Queensryche fans are clearly disappointed at the turn of events that has caused a parting of the ways between Geoff Tate and the rest of the band. Both Tate and his former bandmates are using the Queensryche name until a court decides in November which version will get to use it going forward. Both sides have released an album and toured under the Queensryche moniker in recent months, which has lead to obvious confusion and a somewhat divided fanbase. Hard Rock Daddy discussed many of the topics that are on the minds of Queeensryche fans in the following interview with Geoff Tate. The interview is broken up into three parts. In part 1, Tate talks about the fan reaction to his latest release, “Frequency Unknown.” (Click here to read the Hard Rock Daddy review)
Are you surprised about how much negativity Frequency Unknown has generated?
No. Every album that we’ve ever released has been heavily criticized, so I think somewhere around 1985, I started to not really pay attention anymore because it just limits you. We as a band, especially when Chris (DeGarmo) was in the band, came up with a “no limits” philosophy. We didn’t want to be limited by what other people thought of the music, or by what other people thought that we should be. We had ideas of what we wanted to achieve musically, so we followed our hearts and allowed our imagination to guide us in the creative process.
Whenever you are a non-conformist, you’re in line for severe criticism because it’s kind of human nature to want to conform and be part of a group. Queensryche has never been about that at all. We’ve always wanted to change with each record, expand our musical creativity and take our chemistry as far as we could take it without having somebody else set the parameters for us. So, it kind of comes with the territory that there’s criticism.
Fans have a lot of access to artists nowadays through social media, and many view this access as an opportunity to viciously rant about the things that they don’t like. How do you feel about this?
I think that it is kind of a waste of time to engage with them because there’s no logic involved with it at all. It’s fanatical hysteria. What sane person would visit a website and just slam on everything? No matter where you go and what you do on the Internet, if you scroll down a bit, it takes about three comments before people start fighting with each other. The name calling just starts right off the bat because people don’t see things the same way as others.
If you had a logical argument and could explain yourself in a rational way to try and persuade somebody, that’s a real talent. But most people don’t have that talent. They just stonewall everyone and come out swinging right off the bat. And you’re never going to convince somebody about your point of view if you’re going to approach it with a “my way or the highway” attitude. It just doesn’t work. It puts people on the defensive; they start attacking and it leads to nowhere.
Was the best rant contest idea yours?
No, the record label came up with that, but I thought that it was kind of cool. It’s a glimpse into what the reality is of peoples’ criticisms. I feel that you can’t critique art. It’s a waste of time because it’s all subjective. Either you like it and you relate to it, or you don’t, or you’ll grow to like it in time. You know, art and music speak to you primarily based upon your own life experiences, and if you haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced, then it’s somewhat difficult to relate to what I’m talking about in a lot of situations.
For example, I’ve heard from many people over the years who tell me that they put on “Promised Land” and just didn’t get it. And then, they put it on a couple of years later and it’s one of their favorites. That’s a true testament to what art is all about to me. You can’t relate to it unless you’ve lived through it somewhat, or you can imagine it. Saying something sucks isn’t a real critique. That’s a really primitive way of communicating in my opinion.
I feel that people haven’t really given FU a chance, and they’re very quick to spew negativity about it, which doesn’t make sense to me. In my opinion, what makes Queensryche special is that you had to listen to each album several times to really understand it and appreciate it for its differences from previous albums.
We designed it that way. Some of the music is incredibly complex. In fact, it’s been kind of interesting playing with my new band, having them learn old Queensryche songs on their own and then playing it together. It’s amazing how differently people hear a song, especially on the guitar and drumming end. Queensryche’s music has a lot of subtleties that you don’t always catch right away, and it’s critical to know which note to play at just the right time. We throw all of these interesting time changes that happen very subtlety, and the listener doesn’t realize that the change has even occurred. When new musicians start playing the songs, they realize that they’re making mistakes when they thought that they had it down.
It seems that a lot of fans took issue with the anger in the lyrics on FU, and were particularly critical of the perceived message conveyed by the album cover. What are your thoughts on this?
People have asked me about that. There are all kinds of ways to spin anything. The “FU” is an abbreviation of the record. It’s just like this…my nickname is GT and we call Queensryche QR. Frequency Unknown is a mouthful, and the fist just has the cool metal rings on it. FU is Frequency Unknown…simple as that. As far as the lyrics are concerned, that’s just metal, isn’t it?
It’s funny. I get critiqued for not being peoples’ version of metal, and then they critique me for being what…metal?
Now that you mention it, I’ve seen people criticize you for saying that you’re not a fan of metal…
You know, I’m not a fan of a lot of music because I’m a writer. I like my own music. I’m incredibly inundated with my own musical ideas, and so, I’m a bit of a musical snob. And that’s the way that all writers are. I’m always looking to stretch out and do interesting things with my music. Now, I’m not interested in falling into any kind of category and placing myself within any kind of boundaries. If I want a song to sound a certain way, I write it that way.
What you hear with Queenryche records is my life…my interests, my passions, my fears, my hopes, my dreams. It’s me. Life is an incredible inspiration. There’s so much happening. There’s so much to take from and learn from. And that’s how I communicate through my music. It’s how I live. It’s how I express myself.
What are some of your favorite songs off of FU?
I like all of them for different reasons. The last song on the record, “Way Of The World” is an interesting track for me. The music was put together by Randy Gane (our keyboard player), who is one of my dearest friends. On the end of my solo tour, he had a heart attack, and he was in the hospital recuperating. He called me and asked me to bring him a keyboard in the hospital. I brought it to him, and he wrote that musical part from his hospital bed.
It’s a song that’s about coming face-to-face with your mortality, and wondering what this life really means. What is valuable about it? Is it that you had all of these experiences? Or that you bought all this stuff? Or is it the relationships that you’ve had in your life? Or what people remember about you? That was a real special song for me with the circumstances surrounding it. It turned out to be a really great track on the record.
Some of the other songs that stand out are “Cold” and “In The Hands Of God,” which is about getting into the mind of a terrorist. “Slave” is a real primal kind of song, and I love the groove on “Dare.” Overall, I’m really happy with the whole record.
What was the writing process like for this record?
The four of us got together to write the record (Jason Slater, Lucas Rossi, Randy Gane and myself). We wrote all of the tracks and thought that it would be kind of cool to bring in these different types of players to play them and see where we could take the music. Everyone wanted to be a part of it, and a lot of really great players participated. There’s a different guitar player playing the solo on each song. It was a fantastic, fun record to make with very enthusiastic people. And to me, that’s a huge thing, having people around you that are grateful and happy to be there, and who are enthusiastic about the music and have ideas. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a room with a bunch of people who have no ideas at all.
Some people have a conspiracy theory that the quick release of FU was a strategic move for the lawsuit. How do you respond to them?
It wasn’t. The release was scheduled to coincide with the tour dates that we had set up. In fact, I’m really enjoying working at my own pace. My goal is to release a record every six months, which is what I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve been in the situation where I’m operating with my hands tied behind my back waiting for others to catch up. We would end up with these two-year spans of time between records which was just ridiculous. Art to me is of the moment. I want to write about topical subjects. I want to be part of the conversation and part of the debate, and you can’t do that by releasing a record every two years.
Interview with Queensryche’s Geoff Tate (Part 2 of 3)