By Lisa Morgan
Once again, the Date Shed has managed to procure a headliner that has created a vociferous buzz throughout the valley. Friday, August 23rd, the infamous progressive rock band, Queensryche, fronted by original founding member, Geoff Tate, will be performing songs cherry picked from their catalog of over 200 songs. Grammy nominated, singer/songwriter, Geoff Tate, is widely revered as one of the most skilled vocalists in the rock genre, inspiring fans of the four-time Grammy nominated Queensryche to purchase over 25 million albums worldwide since its inception in 1982.
Tate will be joined by longtime friend, guitarist and producer Kelly Gray. Gray originally worked with Tate in the band Myth in the late 1970s, and has produced records for a number of artists, including Queensryche, Candlebox and Dokken, to name a few. Keyboardist, Randy Gane, noted for his deep Hammond B3 sound (awarded a Gold Album on Candlebox’s debut CD) and rich orchestrations will be combining his skills with Tate and Gray, with whom he also previously worked with as co-founder of the band Myth. Guitarist, Robert Sarzo who is widely known for his work with the band Hurricane will be adding to the power of the strings alongside brother and bassist Rudy Sarzo. Rudy has been part of rock and roll history with his contributions to Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Quiet Riot and Whitesnake. His recordings with all of these artists combined have sold over 30 million copies. He was also a proud member of the multi-platinum Heavy Metal group DIO until the passing of Ronnie James Dio.
Since 1982, Queensrÿche has been successful in the progressive rock scene, having received worldwide acclaim for their 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime, considered by many to be one of the greatest concept albums of all time. Their follow-up release, Empire, brought Queensrÿche to the height of their commercial popularity. It peaked at No. 7 and sold more than three million copies in the United States, more than their previous four releases combined (it was also certified silver in the UK). The power ballad from that album, “Silent Lucidity”, became the band’s first Top 10 single.
After 3 decades of success, the band came to a crossroads in 2012. Following a highly publicized backstage altercation before a show in São Paulo, Brazil in April, Tate was fired from the band and replaced with Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre. On June 12, Tate and his wife Susan (who served as the band’s manager from 2005-2012) filed a lawsuit in a Seattle court against his former bandmates, claiming that he was illegally fired from the band. They also sought a preliminary injunction to prevent both the plaintiffs and the defendants from using the Queensrÿche name. On July 13, 2012, the Washington state superior court defeated this motion, as well as a motion for a preliminary summary judgment filed by the defendants. The ruling in the preliminary injunction was that until the court date in November 2013, both parties are allowed to use the name Queensrÿche. Queensrÿche with Geoff Tate has released the album Frequency Unknown in April, while the version of Queensrÿche with Todd La Torre released their Eponymous album in June. Both bands have toured in 2013.
Geoff Tate, with whom most fans agree is “The Voice of Queensryche”, graciously gave me an hour of his time to talk about the past, the present and his hopes for the future.
The band will be coming to the Date Shed on the heels of their “Operation: Mindcrime Anniversary Tour”, in celebration of the album’s 25th anniversary. I asked Tate what we can expect when they perform for us. “We are actually putting together a new set list right now… kind of a trip around all of our records along with a couple of songs from the new album. We’ll be doing a lot of the favorites along with a couple of songs we’ve never played live before. With somewhere around 200 songs in our catalog, sometimes you just don’t get around to playing all of them. I’m looking forward to giving the audience new music to listen to.” I asked him if we can look forward to a performance of the song “Silent Lucidity”. “I can’t walk off that stage without playing it,” he laughed. “People get pretty upset.”
I approached the topic of the band split as gently as I could only to find Tate to be extremely open and at ease in talking about it. “We’re actually getting pretty close to settling the whole thing. It will be really nice to put it to rest and move on. It’s kind of a downer. There’s so much negative energy surrounding it. I don’t like to live my life like that. So it’s going to be nice to be done with it, and get on with doing what I do, you know. For an artistic person, you thrive off the energy that surrounds you. If it’s negative, it saps your ideas your strength, you’re momentum.”
Referring to his interview with Rolling Stone Magazine that took place immediately following the announced split, wherein Tate described feeling dazed and confused by the events, I asked if time had helped him find some clarity. He shared, “Ya, well… for me it was really about getting over the betrayal. Once I got over that, which took a while, I could start leaning my mind in other areas. Lucky for me, I put myself into my work and was able to complete two records. I also put together a band that was really positive, which really helped. And then taking it on the road and getting such a wonderful response from the fans every night has been rally therapeutic. I feel really good moving on and moving ahead and putting that last chapter of my life to bed, so to speak.”
Tate had also shared in the Rolling Stones interview that he had no intentions of moving forward on his own under the Queensryche name. I asked him how that change came about. “Well, my initial idea was Hey, let’s both sides not use the name. Let’s retire it with some dignity. But they didn’t want to do that, or they couldn’t do it that way because they couldn’t sell tickets without the name. So the judge gave both parties the right to use the name until the court date in November. I was put in the position that I have to use it now. They’re using it now. We both had to continue to use it, because this wasn’t going to be settled for a year.”
Sharing how the whole story seemed to play out like a movie or a book, I asked if he’d ever thought about writing one. “I write all the time and keep track of my life through a diary. I have done that since I was about age 4. I have chapters and chapters of stuff that need to be put into a readable form. Once things come to a close (with November’s court date), that would be the best time to put something out there and put a period on the chapter.” I asked him, “If you could write the ending now, how in your heart of hearts would you like for it to end?” He said genuinely, “I’d like to see everybody walk away shaking hands, and ultimately being civil to each other.”
Ten minutes into a show in St. Charles, Illinois, it was reported that Tate grabbed an audience member’s smartphone, turned around, and threw it over his shoulder into the crowd. I shared with Tate how both Duff McKagan (Guns and Roses) and Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe) had both talked about their frustrations with fans lost in their phones at concerts, and if I should warn my audience not to brandish theirs at this show. After a pretty good laugh, he answered, “It is really irritating from a performer’s standpoint; you want people to be at least willing to engage. That’s what makes live concerts so special – when everybody’s on the same page, on the same wavelength, experiencing the music together. Otherwise, you might as well watch at home on TV if you’re not going to participate. I’ve gotten to the point where I figure, well… you can’t really fight it. Some people are going to be there in the moment, other people refuse to be there. They want to be separate and are there for a different reason obviously. You can’t get too upset about it. You just have to the best you can and try your best not let it distract you.”
Moving on to what was obviously a subject he much preferred to talk about, I asked him how he felt about the new album, “Frequency Unknown” that had gotten such mixed reviews. This, the first album by Geoff Tate’s Queensryche, received sparked controversy based on the fact that the acronym reads “F. U.”. Members of the other version of Queensryche claim it was a “below the belt” subliminal insult. A press release stated that “F.U. might be perceived as a fitting tribute and salutation…Coincidental abbreviation? Unlikely.” Meanwhile, Tate is on record saying this about the title: “There’s this certain frequency of equalization that brings all the notes and the whole mix together; it becomes incredibly focused at that point. It’s this unknown frequency that you’re always looking for, and nobody knows what it is. You just start fiddling with the dials until it sounds good to everybody.”
Tate shared about his experience making the album. “That was a really fun record. I’m always looking for different ways of making records. I love collaborating with people. I love the teamwork aspect of making a record. After completing the songs, we thought it would be fun to have different people contribute on it. At first we were just going to have different guitar players come in and play solos on each song. But that idea got expanded to having some different drummers and bass players. We thought, ‘Let’s see how far we can take this.’ So I started making calls to different people that I know, whom I admire, and everybody came on board. As a writer, you envision a song and you take it as far as you can with your vision. Then give it to somebody else, they approach it differently and they add their perspective… it kind of helps expand the idea. It was very satisfying to work with these great players and experience the camaraderie between all of us.”
With more than 3 decades of experience, I asked him about his views on the drastic changes in the music industry today. “It doesn’t even resemble the same industry. It’s really an industry that’s trying to find itself again, and I hope it does. But it’s in a time of transition where everything is in flux now. We’re all looking for new models to take the place of the old model that is workable and makes sense. The internet is changing the face of the world’s economics, and of course, the music industry is caught up in that. I think guys like me who started out with the industry a certain way, have a tendency to look at everything and remember the good old days when everybody was making money. Now that’s completely unraveled. There’s just no money in it. Bands are incredibly lucky if they get a leg up and get something going and make a career of it. It has changed how we merchandise and market for sure. It used to be that you didn’t have to tour that much- maybe 100 shows a year because your income was augmented by what you made in record sales. Now record sales are so dismal, you have to tour more to keep your level of income the same. And by touring more you have to make more merchandise and fine tune it to your audience. We spend a lot of time thinking and focusing on our line and what’s going to sell. There’s a lot of debate about it. I’m horrible at it (he laughs) – I always pick the loosing t-shirt design…. I pick based on what I like, and often times I find that my audience is in a completely different place than me.”
Known for delivering somewhat theatrical performances with the old band, I asked Tate what kind of show we can look forward to Friday night. “This show gets its theatrics from the fact that it’s a cool band to watch. This band performs… they’re not just standing there playing their instruments. They’re all over the place, interacting with each other and the audience. It’s a different kind of presentation than I ever been a part of. I spent 30 years with the same guys performing, and that was one thing. This is completely different.”
You can check out the music of Queensryche at http://www.queensryche.com/ but I highly recommend being at the Date Shed for this once in a lifetime performance (and use your smartphones at a minimum). Local favorite Wyte Guy will be warming up the stage for them adding to the night of high energy music. The Date Shed is located at 50725 Monroe Street, Indio, CA. Tickets can be purchased on their website http://www.dateshedmusic.com/, or at the door if it doesn’t sell out.