Full Throttle Rock – Queensryche
Article By: Curt “Dudley” Miller
Originally Published In The August 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Operation Rÿchemind: Geoff Tate’s Thoughts on the Current State of Queensrÿche You already know Queensrÿche for being the long-standing, progressive/metal powerhouse that’s sold over 20 million albums and had four Grammy nominations with Geoff Tate manning the helm. What you probably don’t know is that since 2012 there’s been two Queensrÿches. Yep, that’s right. There’s a new Queensrÿche lineup still fronted by Geoff Tate. This band is comprised of: Kelly Gray (guitar), Randy Gane (keyboards), Robert Sarzo (guitar), Rudy Sarzo (bass) and Simon Wright (drums). Then there’s the “other” Queensrÿche, filled out by former band members, but now fronted by Todd La Torre, formerly of Crimson Glory. Once Geoff Tate had his lineup complete, he immediately went to work on Queensrÿche’s 13th studio release, entitled Frequency Unknown. The first several tracks make it clear that Geoff Tate isn’t going anywhere. Instead of just adding more conjecture or rhetoric to the rampant stories about who said or did what, we decided to talk with Geoff directly about the new album, his thoughts on the state of Queensrÿche, his love of motorcycling and some of the other things he’s got going on in his life.
CS: Having collaborated with Randy Gane and Kelly Gray regularly since your days in Myth back in the ‘70s, what’s it like to be working with them again fulltime?
GT: Oh, it’s great! I think we’ve known each other for 35 years. They’re good friends, great musicians, and really talented writers too. It’s a good working relationship, and now it’s especially fun ‘cause we’re just having a great time out on the road. We’ve got a great band of people who are all heavy hitters and are really excited about just getting out there and tearing it up every night.
CS: Was there a particular message that you wanted to send out with the album Frequency Unknown?
GT: I don’t know if I had a real message that encompassed the record. This is the first time in my career with Queensrÿche that I’ve gotten to do a record the way I want to do it without a lot of time wasted. This album came together really easily and very quickly. Four of us got together to write it: Randy, Jason Slator, Lucas Rossi, and myself. Then, when it came time to record it, we thought it would be fun to have a lot of really great players play on the record with us and interpret our music. So we started making phone calls and everybody we called said, “Yeah, when can I do it?” We got a lot of people involved, but it was challenging from a scheduling standpoint because I wanted to use really great players and great players are always in demand. It was tough to work around everyone’s schedules, but it really worked out well.
CS: When things became unsettled with the members of the old band, did you ever have any doubt in your mind that Geoff Tate and Queensrÿche are synonymous and one and the same?
GT: I’ve written the majority of the music on the records, the titles of the albums, the names of the songs, and the content of them. So what you hear on the record is most of my life. It’s who I am, what I’m interested in, what I think about. It’s my passion, so I can’t really separate myself from it. So I guess to answer your question, no, I really didn’t have a doubt in my mind.
CS: Once it was clear that the former members were headed in a different direction, was there even a moment’s hesitation that you and Queensrÿche were moving forward?
GT: No, that’s pretty much how I looked at it. When the other guys broke off and decided to create a new band called Rising West, I was all for it. I didn’t see anything wrong with that. What became wrong was when they weren’t selling tickets under the name Rising West and decided to use the name Queensrÿche. They can’t do that without me. We have a corporate arrangement and you’ve got to follow those rules. They weren’t doing that. So I took them to court and suggested that both parties not use the name Queensrÿche until we settle our differences. They didn’t want to do that. So here we are. November’s our court date. We have to wait until then to sort it all out and hopefully after that we can all move on and get on with our lives.
CS: With Operation Mindcrime coming out in 1988, how incredible is to be playing that album live now knowing that its sound, themes and concepts are as prevalent today as they were when the album was released?
GT: It definitely still speaks as strongly today as it did when it came out. We have a lot of the same situations in our social framework now as they did back then. There’ll always be people vying for power and people manipulating others to do what they want them to do. I suppose it’s a classic story in that respect.
CS: Was there a particular event or individual growing up, or a personal interest in political science that led you and Chris DeGarmo to write the inspired and impactful lyrics and music of Operation Mindcrime?
GT: When Chris and I first got together, we had this philosophy of no limits to our art. We wanted to write what was important to us and explore our creativity together. I had grown up with concept records and art rock and introduced that music to Chris and he turned me on to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, which is a fantastic concept record in its own. So we started talking about how it would be fun and challenging to write an album with a strong central theme or story. It took us a few records before we hit on a story. It was actually a story I’d written while I was living in Montreal. In the mid-‘80s, there was almost a civil war taking place with the French-speaking people trying to separate from the rest of Canada. At the places I was frequenting, I met a lot of these people who were part of the French Separatist Movement and found them to be very inspiring from the standpoint of a storyline. So the backdrop of what was happening there became the central backdrop of the Operation Mindcrime story. Then once we had the storyline put together, the music sort of fell into place.
CS: Along the lines of concept albums, the record American Soldier seemed to be a very personal project for you. Can you elaborate on your motivation for writing it and what the time you spent interviewing American veterans meant to you?
GT: That project was very personal to me because I grew up in a military family. My dad was a career military man. He started out as a Marine in Korea then joined the Air Force and went to Vietnam. All throughout my childhood years when he was gone and at war it definitely had its impact on our family. Then, when he got back I tried talking with him about it, but he wasn’t really ready or able to. It wasn’t until he got older that he became more comfortable talking about his experiences. It was really through his stories that I developed an interest in what soldiers go through in their service. On one of my trips to visit him, I brought along a tape recorder to capture some of his stories. I got the idea that it might be amazing to interview a number of military personnel to hear what they’d experienced. So, I started interviewing soldiers who I’d met and they passed along phone numbers and email addresses to others who they thought had interesting stories. In all, I interviewed close to 300 people for the album American Solider. I would record our conversations and ended up weaving portions of those recordings into the songs and wrote the songs based on their perspectives and outlooks. One of the most incredible things that I discovered throughout the whole process was the commonality shared between all of the soldiers’ experiences. It didn’t matter where or when they served, they all had very similar stories. I really tried to capture that in American Soldier.
CS: At the time of the recording of the Mindcrime at the Moore DVD, you were riding Buell motorcycles and doing charity rides. Can you tell us a bit about the charity rides depicted on the DVD and some of your other experiences motorcycling?
GT: That was a really gratifying experience. We rode bikes all over the country and raised over $100,000 for the Save the Music program putting music back in schools. We had some great rides with some really great people. One of the most memorable was a ride from New Jersey into Manhattan when we had 4000 bikes. They shut down the highways and gave us a police escort so we could get into the city. The most amazing part of that experience was going through the Lincoln Tunnel at 70mph with the roar of all of those motorcycle engines. It was so intense. My wife and I just returned from a vacation visiting some friends who recently moved to Singapore. While there, we took about a 700 mile ride through the jungles of Malaysia. It was incredible! I’m going back this October for a ride into Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos ending at the Chinese border. It’s going to be an incredibly interesting and challenging ride.
So there you have it. Geoff Tate: world-renowned singer, songwriter, and recording artist whose work and abilities continue to stand the test of time. He’s a diehard motorcycle enthusiast who’s used motorcycling and his position in the music industry to create opportunities for generations of musicians to follow. He’s a successful businessman and vintner of Insania, his own nationally and soon to be internationally distributed brand of wine. Above all, he’s down to earth, easy to talk with, and just flat-out cool! Regardless of what the courts decide this November, Geoff Tate is definitely the King of the Reich!