QUEENSRYCHE: "An Evolution In Revolution"

by Dark Starr

Seattle's Queensryche is the epitome of the metal band that actually thinks with its brains instead of its balls (though those are certainly not lacking!). In 20 steady years of performing and recording, they have rarely repeated themselves and have always kept true to their vision of metal as cerebral, invigorating MUSIC (meaning songs are emphasized instead of riffs and screams)..

To celebrate those 20 years, the band has released an ambitious live album, a double CD set called "Live Evolution", that covers their entire career in chronological order. After Dark Starr and I caught a killer set by the band at the Vic in Chicago, Starr got together with amazingly talented frontman Geoff Tate to talk about all things relating to Queensryche....

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: The new album is your first true live album. What brought that about?

Geoff Tate: Well, actually it was our record company's idea. They came to us back in June. At the time we were negotiating a record contract with them. They said, "for our first release together we'd really like to have a live record. What do you guys think? You've never really done a full live record before and we think it's really important that you do one."We said, 'Fine, let's do that.' When we go out on tour for the next album we can do that." They said, "We were thinking about next month." So, that's what happened. It was kind of a challenging scenario to come up with a live show, since we hadn't been rehearsing or anything, to come out in a month and play everything, but it turned out well. Everyone in the band just buckled down. Kelly (Grey, Queensryche guitarist and newest member--Dr. Mality) especially had to learn a lot of stuff. He did a fine job.

WC: When you toured with Maiden and Halford you focused more on the hard edged segment of your repertoire. Was that a conscious effort due to the metal nature of the tour?

GT: Oh, yeah, sure... that's right.

WC: What kind of a show can we expect for this tour?

GT: We're playing a lot of stuff on this tour. We're actually going to attempt to perform the live album and do a lot of songs. It's a two-hour set. It's gonna be pretty packed full of old stuff and some new stuff, as well.

WC: Are there plans for a new studio album?

GT: January we're supposed to get together and begin writing for that.

WC: You come across as a very forward focused band?

GT: The band's way of working is we finish a record, and then we're off to the new thing. We don't really think too much about what we've done. In fact, I think most of the times when we get ready to play shows on tour, we have to relearn a lot of stuff because everybody forgets it all. It's all gone out of your head because you're so focused on what we're doing at the moment. It takes a lot of time and work for everyone to get back into the frame of mind of what we did in the past.

WC: In the light of recent events, does the line, "let's burn the White House down" feel different these days?

GT: Yeah, it does. It is definitely a different world.

WC: The whole album ("Operation: Mindcrime"...still the band's greatest achievement--Dr. Mality) seems to take on a new meaning these days.

GT: Well, I guess any record you listen to has a different meaning for any number of different people. Everybody processes the information differently. The character in the story is the one who's the radical who's talking about burning the White House down and changing everything and killing people, and it's not necessarily me... it's the character that the story's about.

WC: I understand that some people during that tour had problems making the distinction and wanted to know how to get involved with the revolution.

GT: Yeah.

WC: That's scary.

GT: Yeah, life is scary, isn't it?

WC: Your first couple of albums seemed very Iron Maiden influenced. Were they a big influence on the band?

GT: I think on Eddie and Scott. Our first two records were made when those guys were 18 years old, and I don¹t know if you remember how you were when you were 18, but "impressionable" is probably a word that describes most people at that age. As a young musician you wear your influences on your sleeve. So, they were bringing their musical influences into the group. Priest and Maiden and Scorpions were very influential on Eddie and Scott. Michael came from more of a blues background, like late '60's/early '70's rock was his inspiration. Chris was a total Beatles fan and came from a real pop background, as was myself. I came from a more pop background and progressive rock music, art rock like Yes and Genesis, Kraftwerk, that kind of stuff. All of us brought our influences into the group, some at different times have shown more obviously than others.

WC: So, you're the one who brought in the prog leanings that show up on "Mindcrime" and even "Rage For Order"!

GT: "Rage For Order" I think is a turning point for the band. It's really where we started leaving off our early influences and started more of what we could be or what we are going to be. We started focusing on experimentation with our sound and not just going for the easy progression or the easy riff, but really trying to change ourselves around.

WC: Have any of you done any side projects?

GT: Scott's done a few musical things; I mean strictly music, with a buddy of his named Paul Speer. They've done, I think three outside projects. I'm just finishing up my first. I'm in the studio right now doing vocals for my first solo album. I'm very excited about it.

WC: What's that going to be like?

GT: Well, I don't really know how to describe it yet. It's a collaboration effort with a lot of different writers. It's definitely vocal and rhythm driven, rather than dominated by guitars even though I've had a couple of really great guitar players I've been playing with. They've sort of approached guitar from a different standpoint. It's definitely not a metal sort of style of playing guitar. It's more- I can't even describe it really. It's interesting. Let's put it that way, very different - for me. It's really a lot about songs. Trying to write a really solid song. It's not so much about showmanship or vocal gymnastics or guitar heroics or that kind of thing. It's more about the vibe - trying to capture the vibe.

WC: You seem to have a socially conscious edge to your lyrics.

GT: I've always been interested in human development. What makes us do the things we do (in) social development, anthropology... looking at patterns that we have in our society that we follow without ever questioning. Why we do what we do. I think that makes for very interesting song lyrics and messages.

WC: Are there any musicians with whom you would like to work?

GT: Yeah, lots - lots of musicians I'd like to work with. Actually, doing the solo project has really been an amazing time for me because I've really devoted my entire musical life to one group of people, and I've found over the last couple of years that it's sort of gotten to a point where I feel like I need to do something different, but I don't want to leave the band... leave everybody high and dry. I definitely like being in Queensryche.

I found that I could work with other people. It's almost like a testing ground for me. So, I've really been enjoying the collaboration of working with different chemistries of people and putting different combinations of people together to see what happens. I'm really looking forward to jumping into the studio with Queensryche in January because I've got kind of a refreshed outlook on the whole thing. I get to do both things that I really like. How often can someone say that?

WC: What's been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

GT: Actually, the band had a moment way back in our early days where we were on tour - I think with Twisted Sister. That's pretty Spinal right there. Let's see, we played with Quiet Riot, that was Spinal. Iron Maiden actually was kind of Spinal. But, anyway, the moment I was thinking of - I think it was Schenectady, New York, of all places. We were playing a club there. We got to the venue very late in the evening for some reason. We just had time to grab a quick drink and jump on stage and play. So, we're on our way to the stage, and our tour manager was leading us up on to the stage. We actually got lost in the venue and couldn't find our way up to the stage. We could hear the crowd upstairs pounding on the floor - stomping their feet, but we couldn't get up there. So, we waited and waited and waited and finally somebody came down to look for the band and took us up to the stage, but probably we were lost for 15 minutes.

WC: What was the last CD you bought?

GT: The last CD I went out and purchased? I think I got Massive Attack¹s last record, "Mezzanine".

WC: What was the last concert you saw?

GT: I went to see Tool when they played in Seattle.

"Dark Starr" Gary Hill is the editor/mastermind of the web-based magazine Music Street Journal, which can be found at To contact the writer of this article, send your email to: