INTERVIEW: Geoff Tate

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Hardline Media proudly present Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime! The legendary frontman returns to Australia with his band to perform the classic concept album “Operation Mindcrime” in its entirety, and much more. I caught up with Geoff on the eve of the tour to talk about what’s what, and my favourite Queensryche album, Promised Land.

I Heart Guitar: So first of all, I was really excited to get the chance to interview you again. We spoke, jeez, years ago for the Gibson guitars website once, and I remember that that chat for me was at like 4:00 AM and we had a great old talk. But yeah,, you’re coming to Australia and I can’t wait!

Geoff Tate: Yeah, I’ll be there. Uh, it’s, I guess a few weeks in February. I think it’s going to be my fourth time in Australia.

I Heart Guitar: Yeah, I know the first time I ever saw Queensryche was on my birthday in Melbourne in 2005, 2006? It was the Operation: Mindcrime tour, which takes us to this new tour. Of course Operation: Mindcrime is something for a signature for you and that’s kind of the, the main focus of this tour. You probably get this question a lot, but how has that album changed for you over the years? Like there are things on there that still very much matter today, just in different forms.

Geoff Tate: Yeah, that’s crazy. We were just talking about that at that rehearsal tonight, talking with some of the guys from my band about how some of these lyrics just really, uh, you know, they, they still kind of stand up today, you know, the subject matter is similar or same and uh, like I guess it’s because, you know, the album is, um, deals with a lot of social issues and, and also with, um, kind of classic themes of, um, human beings and how we, uh, tend to try to dominate each other oftentimes in those are classic subjects that, uh, you know, I don’t know if we’ll ever, ever get, I’d be different as a species, you know, we’re pretty much kind of stuck in our ways, you know, but I think a lot of, lot of the, lot of the themes, yeah, they’d definitely stand up today, you know?

I Heart Guitar: Yeah. Especially in terms of not just people in power, but people in power, manipulating people who aren’t in power, but making them think they’re getting something out of it when they’re really being used.

Geoff Tate: Yeah. That’s a classic thing right there!

I Heart Guitar: So I’ve been watching a lot of videos in preparation for this interview of the current guys you’ve been playing with. And I’ve got to say like, you really seem to be inhabiting this material. You’re not just reciting it. And every time I see you play, every time I see a video of you on stage, you, you’re not, you’re not just reciting these songs, you are performing them in the moment. You’re not necessarily singing things the same way twice, but it’s still the song and it feels like it’s very real to you.

Geoff Tate: Yeah, it is very real. Yeah. And I honestly don’t know any other way to approach it other than what it is. That’s just me being me, you know? But, uh, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed, um, the last year or two of playing this record again and uh, you know, presenting it for people. And I’m quite surprised that the tour has lasted as long as it has. In fact, Australia, it will be the last shows that we’ll, um, we’ll be playing it. In fact, we weren’t, we were planning on being finished a tour with this album quite a while ago, but it just keeps having more and more leg, you know, to it, uh, promoters keep calling and wanting it, you know, and so I’ve, I’ve got to put, got to do something else now. So I’ve started getting ready to start the Empire, 30 year anniversary tour that starts in February. So, um, funny enough, I’m starting that in Norway of all places and then we finished that leg and we fly directly to Australia where we perform the last shows for operation Mindcrime. Then we, uh, go back to I think Sweden and start there and go back to our other set of the 30 year anniversary for Empire. We’re going to be flip flopping a little bit.

I Heart Guitar: Yeah. Yeah. I’m looking forward to when you get to Promised Land! That record was huge for me.

Geoff Tate: Oh wow! Yeah. Yeah. I love that album a lot. Yeah. I was just actually this weekend, this weekend, I was just up in San Juan Island where we recorded the Promised Land album and I was sort of reminiscing to some friends and my family was with me about all the places where we recorded and what we did while we were there and showing them some of the locations, you know, it was kind of fun going kind of going back to time

I Heart Guitar: What does that album mean to you now? Like it went so deep lyrically into a lot of things and to me it was like a new sound that was, you know, it was dark, it was aggressive, it wasn’t quite as, as pop oriented as, you know, as empire was. Did it feel like you were kind of treading new ground at the time?

Geoff Tate: Uh, yeah, it did. It felt like, um, well we hadn’t actually made music together as a band for, Oh, I guess three years. We took time off and just sort of tried to adjust to our, new surroundings that we found ourselves and after the success of Mindcrime and Empire. And I think that we were very separate, you know, as people and had moved on and from each other and, and you know, people had started, got married, started families, um, had divorces in that period of time. And we started up new businesses, took up hobbies, had children, you know, all kinds of life happened in that period of time. And so really, you know, to get the band sort of back into the headspace and creating, we decided to go to this remote Island and live up there and, and you know, make music again, in a studio that we built, and kind of tried to make the record in a real organic way. So that was the goal, really is to sort of come back together and see what we could, we could do again. I think the record was about that. It was about exploring what we had been through over the last few years and where we were at generally at at the moment, how we had progressed or declined or, you know, what was, what was feeding our inspiration at that point, uwas really the discovery, you know, really was, trying to find out what had been going on, you know. And, uh, so the album has a lot of, uh, I guess maybe more introspective soul searching kind of songs on it. And I think it’s the first record that we ever made in my mind that sort of captured a mood and kind of stuck with it, you know, which I wanted to.

I Heart Guitar: Well it’s interesting too because a lot of bands would come out of like a really big success like Empire and the next album would have been very literally about, “Oh yeah, the music industry is a hideous bitch goddess” and all this. Whereas as you said, it was more introspective, I guess it was about how you felt about what was going on rather than just describing what was going on, which there are so many albums out there like that which are like “Oh, I’m disillusioned because the music industry is different to how I thought it would be at this level.” But instead you didn’t do songs specifically saying, you know, “this is where our careers are at.” It was, “this is how I’m feeling.” And so that I think allows people to apply their own experiences to it, even though their experiences might be nothing like, what inspired it.

Geoff Tate: Yeah. That’s an interesting way of looking at it. A lot of people thought it was just too fucking melancholy.

TOUR DATES:

THUR 30 JAN – BRISBANE – THE ZOO

FRI 31 JAN – SYDNEY – MANNING

SAT 1 FEB – MELBOURNE – CROXTON

TICKETS and VIP M&G ON SALE NOW: www.hardlinemedia.net

Geoff Tate Releases Queensryche F.U. Remix

queensryche-frequencyunknown-deluxeHuh. This is interesting. Look, there’s no doubt that of the two recent Queensryche albums, the Todd LaTorre-fronted version was the better-sounding and more consistent of the two. But the Geoff Tate one had a couple of really good songs. “Life Without You” in particular would fit quite well on Empire, Promised Land or Tribe. (And I don’t think it’s exactly common knowledge that Forbidden guitarist Craig Locicero plays rhythm guitar throughout the album – not to mention there are guitar solos by Ty Tabor, KK Downing, Brad Gillis, Dave Meniketti, Chris Poland and more). But the mix of the album sucks. Tate realised this even before the album was released, so Billy Sherwood was enlisted to remix it, but that was never finished, and the original mix was released instead. Well now the Sherwood mix has been completed and will be released on a deluxe edition of the album. I guess there must be some clause that allows this to be released under the Queensryche name since it’s an already-existing album. Either that or Tate’s going to get a very interesting phone call. Anyway, here’s the press release. Read More …

REVIEW: Queensryche – Frequency Unknown

Queensryche_with_Geoff_Tate_-_Frequency_UnknownFrequency Unknown is a missed opportunity.

It’s a missed opportunity because despite all the controversy over joining and departing band members, shoddy mixes, official contests to post the most extreme hate video and of course that provocative album cover, there a few songs on here that are so good that they transcend all that stuff, if you let them do so, and they would have been utterly killer if performed by the Queensryche line-up that existed a year and a half ago. These songs – Life Without You, In The Hands Of God and to a slightly lesser degree Cold – show Geoff Tate making the most of his talents (which include dramatic vocal delivery and a confessional lyrical style) while staying relatively faithful to the established Queensryche style, at least as it existed on later recordings. (It’s interesting to note that Cold and In The Hands Of God were co-written with Lukas Rossi from Rockstar: Supernova).  Read More …

New Queensryche song – ‘Redemption’

Check out the new song ‘Redemption,’ the first full track released by Queensryche from their forthcoming album in the video below. Just to be clear, that’s the Todd La Torre-fronted version of the band featuring original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson along with Parker Lundgren. Geoff Tate’s version of Queensryche is also releasing an album soon, but… okay, Geoff, I quite liked both your solo albums, but… preview clips from the Tate version’s forthcoming album Frequency Unknown are available on iTunes, and how do I say this…

no-sir-I-dont-like-it

The Wilton/Rockenfield/Jackson/Lundgren/La Torre version’s new stuff though… well… let’s let it speak for itself. Turn up yer speakers and dig into this:

Geoff Tate announces new Queensryche line-up

Geoff Tate has just announced the line-up for his version of Queensrÿche in a post on the newly redesigned Queenryche website and it includes some pretty surprising names. Tate says, in part:

“Today is a new day and I am thrilled to announce the new Queensrÿche.

Joining me are: Rudy Sarzo, Bobby Blotzer, Glen Drover, Kelly Gray and Randy Gane.
Together we shall embark on a new musical journey that will be a greater extension of where Queensrÿche has ever been.”

Click here to read the rest.

So what do you think? Is there room in the world for two Queensrÿches? The core band – Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson – are already working on the next Queensrÿche album with Parker Lundgren and Todd La Torre and have already played gigs under the Queensrÿche name, so this is probably gonna get a bit messy before it all gets resolved in court in November 2013.

Leave your thoughts below or on Facebook here.

INTERVIEW: Queensryche’s Geoff Tate

Queensryche have never done what was expected of them. They pioneered progressive metal with the legendary concept album Operation: Mindcrime but followed it up with the pop-metal blockbuster Empire. Then they followed Empire with the dark, moody Promised Land. They finally released a sequel to Operation: Mindcrime in 2006, and followed that up with American Soldier, a heavy, intense journey into to horrors of war, both physical and emotional, culled from interviews with actual returned servicemen. New album Dedicated To Chaos (Roadrunner) is a complete about-face from American Soldier, a rhythm-driven, kaleidoscopic examination of modern attention spans (or the lack thereof).

Drummer Scott Rockenfield and bass player Eddie Jackson kickstarted the direction of the album when they turned in a series of riffs and jams that were a world away from the guitar-driven darkness of American Soldier. “That’s what makes it interesting and keeps us coming back for more as musicians,” says singer Geoff Tate, down the line at 2am Melbourne time. “In fact, one of the things that drew us together years ago when we first started out was the ability for almost everyone in the band to really communicate their thoughts on music, and to share their musical influences, which are pretty vast. I think if you look at all of our record collections we probably own every record ever made! I personally own seven or eight thousand records!”

Read More …

REVIEW: Queensryche – American Soldier

Every time a new Queensryche album is released, the wider rock/metal community asks “Is it as good as Operation: Mindcrime or Empire?” To me this is kind of a futile question: Queensryche have never made the same album twice, and even when they try, as with the recent Operation: Mindcrime II, the results still stand on their own. So there are a lot of things American Soldier is not. It’s not Empire, their 1990 hard rock classic. It’s not Operation: Mindcrime, their 1988 metallic concept masterpiece. It’s not Hear In The Now Frontier, which upon its release in the mid 90s was criticised as being a cynical attempt at appropriating a grunge sound (today it holds up quite well, I might add). But surprisingly, what American Soldier is, is an album which would slip in quite nicely between Empire’s heavier moments and the moody, dark vibe of Promised Land, which happens to be my favourite Queensryche album.

Inspired by a conversation with his father, singer Geoff Tate researched the album by interviewing veterans of various wars the US has been involved in, from World War II up to the current skirmish in Iraq and Afghanistan. The result is a thoroughly researched, painfully up-close look at the experience of war, spoken through Tate’s interpretations and through snippets of the actual interview recordings. Writing about war is certainly not new to hard rock or metal, but while we’re used to bands writing something Slayeresque about battle after maybe watching Saving Private Ryan, the music and delivery of American Soldier is much more personal: you’re hearing these stories from people who actually did it, from the soldiers who actually survived it. And that’s a pretty powerful thing, even for Queensryche who are used to making strong statements.

The Jason Slater-produced (with Kelly Gray) CD opens with ‘Sliver,’ which brings to mind elements of Promised Land. A snaking unison bass/guitar riff and a huge harmonised chorus appear quite early into the song, throwing the listener deep into the thick of the album’s overall vibe almost from the very beginning. It’s no doubt designed to introduce the listener to the album musically as well as thematically, and to reassure the listener that the medium (kickass rock) won’t be overshadowed by the message. In fact there’s a great push-pull between riff-based and chord-based songs on the album.

Track two, ‘Unafraid,’ is one of the album highlights for me, and a continuation of some of the musical concepts the band attempted on its Tribe album. There are a few riffs which may remind some listeners of Dream Theater, while sole guitarist Michael Wilton lets rip with one of his best solos since the Empire days. ‘Hundred Mile Stare’ is more chordal than riffy, and again sounds kinda like something from Tribe. It’s indicative of about half the music on the album, where the music hangs back a bit to serve the telling of the story.

Perhaps my favourite song on the album from a musical perspective is the crushing ‘A Dead Man’s Words,’ which really plays up the Promised Land comparisons. The seductive middle-eastern riffs and scales play in the background while Tate layers his vocals and even throws in a saxophone solo. Parts of this song may also remind some listeners of the band’s Seattle neighbours Alice In Chains.

By the way, check out the cool harmonized solo in ‘The Killer,’ a track which is not too far removed from ‘Flood,’ the opening track of Tate’s self-titled solo album. Wilton does a great job of shifting the emphasis between the high and low harmonies in this solo, recalling Queensryche’s earlier sound and providing a moment of satisfaction for those who just wish the band would stick with its Mindcrime sound.

The single ‘If I Were King’ has thrown some listeners, but in the context and pacing of the album it works well. It may not have been my choice for first single but I can understand why it was selected: while it’s not overly indicative of the musical style of the album as a whole, it’s a good thematic introduction. And although this puts me at odds with some QR fans, I really liked their Q2K album and this track is a bit of a reminder of that sound (and it’s no coincidence, given that American Solider includes production and guitar contributions from Gray, who was with the band for Q2K). But once again, those who may be put off the album by the sound of this single needn’t worry: American Soldier is more riffy, dark and intense than this one track would indicate. 

‘If I Were King’ is followed by the powerful and very very loud ‘Man Down!’ which has a huge drum sound and a bed of evolving, churning guitars. There’s also another harmonized Wilton solo which once again recalls the Mindcrime sound without directly copying it.

In ‘Home Again,’ Tate plays the role of a father who is overseas on duty, while his 10-year-old daughter Emily Tate voices the little girl at home, missing her dad. The song is played out as letters back and forth between father and daughter, both saying pretty much the same things to each other while thousands of miles apart. I’m sure that somewhere not too far below the surface the two Tates are drawing parallels between Geoff being off on tour, and a parent being away at war. Emily’s naïve voice expresses the song’s central sentiment in a realistic and naturalistic way which cuts through in a way that perhaps a more theatrical vocalist couldn’t. Finally, American Soldier is capped off with ‘The Voice,’ which includes recordings of Tate’s own father talking about his experiences at war. Musically it’s another strong song, but thematically it’s devastating: a wounded soldier is laying wounded, thinking what may be a dialog with a higher power, or their conscience, or perhaps the distant ghost of comforting memories.

American Soldier may very well be Queensryche’s best moment since Promised Land, and the way the band is handling the marketing of the album is very sensitive and true to the message. Those looking for another Empire may be disappointed, but those with an open mind who are looking to be moved and rocked will have their heart torn by the narrative, and their butts thoroughly kicked by the music.

CLICK HERE to buy American Soldier from Amazon.com

Photos (c) Greg Watermann 

NEWS: Chris Cornell’s new CD – check out that cover

At the risk of sounding like Jerry Seinfeld, what is the deal with Chris Cornell’s new album? As you might know by now, it was produced by Timbaland and the PR machine says the album “showcases a new, seductive sound — dark, multi-layered and full of puzzles and surprises. The songs bring a new cinematic scope to Cornell’s performances, with potent visual imagery echoing the non-stop musical assault from his internationally acclaimed live band.”

Now, I have no beef with that, really… I guess. I mean, I loved Queensryche singer Geoff Tate’s solo album – freaking loved it – and the same ‘dark, multi-layered etc’ comments could be made about that CD. But my problem with Cornell’s CD is the cover. Let’s have a look at it.

Do you see what I see? Yeah, he’s smashing a left-handed Epiphone. First of all, Epiphone make fine guitars at all price points and aren’t deserving of such harsh treatment. Secondly, Cornell tends to play Fenders and Gibsons, certainly not Epiphones. Thirdly, it’s freaking left handed. This leads me to one of three conclusions:

1) They spent so much money on hiring Timbaland that the only guitar they could afford to buy and smash for the cover was a secondhand, lefthanded Epiphone from a pawn shop,

or

2) Cornell is so enraged by the negative response to the album by longtime fans that he snapped, stole some kid’s guitar and crunched it into the floor.

or

3) They bought an Epiphone for a couple hundred dollars, and whoever designed the cover thought it was more aesthetically pleasing to flip the photo, thus insulting guitarists everywhere. I dunno about you but I see it as a huge mark of disrespect when stuff like this happens. For instance, a few years ago there was a Savage Garden live DVD where the photo was flipped, turning guitarist Daniel Jones into a lefthander. Now, ain’t nothin’ wrong with being lefthanded, of course. But regardless of which way you play guitar, it’s the way you play guitar!!! GRRR!!!

CLICK HERE to buy Chris Cornell’s ‘Scream’ from Amazon.com