All Hail The Queen Of The ‘Ryche: The Rack Goes Head To Head With Queensryche
Wednesday, December 5, 2001 @ 2:56 PM
The Rack Gets Nice And Cozy Wi
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For 20 years now Seattle prog-metal vets Queensryche have been blasting out technically challenging, melodic thinking man’s hard rock that has delighted fans around the globe. I am one of those fans. I have followed this band since I started listening to heavy metal and have been a diehard fan ever since. I have never missed a single ‘Ryche concert since first being turned onto them way back when and have yet to be disappointed.
From their 1983 self-titled debut EP through their epic concept album masterpiece Operation Mindcrime (The Wall for the ‘80s metal generation, I say!) to their recently released live album onslaught, Queensryche has outlasted many of the band’s from their era and proven to anyone that’s listening that they are the real deal. Even with the departure of guitarist/songwriter Chris DeGarmo the band carried on with new axeman Kelly Gray and unleashed the awesome Q2K in 1999, laying to waste any doubts of their staying power in this age of hip hop gangstas, hip pop divas, and techno bullshit.
Now, on the eve of 2002, Queensryche have hit the road to promote their double dosage live assault, the re-release of the hard to find Operation Livecrime and the brand new Live Evolution. A gift of sorts to longtime fans, the albums give the listener more than taste of Queenryche past and present and showcase the band’s wealth of killer material. “The Lady Wore Black,” “Take Hold Of The Flame,” “Queen Of The Reich,” “Walk In The Shadows,” “Revolution Calling,” “I Don't Believe In Love,” “Eyes Of A Stranger,” “Empire,” “Silent Lucidity,” and the list goes on. All classics, all fan favorites, and every song is delivered with supreme gusto and technical proficiency by both line-ups of the band. Yes, if you’re a Queensryche devotee, this is a good year for music.
Recently, frontman extraordinaire Geoff Tate and guitar god Michael Wilton stopped by the KNAC.COM headquarters for a chat about all things ‘Ryche. We discussed the members various solo projects, the live albums, and the band’s plans for their next studio outing. The band was just kicking off a brief tour to promote Live Evolution and both guys were in great spirits and appeared to be reinvigorated by the overwhelmingly positive reactions from the fans and the press to their concerts and audio documentations.
So without further ado, ladies and gents, here’s Queensryche!!!
THE RACK: I have Geoff Tate and Michael Wilton of Queensryche in studio.
THE RACK: It is an absolute pleasure to have you guys here.
GEOFF: Thank you, the pleasure is ours
THE RACK: So first thing’s first, I heard that after the opening night of the current tour in Phoenix, Arizona, there seems to have been a major mishap that occurred that evening…
MICHAEL: Well yeah, that’s in my arena. After the show ended we went off stage and my guitar tech was on stage when this kid jumped over the rail and grabbed one of my guitars and, I guess he had a buddy up a few rows, he grabbed my guitar and threw it to him. Well, the guy didn’t catch it and it landed [on the floor]. The guy picked it up and ran out the back. Two security guards luckily saw him and chased him down. He was half way through the parking lot and they tackled him and then proceeded to detain him very forcefully. I got my guitar back but it’s cracked. It was a pretty interesting opening night.
GEOFF: Michael had a guitar that was stolen from him, how many years ago?
MICHAEL: I had an ESP. We were coming back from London and a customs guy or somebody stole my guitar, but it resurfaced five years later.
GEOFF: A collector had it and Michael actually got it back
THE RACK: Will there be more dates set up for this tour? Right now it’s pretty brief.
GEOFF: No, we’re just doing a three-week kind of thing to promote the record. We have plans to go in the studio in January to start a new Queensryche record.
THE RACK: Alright! A new Queensryche record! You guys haven’t put out anything since late ’99, which was Q2K, but you did put out the Operation Livecrime re-issue with two extra songs, “The Lady Wore Black” and “Roads to Madness,” through your old label EMI.
GEOFF: EMI is…You know they own a lot of our stuff and their plan is to keep releasing Queensryche stuff over the next few years, the Livecrime reissue is, of course, the second thing they did. They did a “best of” before that a couple of years ago. They’ve got a couple other projects in the works now and each year they’re going to release something new next year I’m sure.
THE RACK: Now you guys have a new deal with Sanctuary Records. Talk to me about how you guys got hooked up with Sanctuary.
MICHAEL: Well, we started talking with them a couple of years ago actually and then when we toured with Maiden and Halford we became sort of more inundated with them because they were always around because they handle Halford and some aspects of Maiden as well. More and more conversations were taking place and that’s how it kind of got started really. We found our selves at the end of theQ2K tour wanting to change labels and Sanctuary was able to offer us a very nice contract, so we informed Atlantic “thanks but no thanks” and left.
THE RACK: Wow, just that simple
MICHAEL: Yeah. It’s simple to describe but it takes longer for all the paperwork to get in order.
THE RACK: So you’re happy with Sanctuary Records?
MICHAEL: They’re really great and they’re really enthusiastic about Queensryche music and looking forward to the future and, gosh, that’s what you want from a record label.
THE RACK: Michael, what was it like writing for Q2K after replacing longtime guitarist Chris DeGarmo with [new guitarist] Kelly Gray? Was it different writing with another musician after all those years with Chris?
MICHAEL: Well, at first it was a band effort but Kelly and I had to get used to each other so basically I would just go over to his house and we would just jam and put riffs together. After the first bunch of songs came together, we gave them to Geoff and he started vibing on them. You know, it was a total different world for me. Chris and I had a certain bond together. I mean, he’s like a brother to me. So with Kelly it’s different. I have to get used to his style of playing. He’s a lot different than Chris and, you know, it’s a lot different recipe for Queensryche and people are digging it.
THE RACK: Are you enjoying it?
MICHAEL: Yeah, it’s a challenge. I mean, I’m playing a lot of Chris’s parts live. I’m the guy doing all the homework, all the rest of the guys just play their normal parts.
THE RACK: So, what are you going to do for the next album?
MICHAEL: We’re going to write a bunch of great hard rockin’ tunes!
THE RACK: Geoff you’re the mind behind the lyrics. Where do you see Queensryche going in the year 2002?
“It’s a kind of time for re-evaluating for us, I think, a transitional time. It’s also a time for stretching out and looking in other directions musically.” – Geoff Tate
GEOFF: I don’t really know, I’m not really contractually bound to think about that ‘till January (laughs) so I’m putting it off as long as possible. This has been a heck of a year for m, and the band as well. We got off the road after a really long tour for Q2K last September and we made plans to start working on a new record in November. November rolled around, and nobody seemed very interested in writing. December rolled around, January, February, and March (laughs). It just kind of went on and on and we haven’t come up with anything or got together and written anything, you know? We’ve all been interested in doing other side-projects and things. I know Michael has a side-project he’s working on and Scott and Kelly are off doing theirs and so I’ve done one myself. I think that we’re getting all those things out of our heads. It’s a good thing for the band at this point in our career. In January we’re slated to get back together and see if we can put together something new.
THE RACK: Michael, you have the Watershed project. Tell me about it.
MICHAEL: Well, I mean if people want to hear a demo they can go to michaelwilton.com and there’s a song they can listen to called “Arizona.” It’s kind of like between STP and Tool. I just want to hit people in the face, rather then make it multi-dimensional like Queensryche. More guitar-oriented.
THE RACK: Geoff, tell me about your side-project.
GEOFF: Well, I think a side-project is something that you do at a certain point in your career and, for us, when Chris was in the band we were operating at a really high level of communication and we were making really great music and since his departure, it’s a kind of time for re-evaluating for us, I think, a transitional time. It’s also a time for stretching out and looking in other directions musically. I think that’s what we’ve all been doing, you know? Feeling the need to go elsewhere and try things in a different way, which some people could sort of interpret as tragic and other people would say it’s just life. Life goes on. We’re all doing side projects and solo projects and mine is nearly complete. I should have it finished by the end of the year and I’m very happy with it. It’s very cool. It’s what I want to do at this point in my life and it’s been a real pleasure working with other musicians. I’ve worked 20 years with the same group of people…
THE RACK: So it’s got to be different…
GEOFF: It’s very different. I think it makes one a better musician.
MICHAEL: It really does. It really sparks a new energy.
GEOFF: It does, and it’s good because then we can all bring that new spark back into Queensryche and come up with something real interesting, which is what I think we need to do. So I’m looking at these solo projects as being a really good thing for the band, to stretch out and give us a little bit of fresh air.
THE RACK: Now, you also mentioned that both Scott [Rockenfield] and Kelly [Jackson] are both doing other things as well? Are they doing something together?
GEOFF: I believe so, yeah. Hopefully that will all work out well. It’s been a year transition for us. It sounds so simple on the outside to think, “ok, they’re all doing side projects,” but then when you are actually involved with the band and it’s kind of a breaking away thing you have to do mentally ‘cause really as a band you kind of lock yourselves into this sort of “it’s us against the world” mentality and we’ve carried that for many, many years. So this was the year of putting that aside and thinking, “Well we’ve all dedicated our lives to Queensryche for a long time and it’s about time we look in other directions for other things,” you know? Hopefully Queensryche will still be there when we all come back to it and it’ll be better.
THE RACK: And that’ll be in January when you absolutely have to sit down and start writing…
MICHAEL: Which isn’t that far away if you think about it.
THE RACK: Do you guys have your own studio? I mean, being around for 20 years I’m sure you guys have your own studio.
THE RACK: Do you prefer working in the environment of your own studio or going to a bigger studio with outside people like the earlier records? What’s the difference for you guys?
GEOFF: Money! (laughs) We did a couple of projects at Abbey Road in London, which of course is a monumental studio that the Beatles worked in, and that place has a vibe definitely. The one we did basic tracks for Mindcrime at Victory in Philadelphia and there was a definite vibe ‘cause they had ghosts and it was an old mill that has been around since the 1700s. That place has got a vibe but most of the other ones are sterile, they’re like hospitals…and expensive!
THE RACK: Do you find that some studios have that weird “studio” smell?
“People will always come out to see live shows. All through our human civilization people gather to celebrate music and to sing songs together. It’s an old tribal thing that’s ingrained in our DNA and they’ll always do it.” – Geoff Tate
GEOFF: After a few days, yeah. (laughs) We recorded in a place in Wisconsin that had those old style air condition units that used water and I swear there was Legionaires Disease floating around this place it was so nasty and mill dewy. Oh god, every day I’d go to work and I would just dread it, you know? Lung infections, tuberculosis, I don’t know, just all kinds of disgusting things floating around.
THE RACK: Scary! So you guys just came out with a brand new live album called Live Evolution that was recorded in Seattle last July. Can you tell me a little about that?
GEOFF: Actually it was kind of a spur of the moment thing. The band really has never been interested in doing live records, as you can probably tell ‘cause we haven’t released any in a long time. We had Livecrime, which came out in ’91 and that was kind of a specialty, limited edition thing. Sanctuary came up to see us play in Seattle back in June for a fan club event that we do every year and they took us out to dinner and gave us a bunch of drinks and they said, “We really want you guys to do a live record, what do you think? We have this plan and we think these songs should go on it,” and the more they talked we said, “Ok let’s do a live record.” At first we figured we would do the studio record and then go out on tour and record some shows and then do a live record but they said they were thinking about next month! So a few more drinks later and a little arm twisting and we said OK and the next day we woke up and called each other and said, “Did we agree to do a live record next month?” We were like, it’s not going to happen but it did, we got it together. It was our first working project with Sanctuary and it worked out really well. It was actually only a couple of weeks to prepare and then we did the show. They turned it around really quick I hear some people ask, “Why a live record?” And my answer is, “Why not? Why not more?”
THE RACK: Yeah! You got the Livecrime reissue and the new one. You’re right, why not more???
GEOFF: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with releasing live records, the more stuff you have out there, the better. There’s obviously people that want it and there’s a market for it. You know, I think the reason we never did an official live album before is because we just weren’t very interested in that. We’re more interested in making studio records and live is just something we do to remind people that we’re still around and to kind of capture the magic. I think the magic of a live show is the audience -- the band inspires the audience and the audience gives back to the band and it’s energy in motion. All those people gathering together in one place, all focusing on the same thing, all signing the same songs, there’s a magic that happens and it’s also a science as well and you can’t actually capture that on a recording. You feel it when your there, you feel that specialness, that magic, that energy, that focus, and that’s why live show’s are popular, that’s why people go see live shows. You could never duplicate it on video or TV or in the studio. It’s the magic of the moment and you have to be there. I remember a few years ago people were saying, “Oh, these pay per view shows are going to do away with live performances and bands wont be able to play.” I said to them, “No way, people will always come out to see live shows.” All through our human civilization people gather to celebrate music and to sing songs together. It’s an old tribal thing that’s ingrained in our DNA and they’ll always do it. So there.