INTERVIEW WITH QUEENSRŸCHE LEAD VOCALIST TODD LA TORRE
Date: February 19, 2021
Interviewer: William Nesbitt
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography (first photo), Olivier (third photo), Joe Schaeffer Photography (fourth photo)
TODD LA TORRE’S FIRST SOLO ALBUM ‘REJOICE IN THE SUFFERING’ WAS RELEASED IN FEBRUARY. IT’S AN EXPANSIVE ALBUM THAT WILL APPEAL TO THE QUEENSRŸCHE FANBASE, BUT IT ALSO EXPLORES OTHER DIRECTIONS. TODD WAS GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO CHAT WITH ME ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM, CASESSETE TAPES, AND WHY HE PROBABLY WON’T BE DUETTING WITH GEOFF TATE ON A CHRISTMAS ALBUM. THIS INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE ON HIS BIRTHDAY, WHICH I DIDN’T REALIZE UNTIL AFTER THE FACT — SO HERE’S A BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TODD!
Sleaze Roxx: What kicks off the songwriting process for you? A lyrical line, a concept, a riff, a beat, an image, or what?
Todd La Torre: All of the above. Some songs just start with a drum beat like “Critical Cynic.” That started with a drum groove that I came up with. Then, Craig wrote to that. The intro to that song was a piece of music Craig and I had back in the mid-’90s. We always thought it was cool. “Hey, remember that riff we had a long time ago that we wrote? That would be cool to put that in a song somewhere,” so we did. Other times, Craig will have a really cool guitar part, and we’ll write the song around that, or I’ll have a melody in my head and I’ll sing the melody to Craig, and then he’ll come up with something around that.All of those ways that you mention can start the process. There’s not any particular method we always use like, “Hey, we write music, then the vocals come.” Sometimes it’s the other way around. When ideas just pop into your head, you try to capture ’em and record ’em. It could be through a drum beat, a guitar riff, or just a vocal on its own that doesn’t even have music.
Todd La Torre‘s “Vanguards of The Dawn Wall” video (from Rejoice In The Suffering album):
Sleaze Roxx: Is the lyric “pretenders of the faith” from “Pretenders” a wink to Judas Priest’s ‘Defenders of The Faith’?
Todd La Torre: You know, it wasn’t. This sounds blasphemous, but I didn’t even know that was a Judas Priest title until after I showed it to the label. I said, “I don’t know. I hope this has never been used, but I feel like the way it’s rolling off my tongue…” He goes, “Yeah, like ‘Defenders of The Faith’.” I go, “What is that?” He’s like, “Judas Priest.” I’m like, “I had no idea.”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Todd La Torre: Honest truth. I had no idea. So, no, it’s not a nod to that at all.
Sleaze Roxx: “Pretenders” seems like an indictment of religion or a certain aspect of religion.
Todd La Torre: It was me writing about the charlatans of religions, the snake oil salesmen.
Sleaze Roxx: Please tell us a little bit about the bonus tracks.
Todd La Torre: Sure. So there’s three bonus tracks. In the context of songs one through ten, we just didn’t feel that these extra tracks really fit into the flow of the record, but they were still cool songs that we thought were worthy to share with people. The three bonus tracks are totally different songs.
Track List for Rejoice In The Suffering:
03. Hellbound And Down
04. Darkened Majesty
05. Crossroads To Insanity
06. Critical Cynic
07. Rejoice In The Suffering
09. Vanguards of The Dawn Wall
Bonus Tracks (Deluxe Version Only):
12. Set it Off
13. One by One
Sleaze Roxx The last bonus track “One By One” is a very different style of singing from what we’ve heard from you previously.
Todd La Torre: “One By One” obviously has gutturals. It’s more melodic death or black metal a little bit. It’s a song that I love and I was very adamant about it being on the record, even if it’s a bonus track, because I wanted to have something even heavier on the record that the main record didn’t have. It’s the one song where I’m doing full gutturals. I know there’s a huge demographic out there that just loves that. People that listen to Behemoth, for example, or any of that black metal bands that love that kind of delivery or love death metal will be into this. I thought it was just something that I really wanted people to hear, another side of my voice. So that’s why it’s a bonus track.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you thought about what direction another solo record would take? Are the bonus tracks an indication?
Todd La Torre: Where this record stops is where the next one would pick up. At this point in time, I’m thinking the next record will have less singing like this record has and maybe more of the brutal style of vocals. “One By One” is just a fun song, man. Some people love “One By One.” Some people hate it — or not hate it. They just don’t like that style at all. That’s why it’s a bonus track.
Sleaze Roxx: I like bonus tracks, demos that never became studio songs, B-sides, and so on. They show you an alternate history, another possible path never or not yet taken, or just another side of the artist or band. I always feel like I want to hear everything that might be listenable from a band I really like. I can sort it out for myself. Everyone has their deep cuts or obscure tracks that are personal favorites. Speaking of, I spent the extra $10 and bought the CD package with the bonus tracks and extra stuff. I’m really happy with the value. Do you think physical releases are breathing their last breath or will enough people always want something that they can touch and hold?
Todd La Torre: A lot of it’s a generational thing. We’re probably the last generation that remembers a time before CDs came out. We liked looking at the product, reading the liner notes, reading the lyrics, and seeing the artwork. A lot of the younger people now don’t give a shit about that. It takes up too much space. Remember those big boxes with the zipper that you put cassettes in in your car?
Sleaze Roxx: Oh, yeah. I had a few of those.
Todd La Torre: Then, it was CD wallets. Now everything’s Bluetooth. They stream it. It’s not part of their experience in the same way that it was part of our experience. People into heavy metal still really like that stuff. I don’t know what it’s like in the country world or the pop world, but when it comes to rock and metal, people still dig that stuff. I don’t think that’s gonna go away. There’s a huge market out there for vinyl collectors. I mean, shit, we even put out cassettes. There’s people that just buy cassettes only, if you can imagine that.
Todd La Torre‘s “Crossroads To Insanity” video (from Rejoice In The Suffering album):
Sleaze Roxx: It’s kind of hard to for me, but I know there are people who like them. Even though that’s the main format I listened to at one point, I don’t miss cassettes, but it’s cool for people that want it that it’s available.
Todd La Torre: It’s available. Totally. That was the coolest thing because that’s how I used to listen to music. It was tapes. When I saw the actual tape, that was the most fun thing for me to look at because I was like, “Holy crap, I can’t believe I have this on a cassette.” [Laughs] “This is so fucking cool.”
Sleaze Roxx: Cassettes to me, I don’t know that I’m into them now. I used to have hundreds of cassettes. I like CDs a lot, and they’re still my preferred format. I don’t know if it’s the issue of trying to find songs on tape or what…
Todd La Torre: CDs sound good. The vinyl sounds good. ‘Rejoice In The Suffering’ is mastered for vinyl also. There’s a different mastering for this vinyl. Some people say, “Oh, it’s a little warmer sounding” or “It’s a little bigger, fuller,” but you’re not gonna drive around in your car with a record player. For me, I like CDs. My cars have CDs players in ’em. A lot of new cars don’t even have CD players in ’em. I mean, shit, who wants to listen to a compressed MP3 when you are losing some of that fidelity and sonic
sweetness? You spend all this time to record and get the best-captured recordings and then you do the mixing and mastering, but then little pieces of information are taken out and things are squashed to make it fit as an MP3 and so you do lose quality. Why would you not want to listen to the best quality? Kids today they don’t even know the difference.
Sleaze Roxx: No. They don’t think of it. They don’t think of it. I think some of it, too, is that music has become something that is much more in the background of our lives; people are more distracted. I remember getting a new tape or CD on the release day, going home, and just listening to it by myself or with friends. And that’s what we did — I or we just sat there or maybe drove around listening to the entire album and didn’t do anything else. It’s like there was a certain respect for the music. There was something sacred about doing that, sort of a ritual. Sometimes, nobody even spoke until the entire album was over. Have the other members of Queensrÿche heard ‘Rejoice’ yet?
Todd La Torre: Oh, yeah. They think it’s killer, and they support the record. Michael [Wilton] was playing it in his car, and playing it on his home stereo. He’s like, “I’m getting inspired. Man, this is cool.” Eddie [Jackson] thinks it’s cool. Eddie actually bought the record. I’m like, “Don’t buy the record.” He goes, “No. I gotta support my brother.” I gave Casey [Grillo] a CD. I didn’t send one to Parker [Lundgren]. He’s just been so busy with his guitar shop, lately. Even if he had it, I’m sure it would probably still be in the box. He’s so slammed. I couldn’t be more pleased to have the support of my brothers with the band.
Sleaze Roxx: Any plans to tour behind ‘Rejoice in The Suffering’? Obviously, not right this minute, but when things change and get better with the pandemic.
Todd La Torre: Once touring happens, I’ll be full-blown touring with Queensrÿche. In the event that there’s some downtime when maybe Queensrÿche has a few weeks off, then maybe I’m able to do a show or maybe a handful of shows on my own. At some point in time, I would love to be able to play on this. As far as doing a full-blown tour on it, that’s not gonna happen because Queensrÿche is my priority, but I would love to be able to play maybe a handful of festivals in Europe. Do four, five festivals, maybe one or two clubs and then come home. Spend ten, twelve days over there and come back. That would probably be the most touring that I see for this album in any foreseeable future right now. Things change. This was really just about writing songs and putting things out for the love of the music and just the creative aspect of it, just recording and sharing it with people. Anything else was just a bonus.
Sleaze Roxx: If this gets too “political” or awkward, we don’t have to get into it. I was thinking about Helloween’s situation with Michael Kiske and some other members who left and have come back to the band and joined the newer members such as Andi Deris. Now, they’re touring and making a new album. Do you think there’s any future scenario in which you and Geoff Tate would ever be onstage together or work together?
Todd La Torre: No. I don’t see that happening. I don’t want to speak for the other guys, but I just don’t think that there’s an interest. I would hate to say, “That’s impossible!” because life takes weird turns and throw you curveballs, but I can’t imagine a scenario where that would happen or why it would need to happen. My answer now would be “no.” I don’t foresee that happening. It’s all good between me and Geoff. All that past is water under the bridge. Honestly, I think to have Geoff on the stage with the band again would cause friction only in the sense that you’ve got the people going, “Cool, maybe we can get the original band back together” and then the optics for me don’t look so great. It’s like, okay, well, it just becomes all about that person again and the original line-up. We’ve worked too hard for the last nine years to rebuild the brand, the band, and the songs, and forge ahead with this unit. I don’t think that the return on investment would be worth it. That’s just my opinion.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s what I figured. I was just curious to get your take. Honestly, given the history with the split and lawsuits, and all that, it’s hard for me to see a reconciliation happening. I love the material that you’ve been making with the band. And I appreciate Geoff’s history with the band. I just picked up a copy of the 20th anniversary boxset of ‘Empire’ in January. I think there’s a fair amount of fans like me who really like everything through ‘Empire’ or maybe ‘Promised Land’ and then feel it kind of drops off after that point.
Todd La Torre: Yeah, that’s how I felt as a fan of the band, too.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, that’s all my questions. Thanks so much for your time.
Todd La Torre: Alright, man. You’re welcome. Take care.
Sleaze Roxx: Take care. Bye-bye.
Queensrÿche‘s “Blood of The Levant” video (from The Verdict album):