MICHAEL WILTON (QUEENSRYCHE) INTERVIEW:
May 11, 2009
As Queensryche’s guitarist, Michael Wilton has achieved a level of success that many only dream about. With their latest release American Soldier, an album based around the concept of military personnel sharing their own stories, Queensryche is once again giving the fans exactly what is suspected from them. In this exclusive interview, Michael Wilton talked with Jason L. about the American Soldier CD and tour as well as his Whipwear clothing line and his very own solo album.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s pretty safe to say that you are a very busy guy.
Michael Wilton: That is true. I am multi-tasking very many projects.
Sleaze Roxx: Right now you are gearing up for the new Queensryche tour.
Michael Wilton: Yes that’s right. The new album is called American Soldier which has just been released. The tour kicked off April 16th in Seattle WA. The first leg will be going for six weeks and then off to Europe and so on and so on and so on through November.
Sleaze Roxx: Being that you’re from Seattle, it must be cool that the tour started there.
Michael Wilton: Yes it makes it easier. Seattle is kind of our hub and it’s kind of nice to get to start it there.
Sleaze Roxx: You went to Cornish College in Seattle.
Michael Wilton: Yes the Cornish Institute of Allied Arts. I studied jazz improvisation, classical guitar, and gamelan music.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you finish out there?
Michael Wilton: No I did a year and a half and I ran out of funding. After that consequently I hooked up with the initial members of Queensryche and started that.
Sleaze Roxx: Can you tell us a bit about the concept for the new Queensryche album American Soldier and how you guys decided to do that?
Michael Wilton: Sure, we had been touring for a long time. I would notice that a lot of people, fans, who would come and see our live shows, were from the military. All of us have military personnel in our families. The seed was sown in Geoff Tate. He began first by interviewing different people of the military. The idea was this, instead of taking a point of view based on opinion; this will just be the stories from the soldiers of the military. That was given to us back in last April of ’08. Thus began the pulling apart of demos and writing and re-writing and getting the recording going. This was between tons of fly out touring dates.
Sleaze Roxx: What was your specific part in the song writing process?
Michael Wilton: There were a bunch of demos that were there. I basically rewrote all the guitar parts and recorded all the solos. I kind of wanted to do the approach, the way we did it in the old Queensryche style. That is, recording many tracks and layering different types of guitars and sounds, then complementing each part with additional sources. That was how we did that. We set up a pretty elaborate recording process.
Sleaze Roxx: Where was it recorded?
Michael Wilton: It was done in Seattle and it was done on Pro Tools.
Sleaze Roxx: You are actually going to be recording a solo album soon. Where in the process are you with that?
Michael Wilton: That just got started. That was just introduced and offered to me. I’m doing demos. I’ll probably be writing most of it on the road.
Sleaze Roxx: Will you be doing the vocals?
Michael Wilton: No I have a couple people that are very interested in doing some songs. I’d rather just splatter my guitar experience into this.
Sleaze Roxx: You’re going to be working with Rat Pak records on this. You have a history with them.
Michael Wilton: Yeah Rat Pak came about through myspace. I was introduced and offered to put some of the tunes from my side band Soulbender onto their promotional compilation CDs which they distribute to many different locations on the east coast. There was a very good promotional skill and a tool that I saw. Because even though the Soulbender disc was released back in 2004, many people started experiencing it and downloading it and “iTuning” and getting it on CD Baby at cdbaby.com/cd/soulbender. So that’s how it started. Then the next chapter was that I did a few guest guitar spots on Ronny Monroe of Metal Church’s solo album. Basically what I will be doing is patterned after Ronny Monroe’s solo album. It’s nice because Rat Pak is independent and maybe will be doing distribution through Century Media which will be good.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you anticipate playing any shows in support of the release?
Michael Wilton: It depends. Right now with the change in the air of the music industry you spend a lot more time on the road touring. So it’s like I really have to count my minutes wisely if I am to do that. I’ve got plenty of amazing friends and musicians that live locally in the Seattle area that I’ve talked to that said they will be ready. It’s just a matter of getting a fragment in mind all organized and prepared.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there a scene in Seattle right now?
Michael Wilton: I think there are different scenes. I think for a while, before the recession hit, there was a good metal underground that was happening. Since then a lot of clubs are closing or changing ownership. It’s made it kind of difficult for bands to make a living, which I’m sure is the case everywhere. There’s no shortage of talent though of new bands coming up – just an eclectic bunch of styles that makes Seattle an interesting place.
Sleaze Roxx: You also have your own clothing line out at www.shopwhipwear.com.
Michael Wilton: Oh yeah, Whipwear was done as kind of a novelty. Basically, on the last few tours, the working personnel for Queensryche and my tech, were noticing certain kinds of women in front of me. My nickname is “the Whip.” They said hey you should make them a shirt and call those girls whiptresses. Basically we did that just as kind of a novelty and then it took off. I have a local friend and we trademarked the Whipwear moniker and started a small little clothing line just as kind of an underground thing. It’s actually taken off and now we’re looking at new designs and distribution in some retail stores. That’s been pending negotiations. It should be fun. Believe me I’m very challenged in fashion and clothing. Fortunately my wife’s in the business and she’s the one who dresses me cool I guess (laughs). When you get into the depths of it and microscope the micro chasms of the industry which is very competitive and fickle, I think wow I don’t really have the time for this. But I do want to get some cool looking designs out.
Sleaze Roxx: What can someone expect to pay for one of your shirts?
Michael Wilton: For the standard t-shirt I think they are $15-$20 or something like that. That’s just the standard ones. I’ve had a lot of requests for the high quality thinner material and obviously the price point ratio is different on that. It will be up a little more but the quality will be better. Standard black cotton t-shirts are kind of what they have at all the concerts. They’re not super duper form fitting or anything; they just hang as they do.
Sleaze Roxx: Will you have your shirts available at the Queensryche shows?
Michael Wilton: No I’m not going to be doing that. I think my stuff is going to be a little more retail based and online. With Queensryche, we have just a gamut of ideas and I think mine would just get lost in the shuffle there. It’s not out of the question. If I have a certain shirt that I want to sell maybe, but it’s cool to keep it more underground and make it more special. I know a lot of kids see my design and they go god where’d you get that? That’s cool! I go well all the cool kids are wearing it (laughs)!
Sleaze Roxx: It’s definitely a cool thing to have as a musician.
Michael Wilton: Yeah. I’ve been approached by snowboard companies, skateboard companies, and motorcycle companies for a licensing deal and we’re looking into that as well. It’s kinda crazy.
Sleaze Roxx: You also have a signature line of guitars though ESP?
Michael Wilton: I’ve been with ESP almost 20 years now as an endorser. The guitar that I adopted as my signature line, my signature model, is called the skull guitar. It’s got the phosphorous skulls that glow. This is something I’ve been playing for the last decade. I’ve got two models of that. There’s the Japanese model, then I’ve got the MW600 which costs less money.
Sleaze Roxx: What about this guitar is uniquely Michael Wilton?
Michael Wilton: What I like about it is it’s got the vintage plus neck. It’s a bird’s eye maple neck and it’s not too flat and it’s not too big and not small. For me it’s just a really nice solid feeling neck. Then the alder body produces good upper mid range. It has the Seymour Duncan pick ups and Floyd Rose tremolo system that I’ve been using for a long time. It’s a really good solid guitar. I’ve sold quite a few of them. Certain stores that sell ESP guitars may have to special order them for you but they can get them in. I’ve been told they have had a pretty good run on those. I’ve got a couple new ones coming down the line with some different things that hopefully will be ready by the end of the year.
Sleaze Roxx: Coming back to the Queensryche tour, is there anything you feel will set it apart from previous tours or anything you are really looking forward to?
Michael Wilton: The American Soldier tour is a multi-media show. It’s something we’ve done in the past but on this one we will be concentrating on three albums. We’ll be concentrating on Rage for Order, Empire, and American Soldier. Every night we’ll be playing the majority of each one of those albums. We’ll be giving a very cool stunning visual interpretation of it as well.
Thanks to Michael Wilton and Jason L.