GEOFF TATE - When you delve your eardrums back into the eighties decade, midway through the nineties, Heavy Metal had it’s fair share of flamboyant front men. What set any front man from the pack then, as it does to this very moment, are the vocals. Smoke and mirrors will only take you so far in the vast world of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. Geoff Tate has never tricked anyone with his vocals, instead he has left a generation or two in pure awe from his falsetto and vocal range. Of course, there is the entire Queensryche band behind Geoff Tate, a band which has distinguished themselves as innovators within the progressive realm of Heavy Music for three decades strong.
Whenever names of the greatest singers of the Heavy Metal era come up through conversations I have, with my peers or other musicians, Geoff Tate is at the top of the list. While interviewing Geoff, I realized he is focused on the present and not the past. Geoff is not only extremely polite, he is one to pause before answering a question, putting precise care into how he chooses his words. Geoff talks about the thirtieth anniversary of Queensryche, the twentieth anniversary of their “Empire” album, his thoughts about Grunge and his committed patriotism towards the U.S. Armed Forces. Here is what Geoff Tate had to say.
HRH: Queensryche are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of “Empire”. After two decades, what is it, that stands out the most about “Empire” for you?
GEOFF TATE: We never look back as a band. I never really listened to it again, maybe for reference purposes. It’s what we’re doing at the moment that I listen to. For the re-release, we found stuff sitting around in the closet to put on the record. “Empire” happened at a really good time in history, right after the “Mindcrime Tour”. “Empire” reflects us being home from a writing standpoint, how we felt towards relationships and the environments around us. I really like the record. It was a special time in Rock history, Rock music was everywhere, on MTV and radio. Now, Rock seems to be underground.
HRH: “Silent Lucidity” illuminates that “it” factor. This song became huge of course. How were you able to make “Silent Lucidity” coexist amongst the other songs on “Empire” so well?
GEOFF TATE: It was written like all our songs, as acoustic and voice. Our musical character went into it, there’s Classical and all different styles of music that makes up our signature sound. This song was written with the mentality of Queensryche in mind, usually a group has chemistry and Queensryche has always had that chemistry. The chord sequences and frequency patterns will emerge from a song, then you know it’s Queensryche, then you can identify the song to our band.
HRH: How is the next Queensryche album coming along?
GEOFF TATE: It’s coming along really good, we worked on it for the whole day today. We’re looking at a release for Spring of 2011, that’s our goal. We’re in the final stages of the album now, we need to do drum tracks on a few songs. After Thanksgiving we’ll get right back to it.
HRH: What young gun band or vocalist out there today, impresses you the most?
GEOFF TATE: Well, you know, being the age I am, the younger and newer bands just don’t speak to me artistically. Being an older guy, I’ve been through a lot. I’m pretty busy listening to the music that’s in my head.
HRH: The exemplary and patriotic “American Solider” album resonates your pride and respect for our U.S. Armed Forces. Would you ever consider a sequel to “American Soldier”?
GEOFF TATE: I could write a lot of albums based on that subject! I listened to so many wonderful stories and they were all amazing stories. So yes, I could write several albums on that subject.
HRH: Have you ever pondered making a documentary on “American Soldier”?
GEOFF TATE: On our Iraq and Kuwait trips, there was a lot of footage shot and I’m very pleased with how it came out. We did two weeks of shows for our troops over there in Iraq and Kuwait. It was inspirational and a great honor to play for our troops live.
HRH: It’s been reported that you will be performing along with Y&T and other Rock greats, at a New Years Eve benefit concert for Phil Kennemore. How far back do you go with Phil Kennemore?
GEOFF TATE: Let’s see, our first tour with Y&T goes back to the mid 80’s, around 1984 or something like that. I’m good friends with Mike Meniketti as well, my wife is friends with his wife too.
HARD ROCK HIDEOUT NOTE: Phil Kennemore has been the longtime bass guitarist for Y&T. Dave Meniketti is a founding member, vocalist and lead guitarist for Y&T. Phil Kennemore is currently and bravely battling metastatic cancer. This benefit concert for Phil Kennemore will take place on New Years Eve at The Avalon in Santa Clara, California.
HRH: The progressive style of Queensryche is what sets your band apart from ever being pigeonholed as just Heavy Metal. Do you agree that “Operation Mindcrime” set the standard for other Progressive Metal bands to follow?
GEOFF TATE: Well, I think it was a pivotal record for us. “Operation Mindcrime” broke new ground for us and other bands as well. That album was very inspirational to us and other bands. As musicians, we are inspired by other musicians, it affects the way we play.
HRH: What’s your most proud vocal performance, live and/or in studio?
GEOFF TATE: Probably what I’m working on now! This next Queensryche album is a personal journey. In terms of best or worst, it’s all about just getting the song out. We try to paint the best picture with the subject matter as musicians. We’re always experimenting musically. With me, it could be phrasing a song or experimenting with melody, experimenting with chord arrangements, playing around with different patterns and making it work.
HRH: Is there another solo album in the future for you?
GEOFF TATE: Yeah, I’ve been working on one. I have so many songs written, only I’ve been busy with Queensryche the last several years. Probably in the next couple of years I’ll have a new solo album out.
HRH: Do you stay in touch with Chris DeGarmo?
GEOFF TATE: Yeah, probably once every couple of months we have lunch together. We definitely stay in touch.
HARD ROCK HIDEOUT NOTE: Chris DeGarmo was a founding member for Queensryche. Chris was their lead and rhythm guitarist, as well as being a songwriter for the band. Back in 1997, Chris officially left Queensryche. In 2003, Chris did record on the Queensryche album “Tribe” and wrote and recorded on the song “Justified” for the 2007 Queensryche greatest hits album “Sign Of The Times”.
HRH: Having strong roots in Seattle, Washington, did you embrace Grunge, tolerate it or it never mattered?
GEOFF TATE: The term “Grunge” is not something the bands that get lumped into are very comfy with. They were and still are Rock bands to me. They were all right behind us. Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, they all played gigs with us, they all opened for us and I know these guys well. I’m very good friends with Mike McCready and Jerry Cantrell.
HRH: Growing up as a young singer, musician and songwriter, how much were you influenced by Ronnie James Dio?
GEOFF TATE: Quite a bit in a lot of ways. Ronnie was a mentor for me and the band. Our first tour to Europe was with DIO. Ronnie showed us what to do and what not to do. Ronnie was a true gentleman, a great man and very kind. He always explained things to us. Ronnie had open ears and would listen to what you had to say. I definitely miss him very much.
HRH: When you released the first Queensryche EP, back in 1983, did you envision your band to reach such legendary status?
GEOFF TATE: No. I never really think about that. I always thought of the present day and still do. Queensryche’s Thirtieth Anniversary is coming up, with a big tour to follow in the Spring and Summer of 2011. It’s been thirty years already, it’s very sobering!