It’s been a dramatic few years for Queensrÿche. Re-established with new singer Todd La Torre since 2012, the Seattle band have forged ahead, only for founder member Scott Rockenfield to take a leave of absence. Still, they’ve survived bigger battle, and three albums in with the La Torre-fronted line-up, they’re having a lot of fun opening a new chapter. We sat down with guitarist Michael Wilton at Bloodstock Festival to discuss changing times, and what might lie ahead. Eyes of a stranger; Eamon O’Neill
How are you today Michael?
Well, we just got here like a half hour ago and our bus got stuck in the mud trying to park, so we’ve been trying to park our bus for the last hour. But we’re here, and we’re ready to give the Queensrÿche experience to everyone. I just got here and I’m running into people I haven’t seen in a while, so it’s cool. It’s a whirlwind, but it’s a lot of fun for me.
The dodgy weather surely isn’t going to bother a band from Seattle, is it?
No, no. All these festivals that we’ve been doing all summer, we’re meeting lots of fans and people that we haven’t seen since – dare I say – the ‘80s, and it’s really great.
Queensrÿche have been bumped up the festival bill; have you made any changes or extended you set?
I don’t know, detail-wise if we get any more time. I think it’s probably the same sixty minutes that we’ve been allotted for. But we’ll see if we can throw an extra song in there. We’re always game for that. Because we’re over here doing our own shows as well in clubs, we’ve got some songs that we could always throw.
A song that’s a welcome addition to the set list on this run is ‘I Am I’.
Yeah! You know, it’s hard these days to please everybody, because we have pockets of Queensrÿche history that are so special to people, and to really try and represent most of the albums, it’s hard to do. So that’s the one song from ‘The Promised Land’ that we’re doing. We try and represent those core albums that everybody wants to hear. The set list is no easy task for Queensrÿche!
When Queensrÿche came back, firstly as Rising West in 2012; it was that earlier period that you were making a definitive statement on revisiting.
Exactly. Queensyche was always a touring band, and a lot of that these days in the industry, is you tour a lot. And records come not every year, but they come like every other year or every three years, so I think that spirit is in the recording now, and I think it’s more, well for one, it’s fun for us to play a bit more of the power metal, a little more of the progressive side of Queensrÿche. I think we’re kind of representing that in a sense in the albums that we’re recording now.
Going back to before Todd joined the band, and how were things around the recording of your final album with Geoff Tate; 2011’s ‘Dedicated to Chaos’?
There was obviously a dissension in the direction of what was perceived as Queensrÿche, and I think that, what kind of came down was kind of a disjointed feeling on my part. And you know, we toured on that album and things, it was at the point where if you’re a company and you’re not doing well, you’re at that point where; “wow; time to reinvent ourselves”. I think that bug, that seed was planted during that time.
You’re now three albums in with Todd, but was it difficult starting the band anew again?
Well, we had to establish the band again, obviously, business-wise, but for me, being in, and doing this for over thirty years, this is the next chapter for Queensrÿche, and a lot of people, most of our fans have jumped on, and some of them have disappeared. Whatever; this is a new chapter of Queensrÿche and we’re having a great time. I think we’re on a great path right now creatively, and we’ve got a lot of really great people supporting us. And it’s great that we can play Bloodstock! I don’t think that we’ve ever played it, so this is another one off the bucket list for me!
Do you ever miss having old partner Chris DeGarmo in the band?
Well, you know, obviously the guitar tandem team with Chris was magic, and it was during that time when the band was discovering itself and experimenting. Those were some great times, but now it’s a different vibe. You’re with people that have different influences, and crunching them all together and seeing what you get is exciting because, for one, there’s so much dynamic energy in everybody and contribution, that it’s a different type of writing.
So it’s a different vibe these days?
I think that there’s still a magic in Queensyche as far as writing, and we’re discovering that as a unit. But it’s been seven years now [with Todd La Torre], and a lot of touring, and I think the band is more comfortable with themselves, and comfortable with taking chances in the writing, so I think it’s more of a cohesive unit, rather than just a guitar tandem team writing. But you never know; the next album may be me and Parker [Lundgren, guitars] getting together and writing some stuff. It’s like; there’s no set way in doing things and no set rules; it’s just try and have a recording or an album done on time.
I have to ask you about the drum stool question; where is Scott Rockenfield right now, and is he coming back?
Well, basically when we started to record ‘The Verdict’ [in 2018], we hadn’t heard from him. He had more of a, personal obligations that he was doing, and then he told us that he couldn’t drum on the record. That was kind of as sign that, I think that he had obligations. He’s a very private person, and we respect what he’s doing. It left him in a situation where he really isn’t touring anymore.
Do you mean he’s not touring any more, full stop?
At this moment, he’s not touring anymore.
Finally, what’s next for Queensrÿche?
Lots of touring. They’re already booking next year for us, and we’re really excited. And I told the guys; “I’m not getting any younger. Let’s try and get the albums instead of every four years, maybe every two years, so we can get more music out!” [*Laughing*]
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Queensrÿche's 'The Verdict' is out now, via Century Media.