Geoff Tate (Queensryche)
'Finally, King of His Own Domain’
Although they were initially grouped in with the legions of pop/metal bands that dominated the American heavy metal scene of the '80s, Queensr˙che was one of the most distinctive bands of the era. Where their contemporaries built on the legacy of Van Halen and Aerosmith, Queensr˙che constructed a progressive form of heavy metal that drew equally from the guitar pyrotechnics of post-Van Halen metal and '70s art rock: most notably Pink Floyd and Queen. After releasing a handful of widely-ignored albums, the band began to break into the mainstream with the acclaimed 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime. Its follow-up, Empire, was the group's biggest success, selling over two million copies due to the hit single ‘Silent Lucidity’ – which eventually hit #5 on the American Singles chart. Queensr˙che never sustained that widespread popularity and like most late '80s metal bands, their audience disappeared after the emergence of grunge. Nevertheless, they retained a large cult following well into the '90s.
Lead vocalist Geoff Tate is now finally branching away from the band and has recorded a solo album and will take it on tour. Just days prior to the release of his self-titled project, Tate hits the road, tackling clubs from June 22 through July 27. But, although Tate is exploring a solo path, fans can rest assured that this does not spell the end for the powerhaus Queensr˙che. The band is readying a new album to release later this year. Meanwhile, other members in the group are working on their own side-projects as well. Guitarist Michael Wilton has his band Soulbender and drummer Scott Rockenfield recently released an album with Slave To The System.
Chatting with Geoff over the phone it quickly became obvious that he wasn’t functioning at full speed. ”I’m running on empty. I’m just burning the candle on both ends and rehearsing late at night and getting up early to do European press. There’s just a million things to do right before you go on tour. If sorry if I’m kinda slow, but I’ve had several coffees and they still don’t seem to have had any effect,” he laughs.
Where did the name Queensr˙che originate ”When we started the Queensryche band we were all very young guys and we were always under a deadline. We were getting ready to put the first EP out and we didn’t have a name for the band. Then, one day Chris(DeGarmo) came through the door of the rehearsal room and said, ‘I got it … Queensr˙che !’ He took the words Queen and Reich from a song that he wrote called ‘Queen of the Reich’ – which was a song we released on our own record label, 206 Records. He just put the two words together and there it was.”
Why was Empire such a breakthru album and yet it was Operation: Mindcrime that was the most highly praised ? ”Oh, I don’t know. That stuff is like a very speculative question that nobody really knows the answer for because you’d have to explain the public’s tastes, tends and that kind of stuff. I don’t really know, but it’s a big mystery that I’m sure a lot of record companies would like to understand.”
Which Queensr˙che song has stood the test of time for you ? ”Well, it’s strange when you hear your song on the radio or you hear it being played in a car sitting next to you at a stop light. That’s always very strange. I don’t really know how to answer that, but I do like to sing certain songs a lot of the time.”
What were your feelings coming in to making your debut solo album ? ”I started out with 19 tracks, but what I really wanted to do was make a record that exhibited my eclectic mind. I wanted to write songs with those influences apparent. So that’s my taste – very eclectic. I like all different kinds of music like Spanish, disco, trance, techno, country and western, and metal. I can always find something in different genres of artists that I like that move me.”
Where did the feeling come from for the first single, ‘Off The T.V.’ ? ”It’s the subconscious really. I had this piece of music that my friend Jeff gave to me and often times with writing you have nothing in mind that you’re aware of and this stuff just all comes out. ‘Off The T.V’ was just one of those songs that we just pieced together along the way.”
And my fav track, ‘A Passenger’ ? ”I’m kind of the person who uses music as therapy so when I do it through music all the stuff is drawn out of me. I’m fascinated with the topic of relationships and how we seem to need other people to get the best out of ourselves sometimes. So relationships to me is one of the most important subjects there is to write about and ‘A Passenger’ is a story of a couple that need each other but are so opposite that they often times can’t understand where they’re at with each. We need each other but yet we are repelled by each other.”
Why a solo effort in the first place ? ”I’m trying to concentrate on a separate career away from Queensr˙che and I’m not too interested in being in a band anymore. I’m just interested in controlling my own destiny.”
So there's a new Queensr˙che album due this year ? ” Yeah, well, we all kinda found ourselves after the last one we made, which was Q2K and we had made plans while on the road to start the next record and when the month came that we were meant to start the record, nobody was available. So I kinda took that as a signal that nobody was really that interested in making another record. So time went by and everyone seemed to go off and do their thing and I thought that maybe this was the time for me to do it to. And I did and I’ve been focusing on that for the past two years. It’s been really an incredible experience working on this project and I’ve really learnt a lot. But with Queensr˙che, we’re in a different place then we’d been before because when Chris was in the band he was the predominant music writer and he and I always worked very closely on collaborating on all the songs. But when he left he left a gapping hole in the creative industry of the band and we tried to fill that hole with Kelly, but he proved to be too difficult of a personality to live with. So, we’re doing this record differently and nobody’s trying to fight for control of the band. We’re just using a lot of different writers that we admire. Michael will play all the guitar parts in the studio and then when we go out on the road, the plan is to have some guest guitarists sit in with us at first.”
You used to power down the expressos, but have since turned to green tea I hear ?! ”Well, my caffeine highs were turning into very brief highs and very low lows,” he laughs. ”I couldn’t feel the excitement from the caffeine buzz anymore. You know, from the overloading. So, my wife talked me into switching to green tea, because it has sort of a different flow of caffeine to your blood ratio or something. It’s kind of a slow build up kinda thing rather than the immediate early morning slam-down,” he laughs again.
Describe both yourself and your solo music in 3 words ”Eclectic for one. I think it has an elegance to it, and it’s contemporary.”
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
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