Geoff Tate is the iconic voice and original lead singer of Queensryche. He will be bringing his “The Whole Story ‘Ryche’ Acoustic Tour” to The Kent Stage on February 24th.
Geoff recently took some time out of his schedule to speak to NEO Music Scene to discuss his career, this tour and his future plans for his band Operation: Mindcrime.
Greg Drugan: Thanks for taking some time out of your schedule today. How has the tour been going so far?
Geoff Tate: The tour’s been going great! We started the tour back in November in Europe and did six weeks there. Then we just started in Florida a couple of weeks ago and we are working our way west. We’re playing wonderful shows and the band’s tight. I’m very pleased with it all.
GD: Excellent! Are there any current members from your Operation: Mindcrime band that are in this current touring band?
GT: Yeah. I have Scott Moughton on guitar and he’s from the Operation: Mindcrime project.
GD: I happened to catch your Operation: Mindcrime show last year and you threw in a little acoustic set, which I thought was excellent. How has the reaction been to a full acoustic show?
GT: It’s good, it’s a really fun show. Almost every song that I’ve ever written or was originally written has been on acoustic guitar or piano. So this is kinda like reverse engineering. We are taking it back to where it began. I’ve got 35 years of traveling and being on the road and I’ve got so many stories and I talk about that a lot during the show. Portions of a particular song or interesting anecdotes about the creation of a song, or who wrote it and that person’s mindset when they wrote it. I tell stories of my former band mates. It’s kind of a storytelling environment. We’re playing smaller venues where you can hear everything! All the details of the instrumentation and you can hear every breath I take. That goes for the audience as well because I can hear what they say! (laughs). We all sing together and they’re as loud as me. It’s like we’re sitting around a campfire. It’s one of the most enjoyable tours I’ve ever done.
GD: What is your favorite song to perform acoustically?
GT: Oh gosh! I don’t think I have a favorite because they are all so different. I can say for me that playing acoustic is a real nice diversion from what I’ve been doing for the past few years. I still like the full on volume of songs because it’s very exhilarating. It’s also very satisfying playing in a completely different way. I also like being able to leave the show every night still being able to hear. (laughs).
Another thing I have a hard time getting used to is playing these venues that serve dinner during the show. Seeing someone stand there singing along to one of my songs holding a chicken drumstick is a little different situation!
GD: I bet! This tour is called “The Whole Story of Ryche,” Are you playing a song or a couple songs from every Queensryche album?
GT: That was the original plan that was in place was to hit every album that I wrote or performed with Queensryche. It didn’t quite make the whole thing, simply because some songs didn’t work well enough to keep them in the set. We’ve kinda fine tuned the set now after so many weeks of touring. We have really solid performances and it’s a really entertaining show.
GD: Excellent! Looking back in your career, who were some of your musical influences growing up?
GT: Oh gosh! I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s so I heard everything from Johnny Cash and Glenn Campbell to Helen Reddy, The 5th Dimension, The Beatles, to Creedence Clearwater Revival. You name it, I had all the records. I probably have, well I had about 10,000 albums in my collection four years ago and I haven’t counted since, but I have added a few. I have a pretty large musical pallet.
GD: Do you remember the first band you saw in concert?
GT: Alice Cooper- “Billion Dollar Babies.”
GD: Wow, was that around ‘72?
GT: Yeah, I think it was ‘73 actually.
GD: When did you know that you could sing and did you ever take vocal lessons?
GT: Oh yeah. I began studying music when I was nine. I started leaning towards that. I knew what I wanted to do when I was very young. I took piano lessons and I was in the school orchestra all throughout my school years. I graduated to playing in rock bands. We were playing at school dances and I was in jazz bands too. So, I was leaning towards being a musician my whole life.
GD: I saw your tour last year and I was surprised when you played the saxophone. I know you mentioned the piano earlier but what other instruments do you play?
GT: The trumpet, saxophone and keyboards.
GD: I know you mentioned the orchestra but were you also in the school band?
GT: Yep, I was a trumpet.
GD: Very good. In the early ‘80s you put out a couple of albums with Queensryche then a few years later you were asked to work on the “Hear N Aid” project. What was it like working with those guys on that project?
GT: It was fantastic! It was a very nice song and Ronnie Dio called and asked me to be a part of it, and of course I said yes. Ronnie Dio was incredibly instrumental in propelling Queensryche’s career by taking us out on tour several times as we started out. So I was very happy to do the “Hear N Aid” project.
It was chaotic because there were lot’s of different people involved. People were coming in and out of the studio all day long. While you were doing your take, everybody that was on the record is watching you. I remember being in the vocal booth doing my tracks and Ted Nugent is sitting there in the control room and Eric Bloom from Blue Oyster Cult, and Rob Halford’s there and everyone is staring at you, waiting for you to do something. It was a lot of pressure.
GD: That would be very intimidating!
GT: It was! Usually when you are recording, you are working by yourself or with an engineer or producer. It’s a little more private so you can relax because you’re not performing for someone.
GD: Have you been in contact with (former band mate)Chris DeGarmo recently? You were a great writing combination
GT: Not recently. We haven’t talked in a couple of years.
GD: I recently read that you said that your problems with the other guys in Queensryche could be resolved; is that something you might pursue?
GT: Well, I’m very focused on my own thing of course. That was an answer to a question I did in an interview. I think the question was “Do you think Queensryche would ever get back together?” My answer was “Never say never.” I would be very open to that in the future as long as everybody could get in the same room and actually have a conversation. We’d have to iron out some of the so called problems that were there and if everyone was willing to do that, then definitely. But we haven’t been in the same room and we haven’t spoken since 2012, so I’m not holding my breath.
GD: I know with Operation: Mindcrime you said that it was going to be a trilogy; can we expect the third album to be released this year?
GT: Yes, it’s coming out in September.
GD: Is there a name for the album and will you be touring with the Mindcrime band later in the year?
GT: It is unnamed at the present. Yes, I plan to (tour) but it will probably be in the new year. I plan on doing a somewhat of a limited run. I envision a series of shows that I want to play the entire trilogy in a concert. That’s one of my bucket list things to do. I don’t know if I could actually tour any length of time doing that because it’s a three hour show! I’m not sure I could do that for a length of a tour like I’m doing now. Maybe a limited engagement and we would film the thing at the same time.
GD: That would be great! Do you have any memories of Cleveland when you were first starting out playing the smaller clubs?
GT: Well, you know we didn’t really play small clubs when we were starting out. We were one of those bands that jumped from nothing to playing as an opening act in front of all the big acts at the time. We went from nothing to 10,000 seaters in a day. We never played the clubs until later on when we were headlining. We never were an arena band, we just opened up for other bands that were big arena bands. We only had a short period time from the Empire record where we played bigger, but maybe half arenas. We were more like a cult band that had a dedicated following, but we weren’t a mass appeal musical project.
I think people often confuse that because they saw us in an arena but the forget that we were actually opening for Metallica or Def Leppard or Alice Cooper or the other million bands we opened up for.
GD: So what can the fans expect from your show here in Kent, has the set list changed?
GT: Yes, I have changed it over the course of the 14 or 15 weeks. It’s kinda come to a very nice place to where it all works very well. I think what people can expect is an evening of their favorite music, music that they love and that they all recognize in a sing-a-long type of relaxed environment. They get to hear the music they love and they also get to hear the stories behind the music.
GD: That’s excellent! I love any type of storytellers type of show. Geoff, thanks again for your time and I’m looking forward to the show at the end of the month.
GT: Ok great, I appreciate it! Take care.
Geoff Tate will be performing at The Kent Stage on February 24th. You can purchase tickets at The Kent Stage Box Office or go to www.thekentstage.com.