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Into Sweet Oblivion: An Exclusive Interview With GEOFF TATE

By Ruben Mosqueda, Contributor
Thursday, March 25, 2021 @ 10:55 AM

"It’s pretty tough to get guys my age out of their La-Z-Boy and get them on stage!"

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Live Photos By Shot Of Brandy Photography

GEOFF TATE is no stranger to KNAC.COM readers. Of course you know his work with the mighty QUEENSRYCHE and then his solo work and his work with OPERATION:MINDCRIME after the nasty divorce, but did you know he also laid down vocals for SWEET OBLIVION? He cut a record with the band that was released in June of 2019. The self-titled album received critical acclaim, though Tate didn’t have anything to do with the writing of the material. He stepped in, cut the vocals and sent them back. Well, SWEET OBLIVION is back with a new cast of characters with Tate at the helm handling the vocals. The new album Relentless is due on April 9th, 2020 again on Frontiers Records. KNAC.COM got a chance to talk with Tate about the album amongst other things.

KNAC.COM: There’s a new crew of musicians that worked on the new SWEET OBLIVION project. I assume Frontiers lined-up the musicians for this one?

TATE: Yeah, it was something that Frontiers [Records] help put together. Aldo [Lonobile], my main writing partner on this record and I have been talking about doing something for a few years. We’d always say we’d do it when we had time. Well, the time finally came when he had time and I had time. It just worked out.

KNAC.COM: The guitarist Aldo Lonobile handled the songwriting, the production and played on the album. I don’t know how much of the songwriting he did and how much you did. Did you take some liberties with the lyrics?

TATE: I wrote lyrics for three of the songs on this album and we shared lyrical ideas on another.

KNAC.COM: When I spoke with you for the last SWEET OBLIVION album I recall that you hadn’t met the band and you did your work and sent it back. I assume with COVID in play this was the case too? Did you ever speak with Aldo or was it all done electronically?

TATE: Yeah, it was. This appears to be the way that people work these days. We work in different studios around the world and put the tracks together via the internet and file sharing. When it comes time to do the mixing, we send mixes back and forth to review. There’s something to be said about testing out the mixes in your own audio environment, in your studio. I listen to them with a little more care that way I think. Then I pick the ones I like and there you go. I think it’s a more efficient way of working and you don’t waste a lot of time traveling, sitting around talking about stuff that isn’t even pertaining to the music. [laughs] That inevitably happens! This is just very efficient and I really like it.

KNAC.COM: What was the timetable beginning to end? COVID probably facilitated this record to some extent?

TATE: Yeah, it's been a strange year. I’m trying to remember when we started it. It was sometime in 2020, of course. Thinking back right now, it was right after the first of the year. I didn’t seriously start working on the album until about April of 2020. It has been finished for a long time. I handed over all my files in about September and we began to mix it. I remember that because I was in Ireland, when I was writing the album.

KNAC.COM: What was it like to be sitting on an album for a bit? It was completed last fall and now you wait.

TATE: Yeah, it was about waiting things out. I had been touring at the beginning of 2020 for the Empire 30th Anniversary Tour. We were performing the entire Empire top to bottom and the entire Rage For Order album top to bottom. That was going over great! We had done multiple dates in Europe. We made it to the U.S. until sometime in March before things started getting shut down. I think our last show was in Atlanta before we were pulled off the road. Everything from then forward was postponed, but it looks like we will be able to go back to the U.K. in May. Once we get going in May, I’ll be booked through Christmas of ‘23. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me! [bursts into laughter] It will be nice, but I will be honest with you, I am getting used to being at home and doing things around the house. I’ve really gotten into it! I’m just never here! [laughs] I might have spent 28 days at home in 2019.

KNAC.COM: You have been making a stop in Portland [Oregon] since you launched OPERATION:MINDCRIME. I was looking forward to seeing the Empire and Rage sets but COVID didn’t allow it. I am excited that you’ll be playing in May about 8 minutes from my house. I hope it happens.

TATE: Oh yeah, The Dalles?

KNAC.COM: That’s wine country man!

TATE: [laughs] I know! I’m looking forward to it! It’s happening I just signed the contract this morning! I’ve never been to The Dalles, so I’m looking forward to it. I like seeing new places so I’m sure it’s going to be a treat for me.

KNAC.COM: Would you even insert any of the SWEET OBLIVION material into your solo set?

TATE: [pause] Perhaps! I don’t know. I think if we do another one, then I would have to start seriously considering it. There is talk at the moment about us getting together to do another next year. I have thought about doing something after this tour to represent those records, but right now since I’m booked until Christmas of ‘23 there’s not much I can do! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Do you foresee SWEET OBLIVION ever performing the material from the two albums live in the near future? You are very active in Europe and Aldo is there. It would make sense, no?

TATE: We haven’t talked seriously about that. I think it’s because Aldo knows my schedule, it’s very intense. When the time comes, I’d love to do it, but right now that is just so far off in the future. I can’t think that far out, yet! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: You performed at the Everett Theatre on February 13th. How long was that in the working stages before it was announced? Did you run into any roadblocks to make that happen? I remember the person in the audience doing that indian warrior cry. You had some fun with that.

TATE: That’s right! [laughs] There were so few people there. I’ll tell you, it was an interesting scenario. We booked the show, but we could only sell 200 tickets. It’s the law. I’m excited about it. The band is excited about it. The night before the show Seattle got hit with this big snow storm. The snow just came down. There was like 8-10 inches of snow! [laughs] You get 3 inches of snow in Seattle and people lose their minds! [laughs] It became an incredible problem to get to the show on show day, even for us! I barely made it to the show myself! We were snowed in at the house and we live at the top of a big hill. We had to have people come get us in four wheel drive vehicles with chains on. A lot of the people of the 200 that bought tickets weren’t able to make it. They had to stay home, so we gave them livestream links instead. It was ‘problematic’, the whole thing was ‘problematic’ due to the weather. We had a good time and the people that made it out had a really good time. There must have been like 50 people that were able to brave the weather and make it out to the show.

KNAC.COM: How long had that show been in the works?

TATE: Not long at all. We have a show booked for like May 28th at that same theatre, which will be a full ‘electric’ show. My wife and I were driving around and she said that Curtis asked if we wanted to stop by and check out the theatre. So we stopped by, I had never been in that venue before. So he showed us around, he mentioned that the state had lifted the ban on live performances and mentioned that everyone had canceled their performances there. My wife being a business woman opportunist quickly offered to play! [laughs] This was like the week before! Can you believe that?! [laughs] She and he cut a deal right then and there and they made it happen!

KNAC.COM: The feedback was great for that performance. The guys you had onstage, will that be the band going forward?

TATE: Yes. Well, except for the bass player. Our main bass player is based in Europe and he couldn’t get over here for the show we just did. We had a fellow who sat in and who has played with me many times before. He will be with us if you make it to the show in The Dalles.

KNAC.COM: Does having a young band keep things fresh for you?

TATE: What I look for is enthusiasm and people that are dedicated...people that live and breathe rock ‘n’ roll. Gosh, I’m 62...all of my peers are my age or older! [laughs] It’s pretty tough to get guys my age out of their La-Z-Boy and get them on stage! [laughs] I like having a young band. I like a guy that got out there and just goes for it! [laughs] Kieran [Robertson] my guitar player and Jack [Ross] my bass player, they live and breathe this stuff! They are into the music, they are into performing and they are into traveling. They’ll drive all night just to get to the show themselves. I really admire that kind of an attitude.

KNAC.COM: Kieran has this ‘rock ‘n’ roll pirate’ look to him. Great stage presence, great performer.

TATE: [laughs] That really is his personality too! [laughs] He’s a Scotch drinkin’, guitar playin’ guy! [laughs] He lives the lifestyle! He is a guy that you can count on. He's not a flaky kind of person. He’s the guy that I can count on to be there to do what I need to have done. He’s a great player! He’s a great songwriter too! We have been working on writing songs together and he’s fantastic!

KNAC.COM: Going forward will you still use the OPERATION:MINDCRIME name or will you be using GEOFF TATE? I ask because you wrapped up the trilogy albums and you did a fair amount of touring performing the Operation:Mindcrime album.

TATE: I haven’t thought about it. I spend 4-5 days in the studio writing. I have hundreds and hundreds of pieces of music. Some are finished pieces, some are not. I have to decide where to put them. I can put them in a number of different places and these days, there’s such an emphasis on ‘individual’ tracks, as in putting them out individually, rather than on an album. Albums are a thing of the past, along with record companies and things that we grew up with. The world has really changed a lot. I have been exploring different ways to get my music out. I haven’t come up with any actual conclusion on it as of yet, but when I do I’ll let you know Ruben! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: You’ll be doing some touring starting this spring. What kind of precautions will you be taking as you roll out more and more dates as the year progresses?

TATE: I did some shows in Florida in December of 2020. I did a couple of shows in New Hampshire. Every state has different rules and different regulations. Some venues like the venue in Florida put in a ‘state of the art’ ventilation system in the venue. Both states that ‘mandated’ social distancing, so many people per so many feet away. We had to follow that, which I’m more than happy to do. I think all of the people that made it out to the shows in those states were happy to follow the rules. People want to go see live music, they don’t want to hurt each other. I think the tide is really turning on COVID, we’re starting to see a lot of return to ‘normal’ over the past few weeks. Or should I say, return to a ‘new normal’. I’m looking forward to getting out there and I think most people are ready to start going to shows, no matter what precautions need to be taken. It’s time to put the vaccine to the test. I would have been vaccinated already but the snow storm led to the postponement of my vaccination! [laughs] So, now I’m on for next week. It sounds like a lot of countries aren’t going to allow you in until you have shown them that you’ve been vaccinated. In my business, as you know, we have to travel.

KNAC.COM: How much has COVID changed how you plan on interacting with fans?

TATE: I remember back in the day, we used to show up in a room and people used to mingle around us. We’d take pictures with the fans and sign stuff. We’d have conversations with people. That got to be very problematic, so then we started standing or sitting behind a table. We’d have groups of people come in to meet the band and then that got to be problematic. We had to limit it to smaller groups of people, then less meet and greet groups of people. It’s very difficult to orchestrate that kind of thing. Having said that, I think it’s also very important to do it. We’ll try to continue and we’ll see how long we can continue making those happen. I think it’s important for people to remember that there will be new rules and new ways of doing things that we’re all going to have to learn. It’s probably not going to be the same as it was.

KNAC.COM: What’s a couple new things that you’ve tried during the pandemic?

TATE: [laughs] I ‘perfected’ my ability to mix cocktails! [laughs] I’ve never been a cocktail drinker at all. For some reason in the summer of 2020, I really got into it! [laughs] It has become a ‘thing’ for me. This past Christmas I even got a bartender’s equipment kit from my kids! [laughs] So, I can mix drinks ‘somewhat’ professionally now! [laughs] I remodeled my house! That was new for me. I added to my home studio. I had this warehouse where I used to have a lot of stage used equipment and stage clothes, you name it and it was in the warehouse. I got rid of the warehouse and I organized everything. I downsized, I sold the stuff that I didn’t need and stored the stuff I wanted to keep. So, maybe that’s it. You could say that I ‘lightened’ my life quite a bit.

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