Queensryche’s Scott Rockenfield talks to LRI about his band’s creative partnership, past, present and future
I will always remember the 1991-era Queensryche I saw in Madison, Wisconsin at the taping for Operation: Livecrime. It will forever be one of those moments we’ve all had at concerts, the ones that just stick with you for the rest of your life. While Chris Degarmo is now a private pilot and Geoff Tate is now in his own version of Queensryche, the three guys who originally founded the band have carried on with their guitarist of the past five years, Parker Lundgren and new vocalist Todd La Torre. Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield are, by all accounts, re-energized, happier and more determined than ever to move forward while restoring Queensryche to their classic sound with a new record due on Century Media June 11th. The band has been recording while still taking time to get back out on the road playing their signature material and rarely heard classics on their new “Return To History” Tour. There are a LOT of tour dates and festivals including a stop at the always awesome and massive ROCK USA fest in Oshkosh, Wisconsin July 18. I talked to legendary drummer and founding member of Queensryche Scott Rockenfield about all this and more, read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Glad we could finally line this up Scott and thanks so much for talking to us. How did the gig in Toronto the other night go? I saw the clip of Glen Drover joining you and it sounded amazing!
Scott: Thank you, no problem. You know it was really great having Glen onstage with us, he’s a great guy and we had a lot of fun. We ended up doing “Take Hold Of The Flame” with him towards the end of the show. It was a really good crowd and a really good time. We got an amazing response when we brought him out because he’s kind of a hometown hero with that crowd.
LRI: Since Todd ummm….”took hold of the flame” as lead vocalist thing have gone really well for you guys at the live shows. Has the setlist been pretty fluid while he’s been getting comfortable?
Scott: We started last year with this whole concept of what we wanted to focus on in the set which is a lot more of our classic material from the EP in 1982 through our Empire album in 1990. To make a long story short there is a bunch of material that we’ve learned so I suppose you could say yeah, it’s been pretty fluid. Depending on the night and where we’re playing we can kind of shift things around and now currently that’s going to change again as we’re learning a bunch of new songs from the catalog that we’re adding into the set. Once the new record comes out in June we are going to be focused on playing some of that material as well.
LRI: When I interviewed Geoff recently he responded that he didn’t really understand you guys saying there were creative differences and thought that it all came down to money. As you see it, was part of the issue always that you had been wanting to focus more on the classic material in the live shows?
Scott: Absolutely, look, there were a lot of reasons why things started to go bad in the last year and we had to make the transition to Todd. To answer both of those questions and to set the record straight, yes there were some financial situations that needed to be addressed. That’s kind of a part of doing business. We own three corporations collectively together and we had to address certain things going forward because that’s what good business people do. They look at what’s coming in versus what’s going out and we wanted to address a lot of the “what’s going out” part in order to assess the foundation so that we could move forward in the coming years. That was it and unfortunately those things started to open up a can of worms but that didn’t mean that we couldn’t continue to address those things in order to do good business. That was what Michael, Eddie and I wanted to do as the major shareholders of the corporations and then on top of that were the creative and musical issues which were a big issue as well. We wanted to address those issues and get back to looking at what was more important for Queensryche as a band. What’s the focus of what we do and what our fans enjoy and all of that and most of that involved playing the older material that we haven’t performed for such a long time and we wanted to do that. The same thing held true when it came to making records for the last few years, we just haven’t been on the same page as far as what style of music we should be doing as a band. Michael, Eddie and I have always wanted to do what we feel we’re best at and so far the response has been great. The fans are loving it, the new record is all tailored towards that sound, it’s a big heavy rock record with great songs and great lyric content and I think that’s the main focus of Queensryche.
LRI: I do love talking with Geoff, he’s a very cordial person to talk to on the phone but I have noticed over the last couple times we’ve spoken that he has been a bit dismissive of the creative contributions of the others, particularly Michael. In particular, he mentioned that if you guys really had the desire to make heavy music it was news to him and your solo output didn’t reflect that. Do you feel it was more a case of you guys thinking the Queensryche brand was getting watered down or wandering too much in the past few years?
Scott: Absolutely. That is EXACTLY it. I mean we really wanted to address that last year, we really didn’t feel that the band was headed down the right direction musically. We think we have a pretty good grasp of not only what we feel we should be doing but also what our fans think we should be doing as Queensryche. That’s important to us, to look at both sides of that, not just one viewpoint but the fans viewpoint and we feel like it had been a struggle for all of us to get on the same wavelength as far as what we should be doing as a band. We would try to contribute and make a record the way that Eddie, Michael and I thought we should do it and that stuff doesn’t get accepted so over the course of the last few records it has been so much of a struggle that we had to address it last year.
LRI: Not to rehash too much but Geoff had said that he only wanted a chance to sit down and discuss the situation to avoid what transpired. Once again, for the record, there were attempts by you guys to sit down and rationally address the problem with Geoff??
Scott: Absolutely, it all began with just having corporate meetings which is what we do as a business but once we started to want to address some of these things he suddenly became unavailable for the meetings. So where does that leave you as a business? Sitting around waiting for people to become available? That doesn’t work for us. So what we did was hold and schedule multiple meetings over the course of a few months and it became a situation where Michael, Eddie and I were showing up at these meetings and had to make a decision to move on. Listen, when we finally did achieve a meeting between the four of us in Brazil it turned violent and what do you wanna do after something like that? Attempt to do it again? Not really. We kind of saw right there where it was headed and thought that it was best for us to just move on.
LRI: I am admittedly a huge fan of Chris DeGarmo and Geoff’s input over the years but to be fair and to clarify, you, Eddie and Michael technically are the original founders of the band, Chris and Geoff joined a bit later right?
Scott: That is correct, yes. We started the whole thing back….back before the beginning of time (laughs). We started playing together back when we were in high school. We all lived in the same area and went to different high schools but all knew each other through the scene and through mutual friends. We were playing together prior to even starting Queensryche. Once Queensryche started we were ALL involved in the creative process. Writing every record for us has been a collective group effort ever since day one and I think that’s where the chemistry for this band comes from; it’s all of us being together and working because that’s where the most creativity comes from. Queensryche has never been about any one person in articular, ever, so for for anyone to think that they can just call themselves Queensryche, to us, is kind of ridiculous. It’s always been about the chemistry of us as a band, working together which is one of the things we are so excited about with the new record. We’ve found that chemistry again, we’re revisiting what that chemistry meant to us back in the early days and applying it to the new record and it is exciting for us. We haven’t had that for many years now.
LRI: As much as I enjoy Mindcrime 2, as a fan it feels like the last time an album really sounded like a group effort was TRIBE which was back in 2003. Was the TRIBE album an earlier example of the band trying to recapture that group chemistry?
Scott: Well, yeah. I suppose it’s something we’ve always tried to do which is to keep that chemistry together but yeah that shows how far back you’re talking about. From that point forward, the chemistry was just not on the same wavelength as far as what we wanted to do. Michael, Eddie and I have always had a real solid understanding of what we wanted to do and what we enjoy doing. We like making big, heavy records and being a progressive, I guess, metal band. We’ve always been interested in that style from the beginning and thought that was important for Queensryche and have all felt that way. Since Tribe, that last decade has been basically a rollercoaster struggle of staying within that.
LRI: I’ve seen the video clips of you in particular smiling ear to ear behind the kit and really enjoying yourself in these recent shows, maybe moreso than in the past. On a greater scale, do you feel like something which has been so important in your life that had been so wrong has now been righted?
Scott: For sure. That’s part of the energy that is giving us an injection of so much intensity right now. It’s so much fun for us again because we’re able to play so much of that original material from the early, early albums that we’ve been wanting to play for so long. It’s enlightening and really exciting for us and I think the audience is picking up on that and really enjoying that and even the songs that we have always played seem to have a new energy to them as well. We just feel different and even the energy backstage and just hanging out is completely different. We’re all really focused on the music and the fans and how we wanna showcase the band and it is just a much better feeling all the way around for us right now. We’re really excited and positive and confident about it.
LRI: A lot of times in these situations the audience just immediately sides with the lead singer as the most identifiable part of the band but I have to say aside from Geoff’s page having more Facebook likes it seems like there is a real groundswell of support for your band amongst the fans vocal support, both diehard and casual. Have those fans been of particular importance to you with all the drama in the past year?
Scott: Well, first of all, thanks for all of those comments you just made and I think you have it exactly right. For us, that is the proof. The fans have ultimately been the ones who support us and give us the energy we need going forward as a band these last 12 months and they’re the ones who will give us the energy to keep going beyond that. Ever since we made the transition it has just gotten better and better and better for us to this day. We just started this current tour and the fans are coming out and enjoying the shows immensely and their comments before, during and after the shows has been phenomenal. It’s been incredible and it really has been a groundswell that’s been happening for us ever since we got Todd in the band. They’ve really supported him and encouraged us to keep going and are dying to hear the new record because we’ve teased them enough and they know what’s going on with that development. The fans and the new album moving forward is really all that matters to us at this point, everything else out there we really don’t care too much about all of that energy or follow it that much. The fans have always been important to us, listen, half the people coming out to the shows we recognize half of our audience still to this day. I think that ongoing support kept us going when we made the transition to Todd because they were excited for us and they kept us excited and what’s really cool is now we are gaining new fans who are just discovering and liking the band for what it is and what we’re offering now in 2013. The bottom line proof in any of this is always going to reside in the fans.
LRI: I don’t always stay in contact with all of the people I’ve interviewed but since I interviewed Pamela Moore a year and a half ago I have definitely stayed in touch with her. She is just a wonderful person and a great talent. Do you think that she will continue to be a part of the Queensryche family going forward or continue to be utilized more in live shows or even in the studio again?
Scott: Pam has always been real close to us and is a good friend of ours and she supports what we’re doing. She did actually join us when we did a show back in October in Washington and sang 3 or 4 songs with us and also in Portland, Oregon. She’s been with us for so long and like you said, she’s just a great person, she’s got a great voice and is a talent beyond belief and her energy and support through everything going on with us has been real great so yeah, there are always opportunities for us to work with her again in other capacities, whether it’s live or in the studio. She’s just so close to us and we speak to her constantly as well.
LRI: Back to the upcoming album you guys are getting ready; How is the working dynamic between Parker Lundgren (guitarist) and Todd La Torre shaping up in terms of songwriting and working in the studio?
Scott: Parker, at this point, has been with for five years and he just fits in perfectly with what we do. He’s an eager, dedicated and talented guy who plays well and loves our material and really enjoys the new energy in the band and is a big part of it. Todd is the same way, so for Todd to step into the equation and be so eager right out the gate to support the old Queensryche material being presented the right way to the fans at shows has been amazing. Then as we moved into making the new record, it has only gotten better and that energy has only gotten stronger because we are all truly working together on it. Parker wrote stuff on this new album and Todd has been writing on everything so the bottom line is that the chemistry has been solid on everything we’ve been up to moving forward. That’s something that we have lacked for a while in this band and you can really hear the difference now whether you see us live or listen to the new music.
LRI: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, I am super excited to hear the album you’ve worked so hard on and see the band at Rock USA up in Wisconsin this July. Last question…I am a hopeless Operation Mindcrime nerd, it is easily one of my favorite albums ever, so I was super happy to hear that you are working with Jimbo Barton again who was there during the process of making that record. How has that been and are you finding the perfect balance between acknowledging how important that album is to us fans while still making a modern 2013 statement?
Scott: Well, thank you too John and to answer your question, yes, I think so, I really do. It’s great to have such a legacy where there’s parts of that legacy which have just stood out in a huge way. Operation Mindcrime has been a HUGE staple of Queensryche and it has just done it’s thing and that is a great thing, we treasure all that stuff and Jimbo was absolutely a huge part of that record. He was great in the studio as an engineer in terms of making the sound of that record and being able to capture what it is that we wanted to do on those tracks but he was also a massive creative force during that time as well. That, more than anything, is why we wanted to kind of revisit our relationship together and he has just done the coolest, most interesting things and brought so much to this new album. It’s just been exciting for us and I think the fans know enough about him and what he meant to us back then that it is also really exciting for them as well. Again, what we are really trying to do here is just learn from our past and why those early recordings were so exciting for us and try to bring all that into the modern age with Jimbo and make a record reflecting where we are now but with the elements of all that from the past. I think we’ve really achieved that and we’re really all feeling very good about the new record. I think June 11th will be the deciding factor for the fans when they can finally get it and sink into it and make their own judgement as far as what they like about it.
Queensryche- RETURN TO HISTORY tourdates
March 12, 2013 – Nashville, Tenn. – Wildhorse Saloon
March 14, 2013 – Biloxi, Miss. – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
March 15, 2013 – Tampa, Fla. – The Ritz Ybor
March 16-20, 2013 – Monsters of Rock Cruise – MSC Poesia
March 22, 2013 – Orlando, Fla. – House of Blues
March 23, 2013 – Raleigh, N.C. – The Longbranch
March 30, 2013 – Uncasville, Conn. – Mohegan Sun
April 6, 2013 – Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada – Regina Casino
April 11-12, 2013 – Stockholm, Swe. – Sweden Rock Cruise
April 13, 2013 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria Club
April 14, 2013 – Mons, Belgium – Power, Prog & Metal Festival
(co-headline show with Helloween. QR will get approximately 70 minutes)
April 15, 2013 – London, England – O2 Academy Islington
April 17, 2013 – Nottingham, England – Rock City
April 18, 2013 – Manchester, England – The Ritz
April 19, 2013 – Dublin, Ireland – The Academy
April 20, 2013 – Duisburg, Germany – Glückaufhalle
support acts: The Claymore, Infinite Horizon, The Distance Call
April 21, 2013 – Ludwigsburg, Germany – Rockfabrik
April 23, 2013 – Aarburg, Switzerland – Moonwalker
April 24, 2013 – Munich, Germany – Theaterfabrik
April 26, 2013 – Eindhoven, The Netherlands – Effenaar
June 7, 2013 – Mexico City, Mexico – Auditorio BlackBerry
July 18, 2013 – Oshkosh, Wis. – Rock USA
July 19, 2013 – Springville, Ind. – Lawrence County Recreational Park
July 20, 2013 – Erie, Pa. – Roar On the Shore
Aug. 2, 2013 – Sturgis, S.D. – Buffalo Chip/Sturgis Bike Rally