By Andrew Bansal
After parting ways with Queensrÿche, veteran metal singer Geoff Tate has continued making music under the Operation: Mindcrime name, and has taken upon a massive undertaking of a concept album trilogy. ‘The Key’, the first album of the series was released in 2015, and the second part ‘Resurrection’ is now ready for release on September 23rd 2016 via Frontiers. Just like he did in Queensrÿche, Tate still focuses on the concept-based approach, but didn’t find the inspiration for this trilogy straightaway. In this candid interview with Metal Assault, Geoff Tate discusses how he came up with the concept, his love for hiking, live shows, performing old Queensrÿche material, future plans and more. Enjoy the chat below.
You’ll be putting out a new album called ‘Resurrection’ under the Operation: Mindcrime name. I believe it’s part of a trilogy for which you put out the first album last year and this is going to be the second one. What made you decide to do this trilogy?
Well, I’ve been wanting to do a large-scale concept project for a while. I like the idea of trilogy, a tri-act structure. It’s a common structure that writers use when they construct a book, a play or a screenplay for a film. I thought that format would work really well with a musical as well So I’ve been wanting to do it for a while but just didn’t have the subject matter. A couple of years ago my wife and I were on a holiday. We were hiking the El Camino de Santiago trail in Northern Spain, which is a 500-mile hike. It took us about a month to hike the thing, and along the trail there was lots of time to think, you know. You kind of get outside your everyday schedule, you’re in this completely different environment. I suddenly got an idea, I started writing down some notes, and before I knew it, I had the story that I thought would work really well with a trilogy concept. So I got home from the trip, got back to Seattle and immediately began composing music for it, and here we are a few years later! The first album is out and the second album is getting ready to be released.
I wouldn’t have thought that you’re the kind of guy to go on such hikes. It’s rare for people to find such kind of time these days to go on those long hikes. Is that something you do often?
I live outside the Seattle area, in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, and my wife and I are pretty avid hikers. We hike the trails through the mountains there, I’d say probably three times a week. It’s just kind of part of my exercise program. Hiking uphill is really good for that, and it’s beautiful too. We take our two dogs to run with us, so it’s kind of a fun thing to do. But it’s nothing like 500 miles, I tell you (laughs). That’s hard, really hard work. But it was a really beautiful trip, and if you’re interested in that kind of thing I would highly recommend it because you see some beautiful sights and you go through the Spanish wine country, the frontier area and then you go up to the forested mountain section of the country, before you reach the ocean. And you go through these little tiny small towns and some big towns and cities, beautiful cathedrals, wonderful food and great wine. It’s really an amazing trip.
That’s awesome to hear, and I’m definitely going to look into that. Coming back to the music, of course you’re the mastermind behind the ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ albums that Queensrÿche put out, and this band of yours is also named after that album. Would you say that the music you write for this band is always going to be based along similar thoughts and approach to what those albums were?
In the sense that ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ the album was a concept album, yeah, the stuff I’m doing now is conceptually based, it’s a storytelling sort of format with the music. That’s really primarily what I’m ultimately interested in doing. I like creating new music and writing concept pieces. Music that has themes and some different sort of content than normal, that’s what I’m interested in.
You went through a lot of things about three or four years ago and we’re not going to get into that here, but after that, starting this band, did you think that you were starting fresh, and was that a good thing for you?
In some ways, yeah it was really a fresh start. But in many ways nothing has changed at all, really. One of the things that I think I became very conscious of was the fact that now that I really don’t have the name Queensrÿche to adhere to, I’m a little bit more open and free to create the kind of music that I want to write and be presenting. When you have the name Queensrÿche, there’s a certain expectation that you have to meet to a certain extent with fans. But because I didn’t have to meet that anymore, I could do what I want to do, and this album ‘Resurrection’ specially is a real solid example of where my head’s at musically.
One of the things that’s notable on this one and even on the first one is the production style. I think it’s definitely more modern. Is that a deliberate thing that you think fits the music? What’s the thought behind that kind of an approach?
Yeah, now I don’t have to follow the same rules anymore, so it gives me freedom to explore and try different things without having to compromise so much within the band. There’s no band I have to compromise to, so that’s kind of cool (laughs).
Performing live, what do you think you want to do with this? With a concept album ideally you’d like to tell the whole story but people obviously expect you to play a lot of other stuff as well.
Yeah they do, which is understandable. Music takes a while to soak in with people. It’s a personal journey, a personal experience that you have with it, and it takes years for people to become really enamored with an album or know it really well. So you’ve got to let that time go by and let people become familiar with it. As an artist, of course you’re all pumped up and excited because you want to play your new thing and you’re so into it. But it takes a while for people to get as enthusiastic as you are (laughs). So you have to play songs from your past albums, which I love to. I love performing, I love traveling and I love meeting people. So, I don’t have a problem with that. I like playing concerts and I like to see people singing along with the songs they love and them being familiar with the music.
So it’s not a bad thing for you to be expected to do a whole lot of old Queensrÿche stuff, even in this band?
No, I love that music and I love playing it.
The singing voice changes with age and you’ve kept it maintained in the sense that it sounds good on these new albums, but playing the old songs, are there songs that you like more or like less, now that your voice is different?
I don’t think I’ve really noticed that. I’ve recently played songs from as far back as the EP and the beginning of the Queensrÿche days, songs from ‘Warning’, and all the albums, really. I just try to pick a set list of songs that I think the audience would appreciate. I try to get at least one song from all the different eras. Queensrÿche has got a lot of different kinds of music in a lot of different kinds of albums, so I like to touch on all of those, if I can in the show I’m putting on. It’s getting a little tougher nowadays because I have so much material to pick from (laughs). I think I’ve got 18 albums worth of material, over 220 songs. So, there’s a lot of stuff to pick from.
You’ve tried to present concept albums with a big production in the past, and many times with Queensrÿche. Is there any plan to do that with the albums you’ve done for the Operation: Mindcrime band, specially considering the storytelling format of the music?
Yeah, I’d like to. I’m going to start touring in December in Europe and then in the States sometime in February or March. I don’t quite know how I’m going to present my show this year. I’m playing around with a couple of different ideas, but pretty soon we’re going to making an announcement and all will be revealed at that moment.
What else do you have going on for the next couple of months before the Europe tour?
I’m going to Germany soon for a record release party there, and it’s also harvest time, so I’m visiting the winery that produces my Insania wine. So we’re doing that, and then going to Ireland for a couple of weeks to rehearse with some musician friends of mine. We’re doing some songwriting and rehearsal. And then I come back to the States, and doing a fun kind of a concert tour with two of my friends Blaze Bayley and Tim Ripper Owens. We’re doing this thing called ‘Trinity’, as it’s the three of us, three ex-singers from famous bands. We’re playing a series of shows on the East Coast of the United States. Blaze is playing songs from his years with Maiden, Ripper of course is performing songs from his years with Judas Priest, and I’m playing Queensrÿche songs. Then we’re playing some music together, harmonizing together on certain things.
That’s going to be a fun show. Did you ever cross paths with those guys in the past?
Oh yeah, that’s how I know them. Ripper and I go way back, and I met Blaze in 2000 may be, somewhere around there, 15 or 16 years ago. We kept in touch all these years and we meet up once in a while. They sang on ‘Resurrection’ on a song called ‘Taking On The World’, and we actually just finished shooting a video for it two days ago in Seattle. That’ll be out soon, it’s kind of a fun track. They’re great guys to hang out with. The three of us getting together, we have a real fun time because we all have a similar sense of humor, so there’s lots of joking, laughing, road stories and that kind of thing. And we sing a lot (laughs).
So, on that tour if they ask you to come up and play a Maiden song or a Priest song, what would you ideally play, if you had to pick?
We’re working that out now! We’re getting ready for the tour, even though it’s a couple of months away. We’re talking about the presentation of it. I think we’ve got some really cool ideas for it that people will really like. Anyway, it’s called ‘Trinity’ and it’s coming to the North-East US in November.
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Geoff Tate tour dates with Blaze Bayley and Tim Ripper Owens:
11/20/2016 – Sellersville, PA @ Sellersville Theater
11/22/2016 – Syracuse, NY @ The Westcott Theater
11/23/2016 – Poughkeepsie. NY @ The Chance
11/25/2016 – Londonderry, NH @ Tupelo Music Hall
11/26/2016 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head on Stage
11/27/2016 – New York, NY @ B.B. King Blues Club