Bring Back Glam! recently spoke with Geoff Tate, lead singer of Queensryche. During the chat, Geoff talks about the band's new greatest hits album, working again with Chris DeGarmo, the lengthy process of making studio albums, and why we should all get off the treadmill of life. Transcription follows.
Bring Back Glam!: Let's talk about your two new albums. Sign of the Times which just came out, and your cover album (Take Cover) that’s due out later this fall. Why did you decide that Queensryche needed another greatest hits package?
Geoff Tate: There’s so much stuff. It’s (Sign of the Times) a two disc set, and it’s pretty cool actually. The first disc is songs most people would be familiar with…and our second disc is demos and unreleased material. Plus, there’s a new song on there that we wrote with our former guitar player Chris (DeGarmo, original guitarist) this summer. It’s called “Justified.” And the artwork is very cool. It’s Hugh Syme, he’s done some work for us before…it looks fantastic.
BBG: How did the new song with Chris come about?
GT: We meet for coffee pretty regularly. When we have coffee, our conversations usually turn toward events that are going on with either ourselves, or the world. With him it sort of lead to a studio session.
BBG: So Chris wanted a separate career, but he still enjoys making music?
GT: I guess so. He doesn’t really like the touring aspect of being in a band. He does like the physical making of the music. We work together whenever we can.
BBG: Do you think you’ll get together and make another album with Chris?
GT: I think the two of us probably will.
BBG: But not an entire Queensryche album – just a solo work?
BBG: Is it likely that Chris will ever join Queensryche on stage for a live performance again?
GT: I would never say never, but it doesn’t look too likely at this point.
BBG: How did you select the songs for Take Cover?
GT: We picked songs that we liked. Everyone got to pick a few songs, and the rest of us were forced to use those songs. We tried to find ways of appreciating them, which was actually a pretty neat exercise. A lot of times when you hear a song, or you know a song, perhaps it doesn’t move you. Hearing it from one of your band mates, you get their take on it and what they find interesting about it, and use that as a gauge. So you find yourself appreciating things you wouldn’t normally appreciate.
BBG: So if everyone got to pick their own songs, which are your selections?
GT: I picked the song “Odissea” which is an opera song. I got to sing Italian, and that was a challenge. I also picked the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song “Almost Cut My Hair.”
BBG: Do you have any formal opera training?
GT: Yes and no. A little bit here and there, but was so long ago…
BBG: Do you consider Queensryche a Metal band or a Progressive band?
GT: That’s all too category driven for me. It doesn’t make any difference. Categories are defined different ways for different people. Music is something that everyone interprets differently and nobody’s wrong. It is what it is. I don’t think there is a good or bad piece of music. Music is art. It’s expression. It’s emotion. It’s not a sporting event.
BBG: How long does it take Queensryche to record a new album?
GT: There’s no formula for it really. It’s something that happens, when it happens. You can’t regulate, or put limits, on creativity. Sometimes a song will take five minutes to write. Sometimes it takes five years. It’s all so…subjective. Hit and miss. You can’t corral the whole thing. That’s what makes it great, keeps it interesting, keeps it human. Otherwise we could just program a machine to write a song for us.
BBG: Do you credit your band’s evolving sound to the human experience?
GT: Making a record is…each record is very different in its own criteria. For instance, when you write a record like (Operation) Mindcrime, it’s a story. We felt we had to set the story within the context of a soundscape. So then we had to create a sound for this character to operate within. And so, to do that, you try to find certain core combinations to create a certain atmosphere, and then you utilize those core combinations in different ways. So that you don’t lose that atmosphere when you tell the story. It’s very challenging to write a record like that. On the other hand, you might have a record that’s a collection of individual songs and you want that to be a very different movement from song to song. You want the atmosphere to change. Again, that’s a hard way to make a record too: to not have any consistency or theme, or anything like that. It just depends. You use different studios, engineers, every room sounds different. There’s different ways to mic instruments – all that adds to the unique soundscape of a record.
BBG: Is Queensryche currently working on an album of all new material?
GT: Well, we began a new studio record a couple months ago, and we’re in throes of recording now. We took a little break to record the cover album and to do the tour we’re on now. It’s our dream tour. We’re touring with Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio singing and Alice Cooper. These two bands were incredibly influential to us when we were staring out. Black Sabbath with Ronnie did three incredible records that really were the catalyst for Queensryche getting together. That was the music that we all discussed, talked about and referenced and listen to. It was all very inspiring to us at that point in our career.
BBG: Do you have a title for the new album?
GT: No, it’s not to that point yet. The only thing I can really say about it is that it’s a concept album. It has a central theme, and all the songs relate to that theme.
BBG: Since you just started…do you have a target release date?
GT: Gosh, I hope it’s out by next summer. Either summer or fall would be nice.
BBG: Are you planning a major tour to support that album?
BBG: You did a solo album a couple years ago. Do you have any plans for more solo releases?
GT: Yes. I actually have two in the works right now. They are in various states of completion, or disorganization. It depends on how you look at it.
BBG: Why disorganized?
GT: Oh, you know I’ve got so many things going on. When Queensryche beckons – it’s my first priority – I have to put other things on hold. We’re working very diligently, so my solo stuff kind of sits on the back burner, boiling away.
BBG: Can you tell me a little of what you’ve got in the can so far for either solo album?
GT: I’ve got two and they are very different. One is a collection of individual songs and the other is theme record.
BBG: You interest me with your “theme records.”
GT: It’s like putting together a puzzle. Finding the pieces that work, then creating a soundscape and the lyrical direction. You know, paint a picture. I find it interesting, because usually a subject will have totally different facets to it. I think it’s great to approach each different facet with a song. You can kind of get a real… more of a feel for the idea or theme when you approach it from a number of different angles.
BBG: What’s been your career highlight with Queensryche so far?
GT: Every day is a highlight. I have to pinch myself. It’s really incredible. I hate to say it. We’re so incredibly fortunate. We tour and sell records in 26 different countries around the world. We get to visit amazing places and see incredible things and experience a life that most people don’t. I wish everyone could pick up and go traveling, and not get locked into the whole commercial that we get sold and so many of us buy. You know, “go to work, get up. Go to work, get up.” That treadmill of life -- I call it drudgery. It’s such a complex thing, too. You get locked into obligations and responsibilities and it happens at such a young age. You get that pressure from your parents to go in a certain direction, and at an early point in your life, you don’t know what you want to do. The whole “I’ve gotta have this, and the stuff costs this much, so I have to work this hard…” Then you’re on the treadmill, and you get locked in. Before you know it, you realize all that stuff owns you. Get rid of it all, it doesn’t mean anything anyway.
BBG: How old were you when you realized you wanted music as a career?
GT: Well I was nine when I really discovered music. That’s when I started on that pathway, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I heard this song by Jefferson Airplane. “Somebody, uh--”
BBG: “Somebody to Love?”
GT: Yes! That’s it! I heard that guitar riff, and it just got me. I started thirsting for the music. I wanted to see what was out there. It sort of set me on a life path that I really didn’t realize until I was in high school. That’s when I started singing in a band and really got the bug. Then I started writing songs, and that sort of sprung me into action.
BBG: I would imagine your parents were fairly supportive, especially after hearing your voice.
GT: No, they were not. My parents came form a generation of people that really were not thinking outside the box. My dad was from a military background, they do what they are told. That was kind of his way of thinking. I was not of that ilk at all. I definitely had my own ideas and I wanted to pursue things, so I did it all without their approval or support. I did it on my own. After, of course, it became successful and they realized it was something I was good at [and] I could make a living doing it; they were O.K. with it at that point. They’ve come to accept it, and it’s not big deal. At the time, it was kind of a stressful tension between us all.
For more information, please visit www.queensryche.com
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