One of the most distinctive bands of the metal era, Queensrÿche ruled the rock world for many years as one of our best kept “underground” secrets. To sit in the audience and experience MindCrime or Empire was truly a cerebral event. Now don’t get me wrong, we did experience whiplash from banging our heads, but the visual impact coupled with the music left one a little more….aware. When the news broke of the band’s separation from one of the most celebrated voices in rock music, Geoff Tate, in April 2012, the news blazed like wildfire and the fight was on. Sides were chosen, lines were drawn and the internet started burning with “them are fightin’ words” on music entertainment sites, official band pages and fan pages from people putting in their two cents worth. And sometimes you just felt like you needed a small bottle of Bactine to spray on those little cuts because words can HURT. Both sides ended up before a judge who gave them the “go-ahead” to use the name, until November 2013, when a decision will be made on who truly is deserving of the name, Queensrÿche.
When the new Queensrÿche came through Los Angeles, CA to rock the House Of Blues in Hollywood, CA this past November, they brought with them a new singer, Todd La Torre. Fans watched closely that evening weighing in on him, but the consensus was, they loved La Torre and rightly so. The man stands on his own laurels. He’s not replacing Tate; we all know who Tate is. He’s bringing us a new world, as the front man of the new Queensrÿche, so we move forward and the band couldn’t be happier with their new direction as lead vocalist Todd LaTorre, guitarists Parker Lundren and Michael Wilton, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield discussed the logistics of maneuvering the waters that evening, sitting comfortably on soft couches in one of the dressing rooms at the House of Blues, before hitting the stage.
“Well yeah….most of it was geared around wanting to do better business and watching what our business has been doing,” says drummer Scott Rockenfield with a smile, “as well as trying to address some issues that began early in 2012. I mean things had been building for a while, but in a nutshell, we wanted to address those things and it wasn’t accepted very well, and that started a sort of chaotic steam roll of a lot of negative stuff going on, which cultivated in the very end and escalated to what happened in San Paulo, Brazil. It had been building for a while to be honest, and one of those things where we just finally decided to sit down and really address some of these issues and talk about ways we could do better business together, and that required us to have to make some decisions. We wanted to move on with some employees that were working with us and to just address a lot of issues that were on the table for us. And like I said, once we opened up those conversations, it didn’t go very well, and so we had to make some decisions based around that and so that’s what we did. We just decided that it was best for us to move on; we didn’t see eye to eye anymore on those business decisions so we wanted to keep doing what Queensrÿche is good at, which is making music and playing shows for the fans that want to hear what we do. So that’s what we did. The timing was good, we moved on, we found Todd, he fit the role. He’s got a great personality and all our chemistry together is really great and here we are.”
“None of us know what that decision is going to be,” continues Rockenfield, “and of course we’re leaving that up to the final deciding factor, but in the interim we’re going out as Queensrÿche, and we’re doing everything under the guise of Queensrÿche, and that’s what we have been doing ever since this thing started to steamroll anyway. But you have the longest standing members of the band, Queensrÿche, since day one even before Geoff joined the band so for us it’s just business as usual.”
“The ultimate decision, though, is going to be how the fans feel and how the fans react and how this is played out in the marketplace,” states Wilton. “We’re doing pretty good numbers right now and we are the majority of the band, and to be honest, I think the fans are going to be psyched.”
“In the meantime, we’re grateful,” nodds Rockenfield in agreement. “The support has been huge and the shows are really being accepted great. Todd’s involvement with us is being accepted and it’s great. So with that, we just roll, ya know we’re just rolling and for us it’s just business as usual. We start making a new record in December.”
Searches for the new Queensrÿche music didn’t produce much as everything is under wraps, and even the sound clips on the site of new music coming won’t be on the new release. But how long will it take to lay down new material? “We can’t really count the amount of days it will take, but we’re just really looking for a springtime release — mid-spring and that’s what our goal is,” explains Jackson. “Who knows how long it will take us to finish the album. I mean we’ll get it done and give us enough time to allow the new release to be finalized (you know pressing and things) but that’s pretty much what we’re looking at as we move forward.”
“You kind of never know what to expect once you start,” interjects Rockenfield, “and things just kind of take on a life and it just rolls. We’re really excited about it; the material is really exciting and we’re having a lot of fun with the creation of all the new material, so the next step would be recording; going in and whack it out and make it happen.”
The show Queensrÿche and La Torre put on that evening at the House of Blues cemented La Torre’s presence as their new voice, but people were wondering who he was and where he came from. Not everyone is entrenched in the knowledge of “who that one is or who this one joined” so it’s normal to have a curiosity about someone interesting and new. Sitting quietly La Torre finally leans forward and smiles. He slides his sunglasses off his face waiting to be put on the firing line as his band mates explain his inception. “I was at NAMM; at a party and getting some hors d’oeuvres and actually bumped into him,” says Wilton. “He thought I was in Testament — yes the band Testament [laughter breaks out from the whole room] so basically we just talked and found we had mutual interests. I originally first talked to Todd about doing some music licensing/song licensing because I have plenty of extra songs that were never used for Queensrÿche so I talked to Todd and we sent emails and a couple of songs back and forth….”
“We all thought it was nice,” adds Rockenfield, “because when Michael came back from NAMM we always open up conversations and talk about what we’re doing or people we meet and he explained meeting Todd. And we’ve all known and been fans of the Crimson Glory band for a long time and now knowing that Todd was involved with that; it was a really interesting thing the whole way Todd fell into our lap as well as the timing of it all with what we were going through with Geoff. And he just fell into our lap and turned out to be a great addition to get us to just keep doing Queensrÿche. It’s just been kind of a perfect relationship so far — he’s still hangin’ in with us.”
“Well there’s just no pressure,” says Ta Torre in soft tone with a smile. “We’re always laughing and joking and having a great time. Their families are beautiful people and even ‘off the record’ type of conversations I’ve had with their wives, and you don’t even know how much happier they are now. I’m not demanding; I’m every easy-going. I play guitar and I play drums and having the drum background; Scott and I have our own thing where we’ll talk sometimes about drumming or sometimes he’ll let me get on the drums at sound check and have fun with it. We all just get along so even outside of music, Ed will call me and we talk many times a week. And half the conversations are about our personal lives, and we laugh about it and talk about all the things that we’re going through as people. So it’s not just a business. This is a friendship, which will add to the chemistry in writing when you understand each other’s lives — the bad times, the good times; we’re all just focused on a similar goal.”
“We know what we want and we’re achieving it,” continues La Torre. “Nothing is going to stand in our way; we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing regardless. Michael is the one that introduced me to the rest of the guys and I’m very fortunate and I don’t take it for granted; it’s an amazing opportunity. We just fuckin’ dominate every place and you saw a great time had by all; the fans us — we feed off of that. If we look bored, well then you’re going to feel that. How can we feed off of your energy if you’re not getting ours; it’s not good! So, every show people are like, ‘wow that was amazing, finally I get to hear these old songs that I’ve been wanting to hear for so long’. And the songs are played in standard tuning and the smiles on everyone’s faces….”
“We try not to smile too much — it’s not really rock,” says Rockenfield with a poker face leading into a sly grin.
“That’s what this is really all about,” continues La Torre with excitement in his voice. “We’re a band. We’re a group of people who want to play music and have a good time. We’re all into different things musically but there is a unification here that is very cohesive and we like the heavier stuff. But it doesn’t mean we are just some heavy metal band. I mean, there are very sweet and beautiful elements to the songwriting that’s been indicative of Queensrÿche; the slower ballads that are really beautiful and hopefully the new record will be received in the spirit that we’re right. We’re not going to say this is the greatest album ever; we’re not going to say that. We’re just going to say we’re very proud of what we’re writing now and hopefully the fans will see this change. This is a rebirth of a legendary band that deserves this chance again and that’s how I feel as a fan! I think I can speak from a different perspective than anybody here because this has been my favorite band since I was 14 years old. And I met them 20 years ago, when I was 18 years old. I drove to a record store and they signed my Warning cover album–I still have it. So I’m able to look at things from both sides, which I feel gives an objective point of view.”
So there you have it; new music in late spring and the opportunity to see the new Queensrÿche belting out what made history and what will be; when they come your way Around the World, LuvnU.