Long time fans of our magazine may have picked up on the fact that our founder holds some affinity towards Queensryche and their back catalog (it’s been rumored we can’t confirm or deny that the site’s name myglobalmind may have something to do with a QR song but we digress). Long time fans of the band will also admit the image and QR brand had diminished throughout this last century. How can a band that made such great records like “Rage for Order”, “Empire” and the masterpiece that is “Operation Mindcrime” have dropped so low? Well needless to say a change was coming and the split between former front man Geoff Tate and the remaining original band members has been less the amicable. The winds of change came and went and now with two different versions of the Ryche and a new record deal with Century Media, this Todd La Torre led Queensryche has new hope and a new vibrant energy that was missing from their repertoire for more than a decade. We were lucky enough to sit down with original members guitarist Michael Wilton and drummer Scott Rockenfield, just before they played a blistering set at the Button Factory in Dublin on October 18th.
Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Its been quite some time since the band have played over here?
Scott”Yeah, it’s good to be back actually, we were just talking about that”
Michael”Its been a long time, cant remember the show the last time we played over here”
I think it was the Empire tour, when I saw the band play in Belfast.
Michael”We were visiting the singer from Def Leppard’s house.
Scott”I remember that”
Michael”He had a house out here somewhere. He still lives here? Shall we sit down, what do you want to do?”
The last time I saw the band was at The High Voltage Festival In London 2011. I have to say that I was disappointed as a long standing fan that day. How did the band view the show that day?
Scott”Two years ago? Jeez, I cant remember yesterday let alone then, my gosh. You know I don’t have specific details”
Michael”I think it was just you know,when you come into town and you haven’t been in a while…You are playing to your hard core fans that really wanted to hear more of the back catalog. The hits,the stuff that they grew up with when they were teenagers and stuff that got their dicks hard.I think maybe that the set list was too much of the new stuff. It didn’t really connect.”
From the bands first album with tracks like “Nm156″, the band have always strive to create their own innovative sound, while also embracing technology. How do the band view and explain the Queensryche musical identity? This seems to have crossed genres and several musical styles.
Michael(laughs)”That’s kinda hard to do.”
You have had the rock element but also technology.
Scott”Certainly,certainly. You know one thing that we try to do on the new record that’s out, (the new self-titled record) that we put out a few months ago is….Our goal with that as it turned out to be, was to get back to what Queensryche is good at and known for. Something that we wanted to be excited about. In all honesty it has been quite the struggle in the last ten years within the band. We had to make the transition last year and move on, and do what we felt was best for Queensryche and what we felt strongly about. I think once we started making the new record and writing songs with Todd in the band last year I think that it has really started to kind of develop into revisiting that chemistry from the earlier times. That is what we have been focusing on in the live shows are our first five records. The Ep, Warning, Rage for Order, Mindcrime and Empire. I think that is a really strong example of what I think Queensryche is good at.”
Michael”And that is the culmination of that. This group of people ,we all are the proven assets of Queensryche. We are the ones that wrote those albums, the music for those first five albums. What is great is that we have the freedom to create. I mean Scott is a very technical drummer, but Scott plays like Scott. Sometimes he is considered a progressive drummer, sometimes he is considered a rock or metal drummer.We are all kind of…
Michael”We float, in the categories that you mentioned, so its kind of hard to pin us down you know. It’s all kind of an album by album basis-or even a song by song basis.”
Scott”I think that we like to challenge ourselves, I think that we have done that throughout our career.”
That leads me on quite nicely to ask what has the introduction of Todd brought to Queensryche, both in a live and studio setting?
Scott”That has been a great thing for us, it is finally a relationship together where we can really focus on what we have been wanting to do within Queensryche. Now we have Todd who is really interested in that same thing. He came as a fan, he was a huge fan of us. In his younger years he was a big Queensryche fan, and for him to fit perfectly with what we are doing has really given us the opportunity to do some great stuff. The live shows, we are focusing on the great old classic Queensryche stuff that we haven’t done for such a long time. Then you roll that into the new record which has a feeling of a lot of that and I guess its energy. We are just energetic now, we are having fun, the fans are enjoying the shows. They are feeling it again ,and they see us feeling it. The magic between the two of that when we are performing is pretty cool”
How can you therefore explain the bands enduring appeal in these greatly changed musical times, compared with when it first began?
Michael”I think what is great about this new rendition and new rebirth of Queensryche is that we have almost come full circle to when we were writing as teenagers. We were writing the Ep and”The Warning”in Scott’s basement. We were five guys in a room throwing out ideas, riffs, drum riffs anything to create these songs together. It was really powerful, and we have almost come full circle in that aspect. Obviously we have the technology now, so now we all live farther apart. When we have the Internet and computer tools and everything , but its still that same vibe. Everybody is throwing in their ideas and their creativity. It’s not one person telling you what to do”
Do you feel that the ongoing legal situation has tarnished or sullied the Queensryche name?
Scott”Well you know, I think if anything its proved to us that we have made the right decision. I think that it has also proven to our audience and to our hardcore fan base that have followed us for a long time. I think that it is showing to them that we do have the energy and the know how, and we are doing the right thing. The support around the world has been really good. I think if anything it is untarnished the name now. They are all going”great, finally”and I think that we feel that as well”
Michael”Yeah, that is one of the reasons why this tour is very important to us because we are re branding. We are re communicating with promoters, with club owners ahhh with Dublin. When is the last time that we have been here? And it is an arduous task, I mean a lot of people have kind of forgotten about us for a decade or so. Now we are bringing it back”
Scott”It is re introduction”
Scott”It is like being reintroduced”
Now there are two different bands operating under the Queensryche moniker. Is that ongoing situation likely to continue or is there going to be a legal cutoff date where it will be permanently resolved?
Scott”Well there is a set legal conclusion that happens at the end of January. So there is a trial date, that is set where all sorts of stuff will be determined. That will probably be the longest that it goes. I think at this point the best thing that we have done in the last year and a half since Todd has joined the band and we’ve carried on is that we just focus on what we felt was important for the band for us, for our fans. We feel confident that we have done the right thing. I think our fans feel the same way, we have got a lot of support around the world.”
Michael”Another proof is that by signing a great world-wide deal with Century Media we just talked to our German rep there and he said”you guys are now worldwide over fifty thousand sales”
Well that speaks for itself then…
Scott”We haven’t done that type of stuff for a long time, so that is pretty exciting”
Looking back then over the career of the band since you first started. What have been the biggest highs and lows for the band?
Michael”There are so many highs.”
Michael”Remember performing at the Grammys?
Scott”Yeah, all of that”
Michael”That was pretty intense,with like a forty piece orchestra and we played live you know. At the beginning of it, the curtain starts to open and my guitar is not plugged in.”
Scott”We had technical problems right then”(laughing)
Michael”Just as we get started it came on. That was a really high point, and then obviously winning the MTV Moon Man for best new artist or something…”
Scott”Best video of the year”
Michael”Best video of the year”
Scott”You know its hard after so many decades that we have been together we have had some great stuff. I think the cool thing is that the great has outweighed the dark times you know. It’s like any relationship and any business or anything you go through for such a long time. You are going to have ups and downs but it gives you something to compare the ups to. You have to have the dark with the light but I think our light has been a lot brighter than its ever been darker”
Do you still have goals, hopes and ambitions?
Michael”Of course, I mean this is what we love to do and it just works better when you have the communication open between everybody and that decisions aren’t being made behind your back”
Scott”I think that a big hope is that the fans will continue to give us the new chance now, come and see the show, buy the new record. Check out the new record if your friend has got it, just give it a shot. Then judge for yourself whats going on.”
Reviews have currently been very positive.
Scott”Certainly, so just give us a chance come out and see it and I think you will leave the show with a smile on your face. Or you will listen to the record and go”Oh, ok I do feel Queensryche again”, and that’s kind of it.”
I first saw the band in my home town of Antrim in N.Ireland when you supported Dio on The Last In Line Tour in1984.
Michael”Wow, that’s a long time ago”
Scott”We were in Belfast or something”
Actually Antrim, small country town just outside Belfast.
You guys must have done many,many interviews over the years. If you could sit down and interview somebody, who would you pick and what would you ask them?
Michael”Whoa, living or dead?”
Either, it doesn’t matter.You make the choice.
Michael”Jimi Hendrix. I would pick his brain and just want to know what his thoughts were, you know. Such a mystery as far as where he could have gone and …I don’t know, it freaks me out. As a kid he was like “Wow”that guy is just in outer space”
Scott”We have met a few of those, certainly a character but he is a great guy. A talent beyond belief. You know the first one that comes to mind is maybe somebody like Abraham Lincoln (both Scott and Michael laugh)
Michael”Wow, a vampire slayer”
Scott”Obviously somebody from way back when but he seemed like a pretty smart guy with a good head on his shoulders, would probably learn a lot. Right?
Finally if you could pick just two songs from Queensryche’s back catalog to stand as the defining moments of the bands career to date. What would they be?
Scott”Wow, I would certainly say that I think”Queen of the Reich”would be one of the first ones that we kind of ever released to the world on the Ep. It was one of the first ones, I think that we ever wrote together.”
Michael”We wrote that and we thought that would never get played on the radio.”
Scott(laughing)”Yeah certainly, that’s a defining moment….(Michael laughs) go figure. To be honest I would actually pick that and a song called”The world without” from the new record because I think for me it brings the beginning up to the absolute current in two completely different ways. Then we fill the gaps in between, but that’s a whole other interview as well, right?
Do you guys have time for any other hobbies or interests outside music
Scott”You are a golfer, aren’t you Mike?
Michael”Yes, I try(laughs)
Scott”He tries,way better than I try”
Michael”We are pretty consumed right now, so its really hard to find free time to do other things other than music. We are probably 80% music and Queensryche right now and the rest is like little hobby things.”
Scott”Yes, it’s called sleeping,when we get time we sleep.”
Michael”Are you a golfer”?
I’m not, no
Scott”I’m not much either”(both Scott and Michael laugh).
Thanks to you both for chatting to me this afternoon, appreciate you taking the time as I’m aware just how busy show days can be. Have a great show tonight, I’m personally very much looking forward to it. Finally don’t leave it so long before coming back to our shores again.