Warning sleeve
The Warning promo picture

Ryche pickings

GEOFF TATE of QUEENSRYCHE guns for glory. Target practice provided by MICK WALL

THE FIRST interview was kindly cancelled due to the intoxicated and withdrawn state of mind I was bravely enduring, coupled by the appalling physical condition - hooded and evil red eyes, yellow sharkskin tongue, suspected collapsed liver - of my body. The lady nurse from the record company explained over the morning 'phone-lines to the band that I was, in fact, suffering from some turgid, rancid and diseased hybrid of yellow fever and diahorrea picked up from the neck of a bottle of Perrier water on my recent jaunt to Brazil She was, of course, lying.

But how was she to know? Not even I could explain away truthfully the hideous black lines circling my dark and swollen eyes, nor the intense strain on my nervous system expressed in so many jagged, minor moments of rampant hysteria (like my inability to sleep since arriving in New York from Rio 48 hours previously, my obsessional fear of the bloodied bed-sheets, this palpable need Ross Halfin - one of the finest... - and myself had, to continue drinking NO MATTER WHAT!). 'Why?' is always such a silly question to ask someone. 'Why do you do it, Mr. Wall?' is the silliest of all. Same reason as I get out of bed and shave every morning, I expect. Why did the old lady swallow the fly? Well, f**ked if I know, mister. Perhaps she'll die...


I know I will if I don't get some sleep soon. And Queensryche? Youngsters at this game, babies between the teeth of the fierce black rhinosaurus they call rock and roll, what will they make of things if I show up at the gig in a hearse carrying my liver in a medicine jar on my lap? Could they handle the kind of depraved action some employees of this dirty music biz wanna hand out their way? I think they could.

WHATEVER IT is you need to keep your boots climbing and your eyes turned North, I think we're gonna find Queensryche have it. Yeah, your money will always be safe with this band. S**t, on top of everything else - the sudden eliptical rise to the threshold of mega-stardom on a world-scale with the release of their first fine 'The Warning' album and continuous guest appearance- status tours of America and the UK with honoured sponsors like Dio, Kiss, and, now with a projected seven night stint at the Radio City Hall, New York, Britain's finest, Iron Maiden - Queensryche are a very good group. I think all the well-intentioned hype, elsewhere as well as within these very pages, may be over-shadowing the fact that the band have as yet to record and release what one might call a 'definitive musical statement', but given time, which in effect all this magnanimous critical praise has more than halved for them, it's a pretty safe bet that if one new band aren't going to let us, or themselves down (at least not with a Hell of a cat and dog fight about it first), then that band is Queensryche.

They've got cool on their side and they've got youth. They've lucked into some very capable and loyal management, and they've released music beyond their years with the enchanting debut album. But most of all, they've got Geoff Tate... If this rotten world is happy munching away on cut-price, disposable supermarket items like Billy Idol (strictly deep freeze, boys) or weeping like Woolworth counter-girls to the castrated neo-eroticism of nice minty toothpaste like Foreigner's 'I Want To Know What Love Is', then what price would they pay to get their sticky, greedy little hands on Geoff Tate?

Charisma, stage-craft, that face, and, best of all, that voice, are what's taken Queensryche from their Washington day-jobs of a couple of years back, and on to the stages of the largest rock and roll arenas in the world. His songs are good, but his presence is what counts right now. When his mentality catches up with his biology, which won't be long now, Geoff Tate has got it made. On stage the band provide an energetic and hard-working backdrop to the main action. Queensryche are very much a 'band' in the traditional sense; there are no tangible ego trips to be seen anywhere when they play. But what turns them into a special band is Geoff Tate. At the Radio City Music Hall they go down extremely well. Their set is practised and professional, yet not so rigid as to become predictable, least of all for the band.

"THE SECOND night at Radio City was one of the best performances I think we've ever given!" enthuses Geoff Tate into the tape recorder. "But the third night was a bit of a downer from our point of view. Nobody in the band got off on it, just one of those nights. Very frustrating though, because the only place where we ever get to be ourselves when we're touring like this is on stage. That's where it all begins and ends for us. That's why every night, every set, every song is always important. It's kind of miserable if you're not great every night."

It's actually quite unbelievable when you stop to consider what Queensryche have achieved in their short life so far. I don't mean to rub salt into the wound for bands like Child Molester of Wigan, or the Rolling Joints of Suffolk, but for Queensryche it all started by sending a tape of their stuff to Kerrang!, all you bitter 'Best Of British' boyos! Unbelievable, innit? But that story I'm sure Paul Suter's told you countless times already, yes? All the same, from Washington one-off demo, to rock mag, to deal, to big demo album, to big tour, to... well, what is next? Could it be... the world? (Omigod, miss Metalpenny, my pills...!).

Geoff Tate

GEOFF TATE sits like Buddha, in a hotel room on 6th Avenue, sipping tea, quietly taking his time over answering the questions I ponderously place before him. I don't think he notices my shaking hands when I grope for a cigarette, but I can't be absolutely sure... We're talking first about his experience of touring Britain with Ronnie James Dio. "Obviously, touring England for the first time was a real novelty for the band," he smiles. "Getting to drive around on the wrong side of the road, and seeing the snow in some places was a lot of fun. Ronnie Dio is a real kind man, a person who really knows what he wants and is very direct about it. As far as contact between two musicians goes, he's great. Musicians sort of have this brotherhood, you know; if you're in a room full of musicians it feels okay to relax in a way you can't if any other person, who isn't a muso, walks into the room. You can talk and be yourself. I don't really know how to explain it. It's sort of a secret thing, you know?" he chuckles, self- conscious still of his own newly acquired status perhaps. The boy oozes a calm modesty reinforced with an equally calm and properly immodest self-assurance and belief in his own abilities, his growing number of talents and experiences.

Since Queensryche visited the UK late last year with Dio they have been kept busy in America as the guest openers on the recent Kiss tour. Is Geoff enjoying himself? "Yeah, Kiss went down real well on this tour. They've got a whole new generation of fans screaming for them; Gene and Paul seem really pleased by it all. And theirs was a great stage to play on. It's the favourite stage the band has performed on. The way it's designed gives you so much room to move, you know what I mean? And we're the kind of band that likes to move around a lot and there's no limits to what you can do on that stage. There's no edges, it's completely exposed and open, no walls. It's a circular stage that has a downward thrust at the perimeter and it's real exciting playing at an angle. People can see your shoes!"

Getting thrust out on the international road to fame and fortune so quickly, so suddenly, must double the usual risks you undertake when you start out in this life; imminent nervous breakdown, financial suicide, metabolism and heart rate alterations, and the ghastly possible transformation of all crucial body fluids from blood and piss into purest liquid gold. How does Geoff Tate stand up to the pressures of having his arse hitched to a giant catapult, even if it might one day send him shooting somewhere over the rainbow? "Our fourth ever gig was before 10,000 people," he says with a straight face. I can't believe it! Somebody tell me he's kidding. FOURTH EVER GIG?! "Yeah, EVER! It was a kind of petrifying experience I can tell you. It's happened very fast for us, sure, but when we get together individually we start yelling come on, this isn't working, this isn't happening fast enough! But when we really stop and think about it we know it's gone really fast for us. In two years we've played in 12 different countries and most bands can't hope for that even after many years of touring."

Does it ever freak you out though? Do you ever run home to your hotel at night, wherever that might be, and hide under the sheets and go AARRGGGHHH!! I don't want it anymore! I want to go home and watch TV!? He starts laughing. "I never have that feeling, no. But things do overwhelm me at times, yes. All of a sudden to be walking down the street and you stop and look around and you're in Stockholm, or London, that is a very strange feeling. To travel that fast around the world all the time gives me plenty to think about."

WHAT HAVE you planned now the Kiss tour has finished? "The tour finished in March and we'll be going back into the studio soon to record our next album. To begin all over again. The challenge is always there, and you can win, you can win."

The strong pop thrill of a great many Queensryche songs - 'The Lady Wore Black' and 'Take A Hold Of The Flame' are two prime examples - make me wonder if Geoffs got something more than merely a state-of-the- art Heavy Metal heart bonded in steel tucked away underneath his jacket? The greatest appeal Queensryche have for me is their potential to transcend the easily defined shapes and images of your standard 'honest' rock band. I hear The Beatles in here somewhere, or was that a whiff of Doobie Brothers? So tell me Geoff, what's your favourite album? "Oh God, I don't know. I have about 12 albums that I carry around and play all the time, they change a bit, but they usually stay a long time. At the moment I'm listening to the 'Diamond Life' album by Sade. I really like a lot of saxophone music. I'm more into individual songs than I am whole albums, actually. Paul MacCartney has written so many great songs for so many years, he's good. I was never really a Beatles fan though, until I met Chris de Garmo our guitar player. I knew some of their stuff, but it was Chris who turned me on to the finer points of appreciating The Beatles. The expansion they achieved throughout the years of their career together is amazing. What's really impressive to me is how they didn't limit themselves. They started out playing the rock and roll of the day, expanded it into their whole thing, and took it beyond where any band had been before. There was nobody there to tell them they couldn't do it. They also had a lot of nice harmonies...That's kind of like the way we look at things too. We want to expand our music so far as we can go, no limits on what we set out to do. We want to keep up with the times, to try new things. To be experimental, you could say..."

There's always the danger of alienating the hard-core fans, though. "Yes there is. But we try to tell people wherever we go - fans, people in the business, people we might meet that care to know - that we aren't going to stay the same forever. We want to change with every new album. That's just the way we are. We can't write the same kind of things for each record because we've grown, we're different people. Each album is like a sort of reflection of where we're at, at the time. We never write random songs anyway. We gather a theme or style up and write in that vein, for that year, from experiences we've had, from observations we've made, from discussions we've had, keeping it going until we can spend two or three months every year putting it down in a studio and doing it! It's not like we write every day. There's so many different aspects to this business, there's the art side of it, and then there's the business side of it. I think the ideal situation is to use them both and make a successful combination out of it. You have to have a contemporary format to pay your bills and keep you out on the road, you must sell but you can work it so that you only perform material you truly believe in too. That's the fun part. It can be done."

I BELIEVE it can be done too. If I didn't I wouldn't bother my arse about buying, or listening to, another record in my life. The difference is this: well- meaning rock bands have an alarmingly high fatigue rate in this business, what Queensryche have going for them, that places them a cut above the opposition, is their coincidental ability and potential to write some of the purest rock and pop pizza money can buy.