lot of the promotion fell directly on me because I didn’t really have a record label for distribution. I think we’re hoping to push this next album out even further but in a way I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to do my own thing. Sometimes when you’re working with other people and companies they only see you one way and you end up being stuck in that one box. I really have a lot of freedom to do whatever it is I am feeling and writing.
LRI: You have been pretty busy in the studio on the follow-up record. How far along are you and how much different do you think this next album will be?
PM: The new album is going to be a lot more “metal pop” orientated type of stuff because I am writing with a heavy guitar player and it’s just taking on that tone as we write the material. I think a lot of the people in the metal scene will appreciate it more, it’s a little more in that vein and one again I am working with Jeff Loomis and a lot of the same great players but the sound is turning out different just because of the guitar being so prominent in the songwriting. The writing is almost done, it took a little longer than we expected because I am in Seattle and my guitar player is in Chicago but we’re finally at the point now where we only have one more song to finish. We will then be taking the stuff we’ve recorded and go straight into the mixing stage I was hoping for it to be ready for release at the end of 2011 but now we’re looking to get it out there and begin promoting it sometime this coming spring or summer. I am really excited about it and getting out there again to do some touring I know that Queensryche will be taking some time off to work on new material and a new album so hopefully I can get my album out there and do some promotional dates while they are on hiatus. For starters, we are thinking of doing some strategic album release parties around the country like Seattle, L.A., Chicago and other big cities just to introduce the album and then take it from there. It’s just a matter of figuring out the logistics of it all, we’d of course like to go everywhere but in this day and age that’s just not always economically feasible. I haven’t done any Pamela Moore Band shows in a couple of years but I always look forward to it, I love all the aspects of the industry, writing, recording but what I truly LOVE doing is performing and playing in front of a live audience. There is nothing like it.
LRI: With both of the Mindcrime albums out and the double live show history many of us are now waiting with anticipation to see if there is a MINDCRIME movie or Broadway show in the works as Geoff has indicated…In the grand scheme of things how much has the experience as Mary changed YOUR life and how do you feel when you run into fans that say it changed THEIRS?
PM: A lot of fans have told me that and in fact it’s really just an amazing nod to Geoff and those guys who actually wrote those albums because I didn’t have any part in that. I was just the person they chose and decided to have play the part and to be honest with you it has been a really great thing for me. I have been able to carve my own little career as a result of it and I feel very blessed and very grateful that I was given that chance. I don’t take for granted for a SECOND that it happened to me and I don’t take for granted the fans or the opportunities that have happened along the way since I took on Mary. I continue to get opportunities as a result of it and I never DREAMED that I would be considered something special as a result of it or thought of as a female metal “icon” or any of the things people have so kindly said about me. I am really just humbled and amazed by it all and as long as people want to keep hearing and seeing me I will continue doing what I do.