Queensryche Interview - Interview conducted Thursday 20th October 2001.
Geoff Tate, who is the lead vocalist for Seattle's own Queensryche, took the time to talk to Justin Donnelly about the bands new double live album 'Live Evolution'.
Why a live album at this stage in your career?
It wasn't planned at all, and was a kind of a spontaneous in our decision to make it. Our new record company Sanctuary inspired it. We went out to dinner after they came to see us play, when someone suggested we should do a live record. The next day, following a lovely dinner and several bottles wine, we had an agreement to do a live record. (Laughs)
How was the track selection organised? Did you decide to slip in some tracks that hadn't been played for a while?
Their (Sanctuary) idea, what they would ultimately like to see, was a well-rounded record. And the more we (The band) talked about it, we came up with more and more songs we wanted to include on it. It just turned into a big monster. Then we thought, 'Wow! We've got so many songs, why do we just represent our entire career by taking a couple of songs from each record.' So anyway it was sort of growing and growing and it turned into a very large live record! (Laughs)
You have some unusual songs in the set. In particular are some from the 'Rage For Order' album. Is there anything that was a real challenge to play live considering that they hadn't been played in some time?
Well a lot of it we haven't played in a long time. Some of the songs, I think, we've never played live before. 'London' from 'Rage For Order' had never been played before. We came up with a big master list of all the songs we wanted to try, and it came down to a deadline we had to meet. The whole project was very quickly done. It was executed very well, but in a short period of time. It was really up to the guys in the band to learn the songs that they didn't know, and to rehearse them in a short given amount of time. These are the one they could play by the time the show came around. (Laughs)
Was the track listing also dictated to some extent by the fans that log onto the website with requests?
Sure. We collated their input, the record company's input and the band, and came up with the list of songs featured.
Were there any songs that are hard to perform live?
(After a long pause) There aren't any songs that I would call impossible to play live, but some are difficult. A lot of Queensryche songs are difficult to play live. It's quite a difficult question to answer because everybody (In the band) has their own opinion of what's difficult to play. For me, in the physical standpoint, no, they're not that difficult. It's just the mental aspect of putting yourself in that place that's always a bit difficult. That's because some of that material is really, really old, and I'm not in that same headspace any more. So it's kind of interesting to journey backwards! (Laughs)
What sort of preparation was there for this album? Also, was there anything that was fixed up after the album was recorded?
Well we really wanted it to be a real accurate representation of the band playing live. And for me, I approached this thing really differently. I didn't rehearse with the band. I just came in for the sound check for the show, then played the show. So the music was all really fresh for me. I hadn't rehearsed it into the ground, so to speak. There was a lot of excitement and it was new and different. It was a new sort of event for us to do and I felt really good for those two nights, and it went really well. I wanted to project that accurate representation of that. As far as the music goes, I'm not really sure if there were any touch ups in the studio or not. I'm not sure what was done there.
Now, you're in the studio recording at the moment. Was there any temptation to put a new Queensryche song on the live album?
No. Queensryche hasn't written anything for the new album yet. I'm in the studio now working on my solo project. As for Queensryche goes, we are scheduled to start writing and recording in January 2002. So we really haven't done anything since the shows in July. And we don't expect to do anything until January.
What would you say best sums up the direction of the material on your forthcoming solo album?
(After a long pause) Well you know my entire career I've worked with one band and one group of people. And at this point in my life, I'm kind of recognising a want, and a need, to branch out and have different experiences with different musicians. So I wanted to do a record that was a collaborative effort and with as many people as I could. So I started contacting people that I really liked, those who I liked their writing and their playing, and in a short time I had a whole list of people that I was working with and collaborating with. This is really a record of collaborative music with different people, rather than a focussed project with the same people. And I wanted to do something that was very different to Queensryche. Different from what they would do, and could do, of course. I really started writing without using guitars and I found that really inspired me (Laughs). All my life I've been surrounded with very loud guitars, and this was a complete departure from that.
So would the material be more electronic, or vocally influenced?
I would say it's revolved around the singing. The songs are voice dominated rather than guitar dominated songs. The main instrumentation is rhythm and a vocal. It has plenty of chord changes been done by keyboards, or bass guitar and that sort of thing. There is some guitar on the record, but it's not like anything like riff style rock guitar.
So there will be plenty of opportunity to flex those vocal muscles?
Yeah. This album has been in my head for a while. Really it's more or less an exercise in collaboration with different people. That was what I was really after.
So will the album come out under your name, or a band name?
I haven't really decided yet. It's still a work in progress really. We just got into the studio last week, and the first week is purely laying down drum tracks. So it doesn't really have a title yet either. I'm kind of waiting to see to how it all sounds when it's done. That will decide if it should be called one thing or the other. It's so varied. It doesn't really have a theme to it. I want to see if does develop a theme for itself by the time we get done recording it.
Is there any particular reason why you decided to release a solo album now?
Well I think when Chris (De Garmo) left the band (Queensryche) that really was the instigator for starting a project like this. I have sort of envisioned myself only working with Queensryche for my entire career, and when he left the band, it sort of forced me into looking for other people to play with. I guess that's what kind of did it! (Laughs) It started me on a sort of hunt for a collaborative effort. So, here I am doing a completely separate record from Queensryche. It's kind of unexpected for me, but I'm really enjoying it. I think it's a good exercise really, because when the next Queensryche album comes around, I'll definitely be ready and excited to do it. I've been immersed in another way of thinking for a while, and it'll be nice to come back to familiar territory. Something far heavier anyway.
Have you heard the other Queensryche solo projects, like Rockenfield/Speer (Scott Rockenfield - Queensryche guitarist and Paul Speer) or Spys4Darwin (Chris De Garmo - Ex-Queensryche), Vin Dombroski (Lead singer of Sponge), and Mike Inez & Sean Kinney (Alice In Chains rhythm section)?
No. I haven't got around to those yet.
What sort of direction will Queensryche be heading when they head back into the studio?
I can't really answer that because it changes once you start writing.
How do you feel about other band in the progressive field such as Dream Theater and Transatlantic? How do Queensryche fit into that genre these days?
Well I'm really unfamiliar with those bands, so I couldn't really comment! (Laughs)
Do you compare yourselves with any other groups?
Oh I try not to! (Laughs) I really don't listen to a lot of other people's music. I'm pretty consumed with what's going on in my own head. And I never consider myself a part of any kind of movement really. It's a movement of Queensryche and that's probably it! (Laughs)
Where's your main source of inspiration for the music and lyrics these days?
It's the same place it's always been. Really, it's just life experience. When was that (Lengthy pause), I guess after 'Operation: Mindcrime' that I got rid of my television. I guess since then I really been trying to focus on myself and what's going on inside of my own head, my circle of acquaintances, friends and family. I sort of look to that as my inspiration, as apposed to world events, politics and things like that. I'm pulling all the inspiration from my own resources.
How do you look back on the last album ('Q2K') from Queensryche?
Well 'Q2K' is a good example of the band experimenting with the new chemistry. Probably lots of people don't know this, or have ever thought about it, but with Kelly (Gray) coming into the band, he became the main songwriter. He wrote every song on the record, physically. So his style and his influences and his way of thinking about music is what that record is all about. The things he's heard and the things he hears in his head all came out on that record. That album saw Kelly and I working and writing together for the first time on an album. So it was really our first attempt and our first try to put something together. Chris was the main writer in the band for years and years. He's a very talented musician, and I think some people probably forget that. Everybody seems to think that everyone contributes and writes in this band. That's not always true. It's usually one or two people who define the sound and the style of any given record or song. Scott (Rockenfield) has contributed something like three songs in twenty years. It's difficult to collaborate with people who don't work! (Laughs)
Do you guys have any input towards the re-release of the 'Operation: Livecrime' D.V.D.?
Oh yeah. Jimbo (James Barton) remixed it not long ago. I have a good relationship with E.M.I. I talk to them regularly about what their plans are for re-releasing Queensryche stuff. They call and get input about what we want it to look like, and if we would like to add anything to it at this time. We've been trying to get our different record labels to work together. That would allow us to put new stuff on the E.M.I. re-releases and old stuff on the new releases. Unfortunately they haven't quite seen the light yet. (Laughs) They kind of operate in the old school way. That means it's tough competition.
There's the usual argument about promoters unwilling to take the gamble and bring down groups like yourselves down here, but have you ever wanted to play down here in Australia?
Well if you guys had better beer, we'd probably be there! (Laughs) No, just kidding. We've always wanted to come to Australia. Always wanted to. There are a few places in the rock and roll influenced world that we haven't played yet. Greece and Spain are just a couple. We haven't been there in all these years. We know quite a lot of people in bands that have been to Australia, and we have friends there as well, so we know all about it. We've just never had the opportunity to go down and play some shows.
Do you think Queensryche still has something to prove to people out there?
Well I don't quite look at it in that sort way. I see music as a reflection of life, and life is still going on. So there'll always be something to write, talk and discuss. That's the beauty of art and expression, and that's what music is. Music isn't competition. It isn't like a sporting event where you have something to prove, or be competing against another band or artist. Record companies deal in that kind of world. They're the ones selling a product, and using the sports team mentality to operate their business. Music is self-expression. It's much more than competition or sporting events. It's people's feelings and their thoughts about things. So in answer to your question, yeah, there will always be something to say and write about, and there will always be a perspective on an event.
After a rigorous and deep probing interview (Not), I was more than happy to leave Geoff to enjoy what was left of another beautiful, gorgeous sunny day at home.
For information on Queensryche and related bands, check out the following sites-
The official Queensryche website- http://www.queensryche.com/
Geoff Tate's solo website- http://www.geofftate.com/
Michael Wilton's (Queensryche guitarist) solo website- http://www.michaelwilton.com/
Chris De Garmo's (Ex-Queensryche guitarist) new band Spys4Darwin website-
© Justin Donnelly 2001