Interview: Michael Wilton and Geoff Tate Explain Why They Deserve to Wear the Queensrÿche Crown
Illustration: Seldon Hunt
“I was happy they were using the name Rising West,” Tate says. “I was fine with that. I was doing my solo thing. I was happy with what they were doing.” The problem, he says, began when Wilton and company decided to continue with La Torre as Queensrÿche.
“That’s where I said, ‘Hey, that’s not right. Nobody should use the name until we settle this.’ So I took them to court to try to get an injunction to stop them—and myself—from using the name. I didn’t want anybody to use it until everything was finalized. Unfortunately, the judge didn’t see it that way. So both parties have been granted use of the name until November.”
Until then, fans are left to determine for themselves which Queensrÿche to follow. It’s a surreal scenario to be sure, but one that, if viewed through a certain prism, reveals some positives. Case in point: In an effort to reclaim the Queensrÿche mantle, both sides have been on the road playing shows that cast aside the band’s recent—and at times ill-received—music in favor of more beloved early material: Tate with an Operation: Mindcrime 25th anniversary jaunt and Wilton’s lineup with the Return to History tour.
And, for better or worse, fans get two new Queensrÿche albums. As for which sounds more like typical Queensrÿche, it depends on what you consider the band’s most recognizable sonic characteristics. Frequency Unknown has Tate, whose voice and vocal style are hallmarks of the band, but the music behind him is thicker, harder and indisputably modern.
Queensrÿche, on the other hand, sports a strong if unfamiliar vocal from La Torre, but it also more closely nails the band’s classic sound, a refined take on metal that balances guitar aggression with proggy intricacy and hooky melodies, and laces it all together with plenty of sinewy dual-guitar harmonies.
Says Wilton, “We wanted to bring back some of that magic we had in the first decade and a half of this band. The album was a complete collaboration of all the members, and I think we were on 10 as far as the energy and creativity went. It’s just like any gang or company: if everybody’s happy, you’re going to get a better product in the end.”
And so both sides continue to move full speed ahead. Says Tate, “I honestly don’t concern myself with what the other camp is doing. They don’t even exist in my mind.”
“The fact of the matter,” Wilton says, “is that we’re very excited about what we’re doing, and as long as the fans still believe in us, we’ll keep churning out records and touring until we can’t do it anymore.” At the same time, he’s aware of what hangs in the balance with the upcoming court date. The band is booked on tour through October, but then, Wilton says, “We kind of have to keep November open.
But after that, we’re ready to work this new album for a long time.”
As for what “after that” will look like, Wilton is positive, if tentative. “We try not to be lawyers or anything, but we feel strongly about what we have on our side. But the law, especially in the state of Washington—my gosh, who knows? It’s all determined by the person wearing the black robe. And that’s scary. But the outcome will be what it will be. And then everybody will just have to deal with it.”
On this last point, at least, Tate agrees. “I don’t know what the future holds, and I don’t know if I want to know,” he says. “At the end of the day this isn’t going to stop me from making music. It isn’t going to stop me from touring and playing shows. But I don’t think you can sit and stew on it all. It’ll drive you crazy. You just have to put your boots on and start stomping around. Get back into it. Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff, really.”
Illustration: Seldon Hunt
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