By: Rob Cavuoto
Queensrÿche has released an expanded 20th Anniversary Edition of the band’s triple platinum-certified breakout album, Empire. The new 2 CD and digital packages both include the remastered album, featuring six hit singles, including the #1 smash “Silent Lucidity,” as well as 13 bonus tracks, among them 10 previously unreleased live performances recorded in 1990 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.
Since forming in Bellevue, Washington in 1981, Queensrÿche has sold more than 20 million albums around the world. The band continues to tour and record, American Soldier was released last year and the band is currently recording their next CD due out in Spring on 2011.
Robert Cavuoto was fortunate enough to catch up with Geoff Tate as he reflects back 20 years to the making of Empire as well as discusses the future of this forward thinking band.
Rob Cavuoto: Can you believe it’s been 20 years since the release of Empire?
Geoff Tate: In the snap of the fingers 20 years goes by. This August will be the bands 30th Anniversary, hard to believe.
Rob: Looking back, can you share or reflect on what was going on within the band during the writing of Empire?
Geoff: We’ve always been a band in the “now” and looking forward to what we’re going to do next, but with doing press for the new release, I’ve been reflecting back. What I remember the most is it was the first record in a long time that the band was home in Seattle, writing and recording. A lot of the songs reflect us being back in our home city and what was going on around us at the time.
Where some relationships were falling off, new ones were beginning; pretty much the song content is about those relationships. Also, we were trying to create an LP of individual tracks rather than working in a theme or concept. We started working on the follow-up to Operation: Mindcrime but figured out after a couple of months that’s not what we wanted to do. We wanted to do something quite different, so we scrapped that and started on the Empire tracks.
Rob: Did you have any idea that Empire would be as big as it is today?
Geoff: No, not really. In 1990, rock music was the music of the times, and unfortunately it’s not that way anymore. It’s really underground now. Back then, you had plenty of rock radio stations in every city and MTV playing rock music prominently. We also had EMI, who were a giant back then, behind us with tons of money to spend on promoting the record and singles.
I think we had six singles and they spent millions promoting them, which of course you don’t have today. It was a different time, and luckily we were in the right place at the right time with a strong record and all the delivery mechanisms in place.
Rob: Any tracks on Empire that are your personal favorites?
Geoff: I don’t have any personal favorites and I don’t know why that is, other than I’m connected to all of them. I’m pretty happy with everything I’ve ever done, it’s all been a wonderful experiment as well as a great experience working and collaborating together as a band. We’re always pushing each other into new musical directions.
We wanted see what we can do with our chemistry and we have a real open mind. If you look in our record collections we own every record there is collectively. We have a lot of different influences, from a lot of different musical areas that find their way into what we do.
Rob: Is there any Queensryche LP that you would go back and change or do something different on?
Geoff: We’re usually against that type of thing. We work hard at making a record and don’t put it out until we like it and it feels good with everyone. So it’s the best we can do at that time. The only thing I think I would do is re-track the rhythm on the song called “Resistance,” because I think it’s too slow. I wish it had a little bit more of an up tempo feel to it. But everything else I think we nailed.
Rob: With the success and longevity of Empire, are you inspired to return to your hard rock roots for the new CD?
Geoff: I don’t think we ever left our hard rock roots. We are a hard rock band trying to find different ways of expressing hard rock, while not staying in the stereotypical hard rock keys of A and E. We experiment with a lot of different keys as well as time signatures, other then 4/4. We play guitars differently than most bands.
Michael and Chris were pretty revolutionary with their playing approach and song crafting, taking the extension of chords where they hadn’t been before. They were both playing guitar but never playing the same notes. That’s the approach we have always taken, we’re a guitar, drums, and vocal band who augmented their playing in different ways.
Rob: I understand the new Queensryche CD is still in the infancy stage, is there anything you can you tell us about it?
Geoff: The new CD is due out in the Spring, and we’ll have a new tour celebrating our 30th Anniversary that reflects where we’ve been and where we are now. I never really know how to describe what we are doing because it’s all in pieces. One thing that’s quite different for the new CD is that Eddie Jackson (bass) and Scott Rockenfield (drums) have been writing a lot of songs. There’s air of familiarity to it yet when people hear it, but it’s got a different approach since they come at song writing differently. There are a lot of interesting groove and tempos within the songs that we haven’t seen before with on a Queensryche record.
It’s got some pretty diverse and incredibly heavy tracks. There are some really light tracks, there is some epic stuff and beautiful orchestrated songs that just haunting vocals. We did some experimentation with jazz chords and compositions. We’ve been playing around with creating moods for a lot of the songs to get the lyric across. It’s one of the most ambitious records we have ever done in our history.
Rob: How is it working with your son-in-law (Parker Lundren – new guitarist in Queensyrche)?
Geoff: Oh it’s great; he does exactly what I tell him to do! [Laughing]
Rob: Do you boss him around?
Geoff: At every opportunity. He is a good kid; He’s very serious about music, which I really respect. He can easily spent 18 hours a day working on the music. He has a great work ethic and is a smoking guitar player, which compliments Michael.
Rob: What was the thinking behind doing the Cabaret shows?
Geoff: It’s nice to do something quite different. We have dabbled with theatric in the past and with these shows we had other performance artists playing alongside us. It pushed the show into a different area that I enjoyed, especially after 30 years of playing a lot of the songs. It was nice to do something different than we normally do.