Queensryche - Operation:Mindcrime Queensryche - Operation:Mindcrime

Metal Forces #33, November 1988

Live Operation

Borivoj Kirgin meets vocalist Geoff Tate as Queensryche prepare to invade the European Stage

AIthough it may not seem like it from my previous contributions to the pages of this very magazine, I am actually not some narrow-minded trendy deathrasher (Hi, Carl) who cannot stomach anything that's not going at 100mph or doesn't have growling vocals on top of it. In recent months in particular, a great deal of my listening pleasure has been devoted to bands that are a bit more versatile and more melody-oriented than the monotonous drivel of most of the new death/thrash metal acts, and I'm actually finding myself enjoying it all a whole lot more than spending all the time shuffling through thousands of demos trying to find the new METALLICA or SLAYER - a task that has proven to be impossible time and time again. Now, I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that I don't enjoy listening to some of the newer thrash acts - TESTAMENT, SEPULTURA and ARTILLERY immediately spring to mind - but the fact remains that METALLICA, SLAYER and VOIVOD are probably the only three 'thrash' bands that I can think of right now that have completely defined a sound and style all their own - everyone else is simply derivative.

Eddie Jackson   Michael Wilton

If I was to compile a list of my favourite non-thrash bands, there's no doubt about the fact that Seattle's QUEENSRYCHE would occupy the very top position. With three brilliant albums and an equally staggering mini-LP behind their belts, QUEENSRYCHE have clearly proven themselves over the last five years to be one of the most original and consistent acts in all of metal, and if there is any justice in this world, it won't be much longer before they are finally awarded with the superstar status that should have been theirs years ago. 1988 has been a very good year for this quintet who were once labelled as a MAIDEN/PRIEST clone. Their third and current LP, "Operation: Mindcrime", has quickly established itself as the band's best-selling effort to-date, while QUEENSRYCHE's recent signing with the Q-Prime management company has opened new and greater doors for the group, particularly as it's already provided them with the invaluable opportunities of touring the US and Europe with two of the biggest names in the rock world today, those being DEF LEPPARD and METALLICA (both of whom are also managed by Q-Prime).

At the end of September, just as the QUEENSRYCHE/DEF LEPPARD trek made a stop at Meadowlands, New Jersey for a three night appearance, I spoke with Geoff Tate, arguably the best singer in all of metal, about the recent events surrounding the group and their hopes for the future, and I begun by asking him about the DEF LEPPARD tour. Are you going over as well with the crowds as you had hoped? "Yeah, we really are. Actually, we couldn't be happier right now; we get to play for something like 15-20,000 people each night, and we are gaining a whole new bunch of smiling faces at every show which is always exciting. Most of the kids are there to see DEF LEPPARD, but it seems like we're appealing to a fairly large percentage out there, because we keep seeing our album climbing the charts at a steady rate. Obviously, there's those kids who choose not to even watch the opening band, but usually it's pretty packed towards the end of our set." How's DEF LEPPARD treating you? Are you getting along with them? "Oh, they've been really great to us. We get a huge stage to stumble about on, a lot of lights, and about 45 minutes to show our stuff. The guys themselves are just amazing - they're not 'starheads' at all, and they're always coming backstage before and after each show to hang out and talk. They've been very fair to us."

Chris DeGarmo and Eddie Jackson

Are you finding that your music, which is a lot more progressive and involved than that of DEF LEPPARD, is going over some people's heads on this tour? "Nah, not at all, it's hitting them right where it counts - between the legs." (laughs) But do you think that DEF LEPPARD is the right band for you to be touring with? After all, your music is a lot different from theirs. "I don't think that really matters. I don't think that the people go, out and look for the 'right combination' of bands, particularly not in this situation because DEF LEPPARD have already sold about seven million copies of "Hysteria" in the States alone, they could have the B-52's opening for them - it really wouldn't make much of a difference."

Did you pick the songs for your current live set with this audience in mind? I mean, are you playing some of your more commercial numbers because you're playing to a mostly DEF LEPPARD crowd? "No, we just basically picked the songs that we felt would best represent the overall identity of the group. On this tour, we're obviously concentrating on the new album, so we do a majority of the songs off that plus two or three old ones. We open our set with "Queen Of The Reich", which is nice because It's really a radical sort of song, and then we start doing some of our more commercial numbers, like "Eyes Of A Stranger", "I Don't Believe In Love" and "Breaking The Silence", which may be a bit more in tune with what your average DEF LEPPARD fan is used to hearing. But we don't do these songs specifically because we want to appeal to a certain type of audience -we do 'em because they represent a different side to this band."

After this stint with DEF LEPPARD, you guys are going over to Europe to support METALLICA on their European tour. Do you have any reservations about playing with a band like METALLICA, because a lot of the thrash fans are not really open-minded enough to give a band like you a chance? "Well, we'll just have to wait and see what happens, with a lot of different in front of a lot of different audiences, and we've never had problems. I think that people, when they see us live, appreciate what we do, because we're good musicians and we get what we do across really well. We're not out there just going through the motions - we believe in what we do, and I think that comes across. So, even if they don't particularly care for our music, they can appreciate our energy and sincerity. But I'm pretty confident that they'll like our music as well."

Geoff Tate

Back in 1983, when QUEENSRYCHE's first EP came out, you were picked by various critics to be 'the next big thing' and become megastars within a couple of years time. How does it feel then to be sitting here five years later still struggling for success while other far less talented and sincere groups are selling records by the bucket-loads? "Well, it doesn't really bother us, because 'success' is a relative word. In our minds, we are very successful, because we've had the opportunity to take our music as far as we have, and we've been all over the world performing for people of all races and colours. We're not in this to be a 'flash-in-the-pan' or sacrifice our musical beliefs. We're in this because we love doing what we do, and we feel successful and fortunate to have taken things as far as we have."

Yeah, but you can't deny the fact that it looked like you had the world in the palms of your hands back in '83 - you had massive critical acclaim, you got your deal with EMI almost overnight, and in the years following the release of that first EP, you've been on some pretty major tours both here and abroad (i.e. IRON MAIDEN, BON JOVI, DIO etc). So what went wrong? Why isn't QUEENSRYCHE a household name yet? "I don't think anything necessarily 'went wrong' - I think it just wasn't meant to happen before. You can't guess a lot in this business. You can't dwell too much on the things that happened yesterday... or even today. We just try to push ourselves musically, to create something that we're really happy with, and we try not to expect too much because you just can never tell what will happen in this business.

"In the early days, we were just glad to get started, today, we're just happy to have the opportunity to push ourselves musically and write music that we enjoy playing."

Looking back on all the albums you've done so far, including "... Mindcrime" is there anything that you regret having done, musically speaking? "Oh, yeah - a lot of stuff, (laughs) I still like "Rage For Order" a lot - I just listened to It recently, and I just love the feel of that record - but I'm having a bit of a hard time over "The Warning" because the production on It was just not what we wanted at the time. If anything, the new record ("OM") is the closest we've ever come to being fully satisfied - it's about 99% of the things we had in mind as far as the production and song-writing is concerned."

During the "Rage For Order" period, you also underwent a drastic change in your image; instead of the down-to-earth, plain look, you went for a very futuristic, almost cosmic-like image. To a lot of people, including myself, this seemed very forced and unnatural. What was the reason for the silly costumes and make-up, and why did you decide to get rid of them for the new record? "Well, when we were doing "Rage For Order", we had a lot of people around us telling us that we needed an image that's identifiable, something that people can relate to. At the time, there were all these bands coming out that were dressing up really flamboyantly and putting a lot of make-up on, and we sort of went ahead and took the whole idea to the extreme. In fact, that was probably the first and only time that we actually did something because we were forced into it and not because we felt like doing it. Anyway, with this new album, we wanted to take a more back-to-basics approach both in our music and our look, so we decided to trash all the costumes.

Geoff Tate

"Having said that, I really don't regret having done it - I think it looked cool on the back of the LP - but I definitely feel a lot more comfortable being myself than posing in some silly space costume with lots of make-up on."

I understand that there was also a time-period when you were being pressured by your record company to write more hit-oriented material and even to collaborate with outside writers. What's the story on that? "Well, we did get pressure from the record company to change our ways a little bit, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to write songs with anybody else - that would completely ruin what this band is all about, as far as I'm concerned. So, we said 'no', and we left it at that. Now that we're managed by Q-Prime, we have all the artistic freedom we want, which is the way it should be."

What are your feelings on the state of today's heavy metal scene? Do you find it as exciting as it was five-six years ago? "I'm lost in it, basically. I mean, I look through this magazine (paging through an issue of MF), and a majority of these bands I've never even heard of. I'm really not up-to-date on what's going on within the scene, so I can't comment."

So what do you think of those Christian pop/metal 'Gods' (pun intended) STRYPER? "Uhhh... I haven't really heard much of their stuff, but what I saw on MTV, I didn't like. Their stuff is just too sweet.. too pretty-sounding for my taste, Plus, that drummer looks like a girl." (laughs) Do you like any of the power/speed /thrash metal stuff that's so popular nowadays? You're going to be touring with METALLICA shortly, so you must have at least heard them. "Yeah, I haven't heard their new album yet, but I have heard "Master Of Puppets". I can't really figure out what the vibe is on it, except that it's sort of a throwaway to punk. It's got that anger and that energy, which I imagine must be exciting to these kids out there, but other than that, I have to say that of the stuff I have heard, I didn't really hear a whole lot of stick-in-your-head melodies, which to me is the basis of any real song. But I can certainly appreciate the feel and the conviction that some of these players put into their playing -that's very important too."

What are your plans for the rest of '88 and early '89? Do you have any ideas for the next record yet? "After this METALLICA European tour coming up and our headlining shows in England, we're going to be continuing with METALLICA all the way through the States, which should take us into early '89. After that, we just plan on touring our asses off until June, and then we'll start thinking heavily about the next record and begin putting pieces together. So far, we have a lot of ideas for the next LP, but I don't really wanna reveal anything because I want it to be a surprise. It'll be a killer album, though!"