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Interviews   

Geoff Tate, the optimist


Without going as far as saying that politicians are all rotten to the core anyway, hope and trust in political institutions and the people that work for them are not exactly widespread. Who can honestly say they’ve never blamed – or heard someone else blame – the consumer society, the financial markets, corrupt politicians and new technologies that slowly drive human beings apart for all that’s going wrong in this world?

Even if he doesn’t deny there’s a part of truth in that – and it would be a mistake to think otherwise – Geoff Tate seems to be one of the last people on earth who harbors unfailing hope. Mankind is capable of great things, and therefore, of solving its own problems. The solution is in hard work, thought and dialogue. Without claiming to solve these problems, Geoff Tate is trying, through music, to spark reflection, introspection, or a debate on a given subject.

In the following interview, Geoff Tate shows that he’s an optimist who tries to be at peace with the world around him. It’s all about following the proverb: “Pray God, drink wine and let the world be”, the starting point of “These Glory Days”, a track from his new solo album. Speaking of which, his solo career is now his priority, and the legal decision regarding who will be allowed to use the name Queensrÿche will probably have to wait till 2013. The legal dispute and the band’s separation were all but glorious, and he has his own comments to make on the matter towards the end of the interview.

« I think it is always good, when you’re creating art, to do a controversial piece, if you can: at least enough to get people talking and discussing the issues. We come up to solutions through communication and discussion: if nobody talks, nothing gets done, you know. It’s the artist duty. »

Radio Metal: Your first album had a lot of jazz influences. Kings And Thieves is more rock oriented. Why did you choose to focus on that particular style ?

Geoff Tate (vocals): I wanted to make a more “rock” record so I could play it live. I also wanted to concentrate on my solo performances this year. Making such an album was a way to balance out my presentation live. I like to take the audience through moods and things like that.

Can we expect those jazz and blues influences to be back on a next album ?

Oh… You never know, you know ! (laughs) Maybe, maybe not ! I like to break new grounds with each record and try different things. I usually don’t return to something I’ve done already.

There is a sense of groove on Kings And Thieves that reminds us of the last Queensrÿche album: were some songs from it initially meant to be on a future Queensrÿche album?

No. I started writing and recording Kings And Thieves in January with the sole purpose of creating a solo album.

« Dark Money » talks about the drastic difference between the rich and the poor in the United States. How could you explain this situation?

It’s a very complex situation, actually. It’s really the first time in our history that it is becoming beyond bearing for a lot of people. I think it is always good, when you’re creating art, to do a controversial piece, if you can: at least enough to get people talking and discussing the issues. We come up to solutions through communication and discussion: if nobody talks, nothing gets done, you know. It’s the artist duty.

Do you look forward to the US presidential elections and hope that a change will rise from these elections?

I think that with every presidential election there is an element of excitement and probably an expectation on some sort of change happening. However, at my age, I realised that changes happen very slowly, that it’s not going to change overnight, and sometimes changes are so slow, that you can’t actually perceive the thing that are changing at all. I guess I don’t have a lot of high hopes about a radical change after the presidential elections. I just hope that my country will come up together and realise the situation : by doing this, we can face the challenges that we have and work together.

Your statement is interesting, because nowadays, politicians are often criticized and people don’t trust them anymore: you, on the contrary, seem patient and still full of hope.

I have a hope in the progress of human nature, I guess. I think that human beings are very powerful in what they can imagine, achieve and understand. Look how far we have come as a world civilization in the last 50 years: it’s pretty amazing. You see old prejudices falling away, segregation has been eliminated, people talk globally about religion and its effect on human nature and human beings : we can do that perhaps because technology has given us the ability of having a conversation globally and immediately. Topics and news events that happen are discussed every day on a global level, which was before unimaginable. Perhaps we can realise a change and a difference globally, at a much more rapid pace than we have ever could. It’s very exciting !

Your point of view is original, because a lot of people do think today that technology is actually killing communication between human beings…

I don’t think that technology necessarily limits communication between people. Actually, people limit communication: we control the machines, so it’s up to us how we want to use them. Technology is there for us to be utilised to its best potential. You know, people aren’t created equal: they don’t come from the same intellectual backgrounds, regions or beliefs. Everyday, we face a mass of information and we try to come up with some belief system of our own. But the further along we get in our development, we realise that truth doesn’t really exist. Truth is a concept that is enforced by the people who are in power: so it’s a really difficult concept for a lot of people to grasp, because we tend to want everything in black and white, good or bad. That’s not necessarily the way it works. It’s a long answer, sorry! (laughs)

« I have a hope in the progress of human nature, I guess. I think that human beings are very powerful in what they can imagine, achieve and understand. Look how far we have come as a world civilization in the last 50 years: it’s pretty amazing. »

The song « These Glory Days » really inspires hope. Do you think that this difficult economic situation might change ? And if yes, how ?

That song was inspired by a French proverb which says: “Praise the God of all, drink the wine, and let the world be the world ”. I’ve always loved that sentiment, that idea of accepting other people’s viewpoints. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with others on everything but simply accept the fact that people can have different opinions. Don’t let it bother you: enjoy life, drink the wine, realise that people will have different thoughts and accept that.

It really looks like that « These Glory Days » is the most important song of the album for you, as it sums up your vision of our world.

Perhaps it is, yes. Lyrically, it does tackle a subject that makes a statement. That’s what I tend to try to achieve when song writing. Song writing is a multi faceted activity: for instance, you can write about a very mundane situation and it can have a very powerful effect on an audience, or you can write something really deep and profound, and you might get no reactions at all. I think that you have to write about your point of passion: that’s the rule that works the best. Write about what you know and what you feel really strong about.

You declared about this album that « the beauty of a solo album is that there aren’t any expectations, it can be its own thing and doesn’t have to live up to some success you had 30 years ago, and that can be free and liberating ». It seems that you prefer to write solo albums than being in a band. From now on, will your solo career be your number one priority ?

Oh yes, definitely. I spent most of my creative adult life working with Queensrÿche. It was always my priority. All my imagination, my ideas, my thinking went through it. Things have changed now, of course, so I’ll focus on what I want to do and do things the way I believe and feel without compromising my thought process or actions. I’m very much excited about the future and very happy with the present: I’m very pleased with my album. I’m also very excited to be on tour: I start my American tour next week.

Your ex-bandmates were authorized by a court decision the right to own the Queensrÿche name. But a few weeks later you came up with a second project also called Queensrÿche. Can you give us any news on what is going on legally speaking?

Originally, when the break-up happened, the other guys started a side-project called “Rising West” while I was doing my solo work. We had an agreement between us all that we could do side or solo projects as long as this wouldn’t interfere with Queensrÿche. But then they decided that they couldn’t book a tour with the “Rising West” name, because they couldn’t get any promoters to book them, that’s when they fired me and try to use the name Queensrÿche: legally, however, they can’t do that, as we are a corporation with its own rules, if you want. So I took them to court to try to get what’s called an injunction which would state : “Hey look, as long as we haven’t reached an agreement between us all, neither party should use the name Queensrÿche”. It’s only fair. But the judge turned that down and said : “I think that both parties should use the name until the next court day in November 2013”. So after that, I put my own version of Queensrÿche together and I will take it with me on tour next spring. I’m very excited about that: it’s going to be a very fun tour. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

If we understand well, that means that there are two Queensrÿche and that after the next court day in 2013, one of both bands will have to change its name?

Yes, that’s correct, in November 2013.

« You can write about a very mundane situation and it can have a very powerful effect on an audience, or you can write something really deep and profound, and you might get no reactions at all. I think that you have to write about your point of passion: that’s the rule that works the best. »

Bitter things were said between you and the other guys of Queensrÿche when legal actions were taken: fans reacted sadly to this. What are your feelings about all that has happened ?

I agree: it was a horrible situation and one that I really didn’t want to happen. The whole situation happened without any kind of warning, like “out of the blue”. I think that happens because the Internet now exists: everything is public now. Generally, every court case becomes ugly: both sides say things to each other. In the past, it was kept private. But nowadays, it’s all out in the open, people can read the statements on the Internet. It’s actually disgusting, yes.

Some situations appear now surrealistic : for example, when they fired your wife (note: she was Queensrÿche manager) and told you that you would be the next, and this just before going on stage!

Yes, I know. The way it all happened is very strange and makes no sense to me. We are all in our fifties and realistically have more than 10 creative years ahead of us, so why would you take this incredibly successful and respected band, Queensrÿche, and destroy it just to start it all over again? It makes no sense, it’s madness. I could see this happening to a new band, after one album they’ve put out, but not to a band that’s been together for 30 years. Starting it all over again in this business, when you’re 50, is difficult! (laughs) Any sane person with some kind of business sense could see that and protect the name, the entity and not put the dirty laundry out there and let people comment on it. It’s horrible, but you’ve got to move on.

What can we expect musically of your vision of Queensrÿche ?

Well, I don’t really know what to expect, honestly: I try to live my life with very few expectations. In that way, I’m always surprised! (laughs) It’s a very interesting group of people: Rudy (Sarzo, bass), Bobby (Boltzer, drums) and I have known each other for over 30 years and we’ve always talked about making music together. This is our first chance to do that. I think that when we all sit in a room, the music will start happening: perhaps we’ll write a record together. But before that, we’ll take the first step, which is touring. We’ll start in March and be coming to Europe to play wherever possible Queensrÿche music.

What will be the involvement of the new members?

I don’t know, really: we’ll have to sit all together in a room and see what happens. I think it’s going to be very interesting because all these guys are incredible players: that’s why I picked them. Firstly, I liked their playing, and secondly, I wanted people who I liked. Putting their personalities together was a big point for me. If you have a group of people who like hanging out and have a common sense of humour or way of looking at the world, it makes such an incredible and enjoyable creative atmosphere. I think it’s going to be very interesting, what we’ll come up with.

« I try to live my life with very few expectations. In that way, I’m always surprised! (laughs) »

You said last year, as a New Year’s resolution, that you would quit drinking wine. In fact, you didn’t: are you going to take another resolution like that for next year? (laughs)

(laughs) No, I don’t think I’ll ever quit drinking wine! (laughs) It was a funny analogy, because people always take this sort of resolution for New Year! (laughs)

Interview conducted on October 2012
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Geoff Tate’s official website: geofftate.com
Queensrÿche’s website: www.queensryche.com

Album Kings & Thieves, out since October, 29th, 2012 via InsideOut Music



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