For a quite a while now I’ve struggled with finding topics to write about in my weekly/bi-weekly column Monet, Manet and Mayonnaise. I mean I’ve covered the Ring of Fire, arena naming rights, the Amazon bid, the splash pad etc. So rather than repeat myself I thought I would write about something I’m passionate about; music. Now you can’t just write about music, it’s been done and gets boring pretty quick. So here we are; I’ve decided to try my hand at interviewing artists that I grew up listening to. My first assignment was seamless. I contacted Jeff, the PR guy for former Queensryche singer Geoff Tate and a phone interview was scheduled within a week. The interview lasted 17 mins and Geoffs call came in at precisely 11:57 Wednesday morning from his wife Susan Tate’s phone (caller ID).
The reason I chose Tate was not only because I am a huge fan of his singing, but was because of myself, along with two other guys are going to Traverse City next Friday (22nd) to see him perform at Ground Zero.
Geoff Tate at 59 is still going strong and is not taking it easy as he saunters into social security status. Currently, the former frontman of 80’s hard rock band is touring and singing the whole 59 minutes of the first Operation Mindcrime concept album. This album is legendary.
Singing this whole album would be no easy feat; Geoff is not a screamer., but sings with an opera style metal and hard rock tone….. his singing is similar to Iron Maidens Bruce Dickinson in his vast vocal range. If you think you don’t know who Queensryche is; you probably do if you are between the ages of …let’s say 35-60. QR has sold over 20 Million albums worldwide a have had a few number one hits back in the day such as Silent Lucidity and Jet City Woman. Even without the breakthrough into the mainstream, they would still be one of the best hard rock bands that came out during the 80’s in my opinion.
When Tates call came in I have to admit I fumbled ( for what seemed like an eternity) to find the questions I had prepared. After retrieving my questions from my Yahoo account we got down to business and it went like this.
How has the transition or has there been a transition going from playing in front of 50 000 people to playing smaller venues these days after leaving Queensryche and going solo?
“For me, it doesn’t really matter, I don’t really notice as I get caught up in ……in the song, the lyrics or whatever. Someone will ask me…hey did you see what was going on in the audience? and I’ll say no…(laughter) I really don’t (laughter).
With the current tour you are singing the whole Operation Mindcrime album from start to end ; how do you keep your voice strong and healthy and in shape?
“umm, well it;s not hard for me, so that makes a difference I suppose. It’s something my body has gotten used to for singing for so many years. I mean if you’re sick it’s hard to do…….you have to monitor things. For singers I think it’s harder, I mean if you get a sinus cold it changes the way your instrument works. You are constantly improvising when you come upon a note and it’s tedious as you have to improvise. All in all in you live a healthy lifestyle and don’t burn the candle at both ends…. and get your rest and don’t drink yourself into oblivion every night (laughter), I think that’s the key”
Do you talk to any of your former bandmates since the lawsuit over the rights to the Queensryche name was settled?
“not really,….. actually last year I think it was, I was in Barcelona Spain and we played the same festival (as the current Queensryche band) and I talked with Michael (Wilton) and Eddy (Jackson)…Scotty isn’t with the band anymore….he’s doing his own thing. It was quite an out of body experience seeing them play though as I was listening to my music but it wasn’t me (laughter). Have you talked to original guitar player Chris DeGarmo? He was one of my influences.
“No Chris kind of went his own way and left the business…..maybe I should get Scotty (Rockenfield) and Chris together and we can tour as a Queensryche tribute band (laughter) How is having your daughter Emily and her band opening up for you and also singing the parts of Mary been?
“oh it’s wonderful, she grew up during the whole Mindcrime thing and the tours and she’s a great singer. She sang with me for the first time when she was 9 years old on a song called Home Again (American Soldier)”
“And you know she told me at that time …you know Dad I’m gonna be a singer when I grow up and here we are(laughter)and she’s on tour with me with her own band Till Death Do Us Part and it’s great !!” Your current lineup features a Canuck playing guitar with Scott Moughton; how did that come about?
“Yeah, I met Scott years ago and we’ve played together off and on at various times. He’s a phenomenal guitar player, songwriter and singer. He’s been playing since he was like…5. He’s just got a great attitude….easy to hang out with. He actually played on my first solo album in 2001 and yeah, it’s been great having Scott on board”
Your career has spanned thirty years or so, do you ever wonder how time flies? I remember buying The Warning (1st studio album) and now …here we are.
“yeah it really is something, I mean my life and being blessed to make a career out of doing something I enjoy. I am very grateful for being able to do something like play music for a living. It’s been 37 years and 19 albums….I mean I’d like to get a couple more in before I stop and retire and kick around in the garden (laughter) Time goes by pretty quick and I have to say it’s staggering when I look back at my life and what’s happened. All the musicians I’ve played with, the experiences I’ve had. Right now I’m playing with a lot of musicians who younger than me and are always asking me….what was it like in 1985 without cellphones (laughter). I tell them, well we lined up at a pay phone and took our turn…usually once a week we called back home as long distance was quite expensive back then. Or they would say, how did you tour around the world without a GPS? I’d say we had a map (laughter).”
So I am almost done (questions) and I know you have another interview scheduled, what would be your dream team or lineup of someone you’d like to play with be ?
“Hmm, well I’ve had a dream team many times over, actually last year I played with Bumblefoot (Ron Thal)….are you familiar? ”
yeah (NOT LOL)
“yeah, we did a show just the two of us last year and it was great. I’ve played with Queensryche for thirty and years and now is my chance to open up to new frontiers. I’ve been lucky to have been able to play with some great musicians and spread my wings so to speak.’
“I used to be quite timid in Queensryche….I’d be at a pub and a band that was playing would ask me to come up and sing a song and I would decline..I wasn’t confident. I knew my own music but wasn’t confident in singing someone elses. Now I’m ok with it ; I mean someone would say hey you wanna come up and sing this or that song and I’m like…yeah I know the melody…just bring up the lyrics (phone) and yeah I can do that now.”
Okay, Geoff, I’m going to let you get to your next interview and I really appreciate your time. If possible I’d like to be able to say hi and get a picture with you, my friends and I.
” yeah sure, no problem, just get ahold of Jeff (PR) and I’ll arrange for that”
Thanks again Geoff
“excellent thanks for the interview Ernest, it was my pleasure.”