INTERVIEW WITH GEOFF TATE
FRIDAY 14th July 2006,
The Palace St Kilda, Melbourne Australia
It's no secret about the melodicrock boards that I am a huge fan of Queensryche. Now being a friend of Andrews for the last sixteen years has had its perks, but nothing quite like the opportunity he created for me on the day of Queensryche's first Australian show in St Kilda / Melbourne on the 14th of July 2006. Andrew asked if I would be interested in interviewing Geoff Tate after their sound check for their first show, like he had to ask twice!
I was fortunate enough to watch the band sound check and get an earful of The Lady Wore Black and Take Hold of the Flame (Wow!), before being sat down in a back room to conduct this interview. A huge thankyou to Geoff for the interview and to the band (including Pamela Moore) for coming to Australia and putting on these great shows. Thanks to Adam (Queensryche's tour manager) for helping arrange this and for allowing my young brother Phillip to join me for the interview, throw in some questions and join the after show meet and greets.
Last but not least thanks to Andrew for pulling out all the stops and putting this all together for us. Bearing in mind it was my first time seeing the band live, it turned out to be one hell of a night to remember! Great work Andrew, I owe you mate!!!!! [Thaks for the report Mick...]
GEOFF TATE TALKS MCII, METAL, QUEENSRYCHE & NEW CONCEPT ALBUM!
Interview by Mick (WardyS3) for melodicrock.com, Melbourne Aus 14 July 2006
Thanks Geoff, we've come a fair way and a little unprepared, it was only a couple of days ago Andrew of melodicrock.com organised all this for us. He's not a fan of Queensryche [Thanks for dropping me in it Mick!!] but as you can see from our excitement, fortunately for my brother and I we are long time fans of the band (all laughing), and this is just an incredible opportunity for us and we thank you for your time.
A. All right, sure.
Q. You arrived yesterday?
A. I think so, yeah.
Q. Have you seen much of Melbourne?
A. No, no not enough, it's a very cool city, I'd like to spend more time here.
Q. Are you planning to see anything before you leave
A. Well this tour is kind of like a very hectic, boom boom boom, kind of thing. It's our first time here so we're trying to do as many cities as we can, there's three cities, and you've gotta leave something for next time.
Q. Sure. You had an interview recently with KNAC.com, I don't know what it is about those guys but they always seem to get the latest from you. There you mentioned that you'd now be doing condensed versions of Mindcrime I and II for the Australian shows, and perhaps a few extras, we were expecting the full albums back to back and obviously now there's going to be some surprises?
A. Well actually the plan was back to back full albums in the States and in Europe, and in Australia we were doing a condensed version of both records.
Q. You're coming to Australia, first time here, and you thought it would be a good idea to give us something from the bands history as well?
A. Yeah we're going to be playing some songs off the old albums, other albums as well.
Q. Excellent. Okay, onto Mindcrime II it's been out for a little while now, looking back at it, and having lived with it for so long now through the recording process the release and the touring, is there anything about it at all that you'd want to change about the album or are you happy how it's turned out?
A. Oh yeah, I'm very happy with it.
Q. What was the most challenging song on Mindcrime II as far as vocals went for you to sing?
A. Um, well writing it was really the challenge, it's one of the most challenging records I think we've done. Some things kind of came easy and other parts of it were a real struggle, it took months and months to develop. There's a song called Murderer which took a long time to come together, it started out as primarily just a riff, and then through chopping it up and putting the chords in different places and adding stuff and subtracting we came up with sort of an outline of a song. But then the time signature of the song changes throughout the verse and so it required building a verse melody that was in different rhythms, which I've never had to do before, so that was a real challenge doing something like that. I think it took something like two weeks of work on it to get it to feel right and sit right. But when you write something it's like building a boat or building a house, it's a puzzle. You know, it takes craftsmanship, a little bit of inspiration but mostly craftsmanship to make things work, and to fit together, and so you kind of have to piece it together and piece it together until you get something like a framework and after that of course you can embellish it with the more artistic flair, once you get the basic framework worked out. But that's what I love about making music, it's so challenging, because you start with nothing, just an idea in your head and you build on it and build on it until you have this, finished thing that hopefully will convey the message you're trying to talk about and hopefully effect somebody that's listening to it in a positive way.
Q. So Murderer started off from a riff and took a long time to complete. Is it because a riff is so good you feel the song has to be forced to work, or is it that you just let it come naturally? I mean, how do you decide with those initial riffs that it's going to be such a song?
A. Well, usually for me it's just do I fall in love with the riff or not, and I loved the energy of the riff and just the way it felt and I figured that that was a needed component in the story, and it was such a strong riff that it had to be used at some point, so the challenge was letting it develop, not trying to force it as you said, but let it happen at it's own pace and then once the framework was built then, letting it take off from there.
Q. You've often commented that you've never been a true fan of metal.
A. Um hmm.
Q. Do you find then because of that it's harder for you to be as creative with the heavier riffs as opposed to something else that you're given, or does it just seem to come naturally for you?
A. Well, I guess I should probably specify, you know metal I've never been part of a scene, in fact I hate it, I hate scenes where people feel like they have to conform and be part of something, I'm not a party person, I don't belong to any political party, religious group, a music scene, nothing like that. I consider myself a rogue. I don't drive with the traffic, I'm the guy that's out ahead or behind the pack, I just refuse to be involved with that, so it's not that I disrespect metal or the people that play it, it's in the contrary to that, I think they're some of the best players in the world. It's just that I don't like to categorise myself or my band as being one thing, it's too limiting for me to think of myself in that, in those terms, in other people's terms I guess is what I am saying. I want to define myself, I don't want to have others define who I am or what I do, you know. So, trying to encapsulate that statement in a short sound byte oftentimes gets taken the wrong way by people.
Q. I think it has, yeah.
A. And people have been going Oh, who's he think he is, he doesn't like metal.
Q. They have.
A. Well, so the fuck what? Big deal what I like and I don't like. If you don't believe what I believe, cool!
Q. You've more than answered that then! (laughing). Very cool thanks!
A. (laughing) But really, I mean we play and know, with a lot of so-called metal musicians and I count many of them my friends and my peers, I mean they're great players and great artists and it's not that I'm trying to belittle them, it's just that I don't want to be part of somebody else's idea of who I should be.
Q. Just on a side note then, before we continue on with Mindcrime, the idea that you're not just metal and not wanting to categorise yourself showed through with your first solo album which, by the way, I thought was a gem
Q. So what can we expect with your next solo album, I know you've commented it's done, it's finished?
A. Um, not quite, almost.
Q. Okay, is it much the same thing or have you branched out yet again.
A. No that's, it's a different thing. It's other sort of experimentation, I've been in a laboratory mixing chemicals and this is what you get, you know.
Q. I was and know of others who were impressed with your vocals on Mindcrime II, and in particular the high note you sing on Re-arrange You. Over the years you seem very comfortable in the mid to higher ranges, but is it becoming more difficult for you to sing those higher notes?
A. No, it's a matter of, I don't know how to explain it. Again, I think it's just a matter of trying new things and different things and trying to let the song develop in a way and not have to force it into sounding a certain way because that's what I do. I like to be more chameleon-like with what a song is about, I try to give each song it's own identity and it's own feel, and if I'm constantly doing vocal gymnastics over things it kind of loses the emotion I think, and it becomes, like, difficult to listen to.
Q. You've certainly made your point over the years and would it be a fair comment to say you're now content to just let the song sell the song?
A. Yeah, I think so. I think that, for me, melody and the words are the most important things in a song, and so I pretty much concentrate on that. I'm trying to get the message across, and try to do it in a way, in a melodic way, that people will be able to relate to and sing to, I think that's important too, and not too many people can sing in really high registers comfortably, and so if you make it in a place where that's uncomfortable for them I think they kind of turn off to the song in a sense, and then if they turn off the song they're not hearing what you have to say.
Q. I'm American to me, is a stab at the U.S. Government and there's certainly other references throughout the album on tracks such as Hostage. There were comments about the internet when it was announced Queensryche were going to tackle Mindcrime II, that some people were concerned that you would have too much to say on this record, and to be honest I would have liked you to have said more. Was there a conscious effort on your behalf to restrain yourself in this regard or are you happy with what you have said with Mindcrime II?
A. Well, you know the story is a conclusion to Mindcrime I, and in this conclusion to me the character doesn't give a shit about politics, he doesn't give a shit about anything other than revenge, and so he doesn't really have too much commentary about it. I mean he's been isolated in prison, he doesn't vote, he doesn't watch the news, what does he care? So to me the thrust of the lyrics and the thrust of the story is about his revenge and his feelings about that and then ultimately what that does to him, where those feelings of revenge and that need to exact revenge takes him, and the political aspect, it was more important when he was younger, it seemed to matter more, and that might reflect just my own age, I am less and less interested in politics, it is all to me just, almost a waste of time, because in my short life I see it all happening all the time, things aren't any different today than they were twenty years ago. You know, the rich are still rich, they're still calling the shots, the middle class is paying for everything and the lower classes are still in the predicament they're in. And those are like major things that don't really change that quickly, and I don't think they ever will, I think that's just the way things are. The people that are at the top of the food chain are going to stay there no matter what, cause that's what's important to them, and they're not going to let anybody else knock them off their perch if they can help it. They're going to do whatever it takes to stay there, whether it be, creating chaos and unrest in the Middle East to keep the gas prices high so their companies can make more money, it makes sense to me maybe if I was in their position I'd do the same thing, but I don't know, it all seems sort of worthless in a way to me, the whole political thing. Like so much, so many talking heads debating points that can go on forever. You know if you bring up a point there's always other people who can counter your point with information, confuse the issue, put a spin on it and discredit you no matter, no matter how smart you are or how good your intentions are, everybody, anybody can be knocked down. So, I dunno, it's just the age I'm at, I sort of see it as a futile exercise.
Q. Mike Stone, a lot of contribution to Mindcrime II.
Q. Is he here to stay?
A. I hope so. I enjoy working with Mike. He's a very creative guy, we share a lot of interests, we both ride motorcycles, we both like to sail. He's a family man, me too. He's got a great sense of humour, he keeps the band kind of centred somewhat. We've all kind of got volatile personalities and he's the kind of guy that cools everybody off and makes everybody laugh rather than fight. So that's, that's good.
Q. Jason Slater, how important was he to Mindcrime II?
A. Oh, very important. Slater is a bizarre character, very extreme and unique personality, very creative and talented. He grew up listening to Mindcrime and really wanted to do this record and it was sort of by chance that we got working with him. He, his band opened up for us in a short tour through the south west of the United States, and we just started talking music and he mentioned Mindcrime, one of his favourite records, and he actually asked me the question, he said when are you gonna do a sequel to it?, and I said well, it's funny you mention that because I'm working on it right now, and he says really? So we talked more and that started the ball rolling.
Q. He was about as excited as what we are talking to you here right now I'd imagine?
Q. You've also commented on KNAC.com that you've begun work on the next album. Can we, and this is me being greedy, can we expect a theme orientated album or any concept for the next one?
A. For the next Queensryche album? Oh yeah.
Q. Many feel as do I that Queensryche are at their strongest when creating with themes or concepts and I think Mindcrime II has proven that yet again.
A. Yeah, that's kind of the direction we're going in.
Q. Great. How far have you gotten so far?
A. Just beginning really, the beginning stages.
Q. You've said that all your albums sort of reflect a stage in your life, and Mindcrime II is sort of a little bit angry, but also very resigned
to the political situation. Considering you just said that you have already said all you had to say in regard to the political climate, what direction, what kind of theme will the next album take? Is it more of a Tribe type of feel?
A. Oh it's definitely not a Tribe feel. It's a story and it involves characters, and um, all I can really say about it at the moment, I don't want to give too much of it away, it's definitely a story, definitely a theme, concept record and it's very intense, I think it's going to be very intense in the way that it's in-depth, there's a lot of it, we're shooting for something quite a bit more in-depth than Mindcrime II, something more, um, longer songs, that kind of thing.
Q. An emotional kind of push behind it?
A. Yeah very emotional. We're shooting for that.
You never know what you're gonna get.
Q. Okay, and will the whole band be involved in the writing, alongside Jason Slater if he comes back again.
A. Um, yeah I'm sure, you know
Q. All doors are open?
A. Yeah sure. You know, we have, in our band we have a sort of a, well, different people get involved to certain extents depending on the album and the song, the point in their life that they're at, sometimes people are really unable to lock or commit themselves to an idea or a theme or even time spent working on a record and we've managed to stay a band because we give everybody in the band room to do what they need to do and I think that works for us, you know.
Q. Um hmm.
A. Like, like Michael for example, he was really influential on the last album but this record, he didn't have a lot to add to it, he just hit a creative block and was interested in working on some stuff with his family, so we gave him the space to do it. He came in with some riffs that were incredibly important to the record, um, but that's kind of what works for us, you know. Not everybody is involved in the same
A. Capacity, yeah.
Q. I do want to ask one Degamo related question, there's been some comments that you would be happy to work with him again in some other project, outside of Queensryche even. Bearing in mind Mindcrime II has turned out so well is it likely that you would still be interested, is that something that does interest you or
A. Oh yeah, yeah. Chris is fantastic musician.
Q. You still get along well with him obviously?
A. Oh yeah, yeah, I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. It's not that he's not welcome to work with us, it's just that again it kinda goes back to my earlier statement, sometimes people need to get away for a while, they need to have a break and, sometimes they're not up for it. Like he wasn't up for work on this record, he just couldn't commit himself to it and we needed to have somebody that was really full throttle and in on it. And so it turned out the way it did, I have no regrets about that, but in the future, I'd definitely like to work with him on something.
Q. After near twenty years of being a fan and now having three kids and a mortgage for myself, I've never had the opportunity to travel and see you, so why the fuck has it taken you so long to get to Australia?
A. (laughing) Yeah, well I asked myself that too. Well, as a rock band people I think have a misconception that you just go wherever you want and play, but the business doesn't work that way. You need a promoter, to promote the show, sell tickets and that kind of thing. Because unfortunately it's an economic gamble, and we've just never had a promoter that we've been able to convince that we can do business here. I don't know why, but we've never had the ability to come here before, so this is a real treat for us, we've been waiting and hoping to come to Australia for many years, and after so many years of being in a band and touring around the world it's a great feeling to go to a place you've never been before. A new city to explore, new people to meet, you know, I ate kangaroo last night at dinner and I've never done that before.
Q. Really? Even we don't eat too much kangaroo (laughing).
A. (laughing) Oh really? It was good!
Q. You're not staying for very long after completing the three shows?
A. No, no I think we're here for, like, four days and then we're off.
Q. Well, it's been an absolute pleasure. We will hopefully get to see you later after the show, and you'd do well to avoid us because we'll likely be quite pissed!
A. Great! Me too (laughing).
Q. It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you Geoff and you've been very generous with your time. Thanks for being so informative and I'm sure the shows will be fantastic. Thanks mate!
A. You're welcome.