|Geoff Tate - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Sunday, 16 December 2012 03:00|
The heavy metal world was thrown into a state of shock earlier this year when Seattle progressive rockers Queensrÿche unceremoniously, and very publicly, fired vocalist and founding member GEOFF TATE. Coincidentally, the frontman has just released his second solo album, ‘Kings And Thieves’. So, what better time for Uber Rock’s Mark Ashby to fire up the trans-Atlantic to get the singer’s side of the story, talk about said solo opus – and discuss the finer points of knocking the living daylights of his former band mates…
We did the first one 10 years ago and I felt like I'd been trying to do another one for a while but obviously Queensrÿche was my priority so I was constantly putting my energies and creative thought process into that. So, this year I decided to make my own again and I'm very happy I did actually, I'm very pleased with the record.
With your solo material, did you deliberately set out to create a different sound than fans would know from the Queensrÿche sound?
Yeah, when you do anything with Queensrÿche it's a compromise based upon the people that are involved with that project and if you do your own thing, it's your own thing so you don't have to work with them. The projects take on different sounds and different feels.
Would there be a totally different mind frame that you're in? Do you approach writing your solo material differently than you would for the band?
I don't think that so much, it's just that I don't have to work them in. The other guys... they have to almost always play on the record, right? So you have to plan for that – if they're going to play on the record you have to set aside time for them to learn the song and then practice it so they can play it OK and record them, and it's just a procedure that takes a long time, you know? It just takes a long time of planning and putting together all the different schedules of people, and I'm used to it 'cause I've was doing it all these years.
But doing my own thing, I didn't have to do that. I didn't have to hold myself back, I didn't have to wait on people to catch up and learn the parts or understand the parts. It was just a free-flowing creative environment – if you thought it up, you just did it. There weren't all these stops and starts and waiting around to do things, which I found really enjoyable, to be able to flow through an idea without having to figure out how to work somebody else into it.
The guys that play with you on the solo album, how much input do they have? Do they come forward with ideas for you to say, “maybe this would sound better this way” and do you encourage that?
Oh yeah, it's a collective environment. It's always sitting in the room, throwing out ideas, creating a song idea. It just moves cohesively rather than disjointedly.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the songs on the album? Are there any particular lyrical themes or subjects you're tackling on the solo album that we would be interested in?
I don't know what people are interested in, honestly. It's not the artist's job to attract people to their music. We just write the music and share it with people and it's the world's... how the world takes it is how the world takes it. I's impossible to know what people are going to like, what they're going to relate to, what they're going to not like when it comes to art.
Art is completely and utterly subjective and people interpret art through they're own life experiences. They relate to songs and lyrics and pictures and museums based upon what they've experienced themselves in life so it's impossible to know what somebody's going to like or be interested in.
I've read in other interview that the title of the album, ‘Kings And Thieves’, was a working title for one of songs – there isn't actually a song called that on the album, and you picked the title because you had a bit of a doodle of it and you liked the way it fitted in with the artwork?
When you make records… at least for me, I work a lot on intuition, just how I feel about something and go with it, and I always liked that phrase Kings and Thieves quite a bit. I'd written it down on my desk, on the notebook and I'm one of those people that when I'm thinking about stuff I tend to doodle and draw on the notebook and I traced that phrase, ‘Kings And Thieves’, over and over with my pencil so it was really highlighted and dark.
When I saw the finished artwork that Anthony Clarkson created, I was looking at it on my computer and I happened to glance over at my notebook, so the phrase ‘Kings And Thieves’, looked back at the artwork and thought, “Oh, there it is.” That's why I'd been saving that phrase and been so obsessed with it, it's the name of the album!
The album was recorded at the beginning of the year and there was a bit of delay in the obvious processes of releasing albums. In retrospect and giving what's happened since you finished recording the solo piece, do you think the name ‘Kings And Thieves’ it could be seen as a metaphor for what happened over the past few months with the Queensrÿche situation?
Hmmm! Well I suppose you could look at it in a number of different ways... the album, I suppose you could. I think there are probably some songs on the record that have particular lyric lines that pertain to my frustration with the Queensrÿche situation, Yeah, definitely there are some lyrical lines here and there that... really most of the record conceived and put together before all that stuff started happening.
Given what has happened, would you have been tempted to put ‘Kings And Thieves’ out as a Queensrÿche album?
Oh no, no, never. No. It was never intended to be a Queensrÿche record and I never wanted it to be. It was always meant to be my solo record.
You're obviously touring the album at the moment and touring as a as a solo artist, but you have announced you're own line up version of Queensrÿche and last month the courts ruled in the interim you could use the name Queensrÿche. Do you have any touring plans for your Queensrÿche?
Yes, I do actually, I start touring in April 2013. I've got a tour that's being booked now: it's all taking off now and we're very excited about that.
Is this the tour I've seen the internet rumours about the 25th anniversary Operation Mind Crime tour?
Yeah, Operation Mind Crime is going to be focussing on that when we tour seeing as it is the 25th anniversary of the record.
Just to talk a wee bit about what has happened, do you not think it's confusing or unfair on the fans that there are two versions of the same band?
I suppose it could be confusing to a few people. Honestly, Queensrÿche fans are pretty intelligent, generally, and intelligent people know where to look to get accurate information, and most intelligent people know you can go to geofftate.com or my Facebook page to see who's playing where and what's going on. The information is readily available.
Do you think there'll be any feeling among the fans that they might be being asked, in a sort of roundabout way, to take sides?
Again, it's very difficult to interpret what people feel, what they think.. in fact I think it's pretty impossible. I'm not really asking anybody to pick a side. There are just two sides so you can make up you're own mind as an individual what you want to listen to, what you want to be interested in. If it was me if I was a smart intelligent music fan and my one of my favourite bands had split up and formed two bands, I'd probably check out both bands to see what they were all about and see what they were offering and see if there was something about each one that I liked.
Where do things stand legally at the moment? Is there any sort of time scale for the various hearings to try to resolve this?
Yeah, the actual court date is for next November 2013 and that's when everything will be decided a that point.
There's no chance of you sorting it out amicably between you before then?
Yeah, of course there is a chance, if both parties agree to mediation, going in and actually sitting in a room and talking about it. Yeah absolutely, I'm very interested in that.
If Queensrÿche with your three former band mates were playing somewhere that you happened to be, would you go check them out?
Would I go watch my former band mates play?
No. I'm not interested in that at all.
Hypothetically, if you were stuck in a lift with them, who do you think would speak first?
If we were in a situation where we were put together who would speak first? Oh, it would be me.
And who do you think would throw the first punch?
Throw the first punch? Well, probably me. Those guys can't fight their way out of a paper bag. I've never seen such a bunch of... how can you be a man and not, like, defend yourself? How can you do that? I don't understand it. I probably shouldn't talk about that… I could get in trouble. [Laughs]
You know, Americans are really touchy about that stuff. I spit in Scott's face and that is an ancient act of defiance and contempt: it's a symbolic gesture. It's ancient, people have been doing that for centuries and Americans can't wrap their head around that. They think it's juvenile, like it's something a kid does. They can't understand guys getting in a punch up. They fear that, they're appalled by it. In other countries, Ireland for example, the Irish don't see anything wrong with it at all.
Yeah, it's the best way to settle a dispute, to knock the frig out of each other and then go for a beer.
Well, yeah. That's normal…
If it all ended now and Queensrÿche, in whatever form stopped right now, how would you like the band to be remembered?
I had a different idea of how I wanted things to end than the way they have. I've always tried very hard to take care of the name and present the band in an elegant way - since I'm the one that does all the interviews and TV appearances and radio appearances and all that, and I've always tried to communicate to the world that we are a bunch of friends who make music together and that we care about each other and always stand by each other’s side, and that we were out to, ultimately, make music for as long as we possibly could.
The whole way the other guys have handled the break up thing really saddens me because it's in direct opposition to what my belief system is. I think that we could easily have sat in a room and talked about our problems, we could have addressed things in a real civil manner, we could have come to conclusions easily without dragging our laundry through the public, so to speak. The way that they've gone about firing everybody in our organisation is just cold hearted, you know, very cold and ruthless, and honestly it's not the way I envisioned the band ending its days, to be honest... I'm really humiliated by their actions actually…