Queensryche - Promised land
Queensryche - Promised Land

I almost lost my mind

Doom! Gloom! Misery! When QUEENSRYCHE hit the big time, singer GEOFF TATE hit the bottle! He reveals the depths of his fame-fuelled depression to Big K! shrink PAUL REES!

Welcome to Planet Rich and Famous. A luxurious London Hotel with bar prices the size of a Third World country's national debt. A building stuffed exclusively stuffed with people wearing designer labels and carrying gold Am-Ex cards. This is Queensryche's world for the next two years. In his elegant black jacket and with his gentle but firm voice, vocalist Geoff Tate blends in beautifully. He does not require medical assistance when he's presented with a 2.50 bill for a single cup of coffee. To his left is drummer Scott Rockenfield, who's more prone to being mistaken for a motorcycle messenger by the stiff-upper-lip doorman.

Queensryche do not rape and pillage their way around the globe. They are far more likely to be watching television than throwing it off the nearest hotel balcony. They are, in fact, that rarest of beasts - the thoughtful, articulate rock 'n' roll band. Or, as Tate puts it: "People call us all these names, like Intellectual Eggheads. It's better than being called stupid, I suppose. On the road you have people who take care of all the things you'd normally do yourself at home: your meals, your travel, your laundry. When you do go home you're bouncing off the walls, cos you're so used to this fast-paced lifestyle, a different city every night. So you have to get used to doing all these simple things again, vacuuming the carpet."

QUEENSRYCHE SPENT much of the last four years at home in Seattle, re-assessing the success they enjoyed with their record, 'Empire', and pulling together the complex parts that make its successor; the brave, initially confusing and often brilliant 'Promised Land'. The first single from the LP is 'I Am I', released this week. and a slice of rampant introspection incision, masked by sterling Ryche-like rifferama.

Four years. You could cross America on foot in four years. Or, if you were an Intellectual Egghead,you could read the combined works of Freud, Jung and Shakespeare by candlelight in your Gothic castle.


"IT'S NOT something you can sit and worry about," insists Scott Rockenfield. "At some point we're gonna be so old we can't do it. Or maybe we'll go on until we're 90 years old and on our deathbeds!"

"Watching bands like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones is an inspiration!" exclaims Geoff Tate. "They're still making great music. They may not sound as fresh as younger bands, but there's still something to learn from their wisdom and experience. I think Western culture has this programmed fear of old age. We dismiss what older people do as not cool, and that's a real mistake. Young people don't have their experience - they're a sitting duck for anybody who's selling. They buy into trends - fashion, music."

Fine. But Geoff, mate, what exactly has all this got to do with the question?

"I guess my point is, you can learn a lot from older people. I went to see the Floyd show, and afterwards I spoke to Dave Gilmour (Floyd guitarist). I was very inspired. This guy's in his 50s and he's still making people happy. How does he do it? How does he keep that spark going? Of course, he didn't tell me that. He just smiled!"

Erm, life after Queensryche. It may never happen!

"And that's exactly what we've done!' laughs Rockenfield. "Although we don't have the castle yet!"

"We've actually travelled around the country doing public speeches on psychology," grins Tate. "Us and Oliver North."

They are, of course, joking. To a point. There have been psychology lessons of a kind. Rockenfield got divorced. Tate wrestled with his private life. "Several months after the 'Empire' tour ended, I went through an identity crisis." he explains. "I'd realised that my identity as a person was based upon what I did for a living. I was asking, 'Who am I?'. And I didn't remember any more. All I knew was that I was this singer in a Rock band. I did have anything else but that. I didn't any friends, cos I'd severed those relationships years ago while I was tocussing on the band. My closest friends were the guys in the band. And my family...well, they weren't even there. It's about juggling, really, and I was never very good at juggling. I think I'm better equipped now to juggle my relationships and my career. But only time will tell."

"We definitely had tunnel vision up until 'Empire'," admits Rockenfield. "It's weird. You come home from a tour and it's like you're a Vietnam vet. You've got to try and figure out how to fit in. And a lot of times, you go out with your friends and it's hard to find common ground, because they haven't experienced what you've done. And they look at you differently, too. You've got success, and the fame."

"It becomes very uncomfortable," nods Tate. "You go to the store or a restaurant, and people treat you differently there, too. I don't expect special treatment. I just like to be treated like a regular person."

AMATEUR SHRINKS would undoubtedly make a great deal of the fact that Geoff Tate lives on an island. "I think drug and alcohol abuse is a way of filling up a big hole in yourself." he opines. "It's a way of escaping from the reality you've made around yourself. I must say, though, that while we were not being Queensryche for the past few years. I tended to try and till up my holes with alcohol. Quite readily. There's always a time and a place for a good drink."

What sort of drunk are you? Funny? Morose? Violent? "It depends upon what song we're working on," interjects Rockenfield.

And when Queensryche eventually went back to work, Tale's long period of self-examination became part of the lyric sheet. "One day I got a call from our manager," Tate recalls. "He said: 'Thought about a new record?' - 'No, not really'. I'd become a carpenter for most of that year, building things in my house. Right after talking to him, I looked in the mirror and realised I'd forgotten who I was as far as my career went. And when we started writing it was all very easy; you just take the lid off and spoon it out. 'Promised Land' is all about looking at the past, to see where you are in order to figure out where you're gonna go next. It is therapy. Our music has never really revealed a lot about us as people. One of the things we wanted to do with this record was take off the mask."

'THE BRIDGE', the most intensely personal song on 'Promised Land', was actually written by guitarist Chris De Garmo. Nevertheless, its theme - an autobiographical account of a son's distant and difficult relationship with his father - was one that Tate understood. "My father left our family when I was four, and I never saw him again. He died before I had a chance to find out anything about him. Chris' dad passed away while we were making the record, but at least he had a chance to talk to him. Actually, I wrote a letter to my step-father. I just wanted him to know that I didn't write that song. I also told him how I felt about how he raised me. He came into my life when I was nine years old. I hadn't known a father up until then. He filled that role for me, and I think he did a fantastic job. He gave a lot to me, and to my sister and mother. I just wanted him to know what effect he had on my life, and that I felt that overall it was very positive."

COULD GEOFF Tate be described as a happy man in 1995? "No, not overall," he sighs. "I have areas that I'm happy and content with, but I have a lot of other areas where I'm very restless. The older I get, the more I learn that I know nothing. I wanna keep cramming life and information in, and experience everything lean. I'd like to start a family. It's something I've been putting off tor years. I've been afraid of bringing another person into the world. And I really didn't feel confident in my abilities as a parent. I felt like my life was pretty messed up and I didn't have any control over it. I'd also like to do some extensive sailing; a six-month trip somewhere. Getting from A to B by the power of nature is very challenging and exciting and spiritual."

"Personally, I go through ups and downs," says Rockenfield. "Having just recently divorced my wife, living on my own again is a reality check. But I'm kind of enjoying it. And I'm able to work on my billiards."

And there lies Queensryche's Promised Land. On a boat. With a snooker table.

Queensryche release a new single, 'I Am I' this week! UK live dates follow in March!