Geoff Tate is currently on the road with Queensrÿche, celebrating the twenty-fifth year of the 1988 epic release of perhaps the greatest concept album of all-time, Operation: Mindcrime. Having released the thirteenth studio album in the band’s long history Frequency Unknown, we recently caught up with Geoff in between shows to find out answers to questions we had.
Rock Show Critique: You had just released your 2nd solo CD Kings & Thieves in November when we last talked. Now six months later you have just released Frequency Unknown. How did the songs come about so quickly? Was this one of the fastest albums you ever recorded and written?
Geoff Tate: Well I write all the time, in fact I’m working on a new record right now. I hope to have out after the first of the year. I started working on Frequency Unknown in January and finished in March. It went really smooth. It was a lot of fun recording, really great writing sessions with Randy and Lucas and Jason. A wonderful recording time with everybody that was involved. It’s a real treat when you get to work with all those talented guys.
RSC: How did you decide who will play on what song with all the varied artists you have on the album?
GT: We kind of thought about stylistically what that particular person was used to, kind of what they can bring to the table based upon their previous work. That seemed to be a good way of operating it. It gave the particular performer more of a comfortable area in which to work that wasn’t too outside what they were used to.
RSC: Is there any one song on FU that you stands out for you or that you are particularly proud of?
GT: Not really I like it all. It’s like every record for me its kind of a diary of where I’m at, at the moment, what I’m thinking about, what’s important to me that kind of thing.
RSC: How did you come about the title? Was it something related to the varied songs on the album which are different than the usual theme or concepts?
GT: Well Frequency Unknown is a phrase that was coined in the studio on the project. We were mixing a song. You have all these different channels of music transferring their signal into the console. You have all these different inputs coming in and you try to mix the song. We were talking about this kind of an urban legend of an unknown frequency. Which is when you dial it in and nobody knows what it is. As soon as you dial it in it cements everything together and brings everything to a point. I like the way that sounded, Frequency Unknown and used it as the title.
RSC: What is your take on being a producer.
GT: Producing means different things. Like for instance Peter Collins produced Operation: Mindcrime and what that means for him, he was in charge of logistics. Making sure studio time was booked and all the outside musicians that were used for the project were scheduled to be there at the right time, the right date, took care of the finances with the studio itself and record company, basically did all the administration work. Then there’s the kind of producing where you’re actually involved with the song. You’re making song decisions like does the chorus go from B sharp minor to G flat? And if its gonna go there do we need a melody line to put it all together. That’s song production and that’s what I ‘m a part of, always been a part of, every Queensrÿche record.
RSC: Was there a point when you realized hey we’ve got something here? Opening for Kiss on the Animalize Tour…. headlining The Promised Land Tour? Is there a proud moment of accomplishment for you?
GT: I knew we had something special when we did our first recording together. That’s what I’m always about, I’m about the art, I’m about the music and being able to work in a collaborative effort with the person or a group of people and make something happen. That’s how I’ve always judged musical success.
RSC: Talk about “NM 156” and “Screaming In Digital”. Why do they sound as fresh and vibrant today as when they were first recorded? What’s the secret?
GT: I don’t know. I think conceptually they stick within the times we live in. They were written from the standpoint of engaging technology and using technology to the point where the technology becomes intelligent and starts giving you intelligent feedback. We’re seeing that now with smart machines, smart phones. Computers are able to adjust to our human way of doing things and to make things easier for us. Simple tasks like typing in text in your phone when you have auto-correct where ninety-nine percent of the time gets it right. It tells you what mean by your sentence structure and it can tell you the right word to use. That’s smart intelligence you know, utilizing machines for betterment of human living. That’s where the basis for those two tracks you mention, that’s where they come from. So maybe that’s why they feel right, they feel contemporary.
RSC: Kelly Grey took some heat from both the fans and critics alike during his first tenure with the band. What made you decide to give him another shot this time around?
GT: I love Kelly. He’s my brother from another mother. We’ve known each other thirty-eight years, something like that and we’ve been playing music the whole time together in Queensrÿche, outside projects and he’s been with me on my solo work. We hang out, we’re friends. I love his work, he’s a very creative man. He’s a very dedicated guy to whatever he is involved with. He throws himself completely into it. I admire him as an artist too because he’s like me, he’s uncompromising, he plays it how he feels it, he calls it how he sees it and he doesn’t give a shit about what anybody else thinks.
RSC: Since the events of last year have you had a chance to talk to Chris DeGarmo at all?
GT: Oh yeah. I talk to Chris very regularly.
RSC: Do you foresee a time where you might play together ever again?
GT: I don’t know, he’s a strange bird. He’s pretty much out of the music business. He’s involved with his aircraft company and he’s one of the owners in it now. It takes up all his time, that’s where his focus is. He’s pretty much left the music to a distant memory.
RSC: But you would never say no?
GT: Oh sure yeah. If he called me up tomorrow and said hey I got this song, you wanna work on it? I would absolutely, love to.
RSC: Now that you have the new album out and are celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Operation: Mindcrime, Where do you go from here? What’s next on the agenda?
GT: Well I’m working on a new record right now that I hope to have out a little after the first of the year, a tour follow that. Right now we’re booked until September. We’re gonna be going to Europe and South America in October. November‘s the big court case which will finally I hope, put this whole thing to rest. December’s the holidays so in between that I’m gonna be working on the new record.
Special thanks to Jeff Albright for setting us up with the interview.