Interview: Michael Wilton and Geoff Tate Explain Why They Deserve to Wear the Queensrÿche Crown
To this last point, Wilton says, “As an artist, as a guitar player, it’s not too much fun when your parts are being replaced or you don’t even know if they’re going to make the CD of the band you’ve been with for 30 years. It’s a little disheartening, to say the least.”
Tate, however, suggests that his bandmates neglected to participate creatively in Queensrÿche’s projects. In recent years, he says, “There was me writing and coming up with directions and ideas and concepts, and then the other guys were contributing performances in the studio. So we had to find other people to work with us in order to make a record and make things happen.”
In Wilton’s estimation, the strength of the music on the new Queensrÿche answers any questions about his and his bandmates’ songwriting abilities. “We’re firing on all cylinders now,” he says. “Because our surroundings and the way things are being run are conducive [to writing songs]. When it’s just a one-person dictatorship and it’s, ‘Well, if I don’t like this song, it’s not gonna be on the record, and I’m not going to sing anyone else’s lyrics,’ it’s just not healthy.”
Interband tensions and creative frustrations, combined with the fact that the band’s last few records had sold only a fraction of the units they were moving in their heyday, led to a meeting in April 2012 at which Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson decided to relieve Susan Tate of her managerial duties.
Wilton’s declaration states that they no longer felt she was working on behalf of the band as a whole. It also says Tate had been notified of the meeting through an email but declined to attend, citing a scheduling conflict.
When the singer confronted his bandmates about the firing a few days later, prior to a show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a heated argument ensued. Allegedly, Tate physically assaulted both Wilton and Rockenfield and, during that evening’s show, repeatedly walked to the back of the stage to spit on Rockenfield as he played. From there, the behind-the-scenes turmoil boiled over into the public forum.
There was a tense performance at the M3 Rock Festival on May 12, where, according to Wilton, he and his bandmates remained practically stationary onstage, refraining from interacting with Tate for fear of inciting him, and later that month at the Rocklahoma Festival, where the singer told the audience, “You guys suck.” At the beginning of June, Tate was fired.
“There was a lot of tension in the band at that time,” Wilton says, “and the turning point obviously was when we did those shows and things just kind of blew up. The Brazil assault, the Rocklahoma situation—it just got worse and worse and worse.
We just said, ‘Wow, we can’t go on like this. Is this how we’re gonna live? Do we have to hire extra security? Do we have to stay in our little area on the stage?’ It just wasn’t working. You don’t even know. The stress it puts on you, the stress it puts on your family, the stress it puts on your fans… It was unbearable.”
Tate, who says he was blindsided by the decision, believes he was terminated for a different reason. “This is all about getting rid of somebody so that there would be more money to split between a fewer amount of people,” he says. “Queensrÿche is and was an incredibly successful business entity worldwide. And to completely dismantle it is an act of foolishness.”
As an example, he points to his bandmates’ decision after the split to carry on as Queensrÿche with La Torre. Wilton and the rest of Queensrÿche had initially joined with La Torre under the moniker Rising West, an outfit dedicated to playing songs from Queensrÿche’s Eighties and early Nineties glory days. The project, according to Wilton, was conceived as a reaction to Tate’s recording and touring behind a solo album, a move that in effect would have put the actual Queensrÿche on ice for an extended period of time.
“There wasn’t much going on in the Queensrÿche camp,” Wilton says. “We weren’t going to be doing anything for a year. And so I talked to the other guys and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got families, we’ve got mortgages, we’ve got the whole thing. Who makes this decision [for us]?’ So that, combined with wanting to play some of the older songs that the fans had been screaming about for so long, led to Rising West. And it was only going to be a few shows. The thinking was, Our singer’s going to do a solo tour, we’re not just gonna sit around idle and starve. We’re gonna go do something.”