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Kerby's Exclusive Interview With Queensryche Vocalist Geoff Tate

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Wednesday, August 3, 2005 @ 9:56 AM

"I Call No Man My Superior": K

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Sometime in early 2006 Queensryche will release the sequel to their Ď88 masterpiece Operation: Mindcrime. The band has prepared for the creation of this album in part by touring its predecessor around the country in its entirety. This theatrical presentation turned out to be a more than favorable endeavor in the mind of most fans and also served to get the band reacquainted with a work created seemingly so long ago during a time that runs in many ways parallel to this one politically as well as socially. Regardless of how each and every metal fan may view the storyline of the original Mindcrime, what canít be denied is that Operation was a politically charged record exposing many of the hypocrisies of the time whether it be addressing money grubbing televangelists or the horrors of social isolation. Tate has gone on record numerous times stating that the protagonist of this tale isnít/wasnít him and that the lyrics simply reflected the feelings or dialogue of the personalities involved. What is interesting about that statement is that while most listeners would probably admit that the lead character, Nikki, was dysfunctional in many ways and that his life isnít to be emulated, it would be foolish to believe that the vast majority of listeners and record buyers who loved OM didnít in some way identify with Nikki on a myriad of levels--the fact is that he represented where many young people were at during that period--granted, that didnít mean there were thousands of teenagers going out in search of priests to kill, but songs like ďI Donít Believe In LoveĒ undeniably struck a chord. How an addendum to this story translates to this same grouping of people close to twenty years later remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the band has gone on the road with metal icons Judas Priest performing a set that draws heavily from seminal QR offerings such as the E.P., Warning and Rage For Order. While many in the audience appeared to be ecstatic about hearing the old favorites, it is easy to sense that Geoff Tate has no interest in nostalgia without progression attached to it in some form, and the vocalistís comparison of the old songs to a young studentís artwork may catch many by surprise--it shouldnít though. For better or for worse in the mind of the average metal fan, it has become obvious that the bandís sound has continued to evolve into various forms over the course of its career. Even though Mindcrime II promises an update of the original storyline, donít expect a carbon copy of the predecessor musically. Besides playing selections the Ryche hasnít performed in literally ages, Tate also took time during their opening set to express his gratitude towards those military personnel serving and putting their lives in peril overseas. If you read this interview believing anything other than the fact that Geoff Tate is a concerned, freedom loving American, then you just donít get it, then thatís ultimately your problem--not his.

Time may eventually tell whether updating a record over fifteen years old is a prudent decision musically, but any true commitment to expressing oneself in a public forum of any form during these times of mass cookie cutter mentality should always be commended.

KNAC.COM: When the band started rehearsing and putting together the set list for the Priest tour, did the process of playing the older songs put you back in a certain mindset or maybe put you in a different place just by virtue of performing them again?
TATE: Well the reason we havenít played a lot of these older songs is that weÖ have kind of grown up. Itís kind of like when we pull out some of those older songs, itís like going back to elementary school. It can be sort of like trying to wrap your head around the artwork you did in grade school--we had to kind of take a couple of steps back and see what all of that was about.

KNAC.COM: That would have to be more true lyrically that musically, right?
TATE: Oh no--itís both.

KNAC.COM: Really? Youíd say it was equal?
TATE: Yeah, you know. I think so. The stuff that we did early on was very heavily influenced by other bands at the time, and we were a bit derivative. There isnít anything really Queensryche about a lot of that stuff. I guess our melodies and the way we phrased certain things and some of the note changes might have been, but a lot of our techniques were very influenced by Maiden, Priest and that era--basically British heavy metal. I guess playing those songs does serve to take us back to our influences a bit, and here we are playing with one of them, so it is kind of ironic.

KNAC.COM: Has there been any recording going on for Mindcrime II this summer while youíve been on the road?
TATE: Weíre just sort of at the beginning of the recording phase right now. We are going to launch the guitars when we get off this tour, and the vocals after that.

KNAC.COM: Is there still a super tentative January release date followed by a big summer excursion?
TATE: Yeah, but it looks like weíre going to be hitting Europe before we end up back in the States.

KNAC.COM: One time, during one of our interviews, you said that youíd be interested in doing a live show that would include both Mindcrimes in their entirety--is that still going to be possible?
TATE: UhÖno. I might be proved wrong, and like I said, weíre really in the early stages of recording, but I do know that from a time standpoint the new record is going to be about fifteen minutes longer than Mindcrime --right now we are sitting right at 70 minutes.

KNAC.COM: How satisfying was it to perform the theatrical version of Mindcrime during the last tour? Were the results ultimately what you had hoped for?
TATE: Well, part of the exercise of resurrecting and performing that album was to sort of get us to sort of become familiar with it again and sort of understand it, so that it might influence us when writing the sequel to it. It was kind of a ďget to know youĒ time. We were revisiting the story and the headspace for the story--for me at least. For the other guys it is kind of a whole different can of worms--they donít really think like I do. [Laughs] When we were conjuring up a stage show, it was interesting to think about how to present it in a way that was different for the fans--sort of done in way we hadnít done before. I think that if the fans had seen it in the same way they had in Ď90 or so, it would have been a letdown because that was basically just us playing our instruments on a big stage with a couple of television screens behind us. By todayís standards we felt like we had to amp it up a bit and make it unique.

KNAC.COM: Donít you have to have a certain expectation about your fans to even attempt a sequel to the record that in many ways has defined what Queensryche has been? Wouldnít the audience have to want to evolve from that point in order to make this successful?
TATE: Youíre getting into a really big can of worms. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: In fact those were the exact words I was going to use when I was going to ask you how many times a day you go, ďMan, I have really opened up a big can of worms here with this new Mindcrime thing.Ē
TATE: Oh, I never think that.

KNAC.COM: Never?
TATE: No, not with the record. Any time you take into account the expectations of people, you are taking a wrong turn. I refuse to go down that path. I have taken it before in my life, and there is no end to the problems and issues that brings up. I want to live my life with no feeling of regret. What I have tried to do with my art is to act upon what moves me. If people like it or they donít, I donít give a shit about that. It isnít for them--itís for me. In that respect it is completely selfish, but thatís self expression. That is how Iíve lived my life, and it has worked.

KNAC.COM: In your defense, in order for anything to be truly authentic, you would have to be focused and committed to the idea of your project rather than replicating a preexisting movement or merely copying a work that youíve already produced.
TATE: Yeah, I donít think anyone could be successful operating that way because youíre constantly chasing public opinion which is so damn fickle. Itís like youíre constantly chasing a tail thatís wagging in front of you. I just donít even think that way. It isnít like weíre trying to capitalize on the original Operation Mindcrime either. If we were going to do that, we would have picked a more successful album. Weíre just looking to extend the story because it was left open ended. The timing just seems right to revisit the story now and tell the tale because the times weíre in now are so similar. The time the original Mindcrime was written was so similar to now--itís really weird. We have Bush in power now along with the conservative, religious right that are limiting freedoms for Americans. We are invested in a no win war overseas that we are putting millions and millions of dollars into while running up an enormous deficit. We are all back in debt again, and these similarities are so ironic that it would almost be a crime not to explore the idea again. In our minds it is time to do that. This record is really a continuation that takes place eighteen years later, and we drop in on Nikkiís life and see what he has become.

KNAC.COM: I know you have been bandying around this idea of having a sequel to Mindcrime for awhile, and I also know you want to express yourself with this, but did you become more committed after this Novemberís election or instead were you discouraged by the results?
TATE: Well, Iím not really out to change anything or any personís mind with this album. Itís more of a study of the human condition or a study of power--a kind of cause and effect. Regarding the election though, I donít think that at any given time in my life have I been so disappointed as in this one. I have never been so puzzled by the supposed polarization of the public--actually, I donít necessarily even believe there is a polarization of the public. I donít think the election was an honest election--why should it have been any different than the last one? I think the Bushís are just an incredibly powerful family, and their power extends back through American history. They have so much wealth and power and the ability to sway public policy that they can basically get away with murder. I actually believe that. Iím not talking about conspiracy theories or all of that kind of crap. Iím just talking about reality. The American public in the last ten to fifteen years has really dumbed down. We are just so programmed to accept commerciality and the idea of a consumer society. We have to purchaseÖstuff. Our culture is basically consumerism.

KNAC.COM: Our culture is Wal-Mart.
TATE: Thatís right. That is exactly what our culture is. The people in power depend on the dumbing down of America. They donít want the middle class to get an education. They donít want them to rise above. They want to keep them down in order for their eyes to remain shut. Maybe that is an elementary explanation, but if you break it down, it makes a lot of sense. If the economy flounders, people in power who are heavily vested in this country lose money, and they donít like that--who does?

KNAC.COM: Thatís true, but when the whole idea of a democracy was first formulated, it was based on the premise that its citizenry would be well informed, active and want to participate in the politics of the landÖwe donít have that--most people donít even read.
TATE: Thatís right, and it has actually gone downhill in the last twenty years.

KNAC.COM: How can you have a successful Democracy voted upon by people who base their votes on ignorance, images and misinformation?
TATE: Take Fox News Channel--that is a mouthpiece organization. That isnít an independent news reporting agency although they are masquerading around as one. It is just a mouthpiece for the Republican party.

KNAC.COM: Home of Bill OíReilly and the ďno spin zone.Ē
TATE: They are completely masquerading as an independent reporting agency. Get this for example: CNN is supposedly known and respected around the word for their reporting, and thatís just bullshit. Thatís a tagline that they sell. CNN just announced that they are going to stop doing as much commenting on the news and actually start reporting the news. (In June, CNN announced that they would change their reporting of the situation in Israel due to a perceived bias in some of their reports.) That is what used to happen before all of this instant commentary and opinion that has sort of taken over and become convoluted into fact.

KNAC.COM: And it works--it is consistently taken as the truth.
TATE: I think our biggest problem in this country is that we have a really entrenched power structure that has bought the media. We donít have a media that is independent and out there actually reporting the issues. Since we donít have this independence, we have a lot of censorship in this country.

KNAC.COM: The funniest part of it is that even when there is some reporting that might deviate from the norm or criticize the typical Republican party line such as Fahrenheit 911, all the Republicans have to do is say that ďitís all lies.Ē In reality though, if that documentary was entirely fictitious, the Bush family would doubtlessly have had the money and resources to have either had the film suppressed or to sue Michael Moore into poverty--neither of which happened.
TATE: Yeah, why not stand up for your powerful belief system if that isnít true?

KNAC.COM: Especially since that ďbelief systemĒ or Bushís pseudo-religious postering is the most incredible portion of his persona. The fact is that he overwhelmingly carries the vote of the religious right due in good part to his stance on abortion and his ability to mumble through insincere public prayers is completely shocking.
TATE: I really think that men should have no fucking say in abortion issues. I donít think it is any of our business. We have no idea about child birth or childraising or anything. It is a womenís issue. They should be ones debating and deciding what they should do with their own bodies. You know what really pisses me off? It is the idea that our government supposedly has a separation between church and state. It is total bullshit. The fucking Christians are at war with the Muslims again. It has happened over and over again throughout history. Weíre on another Crusade right now. It is the same old story. Why are the Christians even associated with our government? Why do they have such a say so in our policy?

KNAC.COM: Because they represent the white nuclear family that is the face of this country--and they go out and vote.
TATE: That is completely at odds with what we have expected though. When there is no separation between church and state, why are churches exempt from taxes?

KNAC.COM: They shouldnít be after the last election--we had preachers in this country telling their congregations that if they wanted to vote Kerry that maybe they werenít where they needed to be spiritually and that maybe they needed to reassess their beliefs.
TATE: That makes no sense to me. Here is a supposed Christian philosophy where you look out for your neighbor and give them a helping hand. They vote against that? It doesnít make any sense. We have people voting for that agenda who canít get a leg up themselves. Why? Because they bought the frigginí commercials the Republicans were putting out. I canít understand how people could have so easily been sold this commercial of prosperity when all the evidence is right in front of them--all the lies that were told to get us in the war. The whole reason we are in the war in the first place with HusseinÖ.just look at the deficit. What is that all about? Do people agree to go so easily into debt?

KNAC.COM: Maybe, and besides, we donít have to pay it today, and maybe Bush will turn around and send more tax refunds to people who have tons of kids which really makes a ton of sense when the country canít pay the bills it already has.
TATE: Whoís doing the math here? [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Of course, besides the economics of our foreign policy not making any sense, the Patriot Act is destined to be continually renewed taking away rights in the name of keeping everyone ďsafer.Ē
TATE: Itís the illusion of safety. It is just one of the planks in the whole ďkeep the America down by the fearĒ factor. It is an insult to our founding fathers. Our founding fathers would have never come up with something like that. That stands as a total opposite to what this country was founded upon.

KNAC.COM: But once the public is conditioned to renewing it, it will become easier and easier to add another item or stipulation onto the act in an effort to further erode what should be basic freedoms in this country. Then, you are left with a corrupt media, a questionable government and a citizenry which is continually having privileges taken away, how much better are we at that point than other countries?
TATE: I think we are worse off than a lot of countries. In all my years of traveling and talking to people, Iíve never heard so many people talking about leaving this country and giving away their citizenship and just leaving. Iíd never, ever heard that until about the last year and a half to two years. Now, it just seems like itís on everybodyís mind.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, but maybe thatís for the best since if you are critical of any of your governmentís policies, you cease being an American. Any negative expression makes you a radical or even worse--a liberal.
TATE: A liberal? Let me break that down--so, I have a liberal way of thinking of things meaning my mind is open to a lot of different concepts. Yeah, Iím really insulted by that.

KNAC.COM: But if youíre more comfortable with having others lay out the ground rules for your life, that does become a negative.
TATE: One common characteristic that all ultra conservatives and ultra religious people have is that they are like children. They need to have somebody that they can call their ďsuperiorĒ. I call no man my superior--fucking no one. I donít buy into that whole concept that someone is superior to me. That, to me is an immature, childlike characteristic in certain human beings that apparently a lot of people share. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: True, but that belief is in direct opposition to our whole celebrity worship culture, isnít it? Donít people have the inherent need to see something in others that they donít in themselves?
TATE: WellÖ.yeah, I can see that. Youíre getting into a lot of psychology there. Yeah, there is a definite celebrity culture that gets pushed down peoplesí throats. We build them up to tear them down.

KNAC.COM: Through it all though, isnít there always a line that remains constant? I mean, it always seems like there is an ďusĒ and then there is a grouping of people that you will never be.
TATE: I think a lot of that is press and the media. Those are the images that are projected. No one feels sorry for multimillionaire musicians who are being robbed of their royalties due to Internet piracy. No one gives a shit about that. They just figure ďtheyíve got enough money now--they donít need everything.Ē [Laughs] The problem is, thatís a myth. There arenít that many multi millionaire musicians. Sure, there are a handful like Paul McCartney who has been around for sixty years, but the rest of us are working class people who are just getting by and feeding our families. We just do our job and tour, but it isnít a multi million dollar industry like the press portrays and the record companies portray because it is supposed to have some glitter attached to it. Itís all just an image. Itís smoke and mirrors.

KNAC.COM: Youíre not living unless youíre on MTV Cribs though.
TATE: Most of those houses arenít even owned by those rappers--they are owned by the record companies. As soon as they go broke, they take them back.

KNAC.COM: If I were to speak to a typical Queensryche audience, how many of them do you think perceive you as living in a mansion and driving a fleet of Bentleys?
TATE: Iím sure most of them do, but we have never been one of those bands interested in projecting that image. People still have that illusion though.

KNAC.COM: That still sort of ties into that whole idea of us and them. Since you believe in equality and calling no man your superior, how do you reconcile the situation when someone asks you to sign their arm or something because that fan wants to have your signature tattooed onto their skin?
TATE: It has taken me a long time to accept that. I used to fight against it and always decline to sign autographs and things like that, but people donít understand that. It is interpreted as you being aloof or stuck up or not personable. It is taken the wrong way, and they donít understand. Finally, one day I just clicked and realized that I had to give in to that. I began to understand that it is human nature in some people to exercise that need of adoration or something. They just need it. I donít have any tattoos on my body. I donít believe in it because itís not for me. When people first started tattooing my name on their bodyÖ.[Laughs]ÖI though, ďOh, Jesus.Ē

KNAC.COM: That doesnít even address all of the Ryche symbols that people have inked on their bodies.
TATE: Theyíre all over the place. You know though, if thatís what they want to do, then thatís what they want to do. Itís freedom--itís freedom of choice, and Iím a firm believer in that.

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