By: Robert Cavuoto
Only the second solo album of a legendary career that spans four decades, the album is a journey into the mind of one of rock’s most dynamic vocalists – and like every good journey, there is plenty to make us take notice along the way.
From the first song, “She Slipped Away” through “Evil” to “These Glory Days” there is no mistaking that these 11 tracks are Geoff at his best. Relaxed, liberated, and not confined to rest on his past, the songs are all groove oriented wrapped in hard driving guitar riff and rhythmically pounding drums. As you would expect Geoff’s lyrics are haunting and thought provoking.
I had the chance to speak with Geoff about how this CD came about out of New Year’s resolution, his thoughts on songwriting, and of course to share some insight on how the creation of Kings & Thieves differed from his previous work with Queensryche.
Robert Cavuoto: The title of your new solo CD, Kings & Thieves, is rather intriguing. Can you share how you came up with it?
Geoff Tate: It was actually a working title to one of the tracks on the CD but I was unable to get it to work within a song. I wrote it down on the notepad and would repeatedly trace over the words quite heavily with a pencil while at my desk.
When I saw the CD cover on my computer of this beautiful painting with the crest and scroll, I happened to glance down at my tracing of the word Kings & Thieves and it immediately hit me that it should be the name. It wasn’t a lot of thought, just one of those moments of intuition.
Robert: Which song was it a working title for?
Geoff Tate: I really can’t remember now. Music when it’s just written without any lyrical ideas always has weird working titles and then it evolves into something else.
Robert: Your new single, “Dark Money” is about political funding and kickbacks. Was there any one event that inspired this song, as it’s a pretty unique concept?
Geoff Tate: There wasn’t really one event, it’s just a topic that is interesting to me and seems be one that people are talking about now.
The song doesn’t pick a side as all political parties are subject to this. It’s an issue that is happening and maybe we would sit down and talk about it. Maybe consider changing it [Laughing]. Change happens slowly.
Robert: How many songs from your new CD are you performing live?
Geoff Tate: I perform songs from both my solo CDs and a lot of songs from Queensryche. We play 23 or 24 songs in the set and 15 of those are Queensryche songs. We are always adding and subtracting songs.
Robert: How do you feel you have progressed or changed as a songwriter since the first Queensryche EP in 1982?
Geoff Tate: I don’t really think about it too much. I don’t listen to anything I’ve really every recorded. After it’s finished I’m on to the next thing. I really don’t go back and review [Laughing].
Song writing is one of those things that I always loved and find challenging, it’s like putting together a crossword puzzle. You put together a thought or a phrase or a melody and then find ways of making that work in a construct. I enjoy puzzles, that mental challenge to craft something.
Each album is different and you have a different mindset going into it. You have different ingredient and I like the idea of not trying to create the same thing every time. You try to give each record its own identity.
Robert: Is there any one Queensryche CD that you feel is the quintessential CD that defines the band?
Geoff Tate: Not really, I don’t like definitions and try to stay away from them. It’s the claustrophobic in me that likes to move into open space [Laughing].
Robert: How liberating was it to create this solo CD?
Geoff Tate: Oh yeah, it’s nice to step away from the way I have done things and being able to work with different people. It’s actually incredible liberating.
Robert: When did you decided to work on a solo CD?
I started January 2nd and finished July. 15th. It was a really smooth project and everything fell into place nicely. I was able to work at my own pace, which was a nice change. There was a lot of creativity on this CD; everyone was throwing ideas out.
When I’ve made CDs in the past, the process can be torturous because it takes so long to get everyone the same page and teaching them the music or getting them to understand what’s happening with the parts.
The CD then stretches off for two years. I really didn’t want to make a record like that. I wanted to make something that was immediate and of the now and riff off the creativity rather than grind it into the dirt. This was kind of a different way of making CD for me and really enjoyed it.
Robert: Who played on Kings & Thieves?
Geoff Tate: Kelly Gray played guitar and most of the bass. Chris Zukas played bass on the remaining parts. Randy Kane on keyboards and Craig Gilmore on drums and Jason Aims on vocals.
Robert: You mentioned there was a lot of collaboration between all the players, did you write and record together?
Geoff Tate: We would sit in a room, share ideas, and record the music; it was quite refreshing.
Robert: When I spoke Michael Wilton about Queensryche’s Dedicated to Chaos last year, he mentioned that the band used Yousendit.com to share guitar parts for the songs. It must have been nice for you all to be in the same room writing?
Geoff Tate: It’s too bad that Michael didn’t show up, he only lives five miles from me! It wasn’t like he was in another country.
He was actually the only one that did the Yousend. Everybody else was in the room. I know your publication and remember the interview you did with him for Dedicated to Chaos. It was very interesting.
Robert: We chatted at length about gear, but not so much about Dedicated to Chaos.
Geoff Tate: He liked playing around with gizmos and gear rather than writing songs and participating. Spending 30 years with the man it was tough to have a conversation with him. I have only had about 10-15 conversations with him in 30 years!
Robert: After all the craziness went down within Queensryche, are there any key lessons to be learned from it all?
I always felt it was my responsibility to present the band in a good way. I tell you, the fallout from the whole thing being so ugly that I never envisioned the end of the band being like this!
I sort of visioned it with us retiring in our 60’s and being able to look back at all the great years we had. It’s really hurtful to me that it all happened. If I could change it would.
Robert: Can pinpoint any point in time where the band started to appear liked it was on the verge of trouble?
Geoff Tate: No it was completely out of the blue and I’m still in shock. It doesn’t make sense to me.
To most intelligent people, why would you take this incredibly successful music entity that has been in operation successfully for 30 years only to destroy the name and run it through the dirt and cut off your livelihood? Why would you cut your own throat?
We had 10 years left in the public eye and at this point you want to start all over again? Financially hurt or cripple yourself, it’s insanity!
Robert: Can you envision sometime down the road for a reunion of sorts?
Geoff Tate: [Long pause] At this point it’s still too early for me to see that. We have to let some time go by.