2019 has been a busy Geoff Tate. A raft of live activity performing Queensrÿche's 'Operation: Mindcrime' in full, he's also been on the road with German supergroup Avantasia. Elsewhere, he's been working on collating material for the 30th anniversary edition of his former outfit's 'Empire' album, and preparing to perform the album in full for the first time ever, next year. We caught up with Geoff at Stonedeaf Festival in Newark, U.K., for a chat about all of the above. Anybody listening?; Eamon O’Neill
How are you today, Geoff?
I feel pretty good today. It was a good show, you know. I think they were definitely pumped. They were jumping up and down, and that’s pretty impressive in this kind of heat. Very enthusiastic!
It’s unusual for you to play at a U.K. festival with that kind of heat, isn’t it?
Yeah, I can’t remember the last time actually! Maybe way back in the Stone Age of ’91, maybe? That year was a pretty special heatwave kind of thing in the U.K., I remember.
It was around then that you played at Donington’s Monsters of Rock festival with AC/DC, Metallica, The Black Crowes, and…
Motley Crue! It was great, absolutely great. We’d played with Metallica before the tour, on the '…And Justice For All' tour, and then also we’d toured with AC/DC of course. We were really familiar with their organisation and their band. It was a wonderful time, absolutely wonderful. I have great memories. It was a travelling show, and we did a lot of countries, a lot of shows. So, it was monumental, and it’s all going to be in my book!
You’re writing a book?!
I’ve been doing a book all my life. No, I haven’t really decided when and where, or even if I’m old enough to put a book out yet. I mean, I’ve just turned sixty, and that’s not quite old enough, I don’t think.
Your voice seems to be in fine form these days, but is it hard work maintaining that?
It is hard work. When you break it down into the physicality of it, mixed with the travel, it’s pretty rough. I’ve always been a pretty physical person most of my life and interested in athletics and that sort of thing, so it’s not out of that realm for me, but it’s tougher the older you get to do the same kind of things that you did before. You get little injuries that you’re dealing with that prolong themselves over time, and it’s a little rougher. But not impossible!
The last time we spoke, you said you’re planning to perform the ‘Empire’ album on its 30th anniversary, next year.
Yes, from start to finish, which I’ve always wanted to do. There are songs on that album I’ve never played live, and I’m really looking forward to that. Man, what a treat… for me! That was the 'promises of action figure dolls' period; “We’re going to make an action doll out of you”!
We also spoke about the forthcoming reissue of ‘Empire’ that you’ve been working on with the record company; can you tell us anything more about that?
You’re going to love it, but no, I can’t. I’m trying to keep it silence as long as possible.
Is it nice to look back over that period and think; “we did good”?
Yeah, I think Queensrÿche had some amazing music, and I’m very proud of what me made together and separately, individually. It’s cool stuff, and I’m very proud of it.
Moving on, and sonically, the Operation: Mindcrime trilogy of albums weren’t too far removed from ‘Empire’s sound.
Yeah. That’s something I always wanted to do [making a trilogy], and it was a real dream come true really, working with so many great musicians on the record, so it was just a real creative time. There were a lot of ideas happening, and it felt good to launch into that, head first.
Were you happy with how the three albums turned out?
I was. It was great working with Kelly Gray, who is such a talented guy, and really focused on achieving a sonic kind of specialness, and he’s quite an inventive mixer, and producer, engineer, guitar player, song writer. He does all of it, and he’ll fix your toaster.
You’ve a long history with working with Kelly, and he was in Queensrÿche for a while.
Yes, and from 'Q2K' until ‘Operation: Mindcrime II’. We’ve always just had a working relationship since we were kids. We grew up together, and he was in [ pre-Queensrÿche band] Myth. He’s gone on to do his own thing as well; he was involved with a lot of different productions and produced different bands. A talented guy. I can hardly fit him in my calendar any more, he’s so busy.
The five original Queensrÿche guys are still around, so do you envisage a day when you’ll all get back together, or would you like to see that happen?
Well, I never say never. I’d be interested in seeing what comes next. If our paths cross again, I’m always open.
Do you think it would be difficult coaxing Chis DeGarmo back?
Oh yeah, he’s kind of a hermit, so to speak!
What’s happening for you going forward; have you any plans to record again?
Yeah, I kind of record a lot when I’m on the road, usually, on the studio I carry around with me. I have a small portable, travelling production studio, so yeah, we kind of write as we go. It’s kind of cool too, because when you’re in a different country, a different city, you do a session with someone and see what happens; a writing session or have somebody play on your record. It’s handy now.
How have you enjoyed being out on the road with Avantasia?
Yeah, that’s really kept me going. I’ve been quite busy with that really. It’s wonderful music. I’ve had a year of Avantasia, and we’ve just finished our last show, last night in Germany, so it was the end of an era. It was the last, last show. There might be another record, I don’t know, but this is as far as it goes for now.
Until then, you’ve got the ‘Empire’ anniversary shows coming up.
Yes I have. I’m coming to a town near you!
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