By Carl Begai
In the interest of not boring the veteran Queensrÿche faithful to tears we’ll skip rehashing the episodes of Tate Hate that led to the band splintering in 2012. If you’re a new fan all you need to know is vocalist Todd La Torre replaced original Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate after 12 albums due to some brutal personal and creative differences, and both sides are better for the change. In Queensrÿche’s case – featuring La Torre, original members Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson, and Parker Lundgren – it meant returning to the signature sound of the band’s early years, which has given Queensrÿche a completely – and if we’re being honest, unexpected – new lease on life. Sure, some fans have been loud in their disapproval of La Torre taking over Tate’s post, but the live shows have succeeded in changing some narrow minds.
“It’s a new energy, man, a rebirth of the band,” says Wilton. “Like you said, it’s a shame there are some people that are complaining, but it’s just one show at a time and we’re going to have to convince people that way. We’ve been doing that for the last two-and-a-half years and it’s gotten to the point, at least in Europe and the UK, they know and remember who Queensrÿche is. We just have to prove ourselves to the rest of the world.”
“We played a good variety of shows this summer; some key festivals, the main one being Wacken, which Queensrÿche has never performed at. It was great except for the mud (laughs). Being able to do our own shows and teaming up with Dream Theater again, it was amazing. It’s been a long time since we toured with them and it was a rekindled friendship. James LaBrie was so positive with Todd, letting him know that he’s just killing it, and John Petrucci wants us to do some shows together in the States next year. And then teaming up with Armored Saint and Death Angel in the UK, it was a great variety. The show in London was just amazing because both bands were there and the fans were just blown away.”
“It’s been almost three years with Todd and his confidence level is very strong. His voice is getting stronger from all the touring we’re doing, and he’s so comfortable with the old Queensryche songs it’s unbelievable. He’s grown as an individual and he’s such a team player for Queensrÿche; the fans love him.”
It’s rare that a band floundering for almost 20 years (according to the hard-nosed diehard old school fans) gets a second chance, particularly when it involves signing on a vocalist that’s expected to match the calibre of Geoff Tate in his prime.
“And the way it happened… oh my God,” says Wilton. “I didn’t know Todd at all. He bumped into me getting hors d’ouerves at a Seymour Duncan party (laughs). If I had blown him off I never would have met him. He thought I was Eric Peterson of Testament and he says ‘Hey man, good show.’ I looked at him as I’m putting shrimp on my plate and he goes ‘Oh, I’m sorry, now I know who you are…’ We talked and exchanged emails, but if it wasn’t for that moment this never would have happened.”
Compared to the band’s new album, Condition Hüman, the self-titled record sounds as if Queensrÿche was testing the waters to see if the band’s chemistry as a live act translated to songwriting and the studio. It was a solid album in the vein of the commercially bent Empire (’90), thus putting the Rÿche back in people’s good graces, but Condition Hüman is much more in tune with the band’s cult classic ’80s sound.
“I don’t know if we were testing the waters,” Wilton counters. “It was just a chaotic time. There was so much uncertainty in the air that it was a distraction. We didn’t have management, we didn’t have a record label, there was no promotion, so it was scary. The fact we even got that album recorded is amazing because we were so busy touring trying to prove ourselves. So hats off to Jim Barton (producer) for pulling us all together and pulling out a great record.”
As stated, Condition Hüman’s strength lies in its faithful return to the darkness, depth and occasionally twisted weirdness of The Warning (’84), Rage For Order (’86) and Operation: Mindcrime (’88) albums.
“You hit the nail on the head. Obviously, we wanted to bring back the way Queensrÿche always kind of evolved with each recording. We never want to carbon copy the previous recording, and it was great we were able to step up the lyrics and music for Condition Hüman. Queensrÿche was always known for thought provoking lyrics and we wanted to bring that back. I think we had something like 20 demos for the album and sent them to management and the record label, and they suggested Zeuss as a producer. He was a fan of the early Queensrÿche albums and he figured he knew what made those albums so special. He wanted to bring that back for us. He said we needed something that links people in the past to what we’re doing now. There have been situations where we’re meeting people on the road that stopped listening to us after Promised Land (’94), and they’re hearing a buzz about Queensrÿche now. If they didn’t know about Todd, they hear the guitars and they know it’s us.”
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