Just prior to Christmas, Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate discussed his wine brand Insania for a story I was working on for Grammy.com [“Eat, Drink & Rock and Roll”]. He also offered plenty more to ADD about his group’s recent tour supporting the American Soldier album, his exploits in the wine business, his former vegan ways, the rigors of modern touring and the proposed Operation: Mindcrime musical for Broadway. As always, he was an engaging, fun interview.
Here is Part Two of my chat with Tate.
Part One can be found here.
The last two tours were conceptual, and the Building Empires tour was obviously a big hit with people back in the day. Do you think the fans still crave that kind of experience from you?
Oh yeah. In fact, this tour was really a testament to that because we had three albums [that we played] on this tour, and we would play seven or eight tracks from each record in a row. The fans were not familiar with the new album — it hadn’t embedded itself in their psyche yet — and they were all very patient and interested in watching and listening. That’s what we always talk about within the band, that when you have a new album you have to sell it — not just over-the-counter, but musically every night. You’ve got to sell that song to an audience that’s not familiar with it. You’ve got to make them feel what you feel as the writer, and you’ve got to push it every night. You cannot exist riding on the coattails of success you’ve had in the past. You’ve got to keep trying and keep pushing. That seems to work for us for some reason. Many people feel the conviction from the band when we play that [new stuff].
I don’t think I could handle not writing new material. I wouldn’t do it anymore if I couldn’t put out records and present them. I’m not interested in reliving the past. In fact, none of us listen to the old records at all. Once we do a record, that’s it, we’re done with it and move onto the next thing. We were getting ready to do this American Soldier tour, and the plan was to focus on and play the three albums [American Soldier, Rage For Order and Empire]. Everybody was supposed to listen back to the old records and familiarize themselves with the songs, and then we would start rehearsals. So the date rolls around and we get in there and are ready to play, and it comes out that none of us have listened to the songs. [laughs] We could have stopped to take an extra couple of days to get everybody to do their homework or just launch into it and see how far we got. But you know, it’s funny, when you write something it just stays with you. We remembered almost everything and played the songs fine. There were a couple of little things that we hiccuped on, but it was just really easy stuff. The bulk of everything was cemented in the brain somewhere, and when you’re actually on the spot and have to hit that A Minor chord, it just comes out. It’s a really weird thing. I don’t remember other people’s lyrics very well. I was at a party last night with a band playing, and they asked me to sing a song. I had to decline. I said, if you give me a lyric sheet I could muddle through it, but I just do not remember other people’s lyrics. Maybe a sentence here or there, but I have a hard time with that. I just ended up playing saxophone, so that was fun. I had a good time. I can remember musical lines, no problem. We did a tour with Dream Theater a couple of years ago where the encore was all of us coming out and playing each other songs. It took me two weeks of using cheat sheets onstage to remember the lyrics to their songs.
Weren’t you a vegan at one point?
I was a vegan for 10 years. I enjoyed it at the time, although it was incredibly frustrating on tour at that point because vegetarianism and veganism were kind of unknown things to the masses. You just couldn’t find anything to eat except steamed vegetables. Nowadays it’s much more widespread. As a touring musician you eat out every day at all these different restaurants, so I’ve really seen it grow. You can go to supermarkets now and they have organic sections and vegetarian sections. It’s really a lot easier now to eat if you want to maintain that lifestyle. I started eating fish again, and my wife [Susan] is a meat eater. She kind of got me back on the meat thing. I eat beef now and then. I have to say that we both really changed around our diet a lot in the last year. We’ve noticed that as Americans, as a population we’re really overweight. You go to other places in the world and they just don’t have that kind of obesity rate. I think it’s really about portions. We eat platters of food here. We eat a plate of food that can feed a family of four for one serving. We just started sharing everything. That seems to help us keep the weight off and keep a little bit slimmer figure.
Wasn’t Eddie a vegetarian at one point?
Eddie is such a weird eater. I can’t keep track of what he eats and what he doesn’t eat. He is very strange. He doesn’t like Chinese food when it’s prepared. He likes to eat it two days later. He’ll order a Chinese meal, then leave it in the box and stick it in a refrigerator and eat it a couple of days later. It’s pretty bizarre. He’s never gotten food poisoning.
How much do you keep up with new music as you get older?
You’ve mentioned keeping up with every crappy band that comes out. I’m in the same position. The older I get, the less I’m interested in what young bands do. They’re just not speaking to me, especially lyrically. What’s some guy in his twenties going to say to me? I’m 50. God, I’ve already done that. I’ve been through those things. For an audience, I think it might be the same thing. When most new musicians start out they’re pulling so heavily from their influences. You can hear them in every chord that they play. The older they get, hopefully they’ll start branching out and develop their own thing and become more unique. For starting out, there’s not a lot of interesting stuff there that I haven’t already heard.
Of course, when Queensrÿche first came out there were probably older listeners who thought it sounded like earlier hard rock or metal. At the same time, as many bands get older, it can be a little strange to see some of the things they do, like Green Day launching a Broadway musical.
I’m glad they’re doing that. It’s another avenue to play and do whatever it is that they do. I think Broadway really needs a shot in the arm. Some of that stuff, it’s so schlocky.
I tend to favor the plays more than the musicals on Broadway. Wicked and Avenue Q are great musicals. If Queensrÿche were to do something on Broadway, would you be worried that it would tarnish or negatively impact your legacy in any way? Would you like to see Operation: Mindcrime done as a musical?
Actually, there’s a guy working towards that right now. Adam Pascal, who was a singer in Rent, is working on a Broadway production of Mindcrime, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. I had a meeting with him when I was in Tokyo a couple of months ago, and he was outlining his whole plan for it. I haven’t seen anything about it yet. But to answer your question, I would be happy to do something like that. I’m not too concerned with the legacy. Other people’s perceptions of what we do don’t really count with me. I’m more interested in if I think it’s cool and if I like it. That’s the game plan that we’ve always followed in the band. Do we like it? Does it pass our committee? Okay, then that’s Queensrÿche.
So what’s coming up for Queensrÿche in 2010?
We’re not planning on going out again until sometime in the summer, at the least. We’re working on a new studio record right now, so we’re in the studio every day slaving away. We started working on it a few months ago. We like new music, so we are always working on the next thing.
Is there anything you can say about it?
It’s a conceptual piece and is kind of a social commentary. I’m really, really excited about it because it’s something very different for us that we haven’t done before, but I can’t really tell you any more about that.