Geoff Tate Interview: Court Set to Decide Rights to Queensryche Name Early Next Year
Image attributed to Geoff Tate
Queensryche’s thirteenth studio album titled Frequency Unknown was released April 2013. The record features ten new songs, remakes of four hits and an array of guest stars including Chris Poland, Dave Meniketti, Brad Gillis, Ty Tabor, K.K. Downing, Paul Bostaph and Craig Locicero. Also appearing on the album is Jason Slater who worked on previous Queensryche projects with Tate.
Frontman and original Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate made the recording with an entirely new lineup consisting of bassist Rudy Sarzo, guitarist Robert Sarzo, drummer Simon Wright, Guitarist Kelly Gray and keyboardist Randy Gane.
"We have an actual court date that’s coming up, which I think will be the deciding situation regarding all this. The whole thing is just a corporate breakup, so it’s a standard procedure and the rules are regulated by the state and federal government."
In 2012, Tate was fired from the progressive metal band he co-founded in 1982 and filed a lawsuit on wrongful termination. The preliminary injunction enabled both parties to use the name Queensryche. Tate subsequently created his own lineup. The version of Queensryche with new lead singer Todd La Torre also released an album this year, and both bands have toured in 2013. In early 2014, a court decision will be made as to which band version will have rights to the name “Queensryche.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Geoff, I heard you and your friends rode motorcycles through Malaysia earlier this year. What was that experience like?
Geoff Tate: Oh incredible! I’m a motorcycle rider, and I really love adventure riding where you go off road often times and go into remote places where you have to carry your own fuel, food and shelter and that kind of thing. It was fantastic. It’s a jungle region, so the roads are questionable, and sometimes they wash out and you have to travel down the riverbank for several miles until you can find a low place to ride across.
There are monkeys living all over the place and wild birds that you would normally see in a pet store. There are flocks of them (laughs). That’s very strange. I loved it!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When we spoke a few years ago, there was only one Queensryche. You’ve been very outspoken, but are you a believer that all publicity is good publicity?
Geoff Tate: Well, I’m becoming that way, specifically since this year and just recently in the touring I’ve done with my version of Queensryche. We’ve had more soldout shows than formerly Queensryche has had in ten years. So I guess it means something, but I don’t know if it’s the publicity or the audience is excited about seeing my lineup of fantastic musicians. I don’t know what it is, but it has worked out really well. I’m very happy.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you and the other guys talked since the firing or tried to work things out?
Geoff Tate: Yeah. I’ve tried several times. We have an actual court date that’s coming up, which I think will be the deciding situation regarding all this. The whole thing is just a corporate breakup, so it’s a standard procedure and the rules are regulated by the state and federal government. You know, this is how you do it. It’s compensation for the various members of the corporation, and that’s really all it is at the end of the game.
It’s not about who said what or who did this or whatever. It’s very black and white; so all the speculation on the Internet is really kind of a waste of time, if somebody’s trying to influence public opinion. Public opinion has nothing to do with the court case (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who can use the name “Queensryche” will be settled in court soon?
Geoff Tate: Yeah. Exactly.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Let’s talk about your latest album, Frequency Unknown. Tell me about the title.
Geoff Tate: The title was inspired by a kind of an urban myth that exists in studios. When you’re mixing a record, you have all these different sounds and different instruments playing different parts and the EQ of the particular track. Some engineers believe there’s an unknown frequency, like they sit there and they dial in all these different frequencies on the EQ meters, you know? And all of a sudden, you get the settings right and everything just kind of comes together on the song.
You can hear the lows really well, the mid range, the high end and everything just sounds solid. That’s the unknown frequency. I thought that was a clever little thing, so I called the record that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you write this as a concept album or with several themes such as religion and politics as in the past?
Geoff Tate: No. This one didn’t have a theme or a concept. It was really about the actual experience itself. Four of us got together to write the record, myself, Jason Slater, Randy Gane and Lucas Rossi. We sat down and spent several days just conversating about things we were interested in, music we liked, world events, news items, opinions about this and whatever.
Out of those conversations, we all found inspirations for the songs on this record. That’s really how it started … several days of hanging out, you know? Once we had written the record, we thought it would be fun to have different guitar players guest on the songs and come in and play solos. That idea morphed into getting different drummers in and bass players. We decided to change some people around and bring in some different people to get a different feel on the songs.
We ended up having quite an array of different people playing on the record which was really fun and very exciting to play with these incredible players, feel their enthusiasm and their creativity, bring their personality and style into the music. It took the songs in a different direction, so I had a great time making the record, just a fantastic time. The whole thing came together real effortlessly and quickly, which I loved.
I love making records. I’d like to put out a record every six months. That’s my goal. I hate waiting years to put out a record. I think music and art is topical and should be of the moment and should be a part of what’s happening in the world. You can’t do that if you’re waiting two or three years for a release. I work at a very quick pace, so that is great for me. I can work at my own pace and be very satisfied.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In particular, I like the songs “Slave” and “Running Backwards.” Tell me about the inspirations.
Geoff Tate: “Running Backwards” is about a rape victim. I have five daughters, and I’m very conscious of violence against women. It’s a subject that just infuriates me. I wanted to write a song about it. “Slave” is a little bit of an observation on materialism, how we all are really slaves to stuff. That old saying is, “The more stuff you have, the more your stuff owns you.” I’m a firm believer of that especially at my age.
I’m in this kind of mode where I’m slimming down everything and making my life much more compact without all the responsibilities and the time spent taking care of all the stuff. It really does own you, and I’m tired of being owned (laughs). You know, throughout life you gather things and carry them around with you for years and years, and then one day, you look at it and ask, “What do I need this for?” You have to dust things, maintain them and take care of them. I’d rather be doing something else.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The fans’ reactions to the album have been rather mixed.
Geoff Tate: It’s like every Queensryche record. Every record we’ve ever released has had mixed reviews (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was there actually a contest about who hates the album the most?
Geoff Tate: Yes. That was really funny. We are in this court case, and there’s a small group of people that have multiple Internet aliases, and they get on the Internet and carry on conversations with themselves appearing to be a “swell” of public opinion. That’s what they’re trying to create which does nothing to the court case. It has nothing to do with that at all. It’s just a smear tactic, you know?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes. Understood.
Geoff Tate: Tim, from my record company, came up with the idea. He said, “It would be funny to offer people a prize to tell us how much they hate the record.” So that’s what we did. We ran a contest and people submitted videos making fools out of themselves, and so that was great. We picked a winner and flew the couple to Seattle for the show meeting them backstage and all that. We had a great time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s funny! Now, are the initials on the ring on the album cover just simply identifying the name of the record?
Geoff Tate: Apparently, it’s something that riles people (laughs). I never thought of it that way. I thought it looked kind of metal, the fist coming through the glass. My fans typically wear a lot of rings. It’s just an abbreviation of the album title.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What do you think of the latest album by the “other” Queensryche?
Geoff Tate: Oh, I’m not interested at all. I haven’t listened to it and won’t listen to it. I really ripped off the rear view mirror, and I’m speeding down the road. I’m not interested in what they’re doing. I spent thirty years with those guys. I know what they’re doing (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Geoff, have you noticed any changes in yourself personally or professionally since you hit your 50s?
Geoff Tate: I probably am stronger now than I was. I have a ton of energy for some reason, perhaps because I’ve really been taking care of myself and working out, running and all that. Maybe it’s just my lease on life, too. I feel free. Like I said earlier, I spent thirty years with those guys having to bend over backward and compromise and please everybody. I worked incredibly hard at taking care of everybody and making sure that everybody made a great living and had advantages only to have that friendship and trust betrayed.
For the first couple of months after it happened, I was an emotional wreck. I was really hurt by all this, and then I finally put it in place, and I’m not interested in looking back. I feel completely freed now artistically, creatively, spiritually to follow my own path and participate in my art the way I want to do it without compromising with other people and their situations, whatever those convoluted situations were. So I’m very happy. I have an incredible support team of people around me that are happy to be there. I’m excited to work with happy and excited people who have ideas. That is breathtaking to me (laughs). I feel so good about it. So yeah, I’m in a great spot. I feel incredible.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When we spoke in December 2010, you thought the biggest problem in this country was stupidity. Are you still in that mindset?
Geoff Tate: Yeah. I think education should be the most important topic of discussion in our country. We’re getting left behind at an unbelievable pace. When people can read things on the Internet and believe them without question or without looking at other sources, that is a dangerous place to be in. That’s a setup for brainwashing on a mass scale. It’s happening in our country at such an unbelievable pace now.
We go to Google or Wikipedia for our information. They are just tools that can be changed and re-written, and some info is incorrect. It’s about who’s the most diligent about entering in the info on Google and Wikipedia and those kinds of things. People take that as being the truth. That’s a dangerous, dangerous place to be, very dangerous, very worrisome.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you still going strong in the wine business?
Geoff Tate: I am. My 2010 Red got ninety-one points in the Wine Enthusiast competition in July, and I feel great about that. My 2010 White got ninety-two points in the competition last year. The wine’s doing great, and I’m having a good time participating in that industry. Man, it’s a wonderful industry to be a part of especially in Washington State, which is the second largest wine producer. Our wine industry is just exploding now. I’m seeing our wines on lists all over the world now.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What’s coming up for you, Geoff?
Geoff Tate: The tour is ongoing this fall, and right now I’m working on a new record that I began a few months ago. I’m trying to get the record finished by the first of the year, so I can get it out. It’s a concept record, a pretty in-depth one. I’m excited about it.
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