Heaven and Hell | Queensryche’s Geoff Tate

prof_geofftate_sm.jpgThe Take Cover album is a collection of other people’s songs that were inspirational to us when we were growing up or that we found interesting or inspiring. So we all got to pick a few songs and kind of Queensryche them out a bit.






I had a chance to catch up with Geoff Tate, the singer from Queensryche. Currently they are part of the legendary line up of the Heaven and Hell tour featuring Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio as the frontman, and Alice Cooper sharing the opening bill. It is a great fit because all three bands exponentially increase the power of their heaviness by combining elements of the dramatic. I wanted to speak with Geoff Tate to gain some insight into creative process behind the pointed social commentary of his lyrics and inspiration behind the stirring prowess of his voice.

How is the tour going with Alice Cooper and Heaven and Hell?

Oh, it’s great. It’s like my dream tour; I love these two bands. My idea of what Black Sabbath is was always with Ronnie James Dio singing; they wrote three albums that were incredibly influential to Queensryche when we started out.

What are some of you favorite songs from that era?

I love "Falling Off the Edge of the World," "Sign of the Southern Cross," and "Mob Rules," of course. But those records are really the records that we were listening to back when we first started out as a band. Those were the songs that we were referencing and talking about, which led us to write our own songs. And actually Alice Cooper was the first concert I ever saw when I was a kid. I saw the "Billion Dollar Baby" tour. It really kind of baptized me into the rock world.

How did you have to modify your show to fit the bill?

Well, quite dramatically, really. We have 40 minutes, so it’s pretty fast and furious, to the point where we play most of the songs people are probably familiar with. If they’re not Queensryche fans, they are familiar with these songs at least.

That seems to be a different approach to the theatrical production that you had put on last year for Operation Mindcrime I & II.

Yes, definitely scaled back a bit.

How did Dio come to play the part of Dr. X in the video of "the Chase," posted on your website?

Well, I asked him, really. He has always been very supportive of what we’ve done. In fact, he invited us on our first European tour back in 1984, and really showed us what European touring was about and exposed us to his audience. He has always been very supportive of Queensryche, so when I wrote the song, I thought of him immediately as the voice of Dr. X. I called him and played him the song over the phone, and he really liked it and said, "Yeah, let’s do it!" So we did.

Did the Mindcrime at Moore DVD capture the experience the way that you intended?

I think that’s probably the best live video we’ve ever done. It was really planned out well in advance and rehearsed very well, with all the cameras and everything. It was actually a pretty easy shoot because we planned it out so well.


How did you arrive at the artistic approach of combining musical and dramatic aspects into your live shows?

I think just through years of doing it, thinking in those terms. We were all inspired by the music of the ’60s and the ’70s, which had quite a lot of freedom really in what it was built around. It wasn’t so strangled by industry back then. We’ve always thought in those terms of musical theater; the Mindcrime story it really lent itself to that.

Operation Mindcrime I & II are brimming with political and religious overtones. What is your take on the current situation?

Ah, wow. Well, Operation Mindcrime touches on some of those aspects; but really it’s a story of one guy growing up and discovering out what the world is about. Including getting involved in some situations that are quite difficult for him to understand and to deal with.

Is there a particular message that you are interested in getting out there beyond Operation Mindcrime, with your future projects?

One of the things that we talk about a lot in our music is the freedom of the individual to make up their mind, and consequences of actions. Not so much of a political stance, but more of a social stance. Our next record that we are working on now is a new studio album that will come out next year that is a social commentary, based upon the concept where all the songs related to a central theme. So it’s something that we find interesting, and thought provoking and challenging to write.

Is that type of writing a different format because you are writing to a pre-conceived script?

We actually spend a lot more time talking about what we’re going to do, and that really sets the tone for the writing sessions.

Do you find that helpful to have a storyline that you are looking for a musical idea to fit to? How does that change the way you write?

For instance, when I was writing "The Chase," which is on the Operation Mindcrime II album that Ronnie Dio sang on, we were looking for music to support this vehicle idea, which was these two characters confronting each other for the first time. They are sort of chasing each other through the city streets and one guy is trying to kill the other guy. The music needed to be frantic and fast paced. It needed to be movement-oriented and dramatic, as well, for the two singers, the two characters to carry on this conversation. So we painted the picture; we sat around in the studio and tried out several musical riffs until we found one that felt like it really fit the bill.

How would you describe the difference of the feel of the upcoming release Take Cover due out in November?

The Take Cover album is a collection of other people’s songs that were inspirational to us when we were growing up or that we found interesting or inspiring. So we all got to pick a few songs and kind of Queensryche them out a bit. It’s really fun and challenging to do, actually.

Sounds like a fun project. Was it difficult to narrow down the field of songs to choose from?

Yeah, we kinda had to limit what we could do, actually, just because we like a lot of different kinds of music, a lot of different styles. So we each picked two that we really liked a lot and then focused on those.

Has the record company been supportive of any musical direction that you bring to them?

Yeah, actually the cover tunes was their idea. Live and at sound checks and things we can play around with playing other people’s songs. We have this game we play named "Play That Riff." Somebody will play the riff of a song and we will all have to finish the song; that’s the exercise, you know. It’s amazing how much physical information you kind of retain in the back of your head; you can make it through a whole song, and sometimes you won’t even make it through the first chorus. Our record company guy Kenny was at our sound check and he came backstage and said, "You know you guys should record an album of that stuff, we’d put it out; do it." So we did.

What are some other upcoming projects you have in the back of your mind? When do you expect the next project you mentioned to be finished?

We’ll work to have that done in the springtime, I hope, and ready for a summer or fall release, something like that. We had a pretty busy year this year. We finished up the last date of the Operation Mindcrime I & II tour in Japan in June, then we started in the studio working on this next record. But then we got the call, the invitation to come out on the Heaven and Hell tour, so we kind of dropped everything to do that. | Derek Lauer

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