While we were in Tampere, covering the SAUNA OPEN AIR festival, we had a chance to talk to one of THE vocalists of all time, GEOFF TATE of Qüeensrÿche. We met him a few hours before their gig, and although he had done a lot of interviews that day, he was very friendly and accomodating. In other words, a true gentleman. At that time I hadn't heard the band's latest album "Dedicated to Chaos" which was probably for the better, because now that I have, it didn't appeal to me at all... but anyway, let's take a look at what Geoff had to say!
Just like several other artists of the SAUNA OPEN AIR festival, Geoff Tate and his band Qüeensrÿche arrived to Tampere straight from Swedenrock. The festival had been great, even though the weather wasn't favourable.
- While we were playing our set, it wasn't raining yet, it started when the next band played, and during the last band Judas Priest's set it was pouring.
The weather in Tampere was fantastic, and Geoff mentioned that everytime he's been to Finland, it's always been either very nice or total winter, one of the two extremes of the scale.
Unlike the previous album "American Soldier", the new album "Dedicated to Chaos" has no concept or a lyrical theme.
- It's a collection of favourite songs.
When it comes to music, prior to the album's release Scott Rockenfield's comments about being influenced by Lady GaGa raised a few eyebrows... Do Scott's influences reflect on the music of the band?
- "Perhaps, somewhat... the thing that drew us together in the first place was that we love music, all kinds of music. If you look all of our different record collections, we probably own every record ever made. As a writer, as a composer, you take from everybody, all those different influences, and then you make all those influences into what you do, and give it your interpretation, and that's what makes for originality. Although nobody's really original, we're all uniquely derivative. But musically, if you listen to just one band only, then you're gonna write music that sounds just like that one band. So what's best is to kinda take from a lot of different ideas, so that way your stuff sounds more original. So what we've always done is everyone's always brought in examples of things they like. Like Michael would bring in a song by Johnny Cash, and he says "listen to this key change right here. See how it goes from E minor to D flat. I've got this new song idea, and I've got this theme that does kinda that. So if you do this rhythm thing over this progression, it's gonna be really cool." And then Eddie will bring in a song by Barbra Streisand, and it'll have this intro on it, and he'll go "I got this new piece of music and and I have this section in it kinda like here", and we use those as reference points. Scott's comment about Lady GaGa, is that her music has a lot of different elements in it, so he's saying that "I like some of those elements she's doing, it's very relevant to the world we live in. I'm gonna take some of those elements into what I'm writing now". But Qüeensrÿche will never sound like Lady GaGa, that's impossible.
Some of the album's tracks are marked as "bonustracks", but that doesn't mean that they're leftovers thrown in to fill the space.
- There are certain musical outlets which don't want to carry CD's which have more than eleven tracks on the album because they can't make enough money selling it. They want to keep their own kind of product that they can sell. So really they dictate what songs go on the record, which is strange, but that's the way of the reality in the world we live in these days. What we've done is that we've created "the record" for them and then we have "the record" for real, which is all the songs together, all the 16 tracks.
After the release of "Operation: Mindcrime 2", Qüeensrÿche played the entire Mindcrime story live. Those of us who didn't have a chance to experience that might still have hope...
- We might do the whole production again, when it's the 30 year anniversary of it.
That would be in 2018 then... there's a 25th anniversary of "Empire" coming up in 2015 too, how about an "Empire" set? It's the band's biggest selling album after all.
- We thought about it. We kinda did it last year, we played a lot of "Empire" songs on our last tour. But we'll figure out something!
The band did a rather spectacular Cabaret-tour last year, one that would be good DVD material, but unofortunately they didn't film much of it. There are no sure plans to continue those shows though.
- It's a huge show, and pretty expensive to put, so that kinda limits where you can take it. It's too bad, cause it's a cool show.
Tate has a view on the current state of the record industry too.
- When the whole downloading thing started a few years ago, I got very upset about that. But now, I've kinda adjusted my thinking and realized that there's no way to fight it.There's no use get upset or bitter about it, you just got to figure out a new way of doing things. I've got a different outlook on things, right? On one hand, the system of artists and record companies and royalties and how it was set up, it worked really well for a long time. It doesn't work anymore, the record companies are all going out of business because they can't make any money selling records anymore. In a way it's kinda good, because it really frees up the artists now. We don't need record companies. They're a waste of time. They take up 85 % of what you make, and what do they actually do? You end up fighting them all the time. You write a song and you want to put it out - "Oh no, we can't put that out now because it doesn't fit to our calendar, and we don't have any money to promote that song right now". "Well, can we put it out on our own?" - "No you can't, cause legally we own that song". Everything you wanna do, your hands are tied, cause you're waiting on them to get their thing going. So, I'll be glad when they're all gone, we don't need them anymore. The internet allows us to be anything we want to be, it doesn't have to be marketed by some company now. We don't have to have a box put around us saying "You're a progressive metal band and that's how we're gonna market you and sell you". We don't have to have that name anymore, that genre... those are created by record companies... speed metal, alternative rock... those don't mean anything, they're just marketing phrases. We don't need that stuff anymore, we can re-invent ourselves anyway we want and it's beautiful time to be alive right now. Technology is setting us free, and I'm speaking from an artist's viewpoint. How that relates to the public, I don't know. The public's gonna have their hands full because they've grown up thinking genres are important. If you look at our latest album on Itunes, there's no genre associated with it - I love it!
These days, Qüeensrÿche earn their living by touring, as there's not a lot of money to be made out of records.
- No money. You might as well give the record away for free. We're fortunate that we can still make a living touring, we've toured in 46 different countries.
Combining being a father to five daughters and touring the world isn't easy, but again the technology makes it easier.
- I've been doing it all my life, all my kids have grown up with me gone quite a bit. The beauty of the technological age we live in now is that I can talk to my kids all the time while I'm gone, I can see them via Skype.
One of Geoff's daughters is expecting a child, and while Geoff is excited about that, he's not overwhelmed about the idea of being called a "grandpa".
- I know I don't want to be called "grandpa", my ego can't take that. I remember my own grandpa and what he looked like and did, this little old man... I don't look like that, and I'm thinking... maybe I'll have my grandkids call me "G-Dog"!
Interview by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
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