Life's A Beach: An Exclusive Conversation With TODD LA TORRE Of QUEENSRYCHE

By Travis Failey, Planet Earth Contributor
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 12:42 AM

"The people that think that I'm doing a great job, sometimes I think they think I'm better than I am. But that's because I'm just ultra critical of what I do, and I know that there's always room for improvement."

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Live Photos By Travis Failey

It's been 4 years since I last did an interview with the new lead singer of QUEENSRYCHE, Todd La Torre. Now with two albums and multiple worldwide tours under his belt, we sat down with Todd once again to discuss many topics including the upcoming 3rd release and potential tourmates, the passing of Malcolm Young of AC/DC, the musical moment that changed his life, Lzzy Hale & Geoff Tate.

KNAC.COM: This is Travis Failey with KNAC.COM - The Loudest Dot Com on the Planet. We're hanging out today with QUEENSRYCHE’s lead singer Todd La Torre at the beautiful TradeWinds Resort, getting ready for their performance tonight on the beach. It's gonna be fantastic.

LA TORRE: And it's home for both of us.

KNAC.COM: Yes, it is. You've performed in front of tens of thousands if not, close to 100,000 at some European festivals. When you come back home to do a show, is there more pressure for you?

LA TORRE: It's easier to sing in front of strangers. Tonight there's gonna be just so many people that I grew up with and went to school with, and people that have known my family, and just there are so many people that you know that are coming. And it's a great feeling that they come out and support you and the band and all that, but it's a little...I don't ever get nervous before a show, but I would say that there's a little more anxiety just because you wanna really perform your best. I mean, you do always, but when you're staring out and you know so many people that are in the audience, it makes it a little bit different. Hometown shows, I think for anyone, are more hectic.

KNAC.COM: Sure. When you do a home show, do you get contacted by a lot of old associates that you don't expect to get contacted by?


KNAC.COM: And how do you handle that now that you are one of the more successful people from this area without coming off being conceited?

LA TORRE: When people say, "Hey, man, we're gonna come out and see you," you know, that's great. When people ask for free tickets and stuff that you haven't, you know, you haven't talked to them in years and then they come out of the woodwork, then you're like, you know, on the one hand you're like, "Wow, maybe it's a chance just to reconnect with somebody because you lost touch." On the other hand, you know, you wanna try to decipher people that are just wanting free stuff.

KNAC.COM: Sure, absolutely.

LA TORRE: Like any business I guess.

KNAC.COM: I really wanted to congratulate you not just for your success with QUEENSRYCHE and the band as a whole, but for the previous release in Condition Human, it was my top album of that year.

LA TORRE: Wow, thank you.

KNAC.COM: And not just me, but many others. Are you feeling pressure to come up with the follow-up?

LA TORRE: It's an honest question, and I think an honest answer would be, yeah. You know, I think everyone wants to...if the last record was received well, certainly you want to equal that or exceed it. And so, you know, you just never know what you're gonna end up with until you're really kind of done recording.

KNAC.COM: Now, are you guys working once again with Chris Harris in Washington?

LA TORRE: Yeah. So we just spent about 10 days doing pre-production. We had about 30 song ideas. Some of them were fairly completed, some were completed, others were just ideas. And so we've narrowed things down to about 13 songs right now. So if we have 10 to 12 songs on the record that are super solid, we'll be happy with that. But yeah, we're working with Chris, and he's done a great job.

You know, after you've been sitting on songs a long time, you just kinda feel like you've taken as far as you can. Sometimes you're burned out on the material and it needs that fresh ear to come in and help orchestrate things and find a better arrangement, and what's great about it, what's not, so.

KNAC.COM: Where are you guys getting your lyrical inspirations from?

LA TORRE: I mean, a lot of the stuff on this, I think, just has to do with again, the political spectrum and just what's going on in the world. And QUEENSRYCHE always injected those kinds of topics in their content. And so a lot of it has to do with just what's going on socially and politically, and globally and these subjects are timeless. So, if you listen to songs from the '60s that have to do with social discourse and stuff like that, it still applies today.

KNAC.COM: Who makes the final decision on what gets put on the record? Is it the record studio, or the company, or is it the band as a whole?

LA TORRE: No, we do. I mean, the record label, this is our third album with Century Media, and they've never told us, "Take that song off because we don't like that." They just let QUEENSRYCHE do what it does. And so, we're the ones along with our producer that decide what goes on the record.

KNAC.COM: Last year we covered you at The Cuban Club in Tampa with ARMORED SAINT. What a combination, just a powerhouse…

LA TORRE: Insane.

KNAC.COM: duo, It was an amazing performance that you guys put on. Any potential tour mates that you guys have in your head that you wanna go out with?

LA TORRE: That's a good question. I mean, we had a blast touring with ARMORED SAINT. Everyone in the band is so cool, and I'm a huge fan of John Bush and his voice and, you know, but everyone in the band was just so solid and strong and, you know, they're a hard act to follow. You know, they're tough to come out after that.

KNAC.COM: John is a powerhouse vocalist.

LA TORRE: So ridiculously. I've never had a louder singer. I mean, the guy is just full bore that whole time, and even warming up, you know, our dressing rooms are adjacent, and I would hear him singing full blast, and I would say, "How do you…" like, "Wow." Like, I don't do any of that, you know? But anyway, they were a blast to go out with. We would love to tour with them again. You know, it would be great if we got picked up on another huge tour as a support act for IRON MAIDEN, for example, would be great. We were hoping to get the JUDAS PRIEST tour, but they're going out, and I think they just did a run with…or they're gonna do a run with SAXON and I don't remember who else but we saw that I think IRON MAIDEN was taking out a couple of bands and doing some stuff. We did the SCORPIONS tour, and that was a really great experience for us playing arenas and whatnot.

So if we can get on an IRON MAIDEN tour or something like that of that magnitude, that would be really stellar for the band. But the band has played with everyone, and so as long as it's a good package, we'll tour with...There are so many bands we would enjoy touring with. METAL CHURCH would be great to tour with. We're good friends with those guys and they're different, but I think we still share the same fan base, instead of having two bands that sound so much alike. They're different from us, and so, I think that a band like that would be great. You know, FATES WARNING. Even doing a DREAM THEATER tour again would be great. So there's a handful of bands that we would love to go out with, but just to be out there playing and still working, and doing it, you know, we're thankful.

KNAC.COM: So when did you really feel like a full-fledged member of QUEENSRYCHE?

LA TORRE: After the first record, you know...

KNAC.COM: They really brought you in and made you feel at home?

LA TORRE: Yeah, I mean, during that whole process I was just totally equal as a writing partner and they let me write the lyrics I wanted, sang the way I sang. They really embraced me and treated me like an equal from the get-go, but I would say after the first album is when I felt like, "Okay, I've done something that nobody can take away. This is the beginning of something that I hope can continue and it has. So from the beginning they've embraced me as an equal, but I would say after the first record is when I felt a lot more solidified in the band.

KNAC.COM: Now, last year, at The Cuban Club we had a jackass in the crowd screaming for Geoff. Are you finally seeing and hearing less of that?

LA TORRE: Yeah, I mean, you're always gonna have some jackoff that wants to flip you the bird, whatever, you know.

KNAC.COM: All they have to do is listen to you to live...

LA TORRE: Well, people like that don't wanna listen but...

KNAC.COM: Haters are gonna hate, right?

LA TORRE: That's super rare to have somebody just be like that or people are there because they wanna be there, so it's very few and far between that anything like that happens.

KNAC.COM: It seems like both parties have gone their separate ways, and are in a positive space. You had an opportunity to talk with Geoff at a festival, and it seems like from everything that I've read, especially from his part, he seems to accept where both bands are at this point.

LA TORRE: Yeah, I mean, the band is successful with this lineup. This will be my third album with the band. We're doing good business and there's no need to go backward so...

KNAC.COM: Absolutely.

LA TORRE: The band is doing great and it's the way it's gonna be.

KNAC.COM: The fans have taken you in, and now see you as the right singer for this band.

LA TORRE: I hope the people feel that way and, again, I would never diminish or take away the legacy of the band before I joined. But people change, music changes, people's attitudes and feelings towards types of music change, and me being in this band gives them free reign to do the heavy and the hard stuff that just was lacking.

KNAC.COM: And the songwriting.

LA TORRE: Yeah, yeah.

KNAC.COM: The songwriting tailed off considerably over the last few albums, and I don't wanna keep pressing you on this.

LA TORRE: No, no, no. Well, it just is what it is. I mean, I'm not…You know, right, wrong, or indifferent, QUEENSRYCHE has a certain style and sound, and can stray from the heavy stuff. It's never been like a heavy metal kind of a thing. It has elements of all of these styles but, we're having a great time in doing the stuff and the back catalog requires...it's vocally demanding, and so far I've been able to maintain all that. I have a lot of fun doing it and if people can appreciate that, and embrace it, and they hear those songs playing that they love with the new material as well, then, everything is going well.

KNAC.COM: Well, it's amazing what you guys are incorporating into the set these days, from the EP to tracks off of Promised Land and also Condition Human.

LA TORRE: We get a lot of requests to play more new stuff. Next year we're going to be reworking the entire set. You're gonna have those core songs that are never gonna leave the set. It's just the way it is, but we're gonna be playing other stuff from Condition Human that we haven't played. And then, picking some other songs off of the old catalog that have not been played. So, we're gonna be changing the setup again and it's time, after the holidays and we're gonna be working on the record, and then come January we'll be ready to unveil some other songs in the set.

KNAC.COM: When did you get your QUEENSRYCHE tattoo? I know you were a fan prior to getting the gig.

LA TORRE: I got that after the first record I did with the band. I figured that was my stripes, okay?

KNAC.COM: Being a fan of the band before joining, do you look at yourself and go, "Wow, I'm in this spot." I mean, you have to sort of, like, "Is this reality?"

LA TORRE: There are those moments where you go, "Wow, is this for real? Is this actually real?" because this doesn't happen to me.

I saw QUEENSRYCHE at the Bayfront Arena years ago, and then I met them when I was about…I think it was like 17, 18, and they signed The Warning CD that I had. So, yeah, I've been a huge fan of the band's music.

KNAC.COM: You were known in this area for being a high-level drummer prior to becoming the singer in QUEENSRYCHE.

LA TORRE: Yeah, I mean, people knew me as a drummer in this area because that was what I did, but I still think, sometimes I think to myself, "Boy, I've got everybody fooled." You know, I'm not that good. Am I that good to sing for this band? But then there are times where I hear things and I go, "You know, that's worthy, that's solid." And I'm very grounded and I think people think I'm better. The people that think that I'm doing a great job, sometimes I think they think I'm better than I am. But that's because I'm just ultra critical of what I do, and I know that there's always room for improvement. And also, I'm not the previous singer. I mean, that's not my voice. I have a lot of similar voicings, but it still somebody else's voice. And so that was a lot of stuff that was influential to me. And so, naturally, I gravitated toward that because, anatomically, I mean, I'm a baritone. I can hit the higher notes but a lot of those things that felt natural to me were the songs of QUEENSRYCHE. And maybe that's why it works because there are some singers that can sing the notes, but they don't have the resonance or the bass of their voice to carry certain aspects of the vocal delivery.

KNAC.COM: Did you take lessons? I mean, do you have a vocal instructor, or have you had a vocal instructor? Most of the vocalists that have your range have had operatic training at some point.

LA TORRE: No, I went to a guy named Al Cohen.

KNAC.COM: Sure, Al is very familiar in this area.

LA TORRE: Yeah. So he passed away a few years ago I think, but I went to him for about four sessions, and it was right before I went on the CRIMSON GLORY tour in Europe. And just more of an evaluation, what am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? He showed me where my weaknesses were and where my strengths were. But I don't have a vocal teacher. I'm self-taught, I guess you would say.

KNAC.COM: Well, you've done a damn good job.

LA TORRE: Thank you very much. Just try to learn your own voice and see what works and what doesn't. After a show, I'm never like, "My voice doesn't hurt, I could sing more." So that was a good indicator that I was, from a technique perspective, I was doing something that was better than just, blowing out my throat.

KNAC.COM: Todd, who do you hang out with predominantly on the road?

LA TORRE: That's a good question. I mean, Casey who's been drumming with us. You know, Scott has been out on paternity leave and whatnot, so Casey has been doing an amazing job. And, so he and I will usually always go have dinner together.

KNAC.COM: It's a drumming thing, isn't it?

LA TORRE: I guess so, and he lives here in Tampa, but, you know, hanging out with everyone, but probably more…I think I hang out with Casey the most. Michael, we all try to go have dinner, but we all like our space. So when we're at a hotel or something, we're kind of eating dinner and then we'll kind of vanish and go to our rooms and just kind of relax. But, I mean, I hang out with all the guys, but I would say Casey and Michael and Eddie, Parker is usually out.

KNAC.COM: Parker looks like he might have some wild child in him...

LA TORRE: Parker has got a wild side, and I'm not that. So for me, I don't wanna go out late and talk all night. It's bad for my voice, and I don't drink. So I'm not out at a bar. He's kind of our ambassador, he likes to go out and talk to people and he's super nice. He's one of the nicest guys you can ever know, and he's also younger.

KNAC.COM: You've collaborated with Glen Drover and sang with STRYPER on stage. Is there any band or individual that you'd like to collaborate with outside of QUEENSRYCHE?

LA TORRE: I would love to...I mean, this is bucket list shit here. It would be great if I could do something with Dickinson or Rob Halford. Those would be my two top bucket list stuff, so, yeah.

KNAC.COM: Unfortunately, Malcolm Young from AC/DC passed away today.


KNAC.COM: Were you a huge AC/DC fan?

LA TORRE: I got High Voltage on cassette when I was a kid, and I remember listening to that tape. I've always appreciated and enjoyed their music and I read that this morning. It was like super, like bummed out, and I wasn't expecting to read that today. That's a devastating loss for the band, for those guys and their families and music. It's a tragedy and you hate to see...these are legends and they're dropping like flies it seems.

KNAC.COM: Absolutely. Any possible incorporation of an AC/DC song into the set tonight?

LA TORRE: No, no, we're not gonna do that but I might say something about it, but no, we're just gonna play our music tonight. I'm sure a lot of bands will be in honor of him and AC/DC.

KNAC.COM: Who are some of your favorite female vocalists that are out there right now in the industry?

LA TORRE: Oh, you got me with that "right now".

KNAC.COM: Let's take it back then. I mean, throughout your musical career?

LA TORRE: I'm a huge fan of HEART and Stevie Nicks. I love their voices. Veronica Freeman is a great metal female singer, and she's got this grit and this power sound to her voice that I really love. And Angela Gossow, a previous singer from ARCH ENEMY. She's a totally different style, but just sounded so great in that style. Gosh, there are so many great singers.

KNAC.COM: HALESTORM will be going out on tour next year. I'd love to see you guys go out with them.

LA TORRE: Yeah, Lzzy’s voice is spectacular. I've never met her before.

KNAC.COM: I'd love to see a Todd La Torre, Lzzy Hale duet.

LA TORRE: Set it up.

KNAC.COM: Do you remember that metal or hard rock song or moment that changed your life or the way you looked at music?


KNAC.COM: What was that?

LA TORRE: "Can I Play With Madness" KNAC.COM: Really?

LA TORRE: Yeah. The first time I heard that song…I mean, there are certain songs from different bands. DOKKEN. I was a huge DOKKEN and RATT fan, and I still am. And STRYPER. But when I heard Bruce Dickinson and I came late, obviously, late on to the IRON MAIDEN scene. I was like 14. But when I heard that song off Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, it changed my life. And that was immediately when I gravitated toward this vocal styling. It was, yeah, forever changed.

KNAC.COM: It was also MAIDEN for me with the “Trooper” from Live After Death.

LA TORRE: Yeah, yeah, you remember those moments.

KNAC.COM: Other than QUEENSRYCHE and your other musical interests, What do you do in Todd La Torre's downtime?

LA TORRE: Workin' on my house. Right now I'm painting my house. I got to paint my garage. I'm ripping out the driveway and putting a new driveway in, and I got landscaping guys to come in to do a bunch of stuff. I like working around the house. I'm a homebody. My wife and I and our dog, we hang out, and my mom lives here so try to spend time with my mom and my sister.

KNAC.COM: Will they be at the show tonight?

LA TORRE: My sister will be here and my wife will be here. Mom is gonna...she's not gonna come out tonight, but she's flown out. She loves the casinos, so when we have the show in Vegas, or, you know, this or that, she'll come and check out the show, and she's like, amazingly supportive of what I'm doing with the band.

KNAC.COM: Any chance for a Todd La Torre book somewhere in the future?

LA TORRE: Wow, I don't know. I've got a lot of stuff to tell, a lot of things in my head of personal tragedies and successes. It's like I don't wanna think that my story is unique or everyone has a special life and set of circumstances that are disturbing and beautiful at the same time. It's something that I've thought about, but I've wondered, how would I, what would be the premise that I was able to achieve this in the music industry in my late 30s? And that back then you thought, "Well, if you didn't make it by your 20s, like, you're done." And that's not true. Not in this genre especially.

KNAC.COM: Well one of the special things about your story is the fact that you're able to align yourself with this band, a more mature band, and at a mature time for yourself.

LA TORRE: Absolutely. I sure wish I was in the band in the heyday, but I wouldn't have been as good, and my life probably wouldn't have been ready for that, and everything happens for a reason. It's something that I've thought about. I just don't know how I would wanna put it together, and what the message would be, or the point would be. There's a part of you that you would want people to know about you so that you feel like they understand you better, and then there's another part of you that says...

KNAC.COM: Why be so transparent?

LA TORRE: Exactly. There's another part of me that goes, "I don't know that I want everybody to know everything about me."

KNAC.COM: Well, and then that leads to people nitpicking.

LA TORRE: Of course.

KNAC.COM: And then you get your internet keyboard tough guys on social media hating to try and make themselves feel better about themselves.

LA TORRE: I've got a lot of demons in my closet that I try to deal with, and from personal experience and tragedy. I had an uncle that was murdered, my dad committed suicide, lots of things, you know?

KNAC.COM: Well, it seems like you'll have a lot of time on the road if you did decide at some point to jot stuff down and revisit.

LA TORRE: Yeah, if I had somebody that wanted to work with me and really put this together, it would be something I would be open to discussing but again, there's a part of me that I'm not a spotlight person in my normal life. I'm just not.

KNAC.COM: Well, like you said, you're a homebody.

LA TORRE: I'm a regular guy like everybody else. I'm just on the stage. I'm just me.

KNAC.COM: And that's Todd La Torre from QUEENSRYCHE. I know you gotta get ready for sound check and get ready to put on another fantastic performance as the lead singer.

LA TORRE: Thank you.


LA TORRE: Yeah, nice to see you again.

KNAC.COM: Absolutely.

LA TORRE: And I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

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