The last six months have put tremendous strain on singer/songwriter Geoff Tate and what was once Queensrÿche. The band had been working on many projects over the years collectively and on solo ventures; which had never been a problem. In the last year, the other band members were working on their separate effort while Tate worked on his; Kings and Thieves, due out November 6, 2012, and then all hell broke loose.
Fans were left with their lower jaws swinging when the news broke that Queensrÿche had parted ways after spending nearly half their lives together making rock n’ roll history. As some say, good, bad or indifferent; press is press so damage control through the carnage is usually the first line of defense as everyone is so polarized in such a mess. Let us all remember that these are people’s lives and though lines have been drawn in the sand, it should have never gotten that far. Fans, friends, family and contemporaries have all read or heard about what took place this past April in São Paulo, Brazil. Though seven months have passed since the incident, both camps have recently been in court asking for what each believes is theirs; the name.
“Well, we’re in a court case now. They fired me, basically.” says Tate with a little chuckle. “They can’t, legally, because we have a corporation together — we have three corporations together, and they can’t legally do that. And so it’s what’s called a ‘corporate dispute’ now. We have a court date that’s set for November of next year. And in the meantime, we’re in litigation, basically, so anything can happen. So what originally happened was they started a side project — which is fine. We’ve all had the agreement we can all do side projects over the years. And Scott’s [Rockenfield] done a number of them and so has Michael [Wilton], and I’ve done a solo project, and that kind of thing. And so I was getting ready for this new album and doing a short acoustic tour. And they decided that they were going to put together a side project called Rising West, which is fine. But then they found out that they couldn’t book any shows because that name doesn’t have any value. And so they fired me and went after the name, Queensrÿche.”
“And of course, they can’t do that legally,” explains Tate. “So I had to file what’s called an injunction to try to get them to stop using the name. I spent a fortune taking them to court and filing this case. And at the end of the day the judge decided that, ‘Hey guess what? Both parties can use the name Queensrÿche for the rest of the year. And so we have our court date. And so my whole plan kinda backfired, in a sense, because I was just saying, ‘Hey let’s not use the name, either of us, until we decide what we’re going to do.’ But they wanted to keep doing it. And so as of right now the judge gave us permission for both parties to use the name Queensrÿche. So in the spring I’m launching a new Queensrÿche and now we’re booking dates for it. And both ‘Queensrÿches’ will be touring. Somebody is going to win the name next November, in 2013, and whoever wins the name has to pay the other party off the value of what the name is worth at that point. So either I’ll be getting a large sum of money or they will.” Tate lets out a heavy sigh and continues. “It’s a terrible, awful situation and it’s not what I chose to do. It’s definitely not the way that I envisioned my band and my life’s work ending on that note. I envisioned us all being elderly gentlemen sitting around the park playing checkers going, ‘Hey, you remember back in the day when we did this?’”
Once the decision came down from the judge, Tate gave a lot of thought to his new line-up. “When the judge said that we could both use the name Queensrÿche I thought long and hard about how to go about doing that,” Tate said as he settled into the conversation. “And so I’m kind of a list maker. I got out a piece of paper and a pencil and I just kind of started making lists of what I wanted to try to accomplish with it. First and foremost I wanted to have really great players. I wanted to be able to stand on that stage with people that would really throw everything they had into the music, because that’s what I do. And so I wanted to find people that were amazing players. Secondly, I wanted to find people that I had a relationship with already or I was friends with or I really respected their work. Rudy Sarzo and Bobby Blotzer; I’ve known for 30-plus years.”
“We’ve been friends all these years, and always talked about making music together, so when this thing came up, I called them and luckily they were able to move their schedules around and make it all work.” Tate continues. “We’re both very excited about the prospect. Glen Drover I’ve known for a while and I came at him more as a fan. I love his guitar playing. He’s just a really special guitar player and a very fluid player. And I thought that he and Kelly Gray, would be a really interesting guitar team because they’re complete opposites in their style. Glen is very fluid and Kelly, every time he picks up a guitar he picks a fight with it — it’s just this chunky, kind of forceful style, and I thought that would be an interesting juxtaposition of styles. So that’s kind of my game plan, was to do that and I put together a great live band that people would want to see and that I’d want to play with. Glenn and Rudy and Bobby are strictly for the upcoming Queensrÿche dates and I have a different group of people who are supporting me on my solo tour.”
Tate’s solo tour actually started in January of 2012. He decided to start writing and put his newest LP together rather quickly as there was no long drawn out process to write and record, which can depend on the people working with you; and that’s not a bad thing it’s just the way it is. “Well, it depends on the album, and it depends on the people around you,” says Tate, “if it was a Queensrÿche record, it would take a long time, because working with those guys was very difficult. They weren’t real prolific writers. So if I had to wait for a Queensrÿche record and depend on Michael, Scott and Eddie [Jackson] we’d probably put out a record every 10 years. But with this situation it’s completely different and that’s what I think I loved about it was that it was very immediate and I can work at my pace. I’m a workaholic. I write every day and I work long hours every day, and that’s what I do. So what was great about this is I could set my own pace and make it happen on my schedule so I didn’t have to compromise so much. So that was really fun. And it was fun being solely responsible for it all. I like that aspect of it. And I like the fact that I can shape it any way I want and not have to compromise so much in different areas.”
Tate’s live show will be reminiscent of both his solo career and that of his time with Queensrÿche. Creating a stage show that is interesting for others and Tate himself is key to his sanity at this stage of the game as he feels the challenge is not becoming bored or complacent. “It’s my solo presentation, so I’m going to be pulling from both my solo records and Queensrÿche material as well,” enthused Tate, “and it’s going have several movements to it — the show. So I’ll take people through different movements, different songs that have a similar vibe for a section and then change the vibe up and completely change it and go into a section that’s quite a bit different. It’s a cool show. I’ve been rehearsing it for a couple of weeks, and we actually start on the 17th in New Jersey. So I’ve been rehearsing the band every day and customizing it and changing songs in and out. And we have a huge amount of songs we’re playing. So that way we can change the set up weekly and substitute and interchange songs. One of the great things I love about this particular band is that we’re not playing with any kind of click track or computer support, so it’s all live playing. It’s all real vocals, real instruments, a drummer who’s keeping time, and we’re not tied to this arrangement that you have to do with a click track, which is real restrictive to play that way.”
“You can’t change the arrangement up and you can’t change the song structure at all.” Tate explains with excitement in his voice. “You have to kind of play it exactly how you have it. And so this way, it’s all live. So I can throw my hand up in the middle of a section and that signals the band that we’re going to change-up and go to a different section instead of a planned section. So we can really have and create really interesting dynamics with the tracks, and you can segue between different songs and then come back to the original. You can do a lot of cool things that we’ve never been able to do before. So I’m very excited about that.”
It will be another year before all parties involved meet again to plead their cases and wait for the final judgment on the coveted name, but in the meantime, Tate is confident in the fact that change is a good thing, inevitable and his future will never be stagnant.