By Ruben Mosqueda // "Music IS art and music Is essential to the human environment and essential to the human story. We need art. It’s one of the most essential things to human existence."
Over the past five years of Oregon Music News’ existence we’ve had several opportunities to speak with singer Geoff Tate; whose ‘divorce’ from his former bandmates in Queensryche has been widely documented. Tate has moved on and now fronts his own band dubbed ‘Operation:Mindcrime’ and continues to play the Queensryche hits along with original material from ‘Operation: MIndcrime.’ Tate issued a new album last fall titled ‘The Key’ which is part one of a album trilogy which the plan was to issue the three albums every six months. “Frontiers (records) decided that it was best to issue the albums every 12 months or so rather than every 6 months as we initially thought. The second installment of the story is done and ready for release in June for September of 2016, then the last part of the trilogy will follow in September of 2017,” he says.
Operation: Mindcrime which features; Geoff Tate on vocals, Randy Gane on Keyboards, Kelly Gray (Queensryche, Slave To The System) on lead guitar, Scott Moughton on guitar, Tim Fernley on bass and Simon Wright (Dio, AC/DC) on drums. Operation: Mindcrime make their debut in Portland on March 17th, 2016 at The Hawthorne Theatre.
Geoff this is your first time in Portland post Queensryche. Often times fans feel that bands are ‘ignoring’ Portland and they feel disrespected. It comes down to offers by promoters doesn’t it?
Yeah, that right. I don’t know where fans came up with this idea. I’ll speak for every artist; every artist would love to play everywhere they possibly can. They wouldn’t say “OH, I would never play in Portland.” No one would say that. It comes down to the promoters and if they want to bring you to their city and if they feel that they can sell tickets.
Unfortunately, art is dictated by commerce and commerce is part of the capitalistic environment that we elect to live in. Promoters are there to make money and they are there to sell tickets regardless of who the band is. (laughs) The business of promoting is so volatile and so challenging a lot of people aren’t very good at it and they find out quickly that they aren’t good at it and they go out of business. That end of the music business is constantly changing so there’s always a new promoter doing it. Developing relationships with promoters takes a while and hopefully we can build a relationship with them before they go out of business! (laughs)
Jack Russell who was the singer in Great White broke off and is now doing how own band. For years he hadn’t played in Portland and now that he’s established a relationship with promoters in Portland he plays Portland like every 6-9 months.
In a perfect world you would want to be on a circuit schedule like that. The world is a big place and you sell records all over the world. You have to schedule time when you’re going to be in the Northwest, when you’ll be in the Southwest, when you’re going to be in France or when you’ll be in Eastern Europe. Ideally you’d like to be on a schedule where you’ll be back every year because that is what fans want. They look for consistency.
IS touring something that you’ll be doing indefinitely or do you have a timetable as to when you’ll cease touring altogether?
I will always tour. I can’t see myself stopping. I love performing live and I’m a believer that music is always best when experienced live. You’re seeing it, you’re experiencing it and you’re witnessing the moment. It’s incredibly special. I think a lot of us lose track of that in the 20th century digital age. There’s nothing that compares to a live performance. I don’t think there ever will be anything that will come close to it.
I’m still relatively old school in the sense that I buy music on release date and whether you buy it online and have it shipped and it arrives on release date or if you go out and track down a hard copy. Nothing compares to tearing off the cellophane, popping the CD in and looking through the liners. It’s sad that those rituals are essential a thing of the past, don’t you think?
In the United States music has become a disposable commodity for people. It’s not part of their lives like it once was. That’s due to our cultural shift. I saw something similar happen in Japan in the early 90s; people grew out of music that was dear to their hearts. That’s how the music industry treated music as if it were a passing thing. It was like this is what you liked in your youth and then you grew up to be an adult and then you didn’t have anything or want anything to do with that music anymore. (laughs) Music IS art and music Is essential to the human environment and essential to the human story. We need art. It’s one of the most essential things to human existence.
Have things shifted to the point that bands and artists tour and use albums to promote their tours rather than the old formula of releasing an album and touring to promote the album?
Yeah, the industry has changed; the recording industry and the recording industry is a mere shadow of what it once was. The sales are nothing what like they used to be. As a musician you are a working person, the way you work is by touring. In this day and age you just can’t release records and make a living that way. You can’t pay your bills; there’s a limited amount of artists and bands that might be able to sell a million albums nowadays.
Touring has become an essential part of our ‘bread & butter’ lifestyle. We keep our employees employed and our ship on track. We have to tour and luckily I happen to enjoy it! (laughs) As you know I love performing and I love traveling to different places. This past December I just traveled to my 60th country. It was amazing. I’m so proud that.
What was the 60th country? And how was the reception there?
It was Croatia, I had never been there before and I was excited to play there. I met some new friends and made some new contacts.The fans were great I have to say. I was very surprised they were singing along to the songs. They were very passionate about the performance. It was a very humbling experience I have to say Ruben; you pop into a country that you’ve never played before and you perform in front of people who know your music. You don’t speak their language but they understand yours a bit; there’s a connection there that’s strangely spiritual.
You did some acting a couple years ago. Is that something that you’d like to do more of in the future?
Oh, absolutely! I acting in an independent film called ‘The Burningmoore Incident.’ It was a really interesting experience on a number of different levels. Acting itself was really a challenge. Acting is like learning to be another person; you have to work with a writer who will help you identify who that character really is. I like the fact that you act in a film then you walk away with it and you’re done. You’re not emotionally invested with it like you are with music or an album. It’s a one time thing and you don’t keep reliving it like you do with music. It’s a one time shot! (laughs)
Last one. What’s your thoughts of the passing of David Bowie? I’m sure he was an influence on you?
David Bowie was very inspirational to me growing up. “Space Oddity” was the only track that I had heard by him as a kid; followed by his performance with Bing Crosby (“Little Drummer Boy”) on television. I was mesmerized by their two voices which they sang at a very low register. They had such beautiful rich voices.
David Bowie had such an incredible career always pushing the boundaries. If you have any level of success with your art people immediately begin to put fences all around you. People want to put you in a genre or in a box. David Bowie was one of those artists that was more about taking down the walls and growing. He was very inspirational.
I didn’t always like his music at the time, but I always enjoyed it in the perspective of the journey that he was on. In fact I had an interesting Bowie experience; I met him once. It was on the ‘Let’s Dance Tour’ it was real quick it was backstage at a show. I got a chance to meet him, shake his hand with about a hundred other people! (laughs) It was an intimate conversation or anything like that, still it was an incredible experience. All my daughters---David Bowie is the first man that they’ve fallen in love with! (laughs) There’s a character Jareth in the movie ‘The Labyrinth” he was so charismatic and magical in that movie that all the little girls fell in love with him.
Something I learned from David Bowie is that we all perceive music differently. I think a lot of this is determined by our own life experience and how we relate to the music. He released an album called ‘Earthling’ sometime in the 90s I bought the album. I listened to it and I absolutely didn’t like it. I put it away and didn’t think much about it. About six months later I’m in Paris; I walk into a Virgin Megastore to see they have. I see the same album ‘Earthling’ there for sale and they have it at a listening booth. I put the headphones on I’m listening to the opening track and ‘boom’ I got it. I listened to it. I got it. I bought it again.