Interview with Operation: Mindcrime singer Geoff Tate
INTERVIEW WITH GEOFF TATE
Date: December 5, 2017
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
THE DAY OF AN INTERVIEW, I AM ALWAYS ANXIOUS LEADING UP TO THE IMPENDING CONVERSATION. FIVE MINUTES BEFORE, I AM PATIENTLY PACING BACK AND FORTH. THE ANTICIPATION IS GENERALLY EATING AWAY AT ME. WHY IS THAT? GOOD QUESTION. MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE I AM NERVOUS ABOUT MY QUESTIONS. MAYBE I’M INSECURE ABOUT HOW THE ARTIST MAY PERCEIVE ME OR MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE I GENUINELY CARE. ACTUALLY LOOKING AT IT RETROSPECTIVELY, IT’S ALL OF THE ABOVE. I AM MAN ENOUGH TO ADMIT THAT.
THE INTERVIEW THAT LIES BENEATH IS ONE THAT I MET WITH ANXIOUSNESS AND EXCITEMENT ALL AT THE SAME TIME. THIS IS GEOFF TATE. THE FORMER LEAD SINGER OF QUEENSRŸCHE AND CURRENT VOCALIST FOR OPERATION: MINDCRIME. THIS WAS THE MAN WHO WAS AN INTEGRAL PART OF CREATING ONE OF THE GREATEST CONCEPT ALBUMS OF ALL TIME. AN ALBUM THAT I HAVE ANALYZED OVER AND OVER AGAIN, TRYING TO PIECE TOGETHER THE WHOLE STORY OF NIKKI, MARY AND DR. X. THE ALBUM ‘OPERATION: MINDCRIME’ CARRIES AN INFAMOUS LEGACY THROUGHOUT THE HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL WORLD. FROM START TO FINISH, IT IS A TRUE MASTERPIECE.
MUCH HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT THE MAN OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. I MYSELF CAN ADMIT THAT I WAS CAUGHT UP IN TAKING SIDES ON THE SUBJECT. SO LEADING UP TO MY CONVERSATION WITH TATE, I WAS VERY SKEPTICAL OF WHAT MAY COME FROM THIS INTERVIEW. SO AS YOU READ ON, I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT WE AS THE OUTSIDER, SOMETIMES NEED TO TAKE A STEP BACK. MAKE OUR OWN OPINIONS AND NOT LET SOCIAL MEDIA DICTATE HOW AN ARTIST IS PERCEIVED. SURE THERE ARE STORIES OF THE INFAMOUS DEMISE OF GEOFF TATE AND QUEENSRŸCHE. HE SAID, SHE SAID STUFF. LET’S BE HONEST THOUGH, THE STORY GOES AS FOLLOWS. MY SIDE, YOUR SIDE… AND THE TRUTH.
IN GATHERING INFORMATION FOR THIS UPCOMING INTERVIEW, I WAS ON YOUTUBE WATCHING SOME MINDCRIME FOOTAGE. I SCROLLED DOWN TO THE COMMENTS AND WHAT I SAW REALLY BEWILDERED ME. THE FACT THAT SOMEONE CAN SIT BEHIND A COMPUTER AND MAKE STATEMENTS ABOUT AN ARTIST’S CLOTHING REALLY LEFT ME SCRATCHING MY HEAD. IT WASN’T JUST ONE COMMENT EITHER. THAT I CAN DEAL WITH, BUT THE CONSTANT BANTERING BACK AND FORTH ABOUT GEOFF TATE ALWAYS WEARING A VEST. REALLY? I CAN’T IMAGINE WASTING MY ENERGY ON CUTTING UP AN ARTIST FOR WEARING “A VEST.” IT WENT AS FAR TO SAY, HE SHOULD CALL HIS NEXT ALBUM ‘THE VEST.’ SERIOUSLY PEOPLE?
SO UPON READING THOSE COMMENTS, IT REALLY INSPIRED ME TO TAKE A STEP BACK AND HAVE A DIFFERENT THOUGHT PROCESS. I SHOULD NOT JUDGE MY OPINION BASED ON HEARSAY. I SHOULD BE A DECENT HUMAN BEING AND MAKE MY OWN JUDGEMENT. WITH ALL THIS SAID, I AM SURE GLAD I DID. IT WAS A PLEASURE TO TALK TO TATE. HE WAS INTELLIGENT, WITTY AND CHARISMATIC — ALL QUALITIES THAT I FIND INTRIGUING IN A HUMAN BEING. WE REALLY HAD A GREAT CONVERSATION. WE SHARED A FEW LAUGHS AT MY EXPENSE OF COURSE, BUT REALISTICALLY IT WAS INTRIGUING TO ME TO GET INTO THE MUSICAL MIND OF SUCH A SMART AND CONCISE INDIVIDUAL. AS I PONDER TATE, I THINK TO MYSELF, NOWHERE IN THIS INTERVIEW DID HE SAY THINGS FOR THE SAKE OF JUST SAYING THEM. IT SEEMED EVERY ANSWER WAS CALCULATED WITH A PRECISE, INTELLIGENT RESPONSE. SO PLEASE, AS YOU READ AND GET TO THE END, MAYBE THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK (OR WRITE FOR THAT MATTER). EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO AN OPINION, BUT SOMETIMES IT IS BETTER TO REMAIN SILENT. TAKE THE HIGH ROAD RATHER THAN BERATE AN INDIVIDUAL FOR HIS CHOICE OF ATTIRE OR BECAUSE YOU SEEM TO THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON WITHIN THE INNER WORKINGS OF A BAND. IT SHOULD BE ABOUT THE MUSIC. NOTHING ELSE. ENJOY MY FRIENDS!!!
Sleaze Roxx: Great to talk to you Geoff. I’d like first off to ask about the new album ‘A New Reality.’ This album is the third and final chapter. Without maybe not giving away too much, what is the basis of this final story?
Geoff Tate: It’s the whole trilogy. Three acts. This is the third part, the final chapter. It brings the listener in. It’s audio breadcrumbs. It’s a mystery. I can’t talk too much about it without giving it away. The more you listen, you’ll understand the audio breadcrumbs.
Sleaze Roxx: Being that Operation: Mindcrime has had various band members throughout the three albums, who contributed this time around?
Geoff Tate: Actually all three albums were all done at the same time. It’s a cohesive presentation. I wanted to release one a year. We recorded all the albums at one time. Then I went back, mixed them, mastered them.
Sleaze Roxx: So it was the same cast as the previous two albums obviously, Kelly Gray, Simon Wright, the bassplayer from… what’s that band? Drowning Pool? No, that’s not it!
Geoff Tate: John Moyer [pauses].
Sleaze Roxx: Disturbed!
Geoff Tate: Right, Disturbed.
Sleaze Roxx: I knew it was one of those bands — Disturbed, Drowning Pool, etc. You’ve worked with Kelly Gray for quite some time now with Queensrÿche and Operation: Mindcrime. Obviously, you have a great musical relationship. What it is that Kelly brings to the table that has continued this long standing relationship.
Geoff Tate: Ahh Kelly [pauses]… He has been a friend since 1979. In terms of production, he brings a hands on, get to it attitude. He gives you anything you want taken care of. Say if I asked for something that sounds like it’s in a bunker, he’ll say “I can do that.” He can capture anything. He’s like MacGyver [laughs]. He makes stuff happen. He could take a couple wires, a circuit and turn it into what you want.
Sleaze Roxx: This being the final Operation: Mindcrime album, what will be your next step musically?
Geoff Tate: I don’t have a plan at all. I’ve focused on this for the last three years. So now, I’ll take a step back. I’ve been working hard for five or ten years. We’re going to tour the album for a year. We’ve just lined up a ton of dates. January 11th, we start in Dublin. In 2018, we’ll tour the whole year. I’ve been doing some other work with artists. I’m enjoying that. You know guest appearances. I’m like a free agent. There’s no deadlines and pressures to deal with.
Sleaze Roxx: With that said, it’s been a quite some time since you’ve worked with Chris DeGarmo. Is there any chance that you two may work together again in the future?
Geoff Tate: No, I haven’t talked to him in years.
Sleaze Roxx I’d like to touch on the 30th anniversary of ‘Operation Mindcrime’ the album. Will you be doing the album in its entirety?
Geoff Tate: I will. It may be the last the time I’ll ever do it. The second part of the show will be the other material. You know this is the 18th album I’ve put out?
Sleaze Roxx: 18th… wow. So that’s a lot of material to choose from.
Geoff Tate: Yeah [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: With that anniversary coming, I’d like to touch on the album a little bit more. What do you recall from the recording of that album? Some of it was recorded in Quebec [Canada]. I am sure it was an amazing experience. A very eclectic place with great heritage.
Geoff Tate: For that album, we did pre-production in Vancouver [British Columbia, Canada]. In Philadelphia [Pennsylvania, USA], we did basic tracks. Quebec was at Le Studio in Morin Heights. There we did vocals, solos. Then we finished up in Holland. I remember lots of stuff. Staying in Morin was great. We did lots of sking. We’d start the day off with a morning ski, then have breakfast, work in the studio all day, then a night ski. It was winter. It was beautiful.
Sleaze Roxx: Was that the studio that is no longer?
Geoff Tate: At the time it was high tech. It had all the latest gear. New mics as well as vintage mics. It closed down. That’s not the way it looks now. I saw a video that showed how it is now. There’s hardly any windows — decrepit.
Sleaze Roxx: I saw the video as well. It’s really sad considering all the great artists that have worked there. I believe Rush filmed one of their videos there.
Geoff Tate: Yeah, that’s right.
Sleaze Roxx: To be honest I’ve always found the story to Mindcrime to be quite complex. I’ve listened to the album so many times, but I still get more out of the story. Was it a hard task to incorporate a story within the music? And how did you go about writing the album? What I mean is did you sit down write the music, than put the words to it? I am just curious about the process that led to the finished product.
Geoff Tate: I had the story first in my hand writing. The first track I did was ‘Mindcrime’, then ‘Revolution Calling.’ I brought it to the band. Everyone starting working. That’s pretty well the case with all the records. I write the words first.
Sleaze Roxx: I even just learned something recently, the fact that Nikki did not kill Mary, that she indeed committed suicide? If that is true, it really sheds a new light to the story. I find it quite remarkable 30 years later that it is still very relevant.
Geoff Tate: That’s the speculation.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s a great answer! I read that just yesterday on Wikipedia.
Geoff Tate: I don’t know where they get this stuff [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Before Mindcrime, Queensrÿche released two full-length albums and an EP. ‘Rage For Order’ is an album that I’ve always found very interesting. Do you recall what the mindset was around this time? I find the album to be very ahead of its time. I love how it was somewhat digitally themed.
Geoff Tate: With that story, it was us defining ourselves. To me, us trying to do establish ourselves. Previously we were playing off of our influences — what had become, who we were going to be. Embracing technology. There were so many new products, new devices, emulators and what not. My biggest contribution was I wanted to make what I was hearing around me. I was looking to make those sounds around me. I carried around a tape recorder. Recorded everything, trains, cars, you name it. I went to places just to record what was going on. I took all the stuff I recorded, put it into a keyboard, sampling it. Each sample became chords. Each being individual notes.
Sleaze Roxx: I thought it was very ballsy to cover a Dalbello song. Being that Dalbello is a Canadian artist I have always had an affection for the song “Gonna Get Close To You.” How was this song chosen to cover for the album?
Geoff Tate: Lisa was a friend of mine. I was a huge fan of her ‘Human Forces’ album. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite albums. It was produced by Mick Ronson. That song was one I was playing around with. I let our manager at the time, Diane Harris, hear it. She said “You should record that.”
Sleaze Roxx: I always thought it fit the sound of the album perfectly.
Geoff Tate: Lisa’s version is somewhat different. We mechanized it. We made it us. It’s funny with her voice. I see a lot of commercials with her songs. She has a very unique voice. It’s used extremely well. I constantly hear her voice.
Sleaze Roxx: Even the image of the band during that era was very slick looking. A slight change from ‘The Warning.’ It seemed that the band was really trying to find the right approach visually. That look was very futuristic in some aspects.
Geoff Tate: A little bit. It was the influence all around. If you put us with Ozzy at the time, we’d look like we fit in his band. We were just embracing the whole scene.
Sleaze Roxx: We’re gonna jump back ahead a bit, coming off the ‘Mindcrime’ album, into the ‘Empire’ era. The sound of the two albums are very different. With the success of ‘Mindcrime’, what was the approach on ‘Empire’? Were you trying to push the envelope a little bit more?
Geoff Tate: Philosophically, it was us defining ourselves. Trying to expand on the records. Trying to reach a different place. We were working to create a song on its own, without production. It was a cool exercise.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, Geoff that’s pretty much all I’ve got. I want to thank you for your time.
Geoff Tate: Tyson, you’re very welcome. Hopefully we’ll talk again!!!
Operation: Mindcrime‘s “Wake Me Up” Song:
Operation: Mindcrime – “Wake Me Up” (Official Audio)
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