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Geoff Tate (Queensryche)

Interview with Geoff Tate from Queensryche
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 12 September 2004, 7:20 PM

The 80s. No doubt, a decade full of strong Heavy Metal moments. Bands rose and bands fell, others continued their glorious way through the 90s, all the way up to now and others carried on but followed quite questionable paths. Queensryche is one of the bands which went 'big' in the 80s (with albums such as Rage For Order - 1986, Operation: Mindcrime - 1988 and Empire - 1990) but took a really 'different' course in the 90s. Some liked that, others didn't and don't. We interviewed Geoff Tate, probably one of the best singers in Heavy Metal and we did not hesitate to ask him about the facts, about what Queensryche's fans have been concerned about for at least 10 years. We also got a tip on Queensryche's anticipated Operation: Mindcrime Pt 2. Here's what this really calm and friendly voice had to tell us over the phone.

My first question is internet-related. What’s your relationship with the Internet? Do you read online magazines for example?

Um yeah; I have e-mail of course and I search the web primarily just for information, you know, if I’m looking for some information on some product that I want to buy…

Do you read album reviews, other artists’ interviews, news etc?

No, never. I’m not really interested in other people’s opinions about music.

Oh…\[laughs]

I guess I’ll have to clarify something like that…I forgot I’m talking to a journalist. It’s just that music to me is all opinion and self-expression and so it doesn’t benefit me or do me any good to listen or to read someone else’s opinion on what they think about somebody else’s music. I’ll let find out for myself about it. I don’t like anyone telling me if it’s good or bad or anything; I can come to my own conclusions regarding that.

But your fans’ opinions do interest you, right?

Well, no.

No?

No. Why should I?

Because music though something personal, it’s also an outgoing type of self-expression and fans are the ones who appreciate an artist’s creativity resulting in music?

I agree with part of what you’re saying, it is a form of expression, a form of self-expression when you put it out there for the public to have. But then you kind of loose it at that point, you give it away. You don’t write it for people, you don’t express yourself for the benefit of fans. You express yourself for the benefit of your own need to do that.

So you do it for yourself, primarily…

I do it for myself, always for myself.

How was your 2004 Tour?

Oh it was wonderful. We had some really great times and played some great shows and met some friends, met knew people, traveled to some new places we haven’t been before. It was a really great year!

It must have been quite tiring though because I remember when you arrived at your hotel in Athens \[for Rockwave Festival] you looked really exhausted.

Probably! \[laughs]

Yes, that was on the 20th of June, this year.

Oh we were definitely tired. We’d come from Turkey which was…Turkey was tough! \[laughs]

Yeah, I read it on Michael Wilton’s website. I also read your point of view – I mean the band’s point of view – on what happened on stage at Rockwave Festival in Athens. Was it that tragic on stage with all the technical problems going on?

I don’t remember what happened. What happened? All I remember is that the festival was great and the people were really good.

It was but I remember when you came out on stage, the first thing I noticed was that your microphone wasn’t working properly or its volume or something like that. Your voice was fading in and out… I also read on Wilton’s site that he had problems with his feedback, he couldn’t hear himself playing.

Oh yeah! Ok…

And that you were frustrated after the concert.

I remember that, yeah. We were using rental gear for that show because our car with our equipment had remained in Turkey – we couldn’t get it out of there – so we had to use the rental gear and Michael’s guitar rig was a rental thing so he was having problems, that’s what it was. I don’t remember my microphone going out though because I had it in my monitors.

You know how many shows we’ve played where things don’t work? Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds…Every night something goes wrong, you know what I mean? It’s just the way it is.

I guess you just learn how to cope with it.

Yeah, you just cope with it. You can’t get too upset about it because it’s just what it is. It’s life man! \[laughs] You can’t always know and life’s not always exactly right! \[laughs]

Especially if you’ve been doing this for some 20 years or so! \[laughs]

Oh, I know!

You know, it was a very delightful thing to be seeing Pamela Moore on tour with you this year. A lot of people didn’t know about it and were pretty surprised to see Pamela on stage and it was also a great experience to see you do – well at least in Athens – the entire Operation: Mindcrime album live. How did you come up with the decision to play the entire Operation: Mindcrime?

I think every time we go out on a tour we always ask ourselves well what are we going to play on this tour? and I think that it was Michael who had gone downtown and run into Pamela Moore and they were talking and she said oh you guys are thinking on going out this summer; were are you going? and Mike was oh we’re going to Europe. She said oh I’d like to go to Europe again so he invited her to come and sing with us and said she’d think about it and give us a call. Well, she ended up calling me and I asked her how she’s doing and she was ok, I’m coming with you guys! \[laughs]

So, it just happened.

Yeah, it just happened and we had a great time. It was fun being with her again.

From Queen Of The Reich (1983) to now, what things do you feel have changed and what has remained the same in your opinion?

Lots of stuff has changed. When we first started out we were very heavily influenced by bands of the time that were sort of on the underground popularity list, bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden so our music sounded a lot like them. By the time we did Rage For Order (1986) we were becoming our own musical entity and we were stretching out, becoming more individualistic, becoming Queensryche really. The first two records were in my opinion the stepping stones of the learning curve of becoming a band. So after Rage For Order we really started going, we really started having something unique. Over the years we tried new things, imported new musical flavors into what we do and expand the sound of Queensryche along the way rather than remaining static.

Though I know you said you don’t care about other people’s opinions, I wanted to say that a lot of people have criticized you for trying different things during the last 10 years. A lot of them are Queensryche fans attached to albums like Operation: Mindcrime (1988) and Empire (1990). What would you have to say to all these people?

Well I’d  say absolutely nothing. I’d probably just shake their hands and say thank you,  I’m glad that you liked those records. You can’t argue with it, they’re fans. Of course they’re going to feel that way. When somebody falls in love with a record, they fall for it heavy, there’s no way you’re ever going to shake it off them. You’re never going to say oh no, that record? Is not as cool as the new one! because there’s no way you’re ever going to convince them! Other people who haven’t heard Operation: Mindcrime and came in when Tribe was out, they write all these letters going oh my God! Where’s this band been? This is the best record I’ve heard, ever! I’m going to go back and buy all your records because they’ll probably be as cool as this one!. So this is never going to change; there’s no use of arguing about it!

I understand. Don’t get me wrong though, by all means, but didn’t albums like Tribe sell less than your older albums?…

You’re equating sales with how people like a record and you can’t do that. Look at it from this way: Operation: Mindcrime and Empire both came out in a time period where massive TV programming was involved with those. Huge multi-billion dollar corporations were selling these products to people and people bought them. Millions of people bought them because millions of people were told to buy them.

Ok, but your first Queensryche albums are still selling, aren’t they?

Well, all of our records sell. How many do they sell? Nothing like they used to. It’s a whole different world now. Metal and Hard Rock isn’t the most popular music on the planet anymore, like it was at one time. So, it’s a completely different time event, you can’t equate popularity or even quality with sales; it doesn’t go together. If you think that something is popular or that it sells a lot, that doesn’t mean that it’s good or bad. It just means that people bought it because they bought it. It means that they bought it because they were told to buy it, they were exposed to it.

There’s been some chatter going on lately, concerning your latest release, The Art Of Live. Are you satisfied with the production of this live recording?

Satisfied with it? I mean, that’s what we sound like live.

No, I meant don’t you feel that you could have had a better sound from the part of the sound engineers?

I suppose you can. But what is ’better’? ’Better’ is an opinion. Some people love it and some people hate it.

What’s your point of view on Metal nowadays? There are a lot of new Metal bands around. For example there’s a lot of Death Metal from Scandinavia, a lot of Metalcore from the US. New waves like New Wave Of American Heavy Metal etc. What do you feel about all this, nowadays?

I don’t. I don’t feel anything because I don’t really listen to music other than my own.

You don’t?

No. Just Queensryche music and music that’s in my head. I’ve got to get it out of my head and on to paper. \[laughs]

Now for a different kind of question. Given the opportunity, would you turn back time and do something else other than Queensryche? If yes, what do you think that would be?

I’m not really interested in going back into the past! \[laughs] Actually I like life. I’ve had a very, very good life; an amazing life really. I can’t imagine a better one! I’m incredibly happy as a person, I’ve got a wonderful family, I’ve got a house in the country that I love, a career that I love doing…I travel around the world, I meet people so…how lucky is that?

It’s quite lucky, obviously! \[laughs]

Yeah! I would feel pretty damn greedy to want something different.

What’s your opinion on what’s going on in the world. I mean, war in Iraq, presidential elections coming soon in the U.S. etc.

Politics. Well, that comes out in my music quite a bit. You know, the Iraq war is a tragedy I think and a big cover up for other interests that are over there trying to get control of oil reserves. I don’t like the Bush administration.

So you feel the war was wrong.

Oh absolutely wrong! I almost feel that it’s on one hand wrong to step into another country’s civil strife and civil war and issues and try to make it better. I think that in a long term it creates animosity towards that country which is stepping in. I think people have to work out their problems. They have to come to their own conclusions on their issues.

On the other hand, I completely disagree with fundamentalism whether it be Islam, Christianity, you name it. If it’s fundamentalism coming out of some religion, out of an organized book that some people wrote centuries ago, I disagree with it. I don’t agree with people killing people in the name of a God. Once they start doing that then I’m really torn about supporting somebody coming in there and straightening it out. That’s the problem I have with Iraq. They have a huge issue with their fundamentalistic  religion there, you know. Women for example are tortured, mutilated, killed…for trying to be human! They have lives that are worse than dogs.

Like in Afghanistan…

Yeah. It’s amazing, the brutality of those people. All in the name of their religion. So to me anybody who supports fundamentalistic religions is a person that needs some better education. I don’t think one can be an educated person and still believe in that kind of way of living. I just don’t think they co-exist.

In Greece we say that fanaticism is always bad. It’s bad to be fanatic about something.

It is, in a way because you cannot see realistically what the issues are when you’re fanatic. And I kind of bring that back to music fans. The word ’fans’ comes from the word ’fanatic’. You know, music fans are kind of that way too. They’re nuts, they’re crazy, you can’t deal with them!

So, in a few words it’s like you’re saying that countries should stop snooping around other countries and they just have to stick to their own issues.

I believe that on one hand that’s true. Countries and cultures have to work out their own issues. They have to deal with stuff that they do to each other you know. If they want to kill each other for some reason, I guess – although I think it’s wrong – I think they need to work that out. Because if the United Stated come in and we say ok you’ve got to stop this otherwise we’re going to set up a government workable for all the other nations etc then the people of that particular country, they feel an animosity towards the United States, they are hating the U.S. because the U.S. is telling them what to do.

I guess that if another country went into the U.S.A. and did the same thing for some reason, people in the U.S. would hate that other country as would have any other people around the world feel as well in the same situation.

Exactly. And that’s the position the Bush administration has put us into now. A lot of people in the United States are against that. We’re having our elections in November so it will be interesting to see what happens because there’s a huge backlash against Mr. Bush right now.

Since I understand you certainly won’t be voting for Bush, may I ask if you’ll be voting for Kerry?

Yes, I’ll be voting for Kerry.

Ok, enough of politics discussed already! \[laughs] What are your plans after your American tour? Are you going to take some time on your own in order to develop new songs, lyrics etc?

Yeah, we’re doing that now actually. We’re working in the studio and I think we’ll be working till the end of September on the new record.

Any songs near completion?

Yes. We’re close…

Would you compare these new songs to anything you’ve done before or is it something completely different?

I think it’s something very different and I’m really excited about that because I like new things which are completely different.

So we’re going to be working on the new record till the end of September and then we’ll take a break. Then in October we’re going to do a short tour in the U.S. and we’ll be back in the studio in November/December.

Final question. Would you like to send out a message to all your fans around the world?

I’d say thanks for listening to Queensryche!

Thanks a lot for this interview Geoff. Take care!

Take care, thank you for talking!



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