Sergi Ramos of Spain's TheMetalCircus.com recently conducted an interview with Geoff Tate, the legendary QUEENSRŸCHE frontman and one of the most acclaimed vocalists in the history of hard rock and heavy metal. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether musical differences contributed to his split with his former bandmates in QUEENSRŸCHE:
Geoff Tate: "No, I wouldn't say that at all. Speaking about the last couple of QUEENSRŸCHE records, 'Operation: Mindcrime II' was very metal, or very hard rock. The same with 'American Soldier', our album after that. Both albums were critically acclaimed and fan favorites as well. And we toured pretty heavily on those records around the world.
"'Dedicated Chaos' was an album that Scott Rockenfield [drums] and Eddie Jackson [bass] contributed the most on of any record we've done in 15 years.
"So, no, I wouldn't say musically growing apart at all. In fact, we never even had any discussions regarding musical differences or anything like that."
On the accusations by his former bandmates that he wasn't interested in performing QUEENSRŸCHE's early material:
Geoff Tate: "Let me just try to clarify. The last tour that QUEENSRŸCHE did was a 30-year-anniversary tour, where we played songs from all of our records — all of them. And so we played old classics, songs that were considered QUEENSRŸCHE 'hits,' we played songs from every single record. So if you look at our past setlists, over the last 10 years, you'll see that QUEENSRŸCHE performed old songs and not-so-old songs and new songs in their setlist. So saying that I was not interested in playing old songs is completely untrue, 'cause I wrote most of those. Why would I not want to play them?
"[What] the other side [is doing is they're engaging in] what's called a smear campaign, where they take bits of information and they're stretching what they call the truth.
"'Dedicated To Chaos' was a very experimental record; we've done those before. 'Empire' was an experimental record. It was a pop record; it wasn't a heavy metal record. In fact, 'Operation: Mindcrime' wasn't what most people would consider a heavy metal record [either]. But the problem with 'Dedicated To Chaos' is we signed with Roadrunner Records, who were at one time a very strong record label. But when we signed with them and by the time our record came out, the company had financial difficulties and they were going out of business … and they didn't promote the record at all … So you have a complex situation where you have an experimental record, one that is designed to be more pop-radio-friendly. The record company [told us], 'Create another 'Empire' record, will you?' And we said, 'Sure.' We can write from that standpoint. We're very accomplished musicians, and we can write anything. So we set about writing a record with variables — [one] that had some very pop tracks on it. It wasn't a one-dimensional record; it was a multi-dimensional record. So we gave [the record company] what they wanted, and then they dropped the ball. They started having financial difficulties and they didn't put any money into promotion and they basically didn't sell the record. We've been in that situation before. We had a record called 'Hear In The Now Frontier' with EMI — it came out in, I guess, 1997 or something like that. It was another very similar situation. We had a very pop-oriented record and the record company at the time was going out of business. In fact, they actually went of business several weeks after they released the record. So it didn't have a chance to sell as well.
"So, kind of encapsulating my statement here, I would say that, no, I've always been interested in playing older QUEENSRŸCHE material. If you look on the Internet, you can see the setlists from past tours and you can that we played music from the EP, we've played music from 'The Warning', 'Rage For Order'… In fact, we did an entire show based around 'Rage For Order' two years ago."
On why he thinks the other guys are making claims that he wasn't interested in performing the band's early material:
Geoff Tate: "Well, they have to justify their actions. They have to have a reason why they fired me. And the reason that they're going for is that, one, I can't sing these old songs, which is ridiculous. [And] two, that I didn't want to sing these old songs, and I was not giving the fans what they wanted, which, of course, is ridiculous since I just spent the last 30 years singing all kinds of QUEENSRŸCHE songs. So the statements don't make sense, but they're a desperate tactic to justify their actions."
On whether it's been easy to get shows booked for his version of QUEENSRŸCHE, being that he is the "voice" of the band:
Geoff Tate: "Well, I'll give you a little history. It started during the spring. I was touring with an acoustic project, gearing up for my album; I was planning on touring on my solo album.
"In the past, we all had an agreement, yeah, everybody can pursue solo projects, and everybody has. Scott's done quite a few different records with different people, and so has Michael [Wilton, guitar] over the years. So I was doing mine. And they decided to put together a side project, and they called it RISING WEST. They made a lot of announcements that they were going to put together this project, and they went out and did a show. And they couldn't sell out the show; I think it was, like, 200 people or something like that. They couldn't sell it out. So they went to different promoters to see if they could do a tour, and none of the promoters would book the band. They couldn't make the kind of money that they were used to making as QUEENSRŸCHE. So that's when they fired me and they started using the name QUEENSRŸCHE — because they couldn't get any money for RISING WEST. So, from a business standpoint, their motivation was, well, I'm 25% owner in our corporations, so if they cut me out, then they get to split 25% between the three of them. So, in that sense, it probably made sense to do that, from a financial standpoint, so they could make more money. But in the big picture of things, it's ridiculous and really bad business to take a very successful band, like QUEENSRŸCHE, for example, that's been very successful for 30 years, and tear the whole thing apart and tarnish the name and devalue the brand name and then try to proceed. It makes no business sense at all. Especially at the age that all of us are. I mean, realistically, we have probably less than ten years of productive work ahead of us. So why on earth would you take something very successful, something that works very well, and destroy it? It makes no sense at all. It's greed, really. They wanted to make more money. And so they've been very busy about justifying all of their actions by putting out all this information that, oh, I can't sing anymore, I don't wanna sing heavy metal, I don't wanna sing the old material — paint this picture to justify their actions.
"Now, in the real world, which is the world that I live in, my version of QUEENSRŸCHE has had no problem getting shows. In fact, I'm getting guarantees that are equal to what QUEENSRŸCHE was getting before. So where I'm getting an equal amount of money for my show, they are not — they are getting very little money for their shows. In fact, I don't believe they're gonna be even able to tour. They might be able to go out and do a weekend show here and weekend show there, but they can't get enough money to support doing an entire tour. So it's very tragic that they've done this, and very disappointing and very hurtful, to me, and to the fans, that they've been motivated by greed and jealousy to pursue this. And I wish them the best of luck, 'cause they're gonna need it. It's a very tough market out there."
On whether he thinks the other guys' decision to kick him out of the band will backfire at some point down the line:
Geoff Tate: "Oh, it's already backfired. They're hurting pretty badly financially. In fact, they're calling my attorneys daily begging to come to some sort of mediation, because they're realizing now that they can't make a living doing what they're doing. They can get on the Internet all day and say what a bad person I am and spread all these lies about my inabilities or my dominating them and all this, and that's all very well and good, but it doesn't pay the bills. They've actually got to produce something — they've gotta make a record and they've gotta tour. And they can't financially tour, 'cause nobody wants them. I mean, first off, the people that are talking in support of them are a very small number of QUEENSRŸCHE fans, a very small segment of the big pie, so to speak. And also, Michael, I know, and Scott both have multiple Internet accounts and they go online and pose as different people and they go on Facebook and all these different social medias and they are on a smear campaign of trying to create a public opinion in a negative way for me. And it's backfiring on them now. I think people are getting tired of reading all this negative stuff. And any smart person, any person with any kind of intelligence, can just look at what they're saying and see that it's riddled with inaccuracies, exaggerations and downright lies. Saying that I don't sing the old material is a direct lie. I mean, you can look on the Internet and see the setlists from different shows. So any smart person can do that."
On whether he thinks he deserves some of the blame for allowing his relationship with his former bandmates to deteriorate so badly:
Geoff Tate: "Well, yeah, I have looked at that. I have gone over my actions, I've gone over decisions that were made in the past, I've looked at it critically, and honestly, there's nothing. We've always done things in a democratic fashion in the band, we've voted for everything we've ever done. When we get together and we decide on what we're going to do, it's all based on a vote. And there's three of them and one of me. So anytime I could have been voted down with an idea. That never happened. There was never any dissension, never anybody coming to me and saying, 'Look, I'm really unhappy with the direction of the music. I wanna do something different.' I'm always very open to experimenting and trying different things with the music. If they said, 'Look, we wanna write a more heavy album,' I would say, 'Absolutely. Let's try it. Bring the material in.'
"The problem is there's the real world and there's the not-real world. And they live in a world that doesn't exist.
"My speculation is that when you don't write a lot of material, you can't expect to write material that always pleases you. If I had to depend on Michael, Scott, Eddie and myself to write a QUEENSRŸCHE record, it would take ten years between record, because they do not write enough material; they hardly write a thing. For example, 'Operation: Mindcrime II', Michael contributed to two songs on the record, writing-wise, and the two songs that he did contribute, he wrote two parts — a bridge section and a verse section. So how can you make a record when somebody is providing such minimal input? You can't. So we have to, by contract, put out these records in a timely fashion, so the only way to do that was to recruit other people that were writing to write the record. So it's so ridiculous to think that, 'OK, well, I'm not gonna contribute any ideas to the situation, to lift a finger to be there, to record an album, or to rehearse, but what I am going to do is I'm gonna complain about it, and complain on the Internet even, that somebody else is taking and doing the work. And at the same time, I'm gonna collect all the money that's made through other people's work and then I'm gonna go on the Internet and I'm gonna take credit for all the work that other people did.' What is right about that?"
On whether he thinks the other guys made the decision to fire him after getting bad advice from various business people:
Geoff Tate: "Honestly, I have no idea. I have no idea how they came to conclusions they came to. I wasn't included in any conversation with them regarding their unhappiness, or their frustration, or anything like that. They never talked to me about it. Or they never talked to our manager about it either. They just, I guess, sat there and talked amongst themselves and talked themselves into a decision that was very short-sighted and, again, a very business decision. But how they came to that conclusion, I have no idea. I can't even understand the way that they think. Everything that they've done over the last few months makes no sense to me, or [to] anybody that has a business sense about them. Everyone in the industry looks at their actions and shakes their heads and says, 'Oh my God! What are they doing? What are they thinking?' It makes no sense at all. It's ridiculous."
On whether he thinks his relationship with his former bandmates is salvageable and they can reconcile at some point in the not-too-distant future:
Geoff Tate: "Well, I'll tell you honestly: I would love to work it out. I would love for all of us to sit in a room and actually talk. And for them to tell me face to face what the problem is rather than reading it on the Internet or hearing it second-hand from somebody. I would think that they would have the courage to be able to sit in a room face to face with me. But I don't have high hopes of that happening. Knowing these guys for all these years, hearing what they've done and seeing their actions over the last few months, it would be very difficult to repair the relationships — very difficult. I mean, they would have to do a lot of explaining and a lot of apologizing for their actions. But I would be very open to hearing that. And if they were honest and true about their feelings, and if they came to me and said, 'Look, we screwed up here and we nearly destroyed the band. But we'd like to put it back together and we'd like to talk to you about it,' I would absolutely gladly sit in a room and talk about it, and come up with some kind of plan as to how we could put it all back together again."
Photo credit: Stephanie Cabral