By Jeb Wright
Imagine being the lead singer, songwriter and public persona for a band for 30 plus years and then, one day, out of the blue, being told you’re kicked out. Imagine your wife is the manger of the band and she, too, is fired the same day. Now imagine that you have to go on stage that night and play a concert with the band that just stabbed you in the back. That is what Queensryche lead vocalist Geoff Tate had to face when he was shanghaied by the very band he founded. Soon there will be two Queensryche’s on the road waiting for the day both bands have to leave the stage and go into the court room.
Tate, accused of pulling a knife on his drummer when told of the news, an action he denies, is already back on the road with his solo band promoting his new album Kings & Thieves. He has assembled an all star cast for his Queensryche tour next year that includes former Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover, ex-Quiet Riot, DIO, Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult and Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo and Ratt drummer Bobby Blotzer.
In the interview that follows, Tate talks openly about his humiliation of being blindsided to the plot to kick him out of Queensryche and how his desires to speak to his former band mates face-to-face have been ignored. He talks about the controversy when he told an audience ‘they sucked’ on tour last summer and he tells how he can’t believe what happened to him.
We also discuss, in-depth, the new album and discover why Geoff does not listen to his own music once he is done writing it.
Read on to learn more about the past, present and future of a true ‘80’s rock icon.
Jeb: How is the tour going?
Geoff: It is going really well. We have done about a week of shows and the band is gelling. Our performances are doing really well.
Jeb: You have Rudy Sarzo and Bobby Blotzer, Kelly Gray and Glen Drover in the band.
Geoff: They are in my new version of Queensryche. We start in the spring. We have our first rehearsals in January. Right now, I have my solo band and we are touring supporting my solo album Kings & Thieves.
Jeb: Oh, I got a download of Kings & Thieves and it didn’t say who was in the band. I just assumed with the recent press releases it was those guys. You’ve just cleared everything up for me.
Geoff: Well Jeb that is what I am here for…to clear things up [laughter]. I am really looking forward to playing with those guys when we start in January. Rudy, Bobby and I have known each other for thirty years. We met when Queensryche toured with Ozzy, Whitesnake and Ratt. We got to be friends years ago and we’ve been talking about making music for years. I was really pleased when I called them and told them that I had this opportunity this coming spring and they all said that they wanted to do it. I am very excited about that.
Jeb: Legally, you now have the right to call yourself ‘Queensryche.’
Geoff: Both parties are able to use the name for the rest of the year. We have a final court date in November of 2013 and then a judge will decide who gets to use the name, or how we are going to dissolve the whole thing, or whatever.
We have a year where the judge gave both parties the right to use the name. It is what it is. It is not the way I wanted things to roll. If I had my way things would have been handled differently. Unfortunately, you’ve got to roll with the deck that you’re dealt.
Jeb: What do you think your version of Queensryche will sound like?
Geoff: I have no idea. I am excited about the upcoming Queensryche tour. I like everybody involved. Bobby and I have jammed before but we have never made a record. The same for Rudy, we’ve known each other a long time.
The only unknown is Glen. He has a good resume and he is a really nice guy to talk with. I went after him specifically because I love his guitar playing as it is very fluid. I thought putting him together with Kelly [Gray] would be really interesting. They have an opposite approach so putting them together should be great. I’m trying not to get too excited because I am out with my band right now. We are getting together in Seattle and having a face-to-face conversation and a photo session to get ready for rehearsals very soon.
Jeb: I want to talk more of this later, but let’s talk Kings & Thieves now. Unlike many albums with Queensryche, this is not a concept album.
Geoff: It is just a solo rock album. It was a fun album to make and it was a really creative time with the guys that put this together with me. It was a really enjoyable time because I got to work at my own pace.
I am kind of a workaholic. When I have an idea I just roll with it. This record was very immediate and very raw. It was very unrehearsed and sort of just capturing the moment.
A lot of the music was written and recorded at the same time. A lot of what you hear were second and third takes and I like that. My experience in the past was that it took years to make records and that can limit your excitement about it. We would go over the songs with a fine tooth comb. This record was a whole different animal.
Jeb: Did you write this album before, during or after all of the Queensryche drama?
Geoff: I started January 2nd, as it was my New Year’s resolution to make a new record. I finished it in July. It was a short time, really.
Jeb: You are Geoff Tate and you will always be the true voice of Queensryche. You are not a run of the mill singer. On this album you explore some different types of tunes like “Dark Money.”
Geoff: I like that song quite a bit. It was a fun one to write. This is the type of song where people go, “Oh you’re so political.” That is not true, as I do not really like politics. What I do like, and what I’m interested in, is social commentary. I like to look at how politics affects our lives. Dark money is a term that has been used over the last few years. It pertains to a situation that is very much on people’s minds these days, especially during election times.
How we elect our officials is really under scrutiny right now. We were taught, when we were little, that one vote counted. If enough of us voted a certain way then that would be how the outcome came about. Somewhere along the way, someone changed how it works. We are still playing under the rules that we grew up with, but they have changed. Now you have these billionaires and wealthy corporations who are spending millions of dollars to influence elections in a way that benefits them.
Jeb: Another great song is “Waiting.”
Geoff: That is a cool piece. I thought that was a great song for the end of the album. It has an anticipation feel to it. I like that aspect of it.
Jeb: When you are being this spontaneous how can you be critical of what you are doing?
Geoff: I don’t know if it really needs to be critiqued. I am at a point where I don’t want to think too much. I want to just go with what feels right and what is interesting to me.
I put away the logic for a while and decided to not analyze things to the umpth degree. I just wanted to let it all out. I didn’t want to have to follow somebody else’s rules.
I am really against definitions. I am sick of the genrefacation of music where you have all of these lines around you like you’re in a box. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t care how people categorize it as that is their own game. I make this music for me.
Jeb: Record stores used to have the rock section and it would have both Judas Priest and Simon & Garfunkel in the same section.
Geoff: Exactly, that’s the generation that we grew up in. It was a wonderful time where there were not any limitations on the art. Rock music could be anything. Rock could incorporate any musical style in the world. Somewhere in the ‘90’s it changed as people became obsessed with putting things in categories.
Jeb: A song on the new album that shows you wanting to just do whatever you want to do is “The Way I Roll.” It is Geoff Tate meets Kid Rock, almost.
Geoff: Perhaps that is a way you can look at it. It has elements of modern rap music in it and it has 1970’s Supertramp in it as well. There is a metal guitar part. There are a lot of themes going on in that song.
Jeb: “Say You Love It” is one of the best tunes on the album. You have different styles of singing on this album. I think this song really shows your vocal skills in a different way than Queensryche.
Geoff: I think perhaps my biggest challenge as an artist is that I don’t know how people hear me. I just do what I do. I am not trying to do anything other than what I feel the song is trying to be. I just try to present the song in the best way that I can imagine for the lyrical content.
Jeb: You have a voice you are known for with Queensryche. This album really shows you are not a one trick pony. I think, as fans, we hear this more than you do.
Geoff: I don’t ever listen to my music after I write it; I’m on to the next thing. I don’t listen to myself consistently, record after record. I really don’t have a clue.
The song “Say You Love It” I like quite a bit. It is a song about a relationship, a sexual relationship. I don’t know what it is about the age I am at right now but I’m going through some sort of sexual renaissance. Luckily, my wife is in her forties so we are just having a great time [laughter].
Jeb: Talk about the inspiration, lyrically, behind “These Glory Days.”
Geoff: I used an old French proverb in the song that is from the Middle Ages, and it is the inspiration for the song. I fell in love with it. You should recognize your beliefs and enjoy life. The world is going to do what the world is going to do. I think that is the driving point in the song.
These are glorious days that we live in even though they seem really challenging. This is our life and life is glorious and it is what you make it. I think one should really try their utmost to experience as much of life as they possibly can and not limit themselves to what they have always known. We should strive to live life to the fullest.
Jeb: You’re not much for nostalgia.
Geoff: No, not at all.
Jeb: Some of your fans look at your music in a nostalgic way.
Geoff: I recognize that. There is a contingent of my fan base that really wants me to be a nostalgia act. As people can probably conclude, I am not nostalgic at all and that is why I consistently release new music and that is why the music changes from album to album.
I don’t’ like to look back. I’ve been there and done that and that record is me at that time but the “me” is always changing. I am changing and progressing every day. I look at life as a glorious adventure. My songs are the soundtrack to that, like a diary. Every album is me at that point and me talking about my life and my observations, and things that I think are important and moving.
I don’t want to sing the same songs over and over for the rest of my life. I don’t want to sing songs for someone who just wants to relive their high school days. I will do that during a show, definitely, because that is what a show is for; to bring people together. A record is for artistic exploration.
Jeb: What is a set list like for the new tour?
Geoff: I’ve been mixing it up. I do material from both of my solo albums and I play all of my favorite Queensryche songs. The funny thing is that people online are writing that I am not playing enough Queensryche. My show is two hours long and it really cracks me up because I play 23 or 24 songs and 15 of them are Queensryche. My only conclusion is that they don’t know some of those songs. Maybe they know some of the really popular stuff and they don’t realize that I am playing Queensryche.
Jeb: With all the BS going on with your former band mates, a great middle finger gesture to them would be for you to collaborate with Chris DeGarmo again.
Geoff: Oh yeah. Chris and I are always talking about doing some stuff together. He doesn’t have this life anymore. He changed and he is not interested in going on the road and he is not really interested in making a record. He’s come close a couple of times. He’s calls me up out of the blue and tells me that he has an idea once and a while and I will go over to his house. We’ve collected a few songs over the years.
As time goes by, he is becoming less and less interested in it. I don’t blame him. It is the life he has chosen. He switched gears in his head and he has moved on to something else. I can’t relate to it at all because I don’t think in those terms but I can respect his belief system and his point of view.
Jeb: Looking back over the last year, did the rest of the band do what could be called a corporate takeover?
Geoff: That’s exactly what it was. That is why we have the court date next November. It has to be handed in a legal fashion because we are all tied together though the corporation. We have to come to a corporate resolution on how we are going to operate the corporation. We have to decide whether we are going to keep it in operation or dissolve it. There are rules you have to follow if you’re going to dissolve it. It is not like just a bunch of guys who play music together and decide to kick somebody out and replace them with somebody else. It is a corporation and there is a whole legal structure that has to be followed.
Jeb: You are a very creative and intelligent man. You have a lot of pride and confidence. Were you really blindsided by this?
Geoff: I was absolutely blindsided. That is what is so humiliating, for me, about it. I was blindsided and I didn’t see it coming.
It didn’t make any sense to me. Think about it: Here is a band that has been successful, not just in America, but worldwide, for thirty years. We have a stellar reputation.
I ran a lot of the business in the band and I was the mouthpiece of the band to get the information to the public. It has been my project and my passion to present Queensryche in the most elegant way that I can imagine.
For somebody to take this incredibly successful entity and destroy it and shortsightedly slash their throats financially makes no sense.
Why would I even think it would be possible? Why would I cancel hundreds of thousands of dollars of shows and not have a backup plan? Why would I fire my entire staff of people and not have anyone in place to take their positions? It makes no sense.
Jeb: You found this out and then you had to perform that very night. How did you do it?
Geoff: It was very difficult. I was incredibly mad at them all. PT Barnum said the show must go on and that is engrained in my thinking. I have only cancelled six shows in my entire career. I have to be pretty messed up to not go on.
It wasn’t easy, I will tell you that. The whole situation has been incredibly awful. All of the false accusations they have made to justify their actions…my God, it is so hurtful to have to go through all of this. Did you hear about the Rocklahoma thing?
Jeb: I did.
Geoff: As a singer it is my job to get the audience pumped up so they respond and have a good time in spite of themselves. I have done that for thirty years. I control the audience, that’s my job. My comment about the audience sucking—I’ve said that a million times. Now that there is a lawsuit it is taken out of context and I am just this jerk.
Jeb: Is forgiveness even an option for your former band mates?
Geoff: I am very open to sitting in a room and actually having a conversation with those guys. I am not saying that anything would be resolved from it, but it would be a really civilized thing to do, to get in a room face-to-face without lawyers and without other people talking for them. I would like to hear what they actually have to say face-to-face.
They have not done it. They have not talked to me face-to-face. They have not been man enough to actually stand there and have a conversation with me—none of them. My contempt is complete. How can you respect somebody who doesn’t have enough sack to even stand there and have a conversation with you and tell you how they feel?
Jeb: Do you regret that you didn’t see the writing on the wall?
Geoff: Oh yeah, absolutely. Who wants to get punched in the side of the head?
Jeb: Lets end on a positive note: You have some dates with Alice Cooper. Are you excited to open for him?
Geoff: I’ve known Alice for years and I feel very fortunate that he asked me to open for him; it’s a real honor. The shows are in Canada and they have crazy audiences; I really love that. My solo band is made up of great guys who I have known for years and it is a nice touring situation. We all get along and have a great time touring together. We have a lot of laughs.
We had a little bit of a drinking binge last night. We ended up in this tequila bar and the bartender was buying us drinks all night—you know how that goes.
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