There are currently two versions of Queensryche—but the band’s driving force is undeniably Geoff Tate, and it’s his version of Queensryche that’s stopping at The Date Shed on Friday, Aug. 23.
Queensryche began to develop in the late ’70s in Bellevue, Wash. The original lineup consisted of Geoff Tate (vocals), Michael Wilton (guitars), Chris DeGarmo (guitars), Eddie Jackson (bass) and Scott Rockenfield (drums). They recorded their first demo tape in 1981, which went on to gain the attention of radio stations around the world and led to a record deal with EMI. They released The Warning in 1984, followed by Rage for Order in 1986. In 1987, the band began recording Operation: Mindcrime, a concept album/rock opera that told the story of a drug addict and political radical who was frustrated with the world around him.
“When the album was done, I felt very good about it,” said Tate during a recent phone interview. “I felt I achieved what I set out to do. I wanted to create a concept album that was inspired by the great concept albums I grew up with that were inspirational to me. I feel good about how the music has been received over the years. I like hearing all the wonderful things people say about the album, as anyone would.”
The album went on to reach platinum status, selling more than a million copies in the U.S. alone.
In 1990, Queensryche released Empire, which landed them even more success, thanks in part to hits “Silent Lucidity” and “Jet City Woman.” Empire went on to sell 3 million copies.
Despite the success, Tate said that neither sales nor critical claim were ever his main priority or focus.
“I never think about that kind of thing, honestly,” said Tate. “To me, success is measured on the accomplishment of actually making a record, writing it and performing it. That’s where I get my satisfaction and my pleasure.”
Throughout the ‘80s, when heavy metal was full of bands like Poison, Motley Crue and Ratt, Queensryche stood out, in part due to Queensryche’s unique sound and lyrics content. Tate said his songwriting abilities are due to the experiences he’s had, and due to him being a conversationalist with all sorts of people.
“I don’t know how I do it, exactly,” Tate said. “I try to live an inspirational life and be grateful for what I have and what I’ve experienced. I take a lot of pleasure in experiences. I like to travel and meet people. I’m kind of an experience junkie. I was recently in Malaysia on a motorcycle trip through the jungle that was really, really incredible. It was one of the high points of my life as far as experiences go. Life is really interesting to me. The relationships I have in my life are where I find a lot of inspiration.”
The band enjoyed success through the ‘90s, they were also one of the ‘80s metal bands who found themselves accepted among Seattle’s grunge scene. Tate has an interesting point of view on that era.
“I guess if you’re talking about bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains—a lot of those bands toured with us,” said Tate. “It was a focus on a certain area of the country at the time and their music; it was Seattle’s time. The whole moniker of grunge—if you ask the bands I just mentioned if they would call it grunge, they’d probably punch you in the face. Everybody hates that term. It was just a marketing term designed to separate a certain band’s music from another band’s music.”
Recent years have been tough on the band. In the spring of 2012, the other remaining original members—Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield—alleged that Tate’s wife was mismanaging the band’s finances; the three also fired Tate’s stepdaughter from running the band’s fan club. Before a show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the argument got heated, and security officers had to separate Tate from the rest of the band.
Ever since, Tate and the other members have been engaged in a heated legal battle over use of the Queensryche name; a judge said that the two versions of the band are both allowed to use the name until a hearing in November. (The other version of the band, featuring former Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre on vocals, is also active.)
Tate said that he doesn’t see him and his former bandmates ever being able to put aside their differences to reunite. He also said he understands that some people are baffled about the fact that there are currently two bands called Queensryche.
“I suppose it’s probably confusing to some fans,” he said. “But you know, in today’s world, you can really find out anything that you want to find out: The Internet is a great and powerful tool, and all it takes is a couple of buttons to push. You can do a lot of research. I think for, perhaps, lazy people, it could be confusing. For most of us, it’s pretty easy to find out the difference.”
Tate’s version of Queensryche released a new album, Frequency Unknown, back in April. Tate’s version includes guitarist Kelly Gray, a member of Queensryche from 1998 to 2002 who returned in 2007 and stayed with Tate during the split.
“Kelly and I have been friends for going on 40 years now,” said Tate. “We played in bands together; we wrote a lot of music together; his kids have grown up with my kids; we’ve gone through divorces together; and he’s been a good friend. He was working with Queensryche when the split happened, on the technical side of things, working our monitors. Next thing you know, he and I are standing on the stage together.”
When it comes to the show at The Date Shed, Tate said he is happy to be returning to the Coachella Valley.
“I love playing live and I love touring. I might be one of those rare people who like to be on the road,” he said. “I look forward to playing there, seeing what the audience is like, and it should be a great time.”
Queensryche with Geoff Tate will perform an 18-and-older show at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 23, at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., in Indio. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more info, call 760-775-6699, or visit www.dateshedmusic.com.