Geoff Tate Talks "Kings & Thieves", Looks Back on Queensrÿche's "Operation: Mindcrime", and More
Mon, 05 Nov 2012 18:26:56
Geoff Tate sums up his long-awaited second solo album, Kings & Thieves, best.
"It's simple," he smiles. "I just played from my heart."
That's what the Queensrÿche frontman has been doing for over three decades, and he's showing no signs of stopping. In fact, Kings & Thieves sees Tate roaring like never before. It's an impressive, intense, and infectious rock record that's as visceral as it is vulnerable. Those legendary pipes of his also resound with heavenly angst. This is Tate at his rawest and most real. In other words, it's a new classic…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Geoff Tate opens up about Kings & Thieves, looks back on Operation: Mindcrime, talks movies, and so much more.
Did you approach Kings & Thieves with one vision or vibe in mind?
Typically, when I make a record, I have an idea of what I want to try to accomplish. I go about making that happen by making lists. I'm a list maker. I jot down all of these ideas I've got and I form those ideas into an outline. Then, I start using it as a punch list to take care of all these details I'd like to do. I knew I wanted to make a really solid rock record. I didn't want to stray too far into other musical endeavors. I wanted to keep it more rock-oriented with traditional rock instruments. I also knew that I wanted it to be more of a live record where all of the musicians get in a room and actually play together. A lot of it was recorded and written at the same time. That was very fun, and I've never done that before. It has an effect that makes the music seem more immediate and raw rather than being a polished, rehearsed-into-the-ground record, which I've done throughout most of my career. Making this record was a different process for me, and I made it very quickly. It flowed from the moment I started until the time I was done with it. It only took about six months to make. By comparison, Queensrÿche records have taken years to make.
Did working quickly give the music an element of urgency? There's a vitality different from that of Queensrÿche.
Yeah, it is. "Doing it quickly" might imply you're cutting corners, but that wasn't really the case. It was a matter of being able to work without waiting for people to catch up or comprehend what it was I was talking about or doing. I could just do it [Laughs]. Working at a comfortable pace makes everything so much more exciting and fresh.
Was the subject matter different for you this time around?
You write about what's interesting to you, what moves you, and what you feel passionate about. I was writing about life. I think life is pretty inspirational. You constantly face these challenges in your relationships and you're challenged with personal growth. Then, observationally, I find looking at what's happening around me pretty inspirational as well. I really just write about me and things I'm interested in.
What's the story behind "Take a Bullet"?
I think the concept of trust and betrayal is a very interesting subject. That song definitely came from that concept.
Where did "Waiting" come from?
"Waiting" is your typical song about stalker—somebody who's waiting outside your door watching you. Maybe, you'll never know it, but he's there. It's interesting how people interpret music. We all hear it differently. People filter lyrics and vocals through their own life experiences. When I first started to write songs, it used to bother me that people didn't understand what I was talking about. Growing older, I've enjoyed different interpretations of the music. Art is in the eye of the beholder.
Do you tend to read a lot when you're writing lyrics?
I try to read, but I don't actually read enough. I'm pretty busy most of the time. I set aside time to read. I do the most reading when I'm on the road. I've always got several books going when I'm traveling. When I'm home, I don't read much. I like to read though.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
They run the gamut. I like science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov. I like some of Roger Zelazny's stuff. I'm into philosophy and psychology. I find the study of human beings so fascinating. We've changed and grown culturally and become who we are now. Our thoughts and ideas on everything constantly change. There is no one truth other than change. We're growing all the time. I weave that into a lot of lyrics for songs. It comes out in my music because I'm fascinated with the subject.
Are you a Philip K. Dick fan too?
I like Philip K. Dick. Honestly, I haven't read much science fiction in the past 20 years. That was the first book genre I got into as a young man. Those books led me to other books. That's the beautiful thing about reading. A book will lead you to another subject.
When did you decide to name the record Kings & Thieves?
Well, it was a working title for a piece of music that never got put together. I always liked the title, and I kept tracing it on my notepad. Anthony Clarkson, who designed the album artwork, came to me with a beautiful rendition of my family crest for the cover. I loved it. He left that little scroll at the bottom. I looked at it on my computer, and I glanced down at my notepad. I saw "Kings & Thieves" scribbled there. I thought, "That's the name of the record".
Was there any connection to your fist solo record?
Well, it has been a long time. It's been a long time coming too. They're two really different records to me. On that first solo record, I really wanted to stretch outside of the Queensrÿche box and do everything I could never do. I wanted to explore my influences in my writing. That first album has R&B influences, which I'm very into. It's got classical and electronica influences, but it doesn't have a lot of rock. Kings & Thieves is really a rock record. I focused on that aspect.
What's the first thing you think of now when you think of Operation: Mindcrime?
It's interesting. It's not our most popular record as far as sales go, and it didn't really sell well when it came out. For a year, it sold exactly what our other albums had sold. Then, when Empire came out, it made a huge impact on radio. It got a lot of airplay. There were a few singles on that record. So, the sales for Operation: Mindcrime started skyrocketing as a result. I have to say the first thing that pops into my head when you bring up Operation: Mindcrime is 2013 is the 25th anniversary of that record. Isn't that hard to believe? It's a very melodic record. It's not what one would consider "metal" by today's standards at all. It's melodic hard rock. It's not a political story. It's a love story between a man and a woman.
If you were to compare Kings & Thieves to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's an impossible question to answer [Laughs]. I tend to think in cinematic terms when writing a song or composing. For instance, the first track on the album is called "She Slipped Away". When I was writing that, I was thinking of David Lynch a lot. I always envisioned Lynch's work to be like the raised eyebrow. His work is so quirky and unique. I thought "She Slipped Away" had to be quirkier and David Lynch. To answer your question, there are probably a lot of directors and movie styles on this. There's a little bit of Tony Scott and Ridley Scott in there. Definitely, there's some David Lynch. Where are the really challenging questions like, "Why did you cut your hair?" [Laughs]
What's your favorite Geoff Tate song?