By Andrew Catania
It’s always a good and spirited interview when I speak to Geoff Tate. His new project, Sweet Oblivion, has received rave reviews including from All That Shreds for being his best work in years and sounding like old Queensryche.
I spoke to Geoff while he had a tour stop in New York this week and we covered many topics.
How did this project come about?
GT: It was a project that one of the guys from my record company (Frontiers) approached me with and said he knew this guitar player who was a huge fan of my music. He thought that putting the two of us together, something might happen. So I said, I’m interested in seeing what could happen. Put him in touch with me. So, Simone (Mularoni) got in touch with me and sent me some musical ideas and I sent him some of my musical ideas and we started passing things back and forth. Soon, we had a record.
Probably one of the coolest aspects of the record, for me, is that we did it completely in the virtual world of the internet. We have yet to actually meet each other and we have yet to have an actual conversation; a live conversation. We have only just texted back and forth. (Chuckling) So it was very funny.
It’s actually kind of a new, it’s the 21st century, You can be anywhere in the world and work together. I think it’s actually a really pure way of working because you are not so influenced by the person, themselves, or the person’s personality, you know? You’re just dealing with music and just talking about the music and you’re just focused on the music at all times and not all the other stuff that goes into communication. Because there are lots of things, body language and a lot of wasted time on chit chat about stuff that doesn’t matter. And we didn’t have any of that. It was all just about the music. So that was a refreshing way to work that I really enjoyed.
This is the best music you’ve put out in a long time.
GT: What do you like about it?
AC: I wasn’t a fan of your last three Operation Mindcrime albums. They just didn’t appeal to me. This Sweet Oblivion project sounds just like old Queensryche, you sound like your old self again. Many of my readers feel the same way that you’ve kind of lost them with some of your material in the last 25 years.
GT: That’s interesting.
Could you see this relationship continuing or was this a one-off project?
GT: I don’t really know. I guess we’ll see what happens? Perhaps we’ll do another project.
AC: Yeah. I do hope so. I like this album a lot. I listened from start to finish and, it’s not just only me, but the comments I get from my readers are like, “Geoff sounds great!” You might be thinking to yourself, I sound like I have for the last “X” amount of years, but there is something about this album. I don’t know if it’s the guitars, the way it was produced…but, you sound like, it’s like going back to between Operation Mindcrime and Empire. I would put this album smack right in between them.
GT: Hmm…That’s interesting.
When will you be wrapping up the 30th-anniversary Operation Mindcrime tour?
GT: For the last year and a half, I’ve been on the 30 year anniversary of Operation Mindcrime album. Singing that album every night in 24 countries around the world. And I am still doing it. (Laughing) It’s the last of the shows, September, October is the last of the shows. I am kind of sad about that, but yet, I’m kind of glad too as it’s been a really long tour. I have enjoyed it, but I am definitely ready to present something new. A live application, you know?
Do you have any idea what you’re doing when this wraps up in terms of new material?
GT: I have a lot of stuff written, but I just haven’t decided how I’m going to release it, yet. There are so many new and interesting options. I am sort of in the process of exploring all of the options now.
How is your voice holding up on this long tour?
GT: Great. I’m singing strong. I feel good. It’s been a good year. I haven’t had any issues or problems. I’m good (touching wood).
Are you doing anything differently in keeping your voice strong?
GT: No. Just the usual, you know. Living well and trying to sing every night. My philosophy is if you don’t use it, you lose it. So I try to tour pretty hard. I try to perform 6-7 days a week.
You’ve done like a lot of acoustic performances. What is your preference? Do you like having the electric band up there or do you like doing the stripped down acoustics?
Two years ago, I did a pretty involved acoustic tour, called the Whole Story, which was a wonderful presentation. I really quite enjoyed performing and bringing the music back to where it started. It usually starts on an acoustic guitar or piano. I had a wonderful band of acoustic players, cello player, violin player, piano player, 2 acoustic guitar players, and a percussionist. It was a wonderful way of showcasing the music. It also gave me an opportunity to talk about the music and sort of tell stories regarding the music and telling about the times it was written in and the inspiration behind it. It was a way of getting a little closer to my fan base. When you do an electric show, you’re kind of shut off from people, in a way, because it’s really noisy and loud. The acoustic presentation, you can hear people talking and have conversations with them. That was a really different experience for me that I had never had before. To answer your question, I like both. I like the intimacy of the acoustic performance and I also like the excitement and the sheer physicality of an electric show.
Do you ever get your fans saying they’d like the original Queensryche back together?
GT: No, I don’t get that so much, really. I ask myself why? It doesn’t really come up. I’ve always viewed myself as Queensryche.
That ship has passed and you have your solo music along with classic Ryche to sing.
GT: I’ve always had my own music. I don’t need the Queensryche name anymore, which is a good thing. They definitely need it. They couldn’t do anything on their own or make their own names without the Queensryche name. So, it works out, better. It’s just kind of a tragedy, really, how that whole thing unraveled. Now there is only the bass player (Eddie Jackson) and the rhythm guitar player (Michael Wilton) in the band. Everyone else is gone. I am Queensryche. It’s my voice on those albums and they’ll never be duplicated.
Scott Rockenfield abruptly left and hasn’t been in the band as of late. Not much has been said about it and it seems rather odd.
GT: No it’s not. Not at all. It was just a matter of time. They can spin it how they want. It’s really too bad. I hope that he does well. Even after all the pain he inflicted on everybody around him, I still have high hopes that he recovers from his problems and comes back to the music. The music will save you, no matter how far off the deep end you go. If you just rely on the music, it will bring you back. That’s my belief at least.
I interviewed Michael Wilton earlier this year and he stated “We’d come into the studio and want to offer input or create a riff and you had everything already written out and ready to go. That made it very difficult for them to offer any creative input”.
GT: He’d have to paint it that way because he needed a reason why. It’s unfortunate. Queensryche was a band that had record company commitments. We had deadlines for creating albums based upon our relationship with the record companies. You can’t take 4 ½ – 5 years to make a record. You have to be consistent, prolific and you have to write. You can’t just sit around and do nothing. I upheld those commitments to the record company. I made sure we had the records finished and done and delivered. If you didn’t have the material in the given time, then yeah, you didn’t contribute. I mean, how can you offer nothing and then expect to be compensated? It’s as simple as that. Somebody had to do the work and I did.
You’re saying you had to come up with all of the music and lyrics and the other members contributed nothing?
GT: The most that they contributed together was on the last record we did, Dedicated To Chaos. If you look at the record you will see the writing credits on it, there were Michael, Scott and Eddie all over that record. That’s the record that they really got together on and finally started contributing music to it. For which I was very happy. I was excited about it. It’s actually one of my favorite records that we made. It’s a shame it’s the last one.
Do you write a lot in between projects while you are on the road?
GT: I have a wonderful studio I bring with me everywhere. I can work anytime. That is one of the real joys of living in the 21st century now. We have these amazing tools at our disposal. We can be very immediate about our creativity. In fact, it’s like this, you have an idea, maybe you watched the Democratic debates the other night and you have this idea based on something that somebody said. You can write a song about the next day. You can record it and mix it and put it up on the internet for sale on your own site and be completely topical, in the moment, part of the conversation. Its just so immediate now, you don’t have to wait to do it the old way, which was to write the song in your head and then get together with the others and try to scribble out some notes on a piece of paper and then work to wait until you had enough money to get a studio session about six months down the road from when you first came up with the idea. You record it. Then you have to wait another 6-9 months for the record company to work the release of it into their fiscal schedule and then you put it out. Now, the idea is passed, it’s gone. It’s dated now.
Do you feel you can still sing the same as you did on the earlier Ryche albums?
GT: I would say that based on the comments you are giving me, people like to hear me sing in a high register. I can do that all day long. It’s not a problem for me. I do it now.
As always we appreciate your time!
GT: I appreciate the conversation, it’s always a good one with you.
Geoff Tate – Vocals
Simone Mularoni – Guitars and Bass
Emanuele Casali – Keyboards
Paolo Caridi – Drums
For more information on Sweet Oblivion check out their Facebook Page:
For more information on Geoff Tate check out his Facebook page: