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Interview- Geoff Tate (the original lead singer for Queensryche) talks about the concept album Operation: Mindcrime released 30 Years Ago!


GeoffTateOperationMindcrime2018-2PhotobyRonnieYonkerAs fans might remember, Geoff performed the album in its entirety on tour in 2013 to celebrate its 25th Anniversary.

The band is currently on tour featuring Geoff Tate’s daughter, Emily, who will be singing the parts of Sister Mary. She’s also in the band, Till Death Do Us Part, who is special guests on this tour and features ‘Till Death Do Us Apart members Kieran Robertson from Scotland on guitar and Jack Ross from Scotland on bass. Also includes Bruno Sa from Brazil on keyboards, Scott Moughton from Canada on guitar, Josh Watts from England on drums.

IMM: Hi Geoff, is good to talk to you and talk about the Mindcrime album and other ventures you are involved with?

Geoff: Sure. What can I tell you?

IMM: It’s been thirty years since the release and I reference that album to two other concepts that still sound fresh and influential:: The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia. When the band was writing Mindcrime, was it during the Rage For Order tour and tinkering on new songs?

Geoff: Uh no. The Rage For Order tour ended and I stayed in Montreal, Canada with some people and I ended up staying there for a year or so. While staying at Montreal I came up with the idea of the concept and story, working on it and writing and two songs that ended up on the record: “Operation: Mindcrime” the title song and “Revolution Calling”. Then months and months later I went back to Seattle and I played the songs and explain the storyline and everything to Chris DeGarmo my writing partner at the time and he really he liked the idea and we were actually talking about doing an opus concept record, oh gosh since the band started.  So we finally felt the subject matter will lend itself for a full-length record and so we began around early spring of ’87 I think it was.

IMM: Were involved with songs in general like how you wanted certain guitar riffs and drum beats or let those guys handle that part of it and you focused on the lyrics?

Geoff: Oh no, no.  I am involved in every aspect of the album I do. I am at the start and at the finish (laughter). It is a matter of making your art that you want it to be made. Following the vision, you have for music and not leaving it up to somebody else to finish up your idea. I think it would be kind of lazy to approach life like that.

IMM: From an artist point of view, being self-critical if we should write it this way or go like this? Or just say, hey we go it and let’s just go with it and see what happened afterward?

Geoff: That approach you are talking about would suggest you’re waiting for some prize at the end or award. And to me, the award is in the actual making the art, the compositions, coming up with the idea in the first place and following it through by the necessary steps to make it happen. How other people take it when you’re finish with it is a completely different scenario but is up to all honestly chance (laughter).

IMM: You get people at the record label putting their fingers in the mixture.

Geoff: Yeah, they didn’t do with that us though. We didn’t have any contact with the record company other than the sales team who were hired to sale the record when we made it. But different have anybody coming out of the studio going “oh man, that is really great”. Or “oh gosh I think you should redo that”, nothing like that.

IMM: Was it the bands’ decision for which songs for videos?

Geoff: Yes.

IMM: When radio got the first single promo, requests were through the roof.

Geoff: Yeah, it definitely at one point the album sales picked up dramatically. What we notice that we had our first MTV video for the single “Eyes Of A Stranger”. Up to that point, the album sold as many copies than the previous albums we have done.   Actually, we been on tour supporting the album and go through the cycle of touring of the album release and our management had come to us and said good going guys, you sold at least as many at the last records and so that’s good you didn’t go backward. But we think it’s time you went back in the studio and make another record. And we were doing just that when we got a call from MTV and they loved the album and to make a video for it and guarantee it got airplay. So we jumped at the chance and took every penny and borrowed some and made a video. And sure enough, they were good for their word and played the video every day (laughter). And within a week we sold 500,000 albums which is a gold album for the USA. We were in shock in the power of television.

IMM: Jumping forward up to now for this tour you have musicians Kieran Robertson (guitar) and Jack Ross (bass) performing the songs and singer Emily (your daughter) from the band Till Death Do Us Part which you and your wife manage and are also the opening band. On the tours, you had different musicians.  Is it easier to have them for this tour to perform the songs?

Geoff:  When I left Queensryche I have been in the same band for over thirty years playing with some people even signing my work Queensryche than my own name. So when I left Queensryche I decided one of the things I always wanted to do was to play music with different people and to keep an open door policy of working with many musicians as I wanted to do from all different parts of the world. I wanted to have the experience of collaboration with other people rather than the experience I’ve had before which was, of course, working with the same four people. And so I’ve done that for the last seven years now working with loads of different musicians and artists and having the greatest time experiencing that collaboration you only get working with different people. But I love the energy and passion and enthusiasm the musicians bring to my music and I love how they interrupt it you know how everybody plays them a little different and is refreshing to me to experience that.

IMM: Good, and is it next year you sing with Avantasia and you are the guest singer?

 Geoff: Yeah, and we start touring in March and I am one of many guest singers (laughter).

IMM: Will you be recording with them next year?

Geoff: I’ve already done that recording on their new album.

IMM: With Operation: Mindcrime to make it into a television series, a movie and/or theater production?

Geoff:  I would say to the best of memory, there have been twelve different scenarios like that. Or different plans, different people, different production companies to make Mindcrime either a film or television series or a Broadway play. Yeah, there has been twelve to my memory.

IMM: But none of them were finalized?

Geoff: No, actually it goes through a lot of different processes, a lot of different people put their hands on it then it comes down to the last minute like every other project like financing. Last time it was seriously worked on for a movie was around 2008 I guess it was? It happens to coincide with the worldwide financial meltdown that happen, so the people that were investing the money end of it lost all their money and of course, couldn’t finish the project and it was abandoned. Of course, every time when you go into a project like this you have to sign legal forms to own the rights to work on it for a year and those rights have expired and it’s a free agent now (laughter).

IMM: You can inquire to get interest on it again to get it done?

Geoff:  Oh, there has been massive interest for years and years. I think it will take on a different life at some point in the future. I’m not crossing my fingers or holding my breath (laughter) because it happens so many times. And it’s common with different projects that take years and years to develop and sometimes they go through multiple production companies to make them happen.  It’s not like hey let’s make a movie and two months later there is a film at your local theater and never happens like that. It would be nice if it did.

IMM: Or straight to video or DVD. Or like with NetFlix and Amazon productions that really booming. As for performing the whole Mindcrime album, what other songs is the band performing?

Geoff: That’s a surprise and don’t want to really give out the surprise.

IMM: Expanding on that is to perform Queensryche songs that have not been performed in many years such as “Prophecy” and “Last Time in Paris”?

Geoff: I performed “Last Time In Paris” I’ve performed many times. “Prophecy” oh gosh, I have hadn’t performed some time since the early 90’s.

 IMM: Are there songs in the catalog you look at and say I haven’t performed this one let’s do it?

Geoff: Every tour cycle I go through and create a new set list for that particular tour. You know I have nineteen albums so I have a lot of music to choose from and last year I spent the whole performing an acoustic show that was really one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done doing versions of really old songs and some new ones, just a cross section of my catalog. I love to do that project again in a different scenario. It’s really quite challenging and different to play your music acoustically with acoustic instruments rather with electric. But to answer your question I continuously change up my set list when I am touring. And constantly bring a new show when we tour.

IMM: Referencing back to the MTV Un-plug days that I like when you hear the songs how they were composed acoustically.

Geoff: Yeah. About every song I’ve written I composed is either on an acoustic guitar or piano so it’s bringing the music back to its roots and where it starts and really surprised to do. First I was really uh, uh and how can I do this differently with just getting up there with an acoustic guitar so I thought about the music and what I had in the music. So I had a piano player touring with me, a mandolin, a cello, a violin, two acoustic guitars and a percussionist that played a different kind of percussion instruments. So it gave the music space and it was also I think that the music I chose and those elements of those instruments in there already so it wasn’t too far of a stretch to take out the big booming drum kit and electric guitars.

IMM: And it gives them a refreshing sound as well. After the Mindcrime tour and performing with Avantasia, Is there any new music projects and album to record for 2019?

Geoff: Well, right now I started my tour in January and finishing this coming January and for a couple months I don’t have anything penciled in at the moment for January and February is what I have open right now. Then I begin touring with Avantasia for four months or something like that. So no I don’t have anything set in stone right now after that. I am working on a new album project right now and I am not sure when it will be completed or when it’s going to come out. It’s a solo album.

IMM: You have contacted musicians to work with on the album?

Geoff: Yeah, I have two musicians on the project now.

IMM: Is still good you are still performing and making music. That you and Queensryche set a new sound and genre of music which is still an influence and the album are still relevant today as they were then. Yeah. The Mindcrime falls into categories that will never change and life and performing for the fans.

Geoff: Is good to know huh?  I like performing, I like touring to different places and I have been very fortunate Craig that I’ve tour sixty-five countries and still continue to tour. I feel very fortunate that people are interested in what I do and find something special for them within the music and a very rewarding situation to be part of.

IMM:  Was good talking to and always enjoy the music.

Geoff: It was a pleasure talking to you.

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