earlier this year when Seattle progressive rockers Queensrÿche
unceremoniously, and very publicly, fired vocalist and founding member
GEOFF TATE. Coincidentally, the frontman has just released his second
solo album, ‘Kings And Thieves’. So, what better time for Uber Rock’s
Mark Ashby to fire up the trans-Atlantic to get the singer’s side of the story, talk about said solo opus – and discuss the finer points of
knocking the living daylights of his former band mates…
Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us at
Über Röck, Geoff. It's 10am in Calgary and 5pm here in Belfast so I
appreciate the time difference. I want to talk first about your new solo album, Kings and Thieves. It's not uncommon for guys in bands,
especially singers to do solo albums. What first motivated you to do a
solo album, particularly the first one ten years ago? What made you
decide the time was right?
We did the first one 10 years ago and I felt like I'd been trying to
do another one for a while but obviously Queensrÿche was my priority so I was constantly putting my energies and creative thought process into
that. So, this year I decided to make my own again and I'm very happy I
did actually, I'm very pleased with the record.
With your solo material, did you deliberately set out to
create a different sound than fans would know from the Queensrÿche
Yeah, when you do anything with Queensrÿche it's a compromise based
upon the people that are involved with that project and if you do your
own thing, it's your own thing so you don't have to work with them. The
projects take on different sounds and different feels.
Would there be a totally different mind frame that you're in? Do you approach writing your solo material differently than you would
for the band?
I don't think that so much, it's just that I don't have to work them
in. The other guys... they have to almost always play on the record,
right? So you have to plan for that – if they're going to play on the
record you have to set aside time for them to learn the song and then
practice it so they can play it OK and record them, and it's just a
procedure that takes a long time, you know? It just takes a long time of planning and putting together all the different schedules of people,
and I'm used to it 'cause I've was doing it all these years.
But doing my own thing, I didn't have to do that. I didn't have to
hold myself back, I didn't have to wait on people to catch up and learn
the parts or understand the parts. It was just a free-flowing creative
environment – if you thought it up, you just did it. There weren't all
these stops and starts and waiting around to do things, which I found
really enjoyable, to be able to flow through an idea without having to
figure out how to work somebody else into it.
The guys that play with you on the solo album, how much input do they have? Do they come forward with ideas for you to say, “maybe
this would sound better this way” and do you encourage that?
Oh yeah, it's a collective environment. It's always sitting in the
room, throwing out ideas, creating a song idea. It just moves cohesively rather than disjointedly.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the songs on the
album? Are there any particular lyrical themes or subjects you're
tackling on the solo album that we would be interested in?
I don't know what people are interested in, honestly. It's not the
artist's job to attract people to their music. We just write the music
and share it with people and it's the world's... how the world takes it
is how the world takes it. I's impossible to know what people are going
to like, what they're going to relate to, what they're going to not like when it comes to art.
Art is completely and utterly subjective and people interpret art
through they're own life experiences. They relate to songs and lyrics
and pictures and museums based upon what they've experienced themselves
in life so it's impossible to know what somebody's going to like or be
I've read in other interview that the title of the album,
‘Kings And Thieves’, was a working title for one of songs – there isn't
actually a song called that on the album, and you picked the title
because you had a bit of a doodle of it and you liked the way it fitted
in with the artwork?
When you make records… at least for me, I work a lot on intuition,
just how I feel about something and go with it, and I always liked that
phrase Kings and Thieves quite a bit. I'd written it down on my desk, on the notebook and I'm one of those people that when I'm thinking about
stuff I tend to doodle and draw on the notebook and I traced that
phrase, ‘Kings And Thieves’, over and over with my pencil so it was
really highlighted and dark.
When I saw the finished artwork that Anthony Clarkson created, I was
looking at it on my computer and I happened to glance over at my
notebook, so the phrase ‘Kings And Thieves’, looked back at the artwork
and thought, “Oh, there it is.” That's why I'd been saving that phrase
and been so obsessed with it, it's the name of the album!
The album was recorded at the beginning of the year and there was a bit of delay in the obvious processes of releasing albums. In
retrospect and giving what's happened since you finished recording the
solo piece, do you think the name ‘Kings And Thieves’ it could be seen
as a metaphor for what happened over the past few months with the
Hmmm! Well I suppose you could look at it in a number of different
ways... the album, I suppose you could. I think there are probably some
songs on the record that have particular lyric lines that pertain to my
frustration with the Queensrÿche situation, Yeah, definitely there are
some lyrical lines here and there that... really most of the record
conceived and put together before all that stuff started happening.
Given what has happened, would you have been tempted to put ‘Kings And Thieves’ out as a Queensrÿche album?
Oh no, no, never. No. It was never intended to be a Queensrÿche
record and I never wanted it to be. It was always meant to be my solo
You're obviously touring the album at the moment and touring
as a as a solo artist, but you have announced you're own line up version of Queensrÿche and last month the courts ruled in the interim you could use the name Queensrÿche. Do you have any touring plans for your
Yes, I do actually, I start touring in April 2013. I've got a tour
that's being booked now: it's all taking off now and we're very excited
Is this the tour I've seen the internet rumours about the 25th anniversary Operation Mind Crime tour?
Yeah, Operation Mind Crime is going to be focussing on that when we tour seeing as it is the 25th anniversary of the record.
Just to talk a wee bit about what has happened, do you not
think it's confusing or unfair on the fans that there are two versions
of the same band?
I suppose it could be confusing to a few people. Honestly,
Queensrÿche fans are pretty intelligent, generally, and intelligent
people know where to look to get accurate information, and most
intelligent people know you can go to geofftate.com or my Facebook page
to see who's playing where and what's going on. The information is
Do you think there'll be any feeling among the fans that they might be being asked, in a sort of roundabout way, to take sides?
Again, it's very difficult to interpret what people feel, what they
think.. in fact I think it's pretty impossible. I'm not really asking
anybody to pick a side. There are just two sides so you can make up
you're own mind as an individual what you want to listen to, what you
want to be interested in. If it was me if I was a smart intelligent
music fan and my one of my favourite bands had split up and formed two
bands, I'd probably check out both bands to see what they were all about and see what they were offering and see if there was something about
each one that I liked.
Where do things stand legally at the moment? Is there any sort of time scale for the various hearings to try to resolve this?
Yeah, the actual court date is for next November 2013 and that's when everything will be decided a that point.
There's no chance of you sorting it out amicably between you before then?
Yeah, of course there is a chance, if both parties agree to
mediation, going in and actually sitting in a room and talking about it. Yeah absolutely, I'm very interested in that.
If Queensrÿche with your three former band mates were playing somewhere that you happened to be, would you go check them out?
Would I go watch my former band mates play?
No. I'm not interested in that at all.
Hypothetically, if you were stuck in a lift with them, who do you think would speak first?
If we were in a situation where we were put together who would speak first? Oh, it would be me.
And who do you think would throw the first punch?
Throw the first punch? Well, probably me. Those guys can't fight
their way out of a paper bag. I've never seen such a bunch of... how can you be a man and not, like, defend yourself? How can you do that? I
don't understand it. I probably shouldn't talk about that… I could get
in trouble. [Laughs]
You know, Americans are really touchy about that stuff. I spit in
Scott's face and that is an ancient act of defiance and contempt: it's a symbolic gesture. It's ancient, people have been doing that for
centuries and Americans can't wrap their head around that. They think
it's juvenile, like it's something a kid does. They can't understand
guys getting in a punch up. They fear that, they're appalled by it. In
other countries, Ireland for example, the Irish don't see anything wrong with it at all.
Yeah, it's the best way to settle a dispute, to knock the frig out of each other and then go for a beer.
Well, yeah. That's normal…
If it all ended now and Queensrÿche, in whatever form stopped right now, how would you like the band to be remembered?
I had a different idea of how I wanted things to end than the way
they have. I've always tried very hard to take care of the name and
present the band in an elegant way - since I'm the one that does all the interviews and TV appearances and radio appearances and all that, and
I've always tried to communicate to the world that we are a bunch of
friends who make music together and that we care about each other and
always stand by each other’s side, and that we were out to, ultimately,
make music for as long as we possibly could.
The whole way the other guys have handled the break up thing really
saddens me because it's in direct opposition to what my belief system
is. I think that we could easily have sat in a room and talked about our problems, we could have addressed things in a real civil manner, we
could have come to conclusions easily without dragging our laundry
through the public, so to speak. The way that they've gone about firing
everybody in our organisation is just cold hearted, you know, very cold
and ruthless, and honestly it's not the way I envisioned the band ending its days, to be honest... I'm really humiliated by their actions