Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime is currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of the landmark concept album. Released on May 3, 1988 by progressive rock band Queensryche, this album is one of the most iconic concept albums in our lifetime, and for good reason. It has stood up to the test of time and is still going strong today. On May 6, 2003, the album was re-released with two bonus tracks, and again in 2006 as a deluxe box set. The groundbreaking album is still going strong today with younger fans discovering the album every day. Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime is currently on tour where they are performing the landmark rock album in its entirety from beginning to end. The extensive tour began in June much to the delight of hundreds of thousands of fans. The last time Tate performed Operation: Mindcrime in its entirety was in 2013 when he was celebrating the albums 25th anniversary.
Operation: Mindcrime includes groundbreaking hits such as Silent Lucidity and Jet City Woman. In addition, the concert set will perform all fifteen songs including the most popular fan favorites: Revolution Calling, Operation: Mindcrime, I Don’t Believe in Love and Eyes of a Stranger. Tate has sold more than 25 million albums while fronting Queensryche from the beginnings of the band until he left the band in 2012. In addition, during his time with Queensryche, the band earned three Grammy nominations, five MTV Music Video Awards nominations and one MTV Music Video Award.
Screamer Magazine sat down with Tate to talk about his storied career including the tour, the recording process of the iconic album Operation: Mindcrime, how he has evolved as a musician over the years, and much more. German-born American musician Tate is one of the best singers of our time and has more than proved himself over the years. Music has always been a large part of his life. His earliest influences include The Beatles, Tom Jones, and Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees. His influences mostly included a lot of the early 60’s bands. “That’s when I really discovered music,” he said. Tate was the young age of nine when he first found himself immersed in music and has never looked back much to the delight of music fans everywhere. Before long, Tate found himself in the midst of fame fronting one of the best bands of our time: Queensryche.
“Operation: Mindcrime is an important album to a lot of people. It has a lot of fans, and the album was always designed and written to be played in its entirety. I thought, ‘the record is turning thirty this year, so I should get out and really play it one last time and I really don’t know if I’ll be able to do it when I’m in my 70’s – in ten more years’,” Tate said. He explained that it is something that is requested a lot from the fans, and he feels that now is the right time to do it. Tate is very in tune with his fans and has never let them down. He goes above and beyond to give them what they want while enjoying every minute of it.
The groundbreaking album was the third one for Queensryche, and undeniably one of the best. Some may wonder why the band decided to embark on the journey to make it a concept album because there were not many bands that were releasing concept albums at the time within that musical climate. Tate explained, “If you look at Queensryche discography you’ll see that we really weren’t a band that paid much attention to what was popular at the time. We kind of made our own road and traveled on that. I’ve always been interested in concept music. I’ve always been interested in the bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s that made this amazing stuff like The Lamb Lies on Broadway by Genesis, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes…the musicians who did that kind of music and told a story. I was very much into that music based on that era.”
In the early days of Queensryche, Tate pushed the band to record a concept record. He had a vision and wanted to see it to fruition. “If you look at our first two albums, you can definitely see that we were working with semantic images at that time. We were moving in that direction. The Operation: Mindcrime album was just me wanting to lean in that direction, then writing the story and presenting it to the band,” Tate explained. Luckily for rock fans all over the world, the music and concept of it sort of clicked and musical history was made.
When Queensryche first recorded Operation: Mindcrime, Tate came up with the story and then the story led him to writing some of the music, especially the title track Operation: Mindcrime. That was the first song that Tate wrote for the album. “I think the rest of the album was inspired by the story line and the lyrics that I put together. If you have a story in mind and when you’re writing music, it’s a lot easier to conjure up stuff because you have a context in which to play with and you sort of have an emotional direction for the characters based on your story. You know by the story that Nikki, the lead character, is attending a political rally so you’re looking for music that sort of has that emotion behind it – it’s expectation and it’s grand and you have people shouting and you’re like ‘hey, how about a march?’,” he explained. The march really worked well for this piece of the album. “It’s a way to dictate where the music should go is by where the story is,” Tate explained. The premise of the album follows Nikki, a recovering drug addict who becomes disillusioned with the corrupt society of his time and reluctantly becomes involved with a revolutionary group as an assassin of political leaders.
Operation: Mindcrime is an iconic classic album to this day that changed the course of concept albums and how other bands created them. Tate said, “The story really is timeless. It’s a timeless story about two people who are in a relationship tested and placed in a very tumultuous time period. A time period of civil unrest, a time period of change. The changing of the guard so to speak. It’s when the economy collapses and all the money changes hands and the people who were in power are losing out with the people who are in power. That scenario is something that is very much a part of our world that we live in, so it’s a timeless tale. And then you have the romantic relationship between Nikki and Mary – a tragedy that’s based on centuries of romantic relationship stories going back to Shakespeare and before that.”
Musically, the album has stood up very well due to the timeless themes. They are issues that the world still struggles with today. “The compositions are classically oriented and they don’t rely a lot on gimmickry or studio effects. It’s very much simple, straight-forward, straight to the point music that’s well done,” Tate said. He believes that the album was recorded very well at the time. In addition, it was one of the very first digital recordings at the time. “All of those things I think really contribute to the longevity and the enjoyment of the album for many, many people,” he said. The entire album was recorded digitally on a Sony 24-track digital tape machine. It was also mixed and mastered in the digital format, which was just beginning at that time.
Tate has years of extensive experience and has seen the music industry during both high and low times. A true musician never stops evolving. “I’ve always tried to not repeat myself and to keep trying to move ahead with my music and experimenting with it. I’m always trying different things. As of the last few years, I’ve really been enjoying working with a number of different people. I like the collaborative effort between people and I like to work with a varied group of musicians. I keep changing it out. So, I think in those ways, musically I’ve evolved quite a bit. Personality wise I’m pretty open. I haven’t gotten too jaded or cynical,” he laughs, “but I’m probably a bit more jaded and cynical that I was at the start of it…I’ll put it that way.”
Tate is currently booked through the end of the year and will take a couple of months off for the upcoming holidays. He will then be touring with a band from Germany called Avantasia. “I just sang on their album which came out in the spring and will be going on a world tour with them starting in March 2019. It should be very interesting because I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m anxious and excited to try something new,” he said of the new endeavor. Avantasia is a German supergroup rock opera project created by the vocalist Tobias Sammet of the band Edguy.
It’s no surprise that Tate has continued with such a storied career because of the groundbreaking concept album, his time with Queensryche, and his voice, which is one of the best in the business. There are not a lot of vocalists in this time and age that can pull off what he has over the last thirty years.
For Tate’s current musical endeavor, his band Operation: Mindcrime has released three albums in three years as part of a trilogy: The Key (September 2015), Resurrection (September 2016) and The New Reality (December 2017).
Tate has an amazing band in place for the tour that he is very excited about. The Operation: Mindcrime band currently on tour features Kieran Robertson from Scotland on guitar, Bruno Sa from Brazil on keyboards, Jack Ross from Scotland on bass, Scott Moughton from Canada on guitar, Josh Watts from England on drums and Geoff Tate’s daughter, Emily, who will be singing the parts of Sister Mary. She’s also in the band, Til Death Do Us Part, who are special guests on this tour. The band just performed several June dates and will be announcing further dates soon, including August and September U.S. dates.
GEOFF TATE’S OPERATION: MINDCRIME ONLINE
Official Website: www.operationmindcrime.com