Source: Operation Mindcrime Facebook Page
Interviewed by Eamon O’Neill (Writer/Contributor/Journalist) Myglobalmind Webzine
Geoff Tate needs little introduction. As frontman for Queensrÿche, the singer fronted the band for over two decades, and in the process released some of progressive metal’s finest albums. 1990’s ‘Empire’ and 1994’s ‘Promised Land’ may have sold more, however it’s 1988 release ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ that remains Queensrÿche’s finest hour. So it should come as no surprise that the singer has chosen to name his latest project after that gargantuan work, and follow in its footsteps with another grand concept. Gearing up for the release ‘The Key’; the first album of an ambitious trilogy from Operation: Mindcrime -the band, Tate is ready to move on to the next phase of his career: “I feel it’s a chapter in my life story”, he affirms. We caught up with Geoff to discuss the new album,the long forgotten ‘Three Tremors’ project, as well as some surprising revelations about Queensrÿche’s past.
MGM: How are you today?
Geoff: I’m going great. I’m actuallyin southern Germany visiting some family and enjoying the wine festival that they have here. It’s on every two years in a little town called Eichstetten that’s near Freiburg. I’ve survived the wine festival, so that’s a good thing.
MGM: You’re just about to release ‘The Key’, the first new music from you Operation: Mindcrime project. Would you say it’s a fresh start for you?
Geoff: It is actually in a lot of ways. It’s been a very enjoyable project to work on, and the first album of the trilogy is coming out on September 18th. I’m anxious for people to hear it.
MGM: You’ve had a turbulent few years to get to this point after splitting with Queensrÿche.Are you glad to have that drama behind you to be fully focused on the music?
Geoff: Oh yeah. Well, I’ve always been focused on the music, and it’s easier to focus now, without the drama as you say, in place. So yeah, I’m excited and energetic and feeling very good.
MGM: My Global Mind’s recent review of ‘The Key’ said it was ‘a remarkable rebirth’. Would you agree with that assessment?
Geoff: Well you know it’s always difficult, probably near impossible to judge your own work, other than your own creative outlook on it. I definitely enjoyed putting this project together, and I was very pleased with the commitment and the energy and the creative performances that everyone involved gave to the project. To my memory it’s one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever done.
MGM: The album sounds markedly different to ‘Frequency Unknown’, which was the last album you put out under the Queensrÿche name. Was that a conscious decision?
Geoff: Well not necessarily that record, but it was a conscious effort to push my music to a different place for this record. I love the storytelling aspect to a conceptual record. I think that when you do a project like this the music can be so varied, because you’re telling a story that’s very dynamic, and stories aren’t static; they don’t stay the same, so the music shouldn’t stay the same either. It should be varied and follow the story and help propel the story along. So it gives you a lot of room to move, so to speak and a lot of room to create and put together these audio scenes that help the listener understand what’s going on within the storyline.
MGM: Sonically, the album has a real epic sound, with remarkable depth. Was it nice to get back to ‘big’ production sounds and concepts?
Geoff: Oh yeah, well I love that kind of stuff. That’s where my musical roots are; the nineteen sixties and seventies progressive rock era. When I started this project musically by working with Kelly Gray [guitarist] and Randy Gane [keyboard played] and Scott Moughton [guitarist] – who were my main writers on this record – we had many discussions about what we wanted to try to achieve musically with it beyond telling the story. And what we all agreed on was that we all wanted to push sort of, ‘backwards’ in a sense, and kind of revisit the roots of where we started musically, and that was in the progressive rock arena.
MGM: Would you agree that it’s a sound that harks back to the classic Queensrÿche albums?
Geoff: Well you know, there are definitely elements of that in the music, and elements that fans of what I do will find familiar and pleasing. That’s just one of those things that as a writer, you have a kind of a style and you have a way of delivering things that follows you along with each record.It’s your melody choice, it’s the way you phrase a lyric line or a melody line and it’s the chord progressions that you find pleasing that become natural for you as a writer. Those things follow you through your musical career.
MGM: You seem to be making a real statement with the project’s title and a concept. With that, would you say that ‘The Key’ is one of your most important releases?
Geoff: Well you know, every record that I’ve done and have been involved with is incredibly important to me. I feel it’s like a chapter in my life story. In fact, I identify with the records as points of reference to my life. Like if somebody says; “hey, what were you doing in 1994?”, I immediately think;“oh, that was the Promised Land album. Now where was I? Oh okay, I was in San Juan Island recording that”. Everything in my life is kind of based around an album, it seems.
MGM: ‘The Key’ is the first part of a trilogy.Is it true that you have the bulk of the work for part two completed?
Geoff: Yeah, the second record is in the mix stage now, and we’re doing that when I get back from the trip I’m on right now. The third record is mostly written, but we are still finishing up some parts on it.
MGM: When do you envisage the next two parts being released?
Geoff: I’m with Frontier records and they’re very interested in releasing each record nine to twelve months apart. So the next one will come out next September, and the third the September following.
MGM: You’ve worked with some well-known names on the album. How did you come to work with David Ellefson?
Geoff: Well that one’s kind of an odd story. We both found ourselves sitting next to each other on a flight to some place in South America. We’d never met before, and we ended up sitting next to each other for about eighteen hours and talking a lot about music and being in a band, and everything associated with it. I was telling him about my record that I was working on, and he said that he would love to be part of it. And about a week after I got back home I got a little present in the mail from him, which was some music that he thought might fit on the album.Sure enough it worked great, and that particular song is included on the first album ‘The Key’ and it’s called ‘Reinventing The Future’.
MGM: In terms of touring, will you be using the same band that recorded the bulk of the album?
Geoff: Well I hope so. Everybody that was involved with the recording has expressed interest in touring. It’s just a matter of if it works into everybody’s schedule. I wanted this project to be open; meaning that people could be part of it, and or they could continue working with other projects that they were working with. I didn’t really want to limit anybody’s creative involvement with something that they felt strongly about, and I didn’t want the same limitations on myself either. So we all agreed that we would all try very hard to be part of the touring project if at all possible, and so you’ll see some combination of the people that were on this record on the tour.
MGM: So have you tour plans in place?
Geoff: We’re putting that together now and we start in Europe in the middle of November, I believe. I can’t tell you which countries we’ll be visiting right now, but I think the announcement is coming in a week or so.
MGM: You mentioned the fluidity of the line-up there. Is there anyone guest that you’d love to have guest on the next releases?
Geoff: Well, everybody that played on the first album played on the second and the third too, so I don’t really have room for anyone else at the moment. But there are definite players that I would love to write something with or perform with. I had of course one of my dreams fulfilled which was to have Ronnie James Dio on an album, several years ago, on the[Queensrÿche]Operation: Mindcrime II record. That was really a dream come true for me, to write a song with him and sing it as well. But I’d love to work with Rob Halford, who’s one of my favourite singers. I’d love to work with him in a creative aspect, ona song arrangement, or a song writing session or something, because I really respect what he’s done.
MGM: Weren’t there rumours of a project several years ago that was to feature you, Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, reportedly called the ‘Three Tremors’?
Geoff: Yeah, we actually sang a song at Rob’s show in London several years ago, but it never was a project, it was just adinner conversation that we had when we were all on tour at some point. It got talked a lot about, but we never did anything with it. Somebody at the dinner party when we were all out after a lot of drinking said something, and it kind of spread about that there was a project, but there never really was. But it doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be in the future.
MGM: Queensrÿche were huge in the early 1990’s, particularly with the success of ‘Silent Lucidity’. What memories do you have of those heady days?
Geoff: Well, you know, we really weren’t that big as a band honestly. We only had one short headlining tour of larger venues. We had always been, and continued to be a band that played smaller clubs or theatres, which were basically our size of venues. When the ‘Empire’ album came out, we did have a very high charting song with ‘Silent Lucidity’ and that briefly led everyone to think that we were going to start headlining arenas, but really we never really took that very far. We always were kind of a cult band that appealed to a certain kind of person, and we never really were built for the mass consumption kind of thing.
MGM: The band went through some tremendous difficulties just a few years later. What was it like being in the band around that time?
Geoff: Well that was a very rough time when ‘Hear In The Now Frontier’ came out because with each record that you release it’s a financial investment as well as a creative investment. We had sunk all our money into that album and all of our creative energy, and two weeks after we released it, we were out on tour with a big tour planned ahead, and the record company went out of business. All the phone numbers that we’d always called and the people we talked to were disconnected, and it was a very strange feeling. Of course there’s no record sales when there is no record company, so that was a dismal time. And following right after that tour, Chris [DeGarmo, guitarist] decided to leave and change his life, so again, it was another bitter pill to swallow and adjust to. So yeah, it was a very tough time to get through.
MGM: Did the band ever think of calling it a day during that period?
Geoff: Well I think that definitely that was something that was probably the thinking within the group. I can’t speak for the other guys of course, but myself, I couldn’t picture doing anything else. This is what I love to do. We had an audience that liked what we had done, so it seemed kind of strange to stop at that point. I think we just figured we’d try to find somebody to fill Mr. DeGarmo’s shoes and carry on with what we were doing.
MGM: Finally, and getting back to Operation: Mindcrime, and with new beginnings would you say that Geoff Tate has discovered ‘The Key’?
Geoff: *Laughing* Well, the day I discover ‘The Key’, that would be a momentous day. The premise for the album is a way of looking at reality in a different way, and I think that’s something that’s very difficult to do because of our social programming that we all are part of. To break away from what is considered ‘normal’ or what is considered appropriate is a pioneering move, and it’s one that a lot of people don’t understand. And when people don’t understand things they ridicule it, so that can slow the momentum down in a world changing event. But, I think that a lot of those ideas are expressed very well with the record and anyone interested in that kind of think can find an interesting story with ‘The Key’.
Source: Operation mind Crime Facebook Page