Geoff Tate is always one of the best interviews you could hope for as a writer, an intelligent, engaging guy who understands the whole process of publicity but always comes off honest and opinionated rather than guarded or hawkish. I was genuinely bummed to hear about the Queensryche split this past summer but pleased to see the fans seriously excited and actively debating the pros and cons of the whole scenario as it plays out before a watching metal world. Reaction is good and there has been plenty of reaction in regards to the latest goings on with Geoff Tate, his new bandmates and his former bandmates. Geoff is undeniably the voice of Queensryche, along with Chris DeGarmo he was the driving creative force for much of the band’s signature catalog and the positive reviews of his most recent solo tour have been pretty encouraging as far as his energy and voice. Now, Geoff (along with an all star collection of new and familiar faces in Kelly Gray, Rudy and Robert Sarzo, Randy Gane and Simon Wright) prepares to officially start the new Queensryche tour this April. It’s a landmark 25th Anniversary Operation Mindcrime Tour celebration and the band will be performing the album in its entirety along with numerous other classics. The band is then releasing their new album “Frequency Unknown” on Cleopatra Records April 26th (image below)… I recently spoke with Geoff about all this and more, read on….
LRI: Hi Geoff, thanks for talking with us. This whole situation and court battle over Queensryche is something most of us could never have forseen back in the 90s but yet here we are talking about it sadly enough. Is there ever a day where the whole drama just doesn’t even enter your head?
Geoff Tate: Oh yeah, quite often (laughs). Yeah, yeah….You know, initially, the first few months that this all started happening was a very difficult time but I’ve kind of gotten past that now and am in a much better place now where things seem a lot more brighter. I had my new solo album, Kings And Thieves and the tour supporting that and that helped, just playing shows and supporting that. I never even think about the former lineup at this point, of course they launched a lawsuit against me that I won basically and from then on, I really haven’t thought about it too much. Our court date isn’t until November, 2013 so I basically have until then until all of that is officially decided, which is quite a ways from now. A lot of water is going to go under the bridge before then, definitely.
LRI: You surprised more than a few fans in recent months with your statements that you wouldn’t be opposed to sitting down in a room and just trying to talk rationally with those guys. On an obviously much less important note I have noticed that those guys are often not that accessible from a publicity end. We have reached out numerous times to both Michael Wilton and were actually scheduled to talk to Scott Rockenfield but both times have come up empty-handed. Have you also found a series of unending emails or found them pretty difficult to reach directly? (laughs)
Geoff: (laughs) Yeah, that’s pretty much been my experience over the years. That doesn’t surprise me. You know John, you’ve probably recognized the fact that I have probably done 99 percent of the interviews over the course of Queensryche’s career. There’s a reason for that, there was a reason for that when I talked to you for the last album and there’s been a reason for that our entire career; I’ve been incredibly careful and diligent about presenting our image in a certain way. I’m recognized, pretty universally, as the spokesperson for the band and there’s a reason for that (laughs). I can reliably do my interviews and put a sentence together and I think I have a very good handle on what it is that I am trying to do within the band as the band leader. I have always thought that we were collectively on the same page about this over the years so when they fired me it came as a complete shock. It was like a kick upside the head that I wasn’t expecting at all, especially at this point in our career where we’ve been a successful band for 30 plus years and have a very respected name around the world. Why in the world would any SANE people launch this whole shakeup and fire everybody who is your support system and everyone who’s involved with you, cancel all your income for the year and cut your head off by firing the face and voice of your band. They have basically sliced their own throat and rubbed the name of the band in the dirt in this quest of theirs and have no sane reason why such madness was necessary. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what their whole plan is, what is their plan after the court date, it just doesn’t make any sense.
LRI: One of the things that has been repeated over and over was the fact that you insulted the audience which I don’t want to make light of but upon going back and watching it, it just doesn’t seem that bad. I’ve seen almost every singer at one point or another go up onstage and give the whole “Comon, you guys that was weak, I wanna hear you scream louder than that” stage rap. The audience DID appear to be really passive or tired and needed some shaking up, how is it that your challenging them was that much different than all those other guys who have done it?
Geoff: Well, when someone does what my former bandmates have done, you have to come up with some justifications for your actions. What it looks like to most rational people is that they are just really grasping at straws and trying to create a situation that just really doesn’t exist in order to justify their actions. I’ve been a frontman for a rock band for over 30 years, I know how to handle an audience and I’ve learned that through trial by fire and that’s something you learn as you go along, you have to engage the crowd, you have to get them up and challenge them and get them focused on what they’re there for.
LRI: The video is pretty funny actually because they shine a light on the audience and there’s a great deal of them sitting there and eating pretzels and playing on their cellphones. Even someone like Nikki Sixx or Paul Stanley would say something!
Geoff: I know (laughs), I know. It’s like they’re at a Saturday Matinee and waiting for the movie to start and they did suck. They needed to be riled up and engaged at that gig and that’s something that I’ve always done, something that, like you said, many, many singers or bands have done over the years, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just something that the other guys and their team of people are trying to twist into a “Geoff doesn’t respect the fans” type of thing.
LRI: I have heard you say that you think the whole lawsuit really has a lot to do with money and they have mentioned it was also creative differences. Your wife and daughter worked for the organization and were also fired, did they just get the feeling there were too many Tates in the kitchen?
Geoff: You know, when you have a group of people, you need a leadership in place and set up efficiently, somebody has to do it
LRI: So they were comfortable with it for a number of years and then at some point it just started messing with them?
Geoff: Yeah, yeah, I think so. Again, some of that verbiage from them is just down to “created perceptions” or the picture they want to present. The fact is that they wanted to fire me and then split up my shares of the corporation and typically true to form for them they went about it totally half-cocked, unprepared and shortsighted. You can’t just do that so easily, you can’t just fire a corporate member of your company, it’s illegal to do that but of course, true to fashion they didn’t research any of that or look into it or talk about it with us they just did it. The fallout of all of that is that we have a lawsuit. It’s not like a bunch of guys got together and formed a band and play a bit on the weekends. It’s a business, it’s a very successful business and it involves corporate and legal procedures. There’s a way you have to conduct yourself business wise and you have to follow the rules and the law is very explicit in that. That’s why we have a court date and a lawsuit, they can’t just fire me, it doesn’t work that way in corporations or in the business world.
LRI: I’m a KISS fan and I have heard many people try and slag them and call them a tribute band or whatever but the fact remains that Gene and Paul are still up there singing the songs, the two guys who, for the most part, were the creative members of that band. It seems to me that their firing of you is being spun as you not following the Queensryche “metal” prototype and they want a metal singer, regardless of whether he wrote the songs or not. Do you make anything of their purported “creative differences”? Were they clamoring at you with fistfulls of heavier songs than what the last few Queensryche albums have contained?
Geoff: In my experience, over all these years, the three of them have been very, very unproductive in the creative area. They’ve all been waiting for me to do everything and I’ve done it, I’m a creative guy, that’s what I do and what I live for. I’m very productive and very creative and I make music that moves me, that’s what I do every day. Those three saying there were creative differences is again, just a fallback to justify their kneejerk reactions. If they had tons and tons of material that they wanted to do all of us have been able to do and have done side projects. If you look at Scott Rockenfield’s output over the years, he’s released a few things and none of them have been metal or even what I would consider rock, they’ve been some weird fusion thing. Michael Wilton has been a part of a project that he put together with a bunch of guys of of Seattle and Canada and they released one record of music and it wasn’t exactly what I would call “metal” either so if those three are so concerned about doing metal, why haven’t they done it? No one was ever stopping them (laughs).
LRI: When we talked the last time you spoke about how you can’t make records for the fans, you have to make them artistically for yourself, first and foremost or you’re not being honest. Do you feel that the other guys are moving forward by hiring a singer who sings in your style and writing the metal music that fans are demanding?
Geoff: I have no idea John, it’s a crapshoot to be honest with you (laughs). Who knows what they’re going to do?
LRI: Had you heard internet rumors that they were using your tapes while Todd La Torre was performing at some of the earlier shows? That sounds insane.
Geoff: Oh yeah, but to be honest, that’s pretty evident. Queensryche has always used click tracks and backing vocals on the live presentations because Eddie can’t really sing and we haven’t had a decent singer in the band doing backgrounds since Chris left. In order to pull off the music you have to layer my voice in there so they used that and when they fired me and started doing shows they used the backing tracks that have guitar parts and keyboard parts and backing vocals. Honestly, I’m a lot happier doing what I’m doing now and my new bandmates and I hope that they’re happier doing what they’re doing. We are going to be performing all fifteen tracks of Operation Mindcrime as well as a great deal of additional material and based on the rehearsals I don’t think you or anyone else is going to want to miss it. I just wish that the three of them could have handled it all in a much more civilized way and just sat down like men in a room and said “Look, the three of us want to go in a different direction. We’ve had a good run, 30 years, how can we make this split happen in a way that we all look good and take care of the employees who have been with us all these years, how can we make it right?” There was no conversation like that, there was none of that. How can you treat people who have worked their asses off for you at below industry standard pay for all these years and just fire them via a letter? That is so cold, corporate and heartless. It is just unbelievable to me that they are now these kinds of people, the three of them are bad people, really, to do that kind of thing. What is so difficult about sitting in a room and talking about our situation unless you’re just so vindictive and mean that your only goal is to screw everybody. People are judged by their actions and I think their actions are very telling as to what kind of people they are.
LRI: There was even some response in fan circles that your solo record was some sort of premeditated response to the whole lawsuit situation but you had planned “Kings and Thieves” well before the split hadn’t you?
Geoff: I started my solo record back in January of 2012, actually January 2nd, it was part of my New Year’s resolution to get an album out within the year and I finished it in July, which is great. I got to work at my pace and make the kind of record I wanted to make without having to compromise and wait two years for people to show up or decide that they could make it to the recording sessions. There probably was some influence about what was going on with my former bandmates because some of what was happening was going on at the same time as the recording. It was mostly completely written before all of the legal stuff came up but there are probably references on “Kings and Thieves” to certain people and certain situations. I can tell you, it was a bit difficult making a Queensryche record with them and it always has been, especially since Chris left the band. Getting those guys on the same page, getting them to show up, was always difficult. Just getting them to contribute would entail having to chew off your own arm basically (laughs) so working on a new Queensryche album is truly a joy. When that collaborative element is working things tend to move along much faster.
LRI: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. You’d said that as much as “Kings and Thieves” was a solo album it was also really refreshing to get in a room with other musicians and have some collaboration, that was something you’ve missed in the last few years in Queensryche. Hopefully the next record reflects that as well.
Geoff: I can tell you I really enjoy that process, that exchange that happens between musicians. I am a firm believer that most ideas that you have creatively are better served when you get a collaborative effort going, people start riffing off of your idea and you end up with something that is much cooler than what you initially started with. That’s something that has definitely been fulfilling since the split. I found that I like working that way. It was a very immediate, in the moment record, not very polished or overproduced. So much of the creative process was ongoing while we were working. That was a very new process for me since Queensryche albums have traditionally been rehearsed to death but it was a very enjoyable one.
LRI: You are getting set to introduce this new lineup of Queensryche with the Operation Mindcrime 25th Anniversary Tour and you have this great group of seasoned rock musicians with you as well as a new record deal with Cleopatra. What do you say to the internet critics or those people who maintain that you sold out heavy music or you sold out rock or rock fans?
Geoff: I’ve always made rock music, that’s what I do, I’m a rock musician. How other people perceive it is beyond me. I only make music that I like, that interests me and challenges me in some way or explores my passion. I’m a rock singer and that hasn’t changed but within the context of that things have changed for me, people change and I believe in trying different things and experimenting with music. I love music and I don’t ever wanna repeat myself and do the same thing and I don’t know if I could. I’m always wanting to move forward and that’s what Queensryche has always meant to me.
LRI: I keep pushing for the page to start a wine and hot sauce review section, how are things with your Insania brand?
Geoff: The wine is flowing! As I have been touring I have also been doing wine events at a lot of the stops so you will have to come out. It is actually a lot of fun, I will show up and sign a bunch of bottles and drink with people and have a good time. If people want to find out more about it they can visit my website and follow the links that take them to the winery and they can call or email them and they will answer any questions you might have.
LRI: There are so many guys that are into these ventures but you are more than just a public face you are way into the wine scene aren’t you?
Geoff: I am yeah. You know I started making wine when I was fourteen. That’s right. Fourteen!! Unbelievable, but I was a boy scout and you could get a merit badge if you created a beverage or a food product and I made Dandelion wine which wasn’t very good but definitely sparked my interest and got me started on that passion.
LRI: I love the lineup and want to hear new music as well. Before I let you go, I want to ask you a question completely out of left field only because I know we have talked about all kinds of different subjects and it’s always fun. What do you make of this recent weird weather exploding all over including the hurricanes and devastating storms on the east coast ? Is it just business as usual on planet earth or is there something we can better do to avoid or anticipate this stuff?
Geoff: (laughs) I don’t think we’ll ever control the weather. I think it is what it is and the earth has different patterns and a sophisticated way of doing things that we just can’t comprehend or understand. You know, cities that are on the edge were originally settled there geographically because of shipping and immigration and people just settled close to where they landed when they got there and they are really big cities. Unfortunately, those cities are just vulnerable and when we have bad weather they just inevitably get hit, there’s just no way around it. In Washington we have our own weather issues and have earthquakes and active volcanoes within 15 miles of us. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from any sort of weather issues, maybe in the desert but then you have heat and water issues. It all goes back to what being human is all about and that is the ability to adapt and change. Look at the Mayans, they were a thriving civilization for an estimated 10,000 years and then they just disappeared. Why? Well, they ran out of water. It’s all so random and as humans we just cannot accept that, as humans we just want to compartmentalize every little thing so it fits neatly into our brains but that’s just not how things work. We can’t understand why some things in life like the weather can be so random and it just bugs the hell out of us (laughs).
25th Anniversary Operation:Mindcrime Tour 2013
- 04/06/13 Wendover, NV at Peppermill Casino
- 04/09/13 Aspen, CO at Belly Up
- 04/10/13 Grand Junction, CO at Mesa Theater
- 04/11/13 Denver, CO at Paramount Theatre
- 04/12/13 Albuquerque, NM at Hard Rock Casino & Resort
- 04/13/13 Las Vegas, NV at Santa Fe Station / Chrome Showroom
- 04/14/13 Tempe, AZ at Marquee Theatre
- 04/16/13 Tucson, AZ at Rialto Theatre
- 04/17/13 San Juan Capistrano, CA at The Coach House
- 04/18/13 Agoura, CA at The Canyon Club
- 04/19/13 Solana Beach, CA at Belly Up Tavern
- 04/20/13 Los Angeles, CA at Club Nokia
- 04/21/13 San Francisco, CA at The Fillmore
- 04/22/13 Sacramento, CA at Ace Of Spades
- 04/24/13 Austin, TX at Emo’s Buy tickets
- 04/25/13 Houston, TX at The Concert Pub North
- 05/16/13 Milwaukee, WI at Potawatomi Casino
- 05/17/13 St Charles, IL at Arcada Theatre
- 05/18/13 Turtle Lake, WI at St. Croix Casino
- 06/14/13 Greensburg, PA at The Palace Theatre
Sites That Link to this Post
- GEOFF TATE On Former Bandmates In QUEENSRŸCHE: ‘They Can’t Just Fire Me’ « Rss « | March 4, 2013
- GEOFF TATE On Former Bandmates In QUEENSRŸCHE: 'They Can't Just Fire Me' | March 5, 2013
- Geoff Tate Accuses Former Queensryche Bandmates of ‘Madness’ | March 5, 2013
- Geoff Tate Accuses Former Queensryche Bandmates of ‘Madness’ | 92.9 Jack FM -- Playing What We Want | March 10, 2013
- QUEENSRYCHE singer Geoff Tate on the state of the ryche (http://www.legendaryrockinterviews.com) | Vinyl Vintage Vvictims | March 12, 2013