Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche) charges ahead and doesn’t look back

Geoff Tate isn’t the kind of man to let the past stop him. Since he broke up with his musicians, he’s been charging ahead with no care for what’s going on in the opposing camp. He even confesses to having begun work on the successor of Frequency Unknown, which has barely been released. Yes, the situation is such that there are now two bands creating music and touring under the name Queensrÿche. But once again, Tate doesn’t mind and seems to simply be waiting for the judgment, next November. Truth be told, the vocalist sees the current situation as a godsend for the fans, who will get two albums instead of one this year: “In my mind, I think it’s a great situation for the fans. Because, they have two entities that are creating music. […] There’s more to choose from and more to enjoy”, he says in the following interview.

Still, even if he claims he doesn’t care, he comes out slightly annoyed by some of the criticisms he’s been hearing for years, and especially by the ones that now come from the Internet, where “everybody can claim to be a critic”. He takes this opportunity to give us his vision of art and to explain how much certain people can miss out on it. From the early days of Queensrÿche, he’s wanted to be a free, forward-going artist – which is why he doesn’t understand how an artist can bring himself to do stuff from the past. This might be one of the reasons that drove the band to split, since his former musicians wanted to go back to the aesthetics of a Queensrÿche that, according to Tate, belonged to the past, due to the progressive aspect of life.

Geoff Tate talks about all this in the following interview.

« At this point in my life and my career, I like to surround myself with really positive people who are excited about the project and bringing in ideas. It’s a lot better and a lot more pleasing to work with people who have ideas rather than people who are just waiting around for somebody to tell them what to do. »

Radio Metal: In April you did a Operation: Mindcrime Anniversary Tour billed as Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche and now you’re releasing your new album as simply Queensrÿche. Why did you put your name on the tour and not on the album?

Geoff Tate (vocals): Well, the tour was billed as just Queensrÿche. Actually, to explain it a little bit, the tour was billed as Queensrÿche but some promoters decided that they wanted to call it Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche and others as Queensrÿche. It really depends upon the promoter and what he decides to do. Unfortunately this is out of my control!

Your second solo album came out only six months ago. Weren’t you afraid to see both your solo career and Queensrÿche become mixed up, since the writing sessions were so close?

No. I would release a new record every six months if I could. I like to release records. I write all the time. The more the better, in my perspective.

How did you organize yourself in the making of this album, considering the fact that there were so many musicians and guests participating?

I think the collaborative effort was a good thing. I like to work with different people who have different ideas. Having people bringing in their own musical perspectives tends to make the music that much more unique I think. All the songs were written before we went into the studio. All the guests appearing on the record simply were brought into the recording process to expend the songs that were already written, just to make it a more interesting and kind of fun studio experience. At this point in my life and my career, I like to surround myself with really positive people who are excited about the project and bringing in ideas. It’s a lot better and a lot more pleasing to work with people who have ideas rather than people who are just waiting around for somebody to tell them what to do.

Do you see the musicians you have with you now as really part of the band or just as hired musicians?

Well, they are people who are together right now because they have an interest in the project and of their availability of their schedule. They’re all great player who have all kinds of things they’re interested in doing. We managed to be in the same place at the same time. We all feel really enthousiatic about the project and everybody’s on board.

Have you actually thought about calling and convincing Chris DeGarmo to join you in your version of Queensrÿche?

Chris doesn’t work in music anymore. He has a different life and a different interests. He’s not really interested in being part of any band or any musical project at the moment, at least the last time we talked.

« People just have this idea, or I should say certain small kind of people have this thing in their head that makes them feel like they need to express an opinion about art. That’s a sort of attitude and mindset that actually works to suppress art. »

It took you less than a year since the Queensrÿche breakup to tour and make an album as Queensrÿche. Was there a desire from your side to outdistance your ex-collegues who haven’t yet released their own album?

Oh no. I’m not interested at all in what they’re doing. I don’t pay attention to what’s happening with them at all. I’m in a completely different place in my life now. I’ve ripped off the rearview mirror and moving down the highway. Every decision I make regarding my career or my musical endeavors is solely and strictly based upon what I want to do. Releasing the album was planned to coincide with the tour. It’s better to have an album and a tour at the same time. It’s more promotion, it’s more focus on the project if you have the tour happening with an album being released. We were just simply trying to time everything together.

Some critics say that the album was rushed because it was made so quickly, what would you answer to that?

Well… (Laughs) You know, everybody is a critic these days, especially on the Internet. Whatever I do people criticize it, so I honestly don’t pay attention or give a fuck about whatever anybody thinks. To me, music is art and art is expression, art is passion, art is a personnal journey. It’s not about competition. It’s not about genres. All that stuff has no meaning to me. I don’t think in terms of sporting event when I think of music. Sporting events, you know, people competing in an event, are fine on their own. But music isn’t that for me, so I don’t think in those terms. Every album I’ve ever released, starting from the very beginning back in 1982, has been criticized. People just have this idea, or I should say certain small kind of people have this thing in their head that makes them feel like they need to express an opinion about art. That’s a sort of attitude and mindset that actually works to suppress art. And art is something you don’t want to supress. You want art to be free and to be open for experimentation and progression. You don’t want to limit it and put it in a little box in a way where we would say « this all there is » or « this is all it can be » or « it should be something else ». It shouldn’t be anything other than it is, you know!

There are currently two Queensrÿche bands. Both are allowed to use the name until the next court date, scheduled for November this year. Don’t you think in the end that the fans will choose by themselves which band will have the legitimity to keep the name, by the success their respective albums will have?

No, I don’t. In my mind, I think it’s a great situation for the fans. Because, they have two entities that are creating music. And that’s great! Instead of one, there’s two. There’s more to choose from and more to enjoy. The fans don’t decide who gets the name of the band. That’s a court decision. We’re a corporation and a corporation have to be dealt with legal fashion and this involves legal procedures that you have to follow, and that will be followed in November.

I’m sure you’ve been asked that already a dozen times about the album. But many people see the F.U. abbreviation on the fist featured on the album cover as a « Fuck You » toward your ex-collegues. Do you confirm or deny that?

Well, no. It’s only the abbreviation of the album title. Just like when we call Queensrÿche Q.R..

The album, just as the three previous ones, was co-written by producer Jason Slater. Was it important for you to work with him again as a sort of continuity?

I like working with Jason. We had a real satisfying musical relationship. Often times, we see in a similar vision when it comes to music. And we write well together, we have a good time doing it which is a big part of the whole equation, you know. I think you should enjoy what you do and surround youself with people who you like to be around.

« I don’t think you can go back. […] You’re despising yourself as a human being. »

What is the level of Slater’s input in terms of music writing?

Well, I don’t know how I would measure that. (Laughs) It’s simple: we get together and we talk about an idea and we relate to each other our individual experience and our perspective on the subject. And then we write a song. We figure out how we’re going to record it and present it. It’s kind of simple really. It’s like in any musical relationship.

Your old band mates wanted to go back to the old Queensrÿche sound which was not your case. With Frequency Unknown you stay true to your desire to keep moving on. Is it important for you to always move forward?

Oh yeah, that’s my life philosophy. When Queensrÿche first began, Chris DeGarmo and I came up with this philosophy regarding our music and that is: music without limits. We wanted to experiment with our music and push the musical chemistry. We didn’t want to have imposed limitations on what we could make, on what we could create. We wanted to just keep expending and progressing with our writing, trying all kinds of different things. We certainly didn’t want to be limited by some other persons’ ideas about what they thought we should be. And I always stayed true to that philosophy. I don’t think you can go back. It’s not being true to art, if you are constantly regurgitating the same things that you have done. You’re despising yourself as a human being. Life is too short for that. And also, life is too rich and full of experiences to only align yourself into one category. I think one should try to always expend himself or learn more, read more books and experience more life whenever possible. Whenever you do that, as a music writer, as an artist, then that experience is exhibited in your work.

We’ve seen a lot of Queensrÿche fans expressing their desire to see the band go back to its old sound and this is clearly not what you’re doing. What would you say to these hardcore fans who only like your first albums?

Well, you know, I’m happy that people like any kind of record that I make. I’m happy that they find something in what I’ve written that is inspiring to them or moves them in some way. I’m very happy and grateful for that. I don’t know what Queensrÿche sound these people are refering to. If you talk to two thousand different Queensrÿche fans, everyone has a different opinion. They have favorite songs, they have favorite albums. And these are songs and album that they found at certain times in their lives when they were going through something or when they were interested in something in those songs or stuck with them, resonated with them. It’s an impossibility to try to go back and it’s false to try to go back and try to redo what you’ve already done. Why would you want to do that? I can’t even fathom that idea. It’s not being true to youself or to your human-ness. You move on, you move past where you’ve been, you grow up. You experience life and life is not static. Life is always changing around you.

Apparently the album was remixed at the last minute, although some CDs were already printed. What happened?

The album was recorded and mixed and finished and turned in to the record company. Then the record company decided that they wanted to try to get a remix on some of the songs that they felt would have sounded better. I think we tried to have somebody remix it but they couldn’t get it happening the way the record company wanted. So I think they were kind of just left the same and actually remastered. They took them to the mastering studio and reset the levels of the EQ and things like that. I think that’s what ended up. You know, I keep hearing this question about how this album was rushed. It wasn’t at all. We had a schedule, we followed it, we went in the studio when we were ready and we left when we were done, you know. (Laughs) There wasn’t any rush about it. I think that’s kind of disinformation that’s being put out by a small group of people who are trying to say negative things about the record on the Internet. It’s an other form of criticism, it’s unwarranted. Jesus, if you listen to the first EP, now that was a rushed album! I was flying by the seat of my pants because we didn’t have enough money to spend a lot of time on the record. Every record is what it is. It shouldn’t be looked at as… I don’t know how to explain it, even. You kow, how a record sounds is also subjective. It depends on what your listing to it on and it depends on who is listening to it. There’s a U2 record called Boy, that has a boy on the front cover, and its not my favorite U2 sounding record, I thought they did records that sounded better, but it certainly haven’t stopped me from listening to the record and enjoying the songs! You just get into the mindset of how the studio the guys were using at the time sounded like. You accept it for what it is. You don’t sit and critique it to the Nth degree based on the sound of it. Jeez, how petty! You’re missing the full point of art. That’s like saying about God: « What an idiot! » for not painting starry nights on better quality canvas. You’re missing the whole point of the artwork! (Laughs)

« I don’t like a lot to have down times. I like to keep moving. »

There are four re-recording of old Queensrÿche hits at the end of the album. Apparently it’s the record company who asked you to do those and wanted them to sound as close to the originals as possible. So what was the point?

I don’t know. I don’t know why they wanted them like that, but they did. That was a very important point to them, to have those particular songs and have them recorded and redone as close to the originals as we could make them. So we did it. It was an interesting journey doing that and listening to those songs and trying to redo them with the technology and the different ear we have these days. There are gears that we used on some of those songs that we can’t even find anymore. So it’s almost impossible to duplicate them exactly. And like you’re asking: why duplicate them anyway? What’s the damn point? I don’t know.

But aren’t you upset about the fact that your record company is trying to have an influence on what you put on your record?

No, not really. If that makes them happy and gives them the tools to work. As long as they sell the record and do what they have to do with it, everything’s good. They don’t tell how to write the new material. Nobody ever does that. I don’t really allow that.

I’ve read that you were already thinking about making a new album soon, more precisely begining this summer…

Oh, I’m already working on the new album, yeah! I started about three or four weeks ago.

And do you have already some songs written?

Yeah, I have some songs written and moving ahead. I don’t like a lot to have down times. I like to keep moving. It’s the way I operate, the way I work.

And what can you tell us about those songs?

[He’s thinkink] Hum… Nothing! Absolutely nothing yet! (Laughs)

Interview conducted by phone on May 13th, 2013 by Metal’O Phil
Introduction: Spaceman
Questions: Spaceman
Transcription: Spaceman

Queensrÿche’s website : www.queensryche.com

Album Frequency Unknown, out since April 23rd 2013 via Cleopatra Records

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