Hi Geoff, welcome back to Wales.
Have you got good memories of being in Wales?
“The first time we came to Wales was with Ronnie James Dio in 1984. I have a distinct memory of being in Cardiff on a day off, being in a nice hotel, and being in the bathtub. A fire alarm got set off by some of Dio’s crew members, this was a tour of pranksters. They thought it was great fun, I had to get out of the bath, go all the way downstairs in my bathrobe, go outside and stand in the street!”
Oh dear! Ha ha.
Queensryche played my favourite ever venue – Newport Centre a few times, I believe the last time was supporting Judas Priest on their Epitaph tour in 2011?
“That’s right, that was our last tour together”.
Did you keep busy during lockdown? Is there any more to come from Sweet Oblivion or have you recorded any more solo material?
“I’ve done all kinds of things, that’s all I did really was hang out in the studio, write stuff, yeah, primarily that’s all I did. I worked on the Sweet Oblivion album, the Avantasia album. I also wrote some music for two different projects of my own that will hopefully be launched sometime this year. Busy, busy y’know?”
Did you manage to keep your voice in shape?
“Well, it’s one thing to sing in the studio, it’s a whole different thing to sing live y’know? Starting back out live I had to work for a couple of weeks to get myself back on form again. Singing’s one of those things, that you just have to do, there’s no way around it. You have to power through it and do it. You just have to keep working at it.”
Why did you decide to play ‘Rage For Order’ in it’s entirety rather than say, ‘The Warning’?
“I love the album, absolutely love it. It’s my second favourite Queensryche album. My favourite is the last album we did together, Dedicated to Chaos, that’s the one I listen to the most.
What are your favourite songs to perform live from ‘Rage for Order’ and ‘Empire’?
“I love playing the whole albums. I tell the audience every night that it’s been on my bucket list to play Rage for Order, we never got to play it back in the day. We only played a couple of songs off the album, that’s kind of the curse of most albums, you never get to play everything y’know? You just get to play a couple of tracks because people wanna hear what they know. They are really into hearing what they are familiar with (laughs), some people are not musically adventurous. The best response you have from an audience when you’re playing your album or your songs is, you come out with a new album, you only play a couple of songs, the rest you play are oldies. Next year when you come back, they are starting to like and get used to those songs, it’s a cool dynamic”.
What are your memories about the recording of ‘Rage For Order’?
“The Rage For Order album was a really fun album to make from my perspective. We were working with Neil Kernon as a producer, and he was a wild man that we got to hang out with. One of the greatest personalities to be in the studio with, he could run with your idea, and he had such a vast technical background. At the time, I didn’t have much technical experience in the studio. I would say ‘I want my voice to do this, or I want this sound I’m making to do this’, he’d go ‘ok, I’ll just turn this up here, and oh!, let me plug this box in’ (laughs). He would always have a workaround on how to make it happen. He just came in with a jovial, happy personality, he was glad to be there and contribute, a really good ‘idea guy’. I loved working with him.
On the ‘Rage For Order’ tour, Queensryche supported the likes of Ratt, Bon Jovi and Ozzy Osbourne. Did you ever feel pressured to play with other artists who were very different musically to you guys?
“We weren’t trying to sound like anybody, that whole idea of making bands conform to each other, that was later. We came in that great era when they put all kinds of different music together. We played with Jethro Tull (laughs), Roger Waters and the Psychedelic Furs. We also loved bands like Ratt, we had some great tours together, in fact we had a pretty intense bowling competition with those guys while on tour (laughs).
How do you juggle the touring and family life?
“It is what it is, my wife and I raised our kids on and off the road. They just grew up like that, they are used to travelling, eating in restaurants, being able to order a French meal (laughs). They have high expectations; they won’t go to a concert if they don’t have backstage passes y’know? (Laughs).
This week marks the 34th anniversary of your seminal album ‘Operation:Mindcrime’, how does that feel?
“It makes me feel old! (laughs) Most things make me feel old nowadays, it’s a strange time when you get into your sixties, you’re looking at all of this life that you’ve had. My grandkids are approaching their teenage years now. I’m doing shows, and everyone in the audience, has grey and white hair! (laughs) It’s just a really strange time, I don’t really see myself that way,as being an old fart, even though I am an old fart!”
Do you think that a concept album like Mindcrime would work in today’s environment with people’s poor attention spans?
“I don’t know..it was hard to get people to pay attention back in the eighties (laughs). That’s the thing about music, it’s a personal journey, music is a very personal thing for people. Some people are going to get it, some people aren’t. Some people hold music in a highly revenant regard in their lives, others don’t give a fuck”.
There’s a great line from the song Speak from the Mindcrime album: ‘The rich control the government, the media, the law’. Do you think that line is even more relevant in today’s society?
“I couldn’t even imagine the context of ‘rich’ in today’s situation with people being multi, multi billionaires y’know? (laughs) and then they don’t pay taxes, it seems incredibly wrong. A guy like Elon Musk, with a lot less that he paid for Twitter, he could eliminate hunger in the US for example. He could make a living wage for people, they could work and be paid a living wage which is enough to survive on, or at least live on. He could do so many wondrous things, but he buys a social media site, y’know? I can almost understand Jeff Bezos flying into space because they are looking for minerals and ways to mine that are not going to impact the earth”.
I must ask you about the Hear N Aid project back in 1984, how did you get involved?
“Ronnie James Dio called me, he said that was doing this thing and would I want to get involved in it. I absolutely said yes! I didn’t know what it was, or understand what it was, I just said yes, I’ll be there, just tell me what you want me to do. He sent me a cassette tape of the song Stars and a lyric sheet. A week later, I go down to LA and walked into A & M studios amidst this circus that was going on! There were so many people there, I was a very young man at the time, and I wasn’t used to that kind of situation where all of these very famous people that I looked up to and admired were all gathered together in this room. Many of them were sitting in the same room behind the glass listening to me sing my part which I didn’t know very well (laughs). It was very intimidating! It was a cool moment in time and Ronnie and Wendy (Dio) had great intentions and put their heart and soul into it. They brought together so many different people to participate, it was amazing. Especially as we didn’t have any social media or cell phones back then. I don’t know how they even got hold of all those people! (laughs).
You have a range of wine called Insania. Can we buy here in the UK?
“Normally yes, but everything is kinda messed up with the world transportation issues. If you’re in the UK you can order it from Germany, that’s where we make it, and they can send it to you. I need to find out if the Brexit thing will have an effect on the shipping too actually. Ironically, you can’t get it in the US (laughs) it’s because all of the ships are backloaded and delayed out a year. Thanks a lot Covid!”
You have another company called Backstage Travel, tell us about that. Is it back up and running? Fans can just book up and spend time with you eating and drinking?
“Yes, we just came on this tour from Tuscany, we did a weeklong trip with 32 people, and it was fun. If you like to travel, if you like to drink, if you like to eat great food, and if you like music, it’s a really fun trip to take y’know?”
What are your thoughts on the whole streaming debate?
“As long as they pay people fairly, then I’m all about it y’know? It’s one thing to make music and another thing to sell it, if you have an outlet that’s selling your stuff and you are being compensated fairly, then you’re way ahead of the game. It’s funny, the whole vinyl comeback thing, they’ve been saying that since the eighties, ‘vinyl’s coming back’ (laughs) I dug out my old turntable a while ago, and it was very expensive back in the day. I put a record on and, yep, still got that crackly thing going on!”
I was wondering if you have seen any of the classically trained vocal coaches on YouTube who spend a lot of time analysing one performance of yours, the Tokyo concert from 1984, and specifically, the song Take Hold of the Flame?
“I’ve not seen any of them, but someone has mentioned them to me. Is it a good laugh or what?
Ha ha, on the contrary, the coaches are in awe of your voice. I think they are of the opinion that heavy metal is just noise. They certainly change their opinion after watching the video!
“Oh wow, I’ll have to check that out! Sounds interesting.”
On behalf of RPM Online, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to me today, I’m looking forward to tonight’s show and I hope the rest of the tour goes well.
“My pleasure, me too, so far so good. And on days like this, it doesn’t get any better”.
Author: Kenny Kendrick