QUEENSRYCHE “The Alliance Is Strong”
By Colonel Angus
QUEENSRYCHE has earner their legendary status the old fashioned way, by releasing great records and touring the hell out of the world. It’s amazing to me that we will be coming up on the 40th anniversary of their initial first E.P. next year yet it all seems like it happened yesterday. Over those 40 years, the band has had a few line-up changes and a few stylistic detours but there has been a sense of consistency within the albums for the last decade. Hard to believe that we are already on record number four from the Todd La Torre era of the band and by the sound of the songs on “Digital Noise Alliance”, there is still plenty of gas in the tank. While many bands of the 80s era are content to being heritage acts, QUEENSRYCHE continue to put out quality records that stand proudly alongside their earlier records. With a tour coming up with JUDAS PRIEST, I was lucky enough to interview Todd La Torre and ask him about the creative processes and touring.
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Did the writing process for “Digital Noise Alliance” differ from that of “The Verdict” and did having Casey Grillo and returning Mike Stone have an effect on the material?
TODD LA TORRE: Yes, we all created this one in the same room like bands use to always do. No file sharing, just creating in the moment. Casey brought the music to another level and really shines on this album. Stone was also very involved with working on solos with Michael, and also with helping to transform a couple of other songs with some really great guitar parts. It was truly a team effort with everyone working together.
WC: Some of the track remind me of the “Rage for Order” era so was it a conscious effort to add prog elements into the songs (for example “Tormentum”) for “Digital Noise Alliance”?
TLT: We didn't go into any song ideas with that in mind. Riffs were happening and the songs just became what they became as we all contributed with ideas. There are some songs that do have that era here and there.
WC: Is there a process for which songs you decide will be the “singles”?
TLT: Absolutely. We thought the opening track “On Extremis” would be a good first single. It has energy and is uplifting. We went out on a limb putting “Forest” out as our second, but we all still stand behind that decision. It's the ballad on the album and it really resonates with so many people.
Amidst all of the other hard rock and heavy metal bands consistently putting out heavier sounding music, we thought that this would really cut through that noise and make a good impression while also showing people very early on that the album has diversity.
So there are many variables at play when trying to decide which songs to put out as singles and in which order. Thus far those decisions have been successful.
WC: QUEENSRYCHE has done cover songs in the past (aside from the “Take Cover” album), what made you decide to another cover on “Digital Noise Alliance” and how did you go about choosing the song “Rebel Yell?
TLT: Well, everyone is always just so serious all of the time, and we wanted to just have fun and not worry about anything else. WE wanted to do it for us, and we thought it would be a fun throwback to recreate this classic song that so many people love!! It was purely for fun, and it was a collective decision. It also shows that we can do things other than just power metal or prog. It was a curve ball, but we stand behind it.
WC: QUEENSRYCHE’s signature sound was created in those first 5 records and the last 4 albums have been a continuation of that sound. When coming up with new material, do you even feel like branching out again into other styles and sounds or will we continue to get records that fit alongside those earlier releases?
TLT: Well, honestly we aren't opposed to anything really so long as we like it and it makes sense to us musically. Obviously we aren't going to do anything too crazy like rap or hip hop, but QUEENSRYCHE has a large yard to play in which is why you can have songs ranging from “Silent Lucidity” to “Queen of the Reich” for example. We use keys, strings, clean and distorted guitars, many types of vocal effects and guitar effects, etc.
Our music is quite diverse and isn't linear, so I think it is fair to say we do branch out sonically and stylistically as well to varying degrees. The band has a sound and style ,though, and we just write what feels good to us whether it has a metal, blues, or jazz flavors. When you peel back the layers and really dig deeper, I think you can find more styles or slivers of other styles than just rock or metal in the material.
WC: How do you know a song is finished when writing? (if given the time, you could continually tweak the material)
TLT: As a writer you can just tell when it needs to be done. There are always tweaks to be made, but you have to know when to say enough is enough. It is hard to explain how you know, but you just know when it feels complete. Of course that is all subjective to the listener but as the composer, I think you know when the work feels complete to you.
WC: Some bands are toying with the idea of just releasing a couple of songs every so often and abandoning the “album” format. What are your thoughts on the idea and are you considering going in that direction as well?
TLT: That may be more valuable to an artist and to that genre and demographic. For us, our main demographic are with people that grew up on vinyl and cassettes, so that experience is something still coveted. We prefer full albums and will be providing that experience still.
WC: What drives you to continue to make new music when so many bands just rest on their back catalogues?
TLT: We are artists that create. I mean, should a painter quit painting new art because they are only famous for a certain number of paintings? Not to me. You keep writing because it's in your blood. It is your outlet. That may feel fine to some artists to quit making new music, but not for QUEENSRYCHE. We have so much more to create. We really enjoy that process and people still seem to want new material as well so it's a win win.
WC: What challenges are you facing in the post Covid touring environment? Do you feel things have changed forever or do you feel we will get back to normal at some point?
TLT: It is the new normal. You have to be careful, but you also just find new ways to do some things, that's all.
We are all vaccinated and we do what we can to stay safe for us and also for any interactions we have with others. Touring has opened back up and things are getting closer to how things were before Covid, but it still poses concerns , of course. We were testing constantly. Backstages are closed off more. We haven't done any meet and greets. So those are some things that have changed on our side.
WC: How do you go about picking a set list for shows since you want to feature new material but fan want to hear the classics? Are there any songs in the set that you wish you could drop?
TLT: Personally, I would be fine dropping “Silent Lucidity” for example, but there are some shows and demographics where it is totally the right move to play it. You have to know your audience. Sure, you won't please everyone, but we do our best.
You also have to believe in your new material while also being mindful that there is just no getting around needing to play some staple classic hits. There are worse problems to have, I suppose. We choose what we feel will please the audience but also not forgetting that we want to play what makes us happy too. We have a nice balance that works for most people.
Thank you for your time and continued interest!