Finding The Real World Alone: An Interview with Geoff Tate

Since the split with Queensryche in 2012, former frontman Geoff Tate has been busy with his current project Operation: Mindcrime. After recently releasing their second studio offering, Resurrection. Geoff finds himself undertaking an intimate acoustic story-telling tour across the UK and Ireland in December. Geoff sat down with Shaun Neary to discuss the tour, talk a bit about his career, his feelings on the recent US Presidential election results and plans for the future.

Thanks for taking the time out to talk with Pure Rawk. How have you been?

I’m doing very well, thanks. I’m just gearing up for my upcoming your, so I’m trying to take care of all the little details, travel plans and pack my suitcase!

Without focusing too much on Queensryche history and the split, I can’t imagine 2012-2014 were an easy time for either party. Looking back, what was the most trying part of that time, and what motivated you to move forward?

Well, being in a situation like that where there’s a lawsuit going on and that kind of thing is not really where my heart is. I’m a musician, that’s what I do, all that other stuff is not what I’m capable of or interested in, but when you’re in a situation like that, you have to learn what it all means and how it affects you, as you’re talking about your livelihood. So I think the hardest part for me was just dealing with the reality of being in a lawsuit with my partners. But after the dust settled and we settled on an agreement, it all became easy after that.

But I’m pretty motivated as a personality, I like working and I’m a pretty avid composer and writer so I’m constantly working in that direction, I think that’s what keeps me sane and what keeps me level.

Let’s talk about the upcoming tour. These dates are going to be intimate and acoustic. When was the last time you toured an acoustic show?

It’s been maybe five or six years since I last did an acoustic tour, although on my last tour I had a five song acoustic segment on my show. I love performing my music acoustically, as it’s a whole different way of presenting it, and in a way it’s an organic way of presenting it, it takes you back to the origins of your music. In my experience, every song I’ve ever written has either been on an acoustic guitar or a piano. That’s where it starts and then you shape it and make it what it ends up being, given a different instrumentation depending on what you want to do with it.

I love the acoustic presentation and I have this wonderful backup band called The Bandana, who are a young band from Cork City and we have three acoustic guitars, mandolin, cello, violin and percussion. We all sing so there’s lots of harmony and it’s just a really interesting acoustic version of all my music. Plus I’m presenting it in a storytelling fashion as I have had quite a long career of travelling around the world and making music. I’ll interweave different stories about my experiences into the show, it’ll be an interesting presentation.

You’re coming over to Ireland for dates in Belfast and Dublin towards the end of December, but you’re also going to Cork for a fundraiser for Music Generation a few weeks beforehand. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ah yeah! Well, I believe in music programmes. I grew up with that, I live in Seattle, which used to be incredibly music oriented. I grew up all through my school years playing in the school bands, school orchestra, jazz band and then later, started composing my own music based on what I’d learned over the years. So I believe in music programs as being incredibly beneficial for kids starting out. It teaches you so much, especially about personal discipline which I think is very important to learn.

Music Generation is a fantastic program. This is my first time working with them and I’m really looking forward to it because their reputation is great. I was introduced to them by a wonderful musician I know in Cork City, Clodagh Kearney. She has toured with me in the past and when I told her I was playing the show in Cork, she asked how I’d feel about working with Music Generation, and I loved the idea. So I’m really looking forward to our first working relationship together, and hoping we can continue working them in the future.

Operation: Mindcrime’s Resurrection, the second album in the trilogy, surfaced just over two months ago. Have you read any of the reviews in the media about the album?

You know, I haven’t read a review of one of my albums since about 1986! To me, music is art, and either you like it and you get it, or you don’t. I really don’t trust someone else’s opinion to tell me what I should like when it comes to art, or food, or what kind of wine to drink, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I understand that some people feel the need to give their opinion about other people’s art, I just don’t really care to partake in that while thing. I guess my head just doesn’t work that way to think in those kind of terms.

The Key came out almost to the day a year earlier. Is it safe to assume that the writing process has started for the third album in the trilogy?

Oh it’s pretty much done. It hasn’t been mixed yet, I typically wait a while before I mix a record, but it was all written and recorded around the same time, within a few months of each other. It has a lot of the same musicians on all three albums.

Have you any themes in mind?

Well it’s the final chapter in the story. The albums tell one story, and this will be the concluding chapter. It’s action packed, actually!

I’m generally not one to talk about politics, but this has been a pretty big week for America. As an American yourself, what’s your opinion about the recent US Presidential election results?

Well it’s been an eye-opening, unique situation here. Being the age I am at, I have lived through quite a few presidential elections now and this one has been very different. This election was met with a lot of violence, a lot of emotion. There are people that are very upset about the outcome and in the city I live in, last night there were protests in the street. There were six thousand people marching through downtown Seattle last night.

One of my daughters works in a department store in downtown Seattle and the store locked all its employees inside for safety because they could hear gunshots going off. In the end, nobody got hurt, but this threat of violence is new, I’ve never seen that happen before. So it’s a scary, tumultuous time here and I’m hoping that people calm down in the next couple of months before the inauguration in January, and that we can have a peaceful transition.

What was the hardest album you’ve ever had to write in your career, and can you go into it a little bit?

I would say the first album, because it takes so long to get there. You work all your young adult life trying to get that first record written and recorded and then to get something done with it. You don’t quite know how to get it there, but when you do, it’s such a great feeling to finally have it go someplace and do something.

I don’t have problems making records, it’s one of the things I love most in life. They’re not difficult for me, they’re challenging, and I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the work, the process of coming up with the material and trying to come up with ideas that I like. I probably throw away most of what I write simply to get to what I do like, I’ve a lot of crumpled pieces of paper on the floor!

With 2016 nearing its end, and 2018 less than two years away, which will mark the 30th anniversary of the legendary Operation: Mindcrime album. Have you any plans to celebrate it?

Oh I do have plans! Actually in the works right now are several different projects that will be revolving the 30th anniversary of the album. I can’t talk about them at the moment, but I can say yes, I’m planning ahead for that.

We would like to thank Geoff for taking the time out for this interview. You can catch his acoustic tour at the following dates and venues:

06/12   Crane Lane, Cork, IE (Fundraiser for Music Generation – Cork City)
19/12   O2 Academy, Islington, UK
20/12   Waterfront, Norwich, UK
21/12   Cathouse, Glasgow, UK
22/12   Voodoo, Dublin, IE
23/12   Empire Music Hall, Belfast, NI