Don’t let the word “farewell” in Geoff Tate’s August tour give you the wrong impression.
The former long-time singer/songwriter of Queensryche isn’t hanging up his microphone by any means. But he is bringing an end to an era with this run of dates, which includes a show Tuesday at the Depot in Salt Lake City.
These dates mark the last time fans will see him billed as Queensryche (or Queensryche starring Geoff Tate, as the current tour puts it).
“It’s only a farewell to the name, which is kind of monumental to me, at least,” Tate said in a late-July phone interview. “I’ve performed throughout my professional career with the name Queensryche, so this will be kind of putting a period on the end of the Queensryche sentence. This will be my last tour being associated with Queensryche in that respect.”
Tate was fired by the other members of his long-time band shortly following a backstage altercation between Tate and the other core members of Queensryche -- drummer Scott Rockenfield, guitarist Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson -- at an April 2012 show in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The group had just fired Tate’s wife, Susan, who was managing the band, and his step-daughter, Miranda, who ran the fan club. According to the “Seattle Times,” the band tried to negotiate a buyout of the singer, but couldn’t come to an agreement with Tate.
So the group fired Tate, which instigated lawsuits over the dismissal and which party would have rights to the Queensryche name.
Today, Tate still can’t understand what his former bandmates were thinking.
“I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t even think it was possible,” Tate said of his firing. “First off, why would you break up a band that is incredibly successful and has been successful for years and years and years, for 30 years? There’s no sense, it’s very difficult, very difficult and becoming even more difficult day by day to operate and to be successful in the record industry. It’s no mystery that it’s hurting badly. And so why would you take this incredible successful entity and break it all apart?
“And why would you fire the main writer? Why would you do that -- and the person who is the face of the band and is the identifying key figure in the success of the group?” he said, referring, of course, to himself. “I don’t mean that to sound egotistical because it’s not. It’s just the truth. Why on earth would you do that? It sounds like career suicide, especially at our ages. We’re all in our 50s. ... Why would you break apart this successful thing at this point in life? I can see if you had some grand plan that, if you’re in your 20s and you had all this time and all these years ahead of you. But we’re all in the last decade of our working lives. It just sounds like madness to me.”
After lawsuits were filed, things got even more confusing when a judge in July 2013 ruled that until the case was adjudicated, both Tate and his former band members could continue to operate under the Queensryche name.
The two sides, though, avoided the huge expense and the emotional turmoil of a trial by reaching an out-of-court settlement in April.
The deal gives Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield (as well as newer members, guitarist Parker Lundgren and singer Todd La Torre) rights to the Queensryche name. Tate, meanwhile, won exclusive rights to perform the band’s signature concept albums, “Operation: mindcrime” and “Operation: mindcrime II,” in their entirety. With that in mind, it was announced on July 30 that's Tate's new lineup will tour under the name of Operation: Mindcrime.
Tate thinks the settlement will clarify the who’s who of each of the acts going forward. And he thinks fans will recognize that the new Queensryche is very different from what it was up to his dismissal in 2012.
“I think (the settlement) makes people, or at least spells out for them, what actually is the situation,” Tate said. “And by that I mean I wrote the majority of the music in Queensryche all of these years. And Chris (former guitarist Chris DeGarmo, who left Queensryche in 1998), when he was in the band, wrote the majority of the music in the band. So he and I were the ones that came up with the concepts and the soundscape and the image of the band. Everything that people associate with Queensryche, he and I did that. We were responsible for that. So what you have now with him not in the band and me not in the band, is you have the people who were responsible for what people associate with Queensryche not in Queensryche anymore. So Queensryche means something completely different now than it ever has before, see what I’m saying?”
With Tate (and for the first 16 years of its career, DeGarmo), Queensryche achieved considerable fame and fortune. The band’s album sales top 20 million worldwide -- with the 1990 release “Empire” (and the hit single “Silent Lucidity”) being the band’s most popular release. Meanwhile, “Operation: mindcrime” is widely recognized as one of rock’s best concept albums, and the group earned considerable praise for its intelligent and melodic brand of progressive hard rock/metal.
Today’s Queensryche has announced that it has started work on a new album.
As for Tate, he’s hasn’t been sitting idle, either. He has been touring with the band lineup he formed after leaving Queensryche (guitarists Kelly Gray and Robert Sarzo, bassist Rudy Sarzo, drummer Simon Wright and keyboardist Randy Gane) and has a new album that should be ready to record over the winter.
Tate chose his words carefully in discussing the new album, not wanting at this stage of the project to offer specifics about its lyrics or musical style.
“I can say in a general sense, that it’s conceptual, so there’s a story line that is followed and the music paints the picture and sets the atmosphere for the story to take place,” he said. “How that compares to what we’ve done in the past, I would say look to ‘Mindcrime,’ look to (the 1994 Queensryche album) ‘Promised Land.’ These albums are conceptual pieces of work, so I’ll be working within those parameters.”
Tate will resume work on the album after his current tour ends on Aug. 31. And he likes the musical and personal chemistry he has developed with his new band. The talents of the musicians, Tate said, allows his shows to be less tightly structured than those he performed with Queensryche.
“There’s a lot of ad libbing that goes on, which we hadn’t been able to do with the old Queensryche, because we played everything to a click track,” Tate explained. “We just kind of followed along. The click track was our tempo, our meter and our place holder. Well this, there’s no click track with this band so we’re playing everything live. And so many times I’ve looked at everybody and held my hand up and given them a four count, which means we’re going to extend this section four more measures. And so that’s a great thing. It’s kind of like in sports where you call an audible. You change up the plan and you create something new at that moment. It’s very much like that. And that’s very, very fun to do and very satisfying.”