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Queensryche Frontman Geoff Tate Speaks The Word About "MCII"

By Mitch Lafon, Contributor
Wednesday, March 8, 2006 @ 3:29 PM

"The Screenplay is finished an

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KNAC.COM: You’ve revisited Operation:Mindcrime – how did that come about?

TATE: There’s always a series of different reasons why you do things and you never really know why you’re doing it at the time. You try to figure it out in retrospect. We don’t plan things out. We just find ourselves in situations that feel right and just go with it and that was the case with this project. The first one was written in ’88 with a sequel in mind. We had left the story open ended with Nikki (the main character) being committed to an insane asylum and then prison. We left it with the ability to take the story another place, but for various reasons over the years we’ve taken on other projects and ideas that pushed this to the back burner. Still, people kept asking about it (especially the fans). What happened to Mary? What happened to Dr.X ? Are you ever going to do a sequel?

KNAC.COM: And for years you said “no!”

TATE: Yeah. I had lost interest in it and was on to other ideas. I just found myself leaning in this direction a few years ago. Like with everything I started with a computer file called ‘Nikki’ and started going to it every now and then. I kept adding to what was there – character sketches, what would Nikki be like now, what’s he been doing, what’s going through his head and that kind of thing. About a year and a half ago, I went to that file and noticed I had quite a lot of stuff written and it was starting to make sense... I had a story. So, I took it to the band and said ‘I think I’ve got something here. We might want to tackle a sequel. What do you think about it?’ Everyone was real excited about returning to the story and musically seeing where we could take it and how we could keep the music somewhat like the original and re-learn that style of playing, delivery...

KNAC.COM: I was going to ask you about that. The drum sound sounds a lot like the first album. Was that deliberate or...

TATE: It was deliberate. It’s an audio story, so we tried to give it some similarity to the first story. When the listener plays one and two together, they’ll be transported to this world... that sounded a certain way and had a certain feel to it. Music affects people emotionally, so you have to capture that emotional feel again which is very challenging. We had to go against evolution (so to speak).

KNAC.COM: It must have been hard because in the last decade you’ve done albums that sound anything but like Operation: Mindcrime...

TATE: I wouldn’t say it was hard, but it was challenging. To rethink yourself and how you did things then... Musically, it became very simple after we discovered the little secrets. In the last decade we’ve been experimenting a lot with different tunings of the guitar – tuning up, tuning down, tuning sideways and all the ways to string the instrument so it plays in a different vibration. So, we found that by going back to A four forty (which Mindcrime was written in) really helped. It opened up the instruments to a whole different way of playing. Melodically, Mindcrime used a lot of melodies voiced in half steps... so we brought that back in as a theme and I think we captured the era very well. On the sound side of things we tried to use the same recording gear and electronic equipment that we had used in the ‘80s to make this record. We re-enlisted certain reverbs from the Mindcrime album...

KNAC.COM: Was it refreshing to re-learn those things or was it like ‘ugh, here we go again’?

TATE: From a sound standpoint it was very fascinating. You get on... technology changes and you start getting on the treadmill where every year you’re working new sounds, new technologies into what you do and experimenting with it... It’s quite inspirational. You can get a new keyboard or computer program and play around with it for a couple of hours and next thing you know – you’ve written a song.

KNAC.COM: Another thing that can affect the sound is the line-up. You’ve got a new guitarist (Mike Stone) onboard. How was it for you and for him to go do this part two?

TATE: Mike was always a Mindcrime fan and the way we went about it was kind of odd. When we decided we were going to do this record – we hadn’t written a note yet. So we started experimenting with the original. We learned all the songs again then re-learned them and taught them to Mike... and toured on it (for six or eight weeks). It really helped get the spirit of the record back in everybody’s head. We learned the scale progressions, learned what is was to be in Mindcrime musically... so we took a break after the tour and Mike and the producer (Jason Slater) moved into my house for four months. We worked incessantly on the record – we didn’t shower, we didn’t shave our beards. We just lived and breathed it for four months. It was a great period of time where we just wrote and wrote and wrote the record.

KNAC.COM: It was a great period of time yet the album is a darker tale...

TATE: I find drinking helps (laughs). When you have a story driven record, it’s easier than creating song ideas out of thin air. You have a theme and I can tell the guys I need musical examples of apathy... give me five choices of something that makes you feel apathetic or melancholy or angry or... just match the music to the emotion and that was great. I’d get all these different versions of apathy to choose from and could pick which one moved me the most and I could write a lyric to it.

KNAC.COM: Both Mindcrimes have a story. You mentioned the first one was open ended. Is this one as well? Could we see a part three in five, ten, fifteen years...

TATE: I really love working with themes and concepts when writing a record. It’s very satisfying and challenging. Half our records are theme or concept records, so I’m very comfortable working in that area. So, possibly our next record will be a theme record. I really don’t know at this point, but I’ve got a couple of ideas. However, I think the actual Mindcrime story is finished.

KNAC.COM: I ask because the last time we spoke you had mentioned that you had written a Mindcrime screenplay. With the end of Mindcrime two – is that the end of the screenplay? Or is there more?

TATE: The screenplay is finished and being shopped around Hollywood...

KNAC.COM: Is it based on I and II?

TATE: It’s based on I and it ends with a hint towards two. So, we wrote in the ability to do a separate film based on Mindcrime II. It’s really a strong screenplay. I co-wrote it with a fellow named Mark Shepard (who’s a professional screen writer). He taught me a lot about the process and the art of creating this story. When you’re making a record, you can use music to tell part of the story, but with a film you really need to visualize every part of the story and the motivation of the characters... how they develop and all that stuff. I had to fill in a lot of blanks that I had left for the music to interpret. So, that was challenging and fun and it’s being shopped now...

KNAC.COM: Do you want to see it only on film or would you be open to seeing it on stage (a Broadway stage)/ play?

TATE: I think it’s a story that can be adapted a number of different ways and mediums. The Broadway styled musical is obviously not too much of a stretch for it. I’m working in that direction too. I’ve been talking to a few people over the last year that are interested in developing it for that, but we’ll see. I don’t know which will come first – the film or the musical.

KNAC.COM: Well, coming first is the Operation Mindcrime I and II tour...

TATE: Yes! It’s I and II together – ‘an evening with’ presentation. We’re going to create it with actors portraying characters in the story. We’ve got a set that changes throughout the show... video screens that become the dimension walls of the set creating... Nikki’s warehouse with a table, lamp, chair, telephone (which is an integral part of the story)... the walls of the warehouse are film screens. You can change the lighting, etc... There’s the scene of Sister Mary’s death... It’s pretty dramatic. The new show will have a chase scene between Nikki and Dr.X...

KNAC.COM: It’s I and II sequentially. You’re not skipping any songs?

TATE: Oh, no. It’ll all flow and make sense as one live.

KNAC.COM: wow – that’s 27 or so songs...

TATE: It’ll run two and a half hours.

KNAC.COM: That’ll take a lot of preparation in a gym before the tour. You don’t want to be panting by song twenty...

TATE: Yeah, really (laughs).

KNAC.COM: DR.X –rumored to be Rob Halford ends up being Ronnie James Dio. How did you find him – how did you choose him?

TATE: He’s a legend. I worked with him years ago on Hear N Aid and that was a real treat. He’s amazing and had treated me very well – very courteous and respectful. I was a new young kid and he was really a gentlemen. I appreciated his approach and the way he handled people. When I was writing this record, I needed a voice – the voice of Dr. X and Ronnie’s name and a voice just popped into my head. It’s got to be Ronnie. That voice is so huge and commanding. When he speaks in a song – you get shivers up your back. Maybe it’s because he’s pure evil – I don’t know (laughs). I called him up and he was very intrigued, so I sent him a copy of the song and he called back two days later and said ‘oh, yeah – this is going to be great. I’ve got to do this.’ He came up right away and we spent the afternoon in the studio doing the song. There’s always uneasiness when a new musician comes into the studio, but he’s just so confident. He walked into the microphone booth and right off the bat hit it.

KNAC.COM: Will he do a show or two on the tour?

TATE: He’s expressed interest in doing that if we can co-ordinate our schedules.

KNAC.COM: Mindcrime II, you had once mentioned, was written because of the current political climate...

TATE: As long as I’ve lived (47 years), I keep track of what goes on in society. I love the social sciences and what makes us tick as a species. We go in these cycles... this circular motion. Things come into the consciousness then go out and in time come back in. To me, we’re in a very similar situation to the late ‘80s. We have a very right-wing Christian funded government in place and they are working very diligently to change things in their favor and in their world view... which is in direct opposition to the way a lot of other people feel... who worked diligently to provide Americans with freedoms and...

KNAC.COM: Equality, stability...?

TATE: Yeah, and all those things people have suffered and died for... It’s just an amazing time to watch... all these freedoms being taken out. One by one and it’s interesting to see the polarization of the country. Nobody knows what to do and here we are again at war in the Middle East. Ironically, when Nikki was first conceived – George Bush was in power and he gets out of jail twenty years later and George Bush is in power (laughs). I couldn’t stay away from that irony. The times are similar in a lot of ways. So, it felt right to be visiting the story again.

KNAC.COM: I gather you won’t be watching FOX NEWS on the tour bus?

TATE: (laughs) We watch Fox News to ridicule it and to remind ourselves that the media isn’t telling us the truth and that it’s biased and paid for.

KNAC.COM: Anything else to plug... add?

TATE: www.queensryche.com

Mitch Lafon is Senior Writer & Staff Photographer for BW&BK and does a radio feature called the "Mitch Minute" on Ottawa's #1 station - Majic 100.3 FM.

This interview also appears in Brazil’s Roadie Crew Magazine

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