Interview: Geoff Tate


Photo via Operation: Mindcrime Official Website
Photo via Operation: Mindcrime Official Website
Operation: Mindcrime, the band fronted by iconic vocalist and former Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate, is set to release Resurrection, the second part of a trilogy preceded by last year’s debut album The Key, on September 23rd via Frontiers Music Srl. A new music video for the track “Taking On The World”, featuring Tim “Ripper” Owens and Blaze Bayley on vocals alongside Geoff Tate, premiered last week on Billboard. Just before the video’s release, I had the chance to speak with Geoff on the phone for a in-depth interview where we talk music, the new album and video, Disturbed, upcoming tours, and more.

I’d like to just jump right in here talking about your new album Resurrection – this is, of course, the second part to the Operation: Mindcrime album trilogy. Would you say that Resurrection picks up where The Key left off?

Yeah, exactly. It’s the second act of a three-act presentation.

And the two singles that have been released, “Left For Dead” and “The Fight”, are what fans have heard from Resurrection so far – talk to me about these tracks, and what would you say that you want someone listening to these songs to get out of them?

Each song is like a scene from the album. If you can equate it to a film, then each song is a scene. The scene on the song takes you into what’s happening in the story, so each song is sort of what leads you to the next. And I think with music, people take from it what they can or what they will. It’s a very personal experience, I think. You listen to it with your own personal filters based upon what your musical influences are, what your life is like…how the words or the melodies affect you in some way is based typically on how you’ve lived your life, you know?

Definitely. So then, for you personally, what are some things that went into these tracks?

Well…besides the usual blood, sweat, and tears? I guess a lot of thought. The whole trilogy album storyline music-wise, it all was a “hit me in the head like a two-ton heavy thing” kind of experience where, I’d been wanting to do a trilogy for quite a while and I liked the idea of doing a story in three acts, but just didn’t have the story for a long time. But I kept it in the back of my head until the story hit me and then when it did, I had to write in a frenzy that lasted months and months because we wrote all the materials for the albums and put a recording team together and recorded everything at once. It was a lot of work – a lot of very enjoyable work – but all at one time.

Got it, so the whole trilogy is essentially done at this point, it’s just that we’re not getting to hear it until later on, right?

Yeah, a good year of listening to it kind of familiarizes you with it so then you’re ready for the next chapter, so to speak.

There you go. Now, there are some other great musicians besides yourself who play alongside you on the album, so talk to me about some of the guests, and how were some of these connections made to the point of them playing on your album?

Well, Kelly Gray, of course, was my long-time collaborator, we’ve been working since 1979 on writing and performing together. He contributed production, mixing and guitars, and some bass on some of the songs and vocals on some other songs. Scott Moughton on guitar, bass, keyboards…Randy Gane on keyboards, myself on keyboards and saxophone. John Moyer, Dave Ellefson played bass, Simon Wright, Scott Mercado and Brian Tichy all playing drums…and then Mark Daily, Blaze Bayley on vocals and Tim Owens also on vocals.

Right, so what are some of your past musical experiences with them, what led you to bring them into this project?

These are all people that I’ve played with over the years and knew well and admired their playing and attitude, their general outlook on music. I felt like I could get really great performances out of them easily, without a lot of stress. And these are all really great players who, you just sit them down, play the music for them, and they’re going to add something really special to it. You kind of give them a background on what you’re trying to accomplish, you paint the scene of the song like…“This song has a chaotic feeling, you want to generate this feeling of uncertainty because the character is going through this questioning time of trying to figure out what he’s going to do with his life, any ideas on chaos?” You know, and maybe Brian will kick out this snare drum pattern thing that was real frenetic and that would inspire Kelly to put this guitar line to a section. It was all very inspirational.

Sounds like a very interesting and creative process there. And of course, you mentioned Tim “Ripper” Owens and Blaze Bayley, they’re some guest vocalists and the three of you are going out on tour in the fall on the “Trinity” tour. So how did this Trinity project come together, was it because of their involvement in Operation: Mindcrime?

Yeah, they sang on the track “Taking On The World” – which we just actually finished a video for that – and we had such a great time laying down tracks for that song that we decided “Hey, let’s put some dates together and go out on tour”. So we found some dates at the end of the year that work for all three of us and we’re bringing the Trinity project to stages around the world, starting in the Northeast around Thanksgiving.

Now, you were also touring earlier this year with Operation: Mindcrime, and your touring lineup so far has been a bit different from who’s on the recording, so would you say that Operation: Mindcrime essentially has a rotating lineup overall since there’s so many guest musicians?

Yeah, it’s kind of an open roster of people, really based upon their availability at a given time. You know, everybody has musical commitments that are important to them, and things they have to do, so we kind of work around each other’s schedules somewhat and try to put together a great band of all the different people who played on the record in order to present the record as best we can.

Still on the note of touring, you’ve got the Shiprocked cruise next year, you’re appearing at that show as well, how do you like the cruise ship scene when it comes to shows?

I think if there’s a stage, lights, and a sound system, I’m pretty comfortable anywhere in the world – a cruise ship, a flatbed truck, a club, an arena – you name it, I’ll play it.

Nice, so it’s pretty much all the same to you, as long as you can get out there and perform, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the setting is.

It really doesn’t, no. Just as long as people gather together to listen to music and be involved with it, that’s the place I want to be.

I also just want to circle back to what you said just now about the music video that’s just been completed, could you tell me a little bit more about it?

We shot it here in the Seattle area and it was a fun video, and I don’t know if it was fun simply because of the context or the people involved. I just know that we had a great time, we had a lot of laughs and it was a very fun project to do and I think the outcome of the video turned out great, I’m very happy with it. Actually, it’s the first video I’ve ever done in my career where the director sent it to me and…I liked it, without having any changes done to it. (laughs) It was quite surprising, actually. You know, typically you have comments like “Oh, is there another shot you can put in, a different camera angle here?” or “Can we have a different intro?” or something, you know. This was really good right from the beginning, and I’m very happy with it.

Well, that’s great to hear – I look forward to seeing it! You’ve also got something coming up at the end of this month, a record release party in Germany, and what’s interesting about that is it’s also going to be an open acoustic set for people to join in and jam with you. I just think that’s a cool idea, have you done this sort of thing before?

Not like this, but yeah, I do a lot of acoustic jamming. It’s fun, and really kind of…it’s tradition, it’s music tradition. I’ve always had this kind of open door policy when I’m playing shows that if a musician that I know is in town touring, I’ve always invited them to the show – you know, “Hey, come on and sing a song with us” or “come up and play an instrument with us”. People ask me that all the time when I go to their shows too, I just performed a song with Disturbed a couple weeks ago and that was really fun when they came through town. I think it’s just a fun thing for musicians to share music and if you admire that musician and you like what they’ve done, or you’re moved by a particular song that they do, I think it’s a wonderful thing to share that time, you know?

Absolutely, and bringing in that acoustic, unplugged kind of dynamic brings another feel to it as well. I know earlier this year when I caught one of your tour dates, you did this whole acoustic section of the show, and I found that to be interesting, it was a nice break in the action but also satisfying.

Yeah, it’s a nice dynamic change. It also kind of brings the song back to its origins, because almost every song is written on an acoustic guitar, or piano and voice, and it’s nice to bring the song back to its original format.

And it’s also a sort of look into the thoughts of the musician who wrote it, I think, because you’re stripping away all the effects and things and just getting to the real roots of the song itself.

Exactly, and it’s always been real interesting to me how you can take any song, and you can play it with different instruments, and you can still tell what song it is. Even though maybe it’s a guitar-heavy song, but you take the guitars all the way out of it and just have like, a bass guitar or piano and voice, and you still have a song there, it still stands on its own, you know?

Definitely, music is a powerful thing.

It is.

Again, just to circle back to something you said, you mentioned playing with Disturbed, how you had a little guest appearance during their set, how’d that come about that you joined in on that show?

Well, they asked me, I didn’t just jump up there. (laughs)

(laughs) Well, yeah, I didn’t think it was anything like that – you just randomly appearing like “Hey guys. I’m singing now.” (laughs)

“Hey Dave! I’m coming up!” (laughs)

“Ready or not!”

(laughs) Yeah. No, I was going to the show and they asked me if I wanted to sing – I couldn’t turn them down, that’s a great band, and wonderful experience playing with those guys.

And then, of course, John Moyer from Disturbed has also been working with you on Operation: Mindcrime as well.

That’s right. John’s a great player, and fantastic guy to have at your side when you’re doing anything, just incredible. Incredible personality.

Staying on the topic of Disturbed a little longer, their cover of “Sound of Silence” has been getting such great reception lately, a lot of people have rave reviews of the track – what’s your take on it, have you heard it?

I heard it the night they played it in Seattle, and it was very cool. Very cool track. I like it when people do remakes of other songs and give it their own twist, their own personality and interpretation, I like that.

Back to Operation: Mindcrime, I’m sure you don’t want to give too much away, but can you give an idea of the status of the next and final part of the trilogy?

Well, it’ll be coming out around this time next year, I can tell you that much.

And do you have any plans or ideas yet for beyond the trilogy?

That’s still a couple years out. You know, we’ve got this whole year, 2017 touring cycle, and then the release of the third album in the fall of 2017 and then touring all through 2018…so that’ll bring us up to 2019, so to answer your question, no. (laughs) I don’t have any solid plans that I can talk about yet.

Well, I mean, touring up to 2018 sounds like some solid plans already. So are you going to gradually incorporate each album into the set of the tour as you go along?

Probably a few songs here and there. I tend to like to play…well, I’d love to play all my new albums, I think every artist would, you’re excited about your new work, but the audience isn’t quite ready for it yet. You know, it takes people a while to acclimate to your music, so I work in a few songs from the new record throughout the tour, but mostly it’s focused on the past work. And then by the time you come around next time, you can add more songs, just because they’re more used to the new album released a year ago.

Well, it sounds like a lot of good things to come for the future of Operation: Mindcrime, some great things to look forward to, including the album release later this month. Thanks for taking the time to call, Geoff, this has been excellent speaking with you.

My pleasure, Chelsea, thanks for the interview.

To keep up on the latest news with Operation: Mindcrime, head to the official website: http://operationmindcrime.com/ and Facebook page.