When most musicians record solo albums, it’s because they need an outlet for material that doesn’t fit the scope of their band. That wasn’t the case with Geoff Tate. While there’s very little on his solo debut that couldn’t fit within the ever-evolving musical scope of Queensrÿche, the difference for the vocalist lies in the expression of those songs, and how they actually came to fruition.
“The problem when you’re in a creative environment is keeping things fresh and invigorating, and after working with the same people for twenty years, it gets very difficult—You walk into the room, and everybody knows what everybody is going to do,” explains the frontman. “There’s no spark of new blood, the chemistry is very tried and true, and you just keep coming up with the same ways of expressing yourself. What’s nice about doing a side project with new people, is that it’s a whole new breed, and a bunch of new ideas, musical backgrounds, emotional baggage, and whatever else it takes to create. It’s a whole new set of parameters, so it’s all new, everyone has ideas you haven’t heard before, and everyone is throwing them against the wall. It takes on a whole new life.”
For Tate, that “whole new life” is a vibrant tapestry of human emotion and expression, the culmination being his eponymous 11-track offering on Sanctuary Records. “The songs are all about the strongest passion of life, which is love. It’s all about the feelings that you have for somebody, how relationships work and don’t work, the misunderstandings, and all that it takes to keep a relationship working. That said, it’s also about stepping out on you’re own and trying new stuff, and not being afraid to take that big step. That makes it kind of autobiographical, because I’m taking that step, moving out from where I’ve been and stepping into other areas, and that’s important for people to do.”
“Ask me what I believe in, I’ll say compromise…” rings the opening line of the album’s first track, and in those vulnerable depths of “Flood” the mood is set. The music swirls in a textured wash of soothing guitar tones and gently cascading rhythms, and Tate’s vocals shower the proceedings like the most welcome of spring rains, his words glistening like a morning dew. Fans of Queensrÿche will revel in the familiar, soothing warmth of one of music’s most pure voices, while new fans will find themselves lost somewhere between the melancholy of “Forever” and the hopeful effervescence of “This Moment.” Co-songwriter Scott Moughton paves a tantalizing trail of Spanish-flavored guitars into “Helpless,” a piano lays the path through the peaceful calm of “In Other Words,” drums propel “Passenger,” and “Grain Of Faith” plays like the perfect culmination of Tate’s lyrical harmony and Carrell’s guitar-based foundations.
“One of the most brilliant points of humanity is when you take a complex situation, and describe it in a sense that’s simplistic enough for people to grasp it very easily. That’s amazing, really, and that’s what I try to do with songwriting—I try to take a big subject and condense it down into something very simple, maybe just a phrase, or a line, or a couple of lines that says everything. That’s a tough challenge, and that’s what keeps bringing me back to writing music. It’s never easy, which means there’s always a challenge to come up with something new and different.
“I’ve often had this problem of looking at the glass like it’s half-empty, and I’ve been trying for all these years to figure out how to change that perspective. All of a sudden, I’ve done it, and I don’t know how I did it—I think it’s just sort of letting it all go, and knowing that it will change and get better. I’m definitely in a better place now than I’ve ever been in before, I’ve got a real positive outlook now,” Tate offers, drawing a comparison between his solo release, and his prior body of work. “Queensrÿche seems to have angst about it, and I think that’s just because of the dynamics of the members involved. This was much more of a peaceful vibe.”
While a “peaceful” vibe may seem a bit askew from the voice behind Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime epic, there’s not a rock band around that has had the bravado to take their music in as divergent directions as Tate’s full-time outfit, and that fact isn’t lost on the singer. “I never tried to have a box thrown around myself and be a ‘heavy metal’ singer,” he explains. “If you listen to a lot of Queensrÿche records, especially since Empire, we’ve done many different types of music and vocals, all based around guitars. ‘Silent Lucidity’ and ‘Jet City Woman’ aren’t heavy metal anthems, they’re just good songs, and I think this new record of mine is a greater extension of where Queensrÿche went in those directions.”
–by Paul Gargano, 04/02