Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
MyGlobalMind: First of all Geoff, I’d just like to discuss the latest album. When was it recorded and just want to talk through maybe some of the tracks on it.
Geoff: Uh-huh. Oh, let’s see, I think I started writing it right around my birthday, January. So, January, through February, March, I think it was.
MyGlobalMind: And it’s actually out already? That’s seems a quick turnaround compared to the old days of how long it would actually take to record an album and actually get it in the shops.
Geoff: Yeah, yeah, you know, I like to make records. I’d like to put out a record every six months if I could, that’s my goal. And um, so that’s kinda the pace I like to work at. So I’m really enjoying the situation I’m in now, which affords me the ability to do that. I don’t have to wait two years for a record. So um, yeah I’m very happy with doing that. I’m diggin’ it.
MyGlobalMind: Any particular songs that stand out for you on the record?
Geoff: Uh, well I like all of ‘em.
MyGlobalMind: Yeah. Any sort of themes or messages that run through the album?
Geoff: Well they’re all individual tracks, you know. Four of us got together to write the record. Myself, Jason Snyder, Randy Gane, and Lukas Rossi. And typically what I like to do is like a sit-down with whoever’s writing and really just have conversations about different topics. And you’ll discuss a topic and everybody throws their input or their opinion in and you’ll walk away and usually within a day or two people start coming back with ideas that were inspired by the conversations. And then you start with that idea and you flesh it out and create a song from it.
MyGlobalMind: You’ve actually gone back and revisited your Operation: Mindcrime album. Last Saturday you actually played at the Moore Theater in Seattle, which I’m sure is some personal memories for you. How did that show go?
Geoff: Oh, it was fantastic. It was a great show. Well first off, the audiences in Seattle are incredible, always have been for us, and this show was no exception. They turned out and everyone stood up throughout the entire show and people were singing and screaming and shouting and I love that. Especially playing Mindcrime, it’s that kind of record where people get very involved with it because they’re so familiar with it. And on top of that we had a lot of special guests show up for it, you know, we had everybody that’s been playing for us live and onstage for the encore we had Rudy Sarzo, and John Moyer both on bass guitar and Simon Wright and Brian Tichy on drums, we had two drummers playing, two bass players. And then Kelly Gray on guitar and Robert Sarzo on guitar and Randy on keyboards. And Sass Jordan was there, who sang the part of Sister Mary, doing backup vocals on all the songs, and myself. And it was incredible, just a barrage of sound.
Myglobalmind: How did these old songs go over with the new line up? Because it is a record that holds an affinity for a lot fans.
Geoff: Oh yeah, it was actually incredible to play with this group of people. First off, they’re all fans of the record and fans of the music and they came in being incredibly excited about playing it. And I gave them the freedom to take the basic song structure and keep it the same, but add your own personality to it. So it was cool seeing the music sort of evolve and change a bit and become something quite different live. And it was also incredible playing the music completely live because we didn’t use a clip track or anything like that, which formerly we used in Queensryche with every show. So this was all very human and the first time that the music has really been played completely by human beings. It was fantastic, I love it. It has immediacy to it and, you know, you’re able to improvise and extend sections out depending upon how the audience was reacting. And I could look at the band and throw my hand up and everybody stops on a dime and I’ll say something and then we’d pick it back up. And I’ve never been able to do that before and it allows the show to be much more organic and human feeling.
Myglobalmind: Is the new line up a permanent fixture or can fans expect a rotating lineup? Because you have actually indicated that you’d rather collaborate with different groups of people.
Geoff: Oh, I would, yeah. At this point in my life, I would really like to work with people that I admire and people that are great players. And people that I share a creative bond with. And that’s very, very important to me. I spent 30 years with a group of people that didn’t share that. And so, it’s really a pleasure to play with enthusiastic, happy people who are really good players.
MyGlobalMind: So the current lineup won’t stay? Or is it open to a little bit flexibility?
Geoff: Oh yeah, it’s all open. When you play with really great players, they’re typically in demand and they typically have all kinds of projects they’re involved with. So you know, you have to work around people’s schedules and around making the record ‘cause we had all these different guest players playing on it and it is challenging, I have to tell ya, to schedule everybody, but it’s really worth it in the long run to be able to have that experience and to create music and play music with these incredible, incredible musicians.
MyGlobalMind: Okay, with that flexibility then, you said you like to work with different guys, would that open any changes in musical direction or styles and maybe encourage you to explore something musically that you haven’t done before?
Geoff: Oh, I’m sure. Yeah, absolutely. That situation lends itself to exploration because different people you work with bring in their own influences and their ideas and that can be incredibly inspirational.
MyGlobalMind: Back to Mindcrime. It will always be a classic. The story itself deals with issues: social unrest, political corruption, crime, etc. These days those elements are even more true and ever more present in society. When does music cross the line into reality? In other words, can the music that you make impact a society to the point of a massive outcry for change?
Geoff: Oh yeah, absolutely I believe that. I don’t think the Berlin Wall would have come down if Sting hadn’t written that song about “the Russians love their children too.” That was an incredibly inspirational song for the time. Very topical, very powerful, and it gets people thinking in a big way, in a mass way where they’re all, just a simple idea of, hey, these people that we’re calling our enemies and that we’re calling evil, they’re human beings and they’re people too and they have families and they feel as strongly about their families as perhaps you do as well. So once you start putting a human face on a situation like that, it can definitely change the way you think, you know, and music has that ability because it is so powerful of a medium. It speaks to millions of people. And melodies, melodies are one of the, I would say, the most important part of music. It’s the thing that human beings latch onto easiest. And if you can create a memorable melody that sticks with people and attach meaningful words to it, then you’ve got a one-two punch. You’ve got a strong game-changer there. So yeah, I think music is an incredibly powerful medium and it has worked over the centuries to change people’s perceptions and to inspire.
Myglobalmind: Looking back at some of those early Queensryche albums, Rage for Order or The Warning, it seems to be that you had a definite sort of sound going on, like kinda digital punk, synth sound that was unique at the time. That seemed to be the band’s sound for many years. How did that unique sound that can be heard on these albums, how did that come about? How was it created? Did you decide to do something different sound-wise?
Geoff: I think what you’re talking about is “N M 156”. Yeah, that was the last song written for that record and it was a new sort of phase in the way I was thinking at the time. I was really trying to integrate different musical influences and different sounds into instrumentation and our way of presenting things. If you listen to the rest of The Warning and the EP, they’re very similar in direction. And I wanted to try something new that hadn’t been done and the only way I could think of accomplishing that was to really expose everyone in the band to different music so they would take those influences and be inspired by those influences and put them into what we were writing. And Rage for Order was really the jumping off point. I think that’s where Queensryche was really being unique was with that album, because we were really, really, Chris and I, were trying to push the envelope there. And of course that record was heavily critiqued and criticized because it wasn’t “metal”. I don’t know where we got this whole, it has to be graded as somebody else’s metal, but we never wanted to do that. We wanted to be our own version of what we were, not dictated to by other people’s perceptions. We wanted to follow our own creativity and our own path and artistic satisfaction. And Rage for Order, I think is where we really took off and became something unique, found our niche.
Myglobalmind: Going back to a former musician from Queensryche; you’ve said many times over the years that you’ve reached out to Chris Degarmo to return to Queensryche in some way. He has a different lifestyle, he’s obviously moved on totally from the music business. Have you find it difficult find a similar creative partnership and establish that chemistry when creating music that you had with Chris?
Geoff: No, not really. No I’ve found a lot of creative and artistic satisfaction working with different people I’ve worked with over the years. Chris was very unique in his artistic vision and that combination of myself and Chris really was a powerful kind of tool that we developed and we really listened to each other a lot and we spent a lot of time talking about music and the direction of our music and what we wanted to achieve with it. And that really pays off in the long run because if you keep an open mind for music, that makes your music that much more unique. You start closing off and saying well I can’t do this because this is this, or I can’t bring this idea in because it’s not this. You start putting all these limitations on yourself and you come up with nothing where you sound generic, you sound like everybody else. It never was our intent to sound like anybody else. We never wanted our records to sound like anybody else or even ourselves. We developed that Queensryche sound and I think we achieved that and I think every record was very different than the last.
MyGlobalMind: Just some general questions. When you played in Germany, in Stuttgart where you were born, with Queensryche, did that have a particular fondness for you or do you feel more of a personal affinity for Seattle?
Geoff: Well, I moved from Stuttgart when I was a child so I don’t have a lot of memories. The memories I do have, I think are created by photographs. I do have some family connections there, people that I know and I see every time I travel there. But my home has always really been Seattle. It’s where I really connect.
MyGlobalMind: Some of your early bands before Queensryche, such as The Mob or Myth, are there any unreleased demos or songs that are still out there? I mean, fans are always clamoring to hear early demos and new tracks and stuff from previous bands. Is there anything that might see the light of day sometime from your former bands?
Geoff: Perhaps. I think several years ago we included some of that early demo stuff on some sort of release. I think there is probably still some other things lying around that we’ll probably discover in time. I’ve lived in the same house for 25 years so I’ve got stuff stashed away in boxes that I haven’t looked at in that length of time so, I dunno, maybe there are some cassettes and things that are laying around that I haven’t listened to, maybe. Honestly, I’m not really that interested in the past. I’ve never been one of those people. I’ve always been living in the present, looking forward.
MyGlobalMind: How do you find working on one of your other creative outlets: acting? How did you find working on the horror film “Reality Kills” as both the killer and the narrator? Is film a creative medium that you might want to work on further in the future?
Geoff: Yeah, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was very challenging work. It requires a lot of dedication and I enjoyed it quite a bit. One of the things I enjoyed about it was being able to walk away from it – not being responsible for it anymore. You’re hired on to do a specific job and you complete that job and then you’re free to go on to do other things and you’re not working for a year or two selling it like you are a record. You kinda live and breathe your record for a long, long time. For a movie, you work for a few weeks and then you’re done; you walk away.
MyGlobalMind: Have there been any other offers that have come in film-wise? Do you want to do any other acting or even write your own film? Direct maybe? Is that something that would maybe interest you?
Geoff: Well, I haven’t got any plans in the immediate future. I’m working on a new record right now that I’m very excited about. It’ll come out about the first of the year. That’s kinda been my focus. This last year, my focus has really been on redesigning my life; putting myself into different situations that I couldn’t be in before and, you know, recovering from the shock of the whole split-up. In the beginning, it really devastated me for a couple months. It took me a while to get over it but now I’m really separated from it all. I don’t have the emotional ties to it. Right now, I’ve pretty much ripped off the rearview mirror.
MyGlobalMind: That sounds like a pretty normal thing to do. And there’s a court case coming up with that?
Geoff: Yeah, in November. November’s the court case.
MyGlobalMind: Just touching on the court case, have you ever considered what happens if things don’t go in your favor or are you just generally a positive person?
Geoff: Well, there is really no situation like that. It’s a really simple case — it’s a corporate dissolvement. It’s all about exchanging money, you know, who gets compensated for what. So if I lose, I win; if I win, I win.
MyGlobalMind: Again, just personally from an old Queensryche fan of the former line-up, that relationship with your former bandmates, it’s irrecoverable? There no hope of personal reconciliation? Has anybody from either side held out a hand and said “let’s sit down and talk it through” or it is past that stage?
Geoff: Yeah, well, I tried several times and met with hostility each time. So, yeah, I’m basically waiting for November to come around and be done with it all.
MyGlobalMind: Outside music, I’ve read that you’ve developed a keen interest in wines? Will music always be your number one interest or will other things run pretty close, like your interest in wines?
Geoff: Well, my interest in wine in something that has developed over the years. I started making wine when I was 14. A Boy Scout can get a merit badge if you created a food or beverage product, so I made a vintage of wine and I just became interested in chemistry at that age. And as I travelled around the world, I got really interested in the vineyard aspect of it, the growing of the grapes and where they grow best, what kind of grapes grow in what kind of climates – that kind of thing. And then I decided to create my own brand of wines and it went really well. I’m actually very pleased with the success I’ve had. I just got 91 points in a wine enthusiast publication from a 2010 red, which is a really high score, so I’m very happy about that. And I’m interested in continuing that and developing it over the years and making it into a world-wide brand.
MyGlobalMind: But it’s not something that would ever replace music as your primary focus and interest in life?
Geoff: Oh no. No, I don’t think anything can ever replace music. Music is the way I look at life, it’s the way I interpret life. You know, what you hear on every Queensryche record is my hopes, my fears, my dreams, my passions, you know? And it’s album after album of my life, you know? So yeah, it’s the way I interpret myself, it’s the way I see things. It’s through music.
MyGlobalMind: Over the years, it’s probably more common now that that internet is so popular; you’ve attracted your fair share of controversy. Is controversy something that generally angers you or personally amuses you? When you see reports of various things on the internet, for example?
Geoff: I didn’t understand the question.
MyGlobalMind: You’ve attracted your fair share of controversy over the years. Is controversy something that angers you or amuses you when you read about these things that you’ve supposedly done or said or behaved in a certain manner?
Geoff: Well, actually, you know, it’s a strange thing, but the controversy has only been over the last year, really, and that’s because we’re in a court case, which is really counterproductive and actually kinda ridiculous because the court case has nothing to do [with the music or anything else], it’s with monetary compensation. It doesn’t have anything to do with music, it’s just a corporate dissolvement, you know, money exchanging hands. Were all corporate officers and we all get compensated for the dissolvement, the breakup of the corporation; so he-said, she-said, he did this, whatever, it doesn’t matter. But, I have to say, the publicity has been incredible. On this run that I just completed, on both legs of my tour, we had more sell-outs on this tour than formerly Queensryche has had in 10 years. So I guess there’s something to the idea that Gene Simmons came up with, any publicity is good publicity.
MyGlobalMind: Who came up with the idea on the on the video rant competition? Was that your own personal idea?
Geoff: Well that was an idea that Tim Yasui came up with from my record company, which I thought was really pretty funny.
MyGlobalMind: Basically, you’re taking on the critics, through a video medium, but still face to face. Do you generally welcome an opportunity to engage in healthy debate or discussion with critics?
Geoff: Well, I would love to but the chances are few and far between. I didn’t see any form of criticism in the big picture. I mean, how can you critique art? You can’t. You’d look like an imbecile, critiquing art. Even art critics don’t critique art in that fashion. They never say “this sucks”. That’s not a critique, but that’s an idiot speaking. It’s either, when it comes to music and art, it’s either you relate to it, or you don’t. It speaks to you or it doesn’t speak to you. It doesn’t mean that the art is bad or that the art is good. Art is just art. Its people’s impressions
MyGlobalMind: It’s just a different perception.
Geoff: Yeah. How on earth can – my life is pretty darn big, the things I’ve done and things I’ve seen and experienced, places I’ve been – and not everyone can relate to what I’m interested in. And I don’t expect them to. It’s not my job to expect them to understand what I’m talking about or even to accept it. My job is to comment and to create and it’s the audience’s job to understand it and to try to relate to it or find something interesting in it. If they don’t, peace! Doesn’t bother me at all.
MyGlobalMind: What about touring plans for the rest of the year? Do you have any plans to come to the UK or even back to Ireland?
Geoff: I’d definitely love to, yeah. The problem that we’re having right now is that, of course, there’s two competing Queensryches. So, what we’re having is a situation where a lot of the promoters have been what’s called burned, by the other band, meaning that they’ve booked shows and then cancelled them or can’t sell them out or they do poor ticket sales, so the promoters are losing money. So the promoters are waiting until the court case is over, until there’s one Queensryche before we can do extensive worldwide touring. When the court case is over, I think we’ll definitely be going over to Europe and the UK and, yeah, looks like Ireland, since, actually, I think the Promised Land album.
MyGlobalMind: I actually saw you at High Voltage in London, which I personally, looked forward to. I felt very let down by the sound that day, from the stage from that High Voltage festival.
Geoff: What about it?
MyGlobalMind: Just, I dunno, I’d been looking forward to seeing Queensryche for so long and then volume-wise, anyway, the High Voltage set didn’t give you the sound that you deserved really.
Geoff: I don’t know what you’re saying, I’m sorry.
MyGlobalMind: Oh, no problem. So, in November, the court case, and then you’ll be able to flash out some clearer touring plans after that?
Geoff: Yeah, definitely. As soon as there’s just one Queensryche it’ll make touring a lot easier, a lot more simple and back to normal, where we can go and play more in places.
MyGlobalMind: Okay, just finally, going back to the new album, did you feel that the new album achieved exactly what you set out to? Are you totally happy with the album?
Geoff: The only thing I set out to do with the new album is make a new album, so yeah, I achieved that.
MyGlobalMind: Thank you very much. Thank you very much for talking to me.