Geoff Tate interview: "What's going on with Queensryche is humiliating"

17/10/2012 @ 13:18
Regardless of what’s going on in Queensryche’s camp, a chance to talk with someone like Geoff Tate is always more than welcome, as he will always be among the greatest singers of metal music and that’s something no one should ever forget.  Being recently fired by the other members of Queensryche, having a new solo record out soon and forming his own version of Queensryche, it was a perfect timing to listen to Tate’s point of view, through his deep and calm voice. He didn’t try to hide, didn’t try to avoid any questions and as you’ll find out, a lot of things that he said will be discussed.

Hi Geoff, how are you?
Oh, very well. Thank you.

It’s a real pleasure having the opportunity to talk to you. It’s the first time, since we met in 2003 on your first visit with Queensryche, here in Greece.
It was a very fun trip, the first time we came to Greece. It came at a very good time and we met a lot of great people.

I realize it must have been a turbulent year and coming out with a solo effort seems somehow like a new beginning. How are things for you Geoff?
Oh, very good. I’m very excited with the release of the new album. It comes out next month and I’m just getting ready to go out on my solo tour next week. So, I’m preparing for that, I’m rehearsing with my band and making all the travel arrangements and stuff. I had a hectic time. I had a lot of things to do and not all that time. But, I’m moving ahead. Every day, I am preparing. I’m very excited.

Geoff TateAre you satisfied with how the album came out? To be honest, I expected a different approach. What led you in this direction?
Usually, when I get to do a record I like to make lists of things that I want to try to accomplish. So, I got to think of things that I want to try to accomplish and with this record I wanted to make a very solid rock record, I wanted to be utilizing traditional rock instruments. Most because of that’s where my influences lie with rock music. I love Deep Purple, Rainbow and bands like these of course and I wanted to use the instrumentation like those bands, like my influences. So, I started writing in that way. You know… guitars, bass, drums, vocals and keyboards as the instrumentation and my inspiration. Of course, I wanted to make a record that would be very raw, very emotional. I didn’t want it to be an over rehearsed, over produced record. That defines the way of recording it, as all the players were playing and recording in one room. We sort of start with a sketch of the song and then we start recording it. But, as you hear on the record it’s an old school rock record really, with a lot of first, second and third takes. And I like that. I’ve never made a record like that you know. It’s very raw and that’s something that I like.

Well, that’s interesting. Now, when I took a look at the credits the only familiar name was that of Kelly Gray as you worked with him in the past. What was his role in the album and what did the other players contribute?
Kelly played the guitar on the album, he recorded the album and mixed it with me. Then I produced it. I have players that I have been playing a while with.  Chris Zukas plays  bass guitar and Randy Gane plays the keyboards. Now, with Randy I’ve played before, so I thought of him. Jason Ames on vocals, who has toured with Queensryche as well, as a backing vocalist and guitarist and Gregg Gilmore of Mother Love Bone plays the drums.

Geoff TateMother Love Bone was a great band. I guess you know him from the Seattle music scene…
Yeah. I’ve known Gregg for a while. I’ve met him years ago back when he played with Mother Love Bone and we’ve kept contact. I was actually at a coffee shop in Seattle when I met him and I hadn’t seen him for a long time. I asked him what he was doing and I told him “I’m putting this record together, would you want to get involved?”. So, we had that coffee, looked at the next steps and he did a very good job.

If I am not mistaken, there are two types of songs in the album. The more straight rock songs – kind of alternative – and the slower, emotional ones. I tend to like the latter a bit more and specifically the two last songs on the album. Really, which type of songs do you prefer?
Oh, I like them all. You know, when you write a song, it’s kind of a part of you. It’s a representation of where your thinking is at that certain point. Records are kind of a way to tell about things you’re going through, experiences you had and situations you’ve been thinking about a lot.

Geoff TateNow, is this solo career making you feel a little more comfortable without the brand name of Queensryche or is it the same to you? I ask you this, because my first impression was that these songs could easily be in the last Queensryche albums. It’s not that far from where Queensryche stood the last years. Am I wrong?
Well, they would be a lot different songs if Eddie, Scott and Mike were on that. First of all, the album wouldn’t be finished, for one thing. It would take another year or so to make an album. So, it would be very different. You know, I’ve been a song writer for 30 years and I’ve written more than 100 songs in my career. I’ve experimented a lot with music and with people I have worked with and really tried to push the chemistry and push into exploring different things musically. And that’s all that I am about. I am an adventurer. I like to experience different things musically. One thing that I really like about solo records is that it gives me the freedom to collaborate with different people and make the kind of record that I want. I don’t have to compromise my integrity or my imagination that much. On a solo record I can go directly where I want to go. I don’t have to… [pause]. I guess the word is “compromise” so much. I really enjoy this part, in this time of my life.

Geoff TateSo being in a band is compromising?
Very much so. Yeah. It’s compromising, but you have to play with them to feel a piece of the band. You have to pick up everybody’s influences constructively and there are kinds of music and sections of music that some people can’t even wrap their heads around and play it. So, if you have idea in your head and you want to score it, your limits on creating are what your hands can do with that. So, I think it’s good to stretch out and try different things, work with different people on what you imagine in your head.

Only today did the lyric video for “Dark Money” come out and it’s the first sample of the record. Would you say, it’s representative of the sound of the album?
Oh, I don’t know. I have no idea. I think people hear music differently. They experience it differently. Some people can see and experience an orchestra playing and they can pick out all the different instruments that are playing at one time. They can follow the melody line of the horn section without even following the rhythm structure and still identify what happens with it. Other people hear the same music and they hear it as a wall of sound. They can’t see between the instruments. Everyone hears different things. And then lyrically, of course, people experience differently as well. I’ve found that what happens with people about lyrics depends upon their interest. So, to say this, to try to encapsulate or to describe it is almost impossible if we all hear it or experience it differently. That’s why I never wanted to be a music journalist (laughs). I think it’s a very difficult job. It’s just a guy’s opinion and everybody has an opinion. It’s a difficult job.

Geoff TateWell, it may sound easy, but it’s not as easy as it seems. It may be easy for people that don’t dig deep enough in what they‘re listening to, but I guess this is not the type of fans you’ve had all these years…
Well, I’ve met thousands and thousands of fans over the years and I’ve had a lot of conversations about the lyrics and that kind of things. I think I have a pretty good idea of fans, of what I do, of what they understand and what they relate to and it’s always interesting to me to have these conversations and hear how different they all are. What people take away from music and what they listen to it, how they interpret the lyrics and that kind of things. I’ve had so many conversations about it and I love it. I love listening to people talking to the musicians about their stories and how much the music means to them. I get people coming and saying “oh, I love “Take Hold Of The Flame”, because it says this and this and this” and it’s a completely different understanding of the lyrics and what I meant. So, I think, at the end I think it comes to my earlier statement that people hear different things and experience different things with music.

Geoff TateI think you’re quite right about that. Now, could I ask a few things about Queensryche’s current status?
Yeah, sure.

Only yesterday it came to my attention that the other members are suing you over the use of the name of Queensryche, as there seem to be two Queensryche bands out there for now. As a long time fan, I can tell you that this situation only saddens me. How is the situation right now as we speak?
Oh, I completely understand. I am very sad about it too. It’s a situation that I definitely didn’t want to happen. I didn’t foresee that thing at all. It was a surprise and not a good one. It is very confusing, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why on earth would these guys break up an incredibly successful band with such a long, respected career? Why would they break this whole thing up and completely destroy the respectability of the name at this point of their career? Realistically, we are all in our 50’s – you know – and we only have about 10 years of productive work ahead of us. Why on earth would you destroy this incredibly successful group? It makes no sense! It’s bad. I don’t understand it. I wish I could explain it better, but I don’t understand the way the things have been. And, especially, I don’t understand it because it was such a surprise. You know, we never had any major differences. It was always “Yeah. Let’s do this. Let’s go. Let’s do it, let’s make this tour happen.” There was always great enthusiasm, we were very enthusiastic about the band from the beginning. But, we decided and learnt to accept that they weren’t as influent as I was. And we made it happen. It’s very confusing, it’s very sad, it’s humiliating. It’s a very difficult, awful situation.

Geoff TateWhat makes me angry is people taking sides and being very opinionative about it. You see, sometimes you can’t take sides because you don’t know what happened with people around you, how can they be so opinionative about something like that? I am not taking sides and that’s why it saddens me. I didn’t want this to happen in the first place and get this publicity. Wasn’t it possible to keep and solve it inside and not make this whole situation public, humiliating for the band, as you said?
Oh yeah. That’s exactly how I would have handled it. Absolutely! This is not something that you want to go out in to the world and have people discussing it. Exactly, for the same reasons that you mentioned. People just want to have an opinion on a situation they know nothing about. But, that’s just human nature. People tend to make such judgments; they make their judgments rather quickly, without looking into the things deeply, you know. The unfortunate thing is that the other guys didn’t come to me and say “Look, we’re very dissatisfied; we want to change things up; we want to do something different with the band”. No, there was never any discussion about that. They made it public on purpose. They made the press release and fired me illegally and when I found all these I was, as they say, playing catch up. I was trying to force the situation, trying to soften it a bit for the public. At the same time, we had all the legality stuff, you know. Honestly, it’s incredibly expensive to solve and incredibly difficult to deal with everything.

Geoff TateWell, a band is also about business. You have to split the merits and stuff. It must be difficult…
Yeah. It’s very difficult. There are two sides of it. There’s the creative side of actually making music and there’s the business side of it. Speaking of the business side of things, what they did, basically they fired me and they fired our whole team of people that we had for years, our management, people that handle different aspects of our companies and so basically they cut off all the income coming in on the organization for themselves and me. And then they cancelled all the concerts that we had booked for this year, which comes out to be hundreds of thousands of dollars that we needed as there are employees and families. And then they had no plan in place to make it work. I mean it’s like suicide. You don’t cut your income streams without a plan in place and then struggle to make things happen. It’s bad business. Again, it makes no sense. It’s like the inmates have taken over the asylum (laughs).

But you know people are confused. They read things about assaults, knives and other things that are hard to believe. Is there any truth in any of these? You said that there were no arguments…
No. There was nothing. There was no argument. No, nothing. They just took it upon themselves to fire everybody from the organization, including me. And they did it in a very ungentlemanly way. Here, we have our own employees and most of them have been working for us for more than ten or fifteen years. You’d think that if you’re going to fire somebody like that, that you’d come to them and sit them down and have a conversation about it and tell them “we’re changing things up and we really appreciate all the work you’ve done all these years, the time you were our employee and thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into this, but we’re gonna have to give you a notice for a month or two weeks or something like that, because we’re gonna restructure and hire somebody else”. Now, that would have been a civil way of handling it. But they didn’t do that. They just sent letters to everyone. It was very cold and calculated and hard feeling…

Geoff TateMaybe, not that good business wise…
Not business wise enough. Not good in a general sense of being a human being. It was horrible. That’s what people are dealing with…

Do you see a chance of getting in a room, finding a solution and bringing back the “real” Queensryche?
Well, I asked them about that, but they refused to talk this out, they refused any of my questions, they refused to sit in a room together. They are very adamant about not having any involvement. The sad thing is that the only way to handle it is legally now.

If you don’t have any other way to handle it…
You know, I would love to sit in a room. I would love to sit in a room and talk all this out and simply come to some sort of agreement, an arrangement. I’d love to put the whole thing back together and continue on. But I won’t have it and I have to deal with it.

So, you continue with your own version of Queensryche and you’ve picked up some well known musicians such us Kelly Gray that we mentioned before, along with Rudy Sarzo and Glen Drover. How did you choose these musicians?
Well… You know, when they fired me I had to file an injunction, which is a legal document, so as to come to a conclusion on Queensryche and settle our differences here. Hoping to come to a conclusion… I proposed that neither party would use the name of Queensryche. “If you want to continue on as Rising West or whatever they want to call yourselves, it’s ok, great. If you don’t use the Queensryche name, then I won’t use the Queensryche name and next year we’ll have a court date and we’ll come to a conclusion on that”. And they stopped that. They didn’t want that. As it turns out, the judge says that both parties could use the name of Queensryche for this next year and eventually let the market decide who the real Queensryche is. So, for now that I have permission to use the name, I said “well, how am I going to go about this? What do I want to do?”. And I thought “let’s put together a new band”. Then, I got a paper and a pencil and I wrote down all the people that I’d like to play with and then I just started making phone calls. A couple of guys that I really thought of, was Bobby Blotzer and Rudy Sarzo, who have been friends of mine for thirty years and we always talked about making music together and that it would be great to get a band together and that kind of thing, you know. The opportunity finally happened, I called them and they were very excited about it. Then I had a talk with Glenn Drover who I’ve met over the years and I really love his guitar playing style. I thought it might be a really cool contrast. Glenn is a very liquid, fluid player, you know. Kelly is the complete opposite. Every time he picks up a guitar he picks a fight with it. I thought the two of them would make an interesting combination guitar wise. So, we have booked dates now, that start in March and we’re going to be on tour throughout next year.

Geoff TateAre you also coming to Europe?
Yeah, we are actually planning to come to Europe. We’ll probably be there in the summer.

Is there any chance of playing in Greece?
I surely hope so. We haven’t been in Greece in a while. I’d like to be there.

If I am not mistaken, last time you’ve been here was during the tour for “Operation: Mindcrime II”…
It must have been around 2006 or 2007.

With this band are you going to perform exclusively Queensryche songs or are you going to put out new ideas and play them live?
The first thing is the tour, where we’ll be playing Queensryche and then hopefully as we’re sitting in a room playing music we will begin to come up with new material. I hope so.

Now, I want to go back to your solo album. How did you choose Inside Out? You see, I love most of the artists that are on the roster of this label and I wanted to know if you are familiar with any of these artists…
Inside Out is a really interesting record company. It has a lot of different kinds of music that I am aware of. And I know the people that hold the label and run the label all these years, they have been fans of what I do. So, it feels like a nice fit to be with them. Then I was looking over their other artists’ roster and I saw one of my all time favorite musicians is on Inside Out, Steve Hackett. Once I saw Steve Hackett was on the label I called Paul Cargano and I said “let’s do this”.

Geoff TateOne thing I’ll never forget was that the first thing you told me when we met back in 2003 was “that’s a cool band” and I was wearing a Pain Of Salvation t-shirt. I was shocked…
(laughs) I have quite a broad musical taste. I like a lot of different kinds of music and I have about 8.000 records in my collection. I like different things and I try to keep up with what’s going on…

Ok Geoff, no need to waste any more of your time. Is there anything you’d like to add to this conversation?
I’d just want say thanks to all the fans in Greece and thanks for listening to the music and I hope I’ll be there in the summer.

We hope it too. Thank you Geoff.
Thank you Chris. I really enjoyed this conversation.