Celebrating 30-yeasr on the road with a life Dedicated to Chaos
The Geoff Tate interview
Words: TK Smith and Geoff Tate
With a new album to promote, we got on the phone with Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate to discuss Dedicated to Chaos, the band’s 13th recording. Tate is a Renaissance man, devoted to his craft as a singer, songwriter and performer as well as enjoying a full life experience. Our interview took many twists and turns, highlighting several of Tate’s passions. From his taste for fine wines to rubbing shoulders with actors and burlesque performers, the Seattle-native shares with us his insight and memories as his band celebrate their 30th year. Tate was friendly and open as we touched on his wine business, his family’s love for Ireland, and his friendship with Ronnie James Dio. Dedicated to Chaos is the band’s first non-concept album of original songs in eight years and finds Queensryche, prolific and energetic. In Geoff’s own words…
Dedicated to Chaos: “You could take the title in a number of different ways. It’s about relationships but also has a broader meaning. I like to think of chaos as being that place where creativity begins. You pull something out of the chaos and being working on it. That where the inspiration comes from. As a band we’re very dedicated to our creativity. We try to push the envelope with each record - take our chemistry as far as we can take it - or as far as we can imagine at the time. The album isn’t really a cohesive piece of work. It’s a lot of random pieces of music, random songs. There’s no real theme to it, it’s not a concept record where you connect all the dots. This is more freeform. It’s what we set out to do with this record from the start. We’ve made two concept records back-to-back, so we wanted to stretch out musically and get away from the concept thing. On this record, we let our imaginations run wild a little bit to create a chaotic blend of music.”
Get Started: “The song ‘Get Started’ starts the record. A surprise to all of us in the band is that the Seattle Seahawks football organization is using it in their advertising. I have kind of a relationship with them. I’ve sung the National anthem a few times at the Seahawks’ events. Just about every season they hit me up to do that again. I bring all my football buddies and we watch the game from box seats. You never know how people are going to take your music. You write what you feel and what’s inspiring to you, and you give it to the world - and the world does with it what they will. I’m sure when Carly Simon wrote ‘Anticipation’ she ever envisioned it being used in a Ketchup commercial. But it works really well.”
12 Songs: “The album has 12 songs all different and diversified. ‘Around The World’ has an amazing orchestral accompaniment then comes in with a heavy guitar riff (ed. sounds similar to the riff in Guns & Roses’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine.’). There is a song called ‘Higher’ that has this really cool horn part. We had the guitars do the horn lines including multi-track guitars so they’re playing in the style of a horn section. The guitars play against the rhythm creating this cool effect. Another thing we set out to do on this record was to refocus the band. In the past our guitars would drive everything. On this record, we let the bass and the drums drive the songs, using the guitar as an accent. Having the guitar play on the off-beat gives the music a little more swing. We kept the art in line with the music. Even the song titles on the back of the CD tray card are a little chaotic to read.”
Burlesque shows: “Last year we put together a Cabaret show just for fun. There’s a story to it and the story follows along our music. As most our fans know, we are really into theatrics. The origin of the show came about after we got off the road from the American Soldier tour. We got a call from a local promoter in Seattle and he had a couple dates open in February and wanted to know if we wanted to do a show. I had written this Cabaret show a while back, so we decided to do it for Valentines Day. We rehearsed the show and got it all together. It sold out almost immediately! It was a raging success and everybody including the band and all 16 performers had such a good time. About a month later we started getting calls from promoters around the US that had heard about the show and wanted us to bring it to their neck of the woods. We ended up going around the country and doing another 28 dates. It was the best time and we had so much fun doing it. It was so different from anything we’d ever done before. It wasn’t so serious - and working with these incredible performers that were trained in what they do. We had comedians, acrobat’s aerialists, burlesque dancers, and female impersonators - really top-notch performers working with us. The show kept evolving as we went along an evolving performance piece if you will. The experience inspired the song ‘Wot We Do’ which I wrote at the time. We didn’t get a chance to play it in the show, so we ended up putting it on the new record.”
Movies: “We recently got a call from a New York City promoter about doing the Cabaret show there on Halloween. We’re currently discussing how to make it work for a one off show. It will be more extensive and we’ll need to play through it several times to make it all work. If they offered us three weeks on Broadway we would definitely jump on that. We constantly get offers to turn Operation Mindcrime into a movie or stage production. We’ve come close to having it made into a movie several times but something always gets in the way. Actually, there’s a production company right now that has a window of opportunity to develop it into a film. It’s only a matter of time and when all the pieces fit and it feels right, we’ll do it.”
Acting: “There is a new documentary about subliminal messaging called Programming The Nation that I was involved in. I did an interview on camera and really enjoyed the experience. I acted in a film last year called The Burning Moore Incident. I had a great time with that. It was a real learning experience. What I enjoyed most about it was all the stunt work. There were several fight scenes in the film so I got to work with a stunt coordinator and learn how to roll down the stairs, crash through walls, throw punches - that kind of thing. It was about ten days on location in Queens, New York.”
Ireland: My wife Susan runs a travel tour of Ireland called ‘Be Irish Tours, Ltd’. She has a real passion for it and loves to show people special places that are unique to Ireland. She recently started managing this Irish band called the Voodoos. They’re a five-piece from Cork and are amazing. They’ve been touring with us on a few dates and have been getting rave reviews. For young guys in their early 20s, they are really talented, write great songs and are soon to release their first record. When she first proposed that they tour with us, I was a bit skeptical but agreed to a couple dates to see how they would do. I was surprised as our audience just ate them up. We will have them with us on some of the current American dates.
Ronnie James Dio: “Ronnie was very instrumental in the beginnings of Queensryche. He was the first BIG act we toured with in Europe on his Holy Diver tour. He treated everyone like they were important. Our first day we arrived at the venue, he popped up to our dressing room and introduced himself then invited us down to his dressing room for dinner. He introduced us to the crew and his band so that we were on a first-name basis with everyone. We spent about two months touring Europe with him. He was a real gentleman. Begin fresh to the road; I thought this is how it’s done. That never happened again with anyone we ever toured with! Sometime we’d do an entire tour and never meet the headlining act. But Ronnie was just like that. His feeling was, ‘We’re all in this together, let’s make sure everyone knows each other and we have a great experience’. That positive energy really rubbed off on us. We’ve tried to follow in his footsteps.”
Operation Mindcrime II: “When Ronnie worked on Mindcrime II with us it was really special. I had just written ‘The Chase’ and felt it was perfect for him. I called him up and asked if he’d sing it and he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it’. He asked me to send him a copy of it so he could work on it and we’d set a date for him to record it. He called me about a week later and said, ‘This is great. I love the song. I have so many ideas’. He came to San Francisco where we were working on the record with idea after idea. He took it from the way I wrote it and gave it his personal touch. When we hit the record button, it was one fantastic take after another. We had difficulty picking which take to use because everything was great. I remember him walking up to the microphone; our engineer was sitting in the control room with me, and Ronnie just let loose the engineer looked at me with this expression of disbelief. We were both blown away with this guy’s ability and power in his voice. He was 63 and still as strong as ever.”
Hear ‘n’ Aid: “We had just released Rage for Order (1986-87) and Ronnie called up and asked if I’d like to be involved with the Starz famine relief project. I would say, ‘Yes’ to anything he asked me to do. I came down to A&M studios in LA and met the guys working on the project. Ronnie asked me to do one of the lead lines and I admit I was really nervous. There were all my heroes in one place. Ronnie and Rob Halford were sitting in the control room. Ted Nugent, Neal Schon (Journey) Buck Dharma (Blue Öyster Cult) were all walking around Rock legends at the time. It was intimidating. I went out to the microphone and couldn’t take my sunglasses off. I need them on to focus and get inside of myself. Ronnie really had to coach me.”
Insania Wine: “Yes, the wine is flowing - the wine is fine, ha ha. It was my interest in wine that got me started in the business. I’m a wine fan and collector. Over the years of touring and going to all the different places around the world gave me the wine experience. I’ve had the fortune of meeting a lot of wine makers over the years. I’ve become friends with Holly Turner, who’s become my partner. We were in France doing a wine tasting in the Bordeaux region. We had sampled some wines of the area and I was complementing her Malbec that’s fantastic. She asked if I’d ever thought of making my own and said she would help me. We started the business about five years ago. Now we’re on our third vintage of Insania Red, and our second vintage of Insania white. It’s been a fun endeavor. I’m involved in all aspects from the harvest, the crush, to the bottling and the blending.
Wine vs. Music: “It’s different from the rigors of the road but also very similar to making music. In music you take certain notes and blend them together to form a chord and create a progression that’s pleasing to your ear. With wine, you take individual grapes, blend them together to form a mixtures (or blend) that pleasing to your taste buds. Everyone experiences it differently because we all have a separate sense of taste. With music we have a different ways of hearing music. A lot of similarities between the two its an art. Both require an artistic viewpoint and craftsmanship.”
A special thanks to Geoff Tate and Jeff Albright @ Rockstar PR.
Website: Queensryche, Geoff Tate, Roadrunner Records