Interview with..... Geoff Tate -      Operation: Mindcrime






On the 3rd of May 1988, Queensryche released their heavy metal opera, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’. A concept album about corporate greed, governmental corruption and revolution it remains as relevant today as it did on its release. 30 years on and Geoff Tate’s band, Operation: Mindcrime, celebrate its longevity with a year of shows and Down The Front Media were lucky enough to catch up with Geoff for a brief chat just before his gig in Pontypridd.


DTFM: Hi, We’re Charley and Morag from Down the Front Media. Nice to meet you and welcome back to Wales.


GT: Thank you, I’ve been here so many times over the years. First time I remember coming to Wales was on a Ronnie James Dio tour 1983 or 1984 I think. I’m trying to remember the name of the album at the time, ‘Last In Line’ maybe that’s when it was, that’s what I remember and we played Cardiff but I’ve played festivals here I’ve been here about 7 or 8 times different times.


DTFM: Operation: Mindcrime, its 30th anniversary.....


GT: I know, can you believe it?


DTFM: It’s one of the seminal concept albums of all time. Was it something you always planned on writing?


GT: It was something I’d been trying to get the band to do for a while, I had wanted to try and lean in that direction, you can kind of see it in a bit of the thematic approach in our first LP ‘The Warning’ - I wanted to kind of write a story - make a story album like some of the records I grew up listening to. I was a real Prog Rock fan growing up when I was a kid; it wasn’t called progressive rock then of course. They chose a more elaborate presentation of their music and I wanted to push Queensrÿche in that direction and I just needed a story and 1987, the beginning of 1987 that’s when it came to me.


DTFM: The rest, as they say is history.


GT: The rest is a really interesting story (all laugh).

DTFM: Your musical career hasn’t exactly been plain sailing or boring.


GT: Yeah, I think it was Phil Collins that said a musicians career is like waves on the ocean, it’s up then it’s down, it’s up and its down.


DTFM: Why do an Operation: Mindcrime 30th anniversary tour and not tour your recently released trilogy?


GT: This is something that doesn’t happen every year and kind of takes precedence I think over anything else at this point and also, so people don’t forget, you’ve got to keep reminding people about things. Short attention span with people these days!


DTFM: We spend a bit of time on social media with a lot of new rock groups and there’s one gentleman who’s just discovered Queensrÿche because we’ve be pushing this tour and he’s going back to check out your back catalogue.


GT: I love that. I love being in the position of that man, for example, and discovering a band or artist and then oh my gosh, I love this and the finding out they’ve got like 18 albums of material (all laugh).   It’s great and these days there are so many artists and so many bands it’s hard to keep track of everybody. It’s like we have too much information now to sort through so we don’t bother anymore because it becomes kind of inundating with the constant barrage of advertising and “listen to my music” and “I’m the greatest” and all the stuff people have to do now.


DTFM: How’s the tour been so far - this is the fourth show?


GT: Great. It’s getting started really but good, yeah every show has just been getting tighter, better. The band is getting more comfortable - we’re getting our sound down and, yeah it’s been great. Everyone’s gotten some rest now and getting over the jet lag, it’s been a little challenging. We’ve got some new people who’ve never toured much so it’s quite challenging keeping the hours and the energy it takes to do the shows and the travelling and the interviews.


DTFM: Having seen a few of the live streams of the previous shows you can see that everyone on the stage is having a ball.


GT: Yeah, people generally dig it when they get involved and you know the funny thing about my music is that it seems like it’s easier than it is when you listen to it live musicians go “oh yeah I got that” then they start playing they go “wait a minute I don’t have this, what’s going on here?”  It’s really complex music that we try to make digestible and try to make it seem easy to understand by really concentrating a lot on melody but when you break it apart, especially on the drumming end there’s a measure one, two, three, four and then the next measure it switches time so it’s one and two and three and four then it will switch back. Then a measure of 9/8 will come in, so it’s like, you can’t just play it - you have to know the music. You shouldn’t feel it as a listener you shouldn’t be going “to enjoy the song I need a slide rule and a computer”, you shouldn’t be doing that, you should just feel it and that’s the talent of the musicians, to make it flow so that you don’t know you’re in a strange time signature you just think wow, and feeling it rather that thinking about it.


DTFM: Operation: Mindcrime contains a number of audio clips to tell the story, was the music written to reinforce this?


GT: We were trying to paint a picture, musically. Paint a music picture of what’s going on with the lyrics; paint a picture of what’s happening with the story. Is it a frantic section where there’s a lot of conflict going on between the characters, well the music should reflect that. Is it sombre and introspective, Nikki’s thinking a lot about what’s happening to him well the music should reflect that.  That was kind of our mindset going in to it. In fact when we were writing music for it the first music I wrote for it was the title track Operation: Mindcrime. It has this sort of rebellious kind of feel to it and that sort of set the tone for the rest of the album but I actually told the guys I’m looking for a piece of music that has, I mean this is what’s happening in the story. Nikki goes to this political rally and these people are screaming and they want change and it’s got to reflect that there’s revolution in the air.  People are upset about their situation they want real change so the music has to sound that way and so I would tell them and describe to them what the story was doing and they would come at me with all these different choices in music and so I could pick which one I felt best reflected the story.



DTFM: How did you decide on your current band line up?


GT: Well Scott Moughton has been off and on with me for 18 years; Kelly Gray has been my friend and musician, companion, producer since 1979 - we go way back. The rest of the guys are newer people we’ve met in my recent travels around the world. Bruno Sa keyboardist and guitar player, multi instrumentalist plays like 12 different instruments I met him in Brazil. Kieron Robertson and Jack Ross are both from Glasgow, I met them there and Josh Watts is from Sheffield, and it was his home town show last night. So people I’ve met through travelling, through touring. Kieron and my daughter Emily started a band together; they’re going to open up for us tonight called. ‘Till Death Do Us Part and they have a new album out and its really good, we’re excited about that.


DTFM: The ethos of Down The Front Media is to check out new music so we’ll give them a listen.


GT: The funny story with them, Emily has kind of sung with me growing up. I have five daughters and she’s the only one that’s really loved music the way I love it. She sang a beautiful vocal part on a song called ‘Home Again’ off my ‘American Soldier’ album which came out 2009/2010 when she was a little girl. We took her on the tour with us and she sang the part live with me every night and it was a great experience and she loved being on the road and after that tour was over she told me “You know dad I’m going to be a singer” and I thought great, you go girl. I’ve heard that from all of my girls “I’m going to be a doctor” and they don’t, “I’m going to be a Marine Biologist”, and they decide to be a carpenter (laughter). Kids do that, right? So I didn’t really take it seriously that she was going to be a singer and so last year I’m sitting in my office, reading the newspaper and she comes home and says “Do you want to hear my new CD?” I thought she was talking about something that she’d just bought. I go “yeah what is it?” And she goes “It’s me dad”, and there’s a picture of her on the cover.  “You made a CD? When did you do that?” She didn’t even tell me she was writing it and it’s really good.

DTFM: Down The Front Media recently reviewed ‘The New Reality’ album and it has a substantial list of musicians in the credits, how did you decide who you chose to create the sound you wanted?


GT: Well I know everybody that’s on the record really well and I’ve played with them so I kind of know what they do and how they think, and so what I did was I would present them with the music that I thought they could relate to and that they would be interested in and do a good job on. It doesn’t do any good trying to get someone to play on something that’s not up their alley, so I try and give them something they’re going to bite on and do a great performance. That’s sort of my crafty way of working there (GT Laughs). I give them a framework and it’s typically my primitive drum programming I give them a beat and a groove that I want and say this what I’m kind of thinking about and you can start here and take it where you want to go with it and I give them pretty much free reign because I can always edit later (All laugh). It was a really fun record to make with a lot of great performances by everybody, I’m really so happy that everyone was so enthusiastic about being part of it. It’s great to work with enthusiastic people, people who want to be sitting there, playing around with your ideas.


DTFM: What’s next for Geoff Tate?


GT: Touring. I’m dedicating the entire 2018 to touring, I’m going to go everywhere I possibly can and just tour, tour, tour. That’s the Operation:Mindcrime anniversary tour mixed up with other things too. We’ve got a couple of different tours were doing that I’ll be making some announcements out later on in the next couple of months. Some cool stuff.


DTFM: Are you coming back to the UK/Ireland later in the year?


GT: I hope so. I know we’re going to be back in Europe with Angra in February/March.


DTFM: With your Trilogy that you started in 2012 now complete, have you started working on your next project?


GT: I have a bunch of stuff that I’ve got in the works. Probably the most finished thing I’ve got is a song that I wrote that I’m going to give to a charity organisation that helps counsel and place people that are experiencing homelessness in a positive, health environment. It’s called Mercy Watch and I wrote a song for them. I’ve finished the song but I haven’t finished the video yet, I’m going to finish it when I get home from this run, it’s a beautiful song that talks about addiction and how strong it is, with people how it can mess you up. What’s kind of cool about it is that there’s two homeless men who contributed guitar on the song so I’m putting that up on iTunes I’m guessing it’s going to be out in the spring.


DTFM: Thank you so much for your time and we’re off to catch your daughter.


GT: Please don’t miss her and thank you.

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