From 1981 to 2012, Geoff Tate was the iconic voice of Queensrÿche, the Seattle-born masters of progressive metal who utilized their intelligent socio-political consciousness to give us such stone cold classics as “The Warning” and “Operation: Mindcrime.”
They were a thinking man’s metal collective anchored by the powerhouse partnership of Tate and lead guitarist Chris DeGarmo, whose elaborate compositions provided the perfect palette for Tate to unleash his vocals on. Amidst all the trifling noise spewing out of Los Angeles at the time, Queensrÿche found its niche simply by trusting that audiences were sharp enough to respond something greater than just the sex, drugs, and rock and roll cliché.
When Tate was fired from the band earlier this year, the media wasted little time speculating about who was to blame and what the future of both sides was going to be.
Was the split amicable? What did Tate do to deserve such a fate? Who would assume his role as the new face of Queensrÿche?
I, for one, was saddened to hear the news, but also eager to see where Tate would take his career next.
The answer to that query is “Kings and Thieves,” his first solo release since 2002 that delivers 11 tracks full of exactly the kind of fire and soulful creativity we’ve come to expect from the man who gave us “Revolution Calling” and “Suite Sister Mary.”
It’s a full-on rock record, oozing with honesty about life, love, and how the same political turbulence he raved about on Mindcrime continues to haunt us today.
I spoke with Geoff recently about his latest project as well as his thoughts on how his former bandmates will fare in his absence. He was an absolute pleasure to talk to and stands out as one of my favorite interviews of 2012.
Question: How does “Kings and Thieves” differ from your previous solo release?
Tate: Well, it’s completely different. 10 years have passed since my last one and a lot has happened since then to comment on. It’s a traditional rock record full of modern rhythm structures. Life always gives us things to reflect on and everything I wrote during these sessions ended up making their way onto the record.
Question: How did you assemble the band that plays on the album?
Tate: I asked them and they said yet, it really was that easy. They were all people I knew and had played with before, so it was simple to put together a new band to play with. I even asked some family to play on this album and they all agreed, which worked out well.
Question: Where did the title “Kings and Thieves” originate from?
Tate: I just really liked the phrase and the way it sounded. I saw the album art before the recording was even finished and that title came to me. I like it quite a bit.
Question: Given the way your time in Queensrÿche ended, how much was this album intended as a statement about your strength as a solo artist?
Tate: It wasn’t really, because I’ve never looked at making music as a competition. I love to write, I love to record, and I wasn’t trying to outdo anyone else. I set my own pace and didn’t have to wait for anyone to get on board, which was nice. I’m writing all the time, because it’s what I do and what I’ll always do regardless of how others view the situation.
Question: The themes of “Dark Money” feel as if they would be right at home with “Operation: Mindcrime.” How did that song come about?
Tate: Everything I write comes from life, you know? I’ve always been fascinated by human evolution and how we’re always fine tuning the human condition. Whether it’s the electoral process and voting or the idea of political contributions widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, I’m never short on material. Watching the news is also an inspiration, because the class warfare in America has reached a critical point. I think, generally, people in the United States – and all over the world – are getting upset with how big the class difference is between the rich and the rest of us. I’m not really a political person, but I am interested in social commentary and what happens to people because of politics, and ‘Dark Money’ is about how things that are important to everyday people, politicians look to as little more than pawns in a chess game.
Question: How did the song “Take a Bullet” come about?
Tate: It’s basically about betrayal. I’m an extremely loyal person and I would take a bullet for my family if I had to, so that’s what the concept for the song stems from.
Question: How have audiences reacted to the new material thus far?
Tate: Really well, actually. I wanted to make songs that would come across well during a live show, because it’s always exciting when the fans embrace the new stuff as much as you do. Of course, it’s a daunting task at times, but I mix it up with the Queensrÿche material and it’s been working so far.
Question: Because your voice is so synonymous with the sound of Queensrÿche, how do you feel about the other guys carrying on with someone else singing your songs?
Tate: It’s not pleasing, but I wish ‘em luck. It’s not going to be easy.
Question: What are your plans once the current tour wraps up?
Tate: Well, this tour ends early next year, so I’m planning to take a short break after that before hitting the road with my own retooled Queensrÿche lineup. I have Rudy Sarzo on bass, Glen Drover from Megadeth on guitar, Kelly Gray, who has played in the band before, and some other special guests we’ll be bringing along for the ride. We’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Operation: Mindcrime” by playing the entire album in concert. We’re including characters such as Dr. X and Sister Mary, so it’s going to be quite an ambitious undertaking.