Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Queensrÿche vocalist Geoff Tate
By John Parks
Legendary Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate is out on the road performing a “Queensryche Farewell Tour” and working on material for his next solo album. “Queensryche starring Geoff Tate” will be performing May 25 as part of the WXRX Wing Ding (for more info, visit www.wxrxwingding.com). I recently had the chance to speak with Geoff about the show, his upcoming album and more.
Q: Hi, Geoff. Nice to talk to you again, and nice to see all these Queensryche Farewell tour dates booked. You’re a busy man, as always, and will be out on the road all summer, including a show you’re doing here in Rockford with Alice in Chains. Obviously, you’re both from the Northwest. Is that a band you’ve crossed paths with on occasion?
A: Yeah! Alice in Chains was a band that came up after us and played a lot of shows together, and I know the guys very well, so that will be kind of a nice reunion. I haven’t seen Jerry (Cantrell, AIC guitarist) in two years or so, I think, so that will be nice.
Q: I am excited to hear you are already planning a new album. Based on what you’ve written so far, is the new material you are working on more along the lines of your last solo album, Kings and Thieves, or more like the your last Queensryche album, Frequency Unknown?
A: Neither, actually. The new material is something very, very different from both of those albums, to be honest. I look at this unique position I’m in now as a wonderful jumping-off point because it gives me the ability to really go anywhere I want to go musically. Where I wanna go is into more of a direction of what I feel I do best and enjoy most, and that is writing albums. And when I say albums, what I mean is album-orientated music — albums where the music isn’t dictated by any commercial standards. It’s kind of a more free situation, where the music and lyrics can be anything I want them to be, rather than having to conform to any standardized arrangements or styles, and music where the end result doesn’t even have to be tailored or sacrificed, even to the abilities of the people I’m playing with. The next album is going to go anywhere I want to take it. I’ve got a pretty vivid imagination, and I have this wonderful story that I’ve written that this next album is going to be based around, and I’m very excited about it. I’ve been working on it now for months and months and months in my spare time, and am ready now to really flesh it out and finish it up now that the settlement is in place.
Q: That sounds pretty interesting. So, it wouldn’t be totally erroneous to say it might be considered a “concept album”?
A: Oh, it’s definitely going to be, yeah.
Q: In the past three or four years in interviews, there was a lot of back and forth between you and Michael, Scott and Eddie about their creative contributions to Queensryche over the years. Is it fair to say that both you and (original guitarist) Chris DeGarmo honestly were doing as much of the heavy lifting as many people believe over the years?
A: When you have a band, that group of people comes together for a number of different reasons. In our case, it was musically. Chris and I had a very strong, clear vision of what we wanted to do musically, and that vision was really about not having boundaries as to what we created. We wanted to write and present music that we imagined, rather than what other people expected or thought we should do. That gave us a real positive jumping off point for the band and everything we did that followed. We never really wrote records to conform to what other people or other bands did; we wrote records that we loved and felt strongly about. That was always Chris and my vision, and being the kind of personalities that we are, Chris and I, we just did that, and the other guys in the band fell in line with that. They were comfortable with that setup, and that’s how we operated for many, many years. It wasn’t like we were dictators or land barons keeping the serfs out of the fields or anything like that (laughs). It was not like that. It was more that it worked well, we enjoyed what we did, I’m speaking of Chris and I, and it worked, so the other guys in the band were fine with that for a long, long period of time.
Q: So, it wasn’t an out-and-out battle royal for songwriting credits, but at the same time, it wasn’t the democracy that the guys say is so important to the band now that you’re gone?
A: No, it was never a democracy on the creative end of things … it was always a matter of, “OK, who has the idea that everybody thinks is the strongest?” If you didn’t have an opinion on it, well, then, you didn’t have an opinion on it. And most of the time, that was the case. There just wasn’t a strong opposition to anything, and to be honest, that’s still the way it was all the way up to, oh, 2012 with the split. It was always: “Oh, OK, great idea. Let’s run with that. Do you have anything to add? No? OK, well, let’s go with that, then” (laughs).
Q: Do you think some of the fans sort of mistook your comments about not being a “metal guy,” or however it was that you put not being tied down to the heavy metal format?
A: Oh, yeah, I’m sure. People read whatever meaning they wanna read into whatever statements are made. The way I feel about “metal” is I just don’t like genres in the first place. I think genres are limiting and are kind of like wearing handcuffs for a person who’s a writer or who is creative, because that means there is this box that you have to conform to. Like I said earlier, Chris and I were NEVER interested in being confined by other people’s vision. OUR vision was the one we wanted to explore in, and I think that’s a very healthy place to be. Metal, as a genre, is incredibly limiting — it explores a very few emotions, angst and violence being predominant. Once you’ve written from that point of view, there’s only so many other ways that you can fashion and write music in order to express yourself. That’s what I’ve always been interested in, is exploring all those different facets and all those different emotions of humanity through music. We just didn’t feel it was necessary to only spend time creatively exploring anger and violence (laughs).
From the May 21-27, 2014, issue