The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world










Mark: You are playing Rocklahoma in just two days, I was there the last time you played, what’s it like to be back?



Geoff: It’s always exciting playing that particular festival, especially because of the weather! You never know what it’s going to be like! It could be 100 degrees one day or wet and wind storms the next!



Mark: You like that excitement then, that it could be doing anything whilst you’re on stage?



Geoff: Yeah, the last time we were there, the day before we played, there was a giant wind storm that came up and knocked out one of the stages! You know, I never know what to wear!!



Mark: Pack lots of outfits!! Very exciting, as it’s your 30th anniversary, I see you have a few dates lined up. Are you looking at taking the tour outside of America?



Geoff: Well, we actually finished, last year, 2011, was the actual anniversary of the band, and we toured pretty extensively for that. This year we are playing just a handful of dates, primarily because everyone wanted to take a year and do side projects, and so we’ve all been concentrating on that. I have a new solo album I’ve been working on, that should be out by the fall, that’s my goal, and some acoustic dates around the country.



Mark: Yes, I saw you are doing Shiprocked, as an acoustic show, have you got a band behind you?



Geoff: Yeah, we are playing that in November, looking forward to that as it’s always a fun gig.



Mark: Talking of your solo album, what sort of music are you listening to at the moment? What’s inspiring this new album?



Geoff: I don’t really get much chance to listen to other music, as I’m pretty focused on what I’m doing. When I’m in the studio all day, the last thing I want to do is listen to music! I like listening to the silence really!!



Mark: Obviously your album is taking up a lot of your time at the moment. But, over the last few years, we’ve seen everything from Queensryche wine to all kinds of other stuff, so what keeps you busy apart from the album?



Geoff: Everything is busy, my life is very busy. As you mentioned I have a wine brand, Insaniac, which I started about 7 years ago, we’ve just released the fourth vintage this year, and that’s been keeping me very busy, coordinating and distributing that. The manufacturing of it takes up a lot of time and energy, which I really enjoy working on actually, I like all aspects of wine making, from the harvesting of the grapes, to the crush and the bottling of the wine. Then the whole marketing of it is a whole different thing as well.



Mark: It’s a great business in itself, and I guess there are a few parallels, between that and the music industry.



Geoff: Yes there are a few parallels between that and the music industry, especially in the creation process, definitely. And, I guess in the marketing too you have to market your brand; there’s a lot of similarities there. So there’s that, and I’ve been working on my solo album for the last year, putting it all together and finding musicians to play music with and then doing the acoustic solo tour as well, there’s been a lot of energy put towards that. So, very busy!





Mark: We’ve actually seen you down in Australia a few times in the last few years, did you get chance to check out any wineries whilst you were over?



Geoff: Yeah, the promoter who brings us down is a wine fan, so he actually sets me up with a lot of different wines from Australia, and I get to sample a lot of different things that I don’t normally get to have here in the US. We tend to import the most inexpensive brands in the US, and therefore the best wines in Australia are best sampled whilst you’re there! They are fantastic wines, in Australia you’ve got the climate; you can grow just about anything, which gives you a lot of selection for blending grapes, which is what I love to do. I love to take a lot of different grapes and blend them in to something special.



Mark: So, you are more like a wine alchemist than, rather than someone who goes for the true breeds?



Geoff: I’m not so much in to specific varietal wine, I tend to like, and be more fascinated by the blending process, and seeing what you can come up with. I think that’s more of the wine makers art and I do enjoy that. Where we live we have these gigantic vineyards, that are master managed, and they grow specific grapes for specific wineries, and this requires a lot of negotiation with the vineyard manager, as they grow the specific type of grape you want. My dream when I retire is to have my own vineyard and I don’t have the time to commit to that right now. It takes about 5 to 8 years just to get the vines established before you even think about wine!



Mark: Going back to Queensryche, what can we expect at Rocklahoma, we’ve seen over the last few years, the Operation Mindcrime set, and when you came down under, you did songs from Empire, Greatest Hits and The Warning, so what’s happening this time around?



Geoff: The festival dictates what type of set, we have a very limited time, we only have sixty minutes to play, so we are going to try and do a cross section of all
our catalogue, and try and cram as much of our material in to the sixty minutes, as we can. We’ll probably keep the set list rocking, it’s going to be pretty much in your face, I think!



Mark: I was just asking the promoters if they could change you around with Chickenfoot as I thought you were more of a headliner for that day than those guys, but that’s just my personal opinion!!

I guess that as it’s now your, um… 31st. anniversary you took time to look back at the past, and contemplated what had happened over those years. What would you say were your biggest triumphs and regrets over those years?



Geoff: Well I think that staying intact as a band is a huge accomplishment, and being able to stay in a creative headspace for thirty years, and making so many albums is a huge testament to the band, and I’m very proud of that. It’s never easy keeping a band together, making sure everyone’s happy and moving in the right direction, and it takes a lot of energy to keep everyone in line. It is easy when you have a bunch of musicians together to veer off the path; musicians by nature are a little bit more undisciplined!



Mark: I enjoyed the new album, “Dedicated to Chaos”, I think with some critics, it seemed to slip under the radar a bit, what did you get out of it? “American Soldier was great,” Mindcrime 2” was always going to be a bit of a disappointment to people, after such a great album. The latest album is fresh and new, what was your take on the reaction to that album?



Geoff: To be honest I don’t pay a lot of attention to reactions! Music is a personal journey, experienced through personal life experience. As a writer, when you write a song you cannot expect everyone to get what you are saying, I gave up on that notion years and years ago! People would come up to me and say, you know that song you wrote, and they’d mention the name and say they loved the message about blah,blah,blah, and it would be completely different explanation of the song that what I had! People hear things differently, like when listening to an orchestra, some people can hear each individual instrument, and other people hear it as a wall of sound. And that’s just human nature; people are different, with different life experiences.







Mark: “Promised Land” was an interesting album, and it came up in conversation, with another band that are playing Rocklahoma, that after “Empire” you took some time off and came back with that album, and now years later we look back on it as another great Queensryche album. Do you think when you took that time off you maybe lost a bit of momentum?



Geoff: I don’t really know, I don’t really think in those terms. I look at what I do as creating a body of work, I don’t look at it as a sporting event where you have a winner or a loser, so it’s really difficult for me to think in terms of momentum or sales or anything like that, I just don’t relate to it!



Mark: That’s great, and that’s the attitude that everyone should have! I presume with a major record label there’s those added pressures coming at you from everywhere to put out a “product”.



Geoff: Yes, you are right in a sense, with a major record label, they exist because of commerce, and the business of selling of music, and so they have to be able to wrap their heads around how to sell it. They participate in the game that I call the sporting event mentality of music, they’re looking for sales and numbers, they don’t really care about the music itself, they look at it from a logistics standpoint, and how much money can they make from it. So, in a sense we are in direct opposition to it.



Mark: So, I guess you’d be in direct opposition to shows like, “America’s Got Talent” and shows like that? That’s just a product delivery system, as far as I am concerned!



Geoff: Yeah, it would be a different thing in my heart, if they were in some sort of competition with each other regarding their writing, but they are pretty much singing somebody else’s songs! So, I don’t really have any interest in watching that kind of programme! There are a lot of great singers out there, absolutely, and I don’t think of myself sort of having any idea about competing with anybody locally, I’ve never been a competitor, in that sense. I’m in it because I’m a writer; I look at it strictly from that stand point.



Mark: I was talking to Michael Lardie the other day, from Great White, and he was just about to take up the saxophone! You’ve obviously been playing for a while now, do you enjoy the instrument? Are you still trying to master it? And, what got you in to playing it in the first place?



Geoff: The school band, really! I fell in love with music when I was about nine that was when I was first aware of it. I begged my parents to let me play guitar, and they said absolutely not, until you’ve taken a year of piano lessons! Which, in retrospect, is great advice; it’s a great instrument to start on. It’s where you learn the basic chords, the melody and the rhythm, on one instrument. So, I did that, and then I decided I wanted to pursue a solo instrument and so I played trumpet in the school band, and played that through my school years. All the time I was playing that I was interested in the saxophone, I love the sound of it, and the way that it was more like the human voice, and the way that you play it, is the way that it responds. Which, made sense to me as I didn’t think of becoming a singer until I got a lot older. The saxophone really spoke to me and I just became mesmerized with it, and so I bought one and started learning how to play it, and so that was the beginning.







Mark: That’s great. Throughout your career with Queensryche, you’ve been seen as a politically interested band, lets say, and a lot of your lyrics, over the years have touched on important themes that a lot of other bands don’t even get anywhere near talking about. Between the Mindcrime-era to the American Soldier, themes explored by you, how important is it to you as an artist to put those things out there? What do you hope to achieve by doing that?



Geoff: Well really, I am not interested in politics at all! I don’t care for politics and I don’t follow it, never have really. What I’m interested in is the human experience, how they react when put in certain situations, I’m very interested in human relations, and how people react with each other. The Mindcrime story, if you break it down, is not a political story at all it is a relationship story between Mary and Dr. X, and the situation they are in just happens to be a tumultuous time when things are changing quickly in society and there’s a lot of disharmony with the way things are going. So, the story is set in a time when there’s a lot of political posturing and a lot of ideas floating around, and people are talking and debating. It’s like American Soldier is not political at all, it’s exploring what happens to people when they are put in to extreme situations, and for them what their experience is.



Mark: That’s a good answer, and I must admit it is hard for a lot of people to take the politics out of important themes such as those and it’s made me think, I guess because people don’t sing about the boy meets girl, girl meets boy, rock and roll type of thing, it’s something people find hard to deal with.

I know you said you don’t get a lot of chance to listen to recent music, but, if you could have been involved in the creation of any piece of music, at any point in time, what would it have been and why?



Geoff; Wow! There has been so many great pieces of music! If I could go back and do it all over again, I would pick an era of time, the seventies, I think that was a real interesting period of time musically, actually the late sixties, to mid seventies was probably my preferred era of time. I say that because rock music was really in its infancy, and it wasn’t as segregated as it is now, where the public is brain washed in to this idea of genre. In this era there wasn’t that pressure to conform, artists and bands were really able to experiment and trial lots of different things and come up with really unique sounds, and arrangements and concepts for the records without the public and the record companies breathing down their necks and trying to get them to stay within a box. So, it really gave the artists the freedom to create, without any confines, to me that would have been heaven! There were no genres then, it was all rock music.



Mark: Also too in that era, there were a lot of bands who transcended even rock music, so many bands drew on the influences of soul and blues, maybe what we would call rock now as well.



Geoff: Yes, it was a beautiful time, and music really reflected that. Also the industry had the capitol and the economy to be able to support that. You could go in to a fantastic studio and have perfectly talented people producing your records and the sound back then was so unique and special. Today there is not the economy for that, you’re struggling to put together a record as best you can for as little money as you can possibly spend on it. Luckily the technology has escalated to the point where we can do that now, you can take your studio along with you when you travel. It’s a very different world altogether than what it was back then.



Mark: It is, and it’s at one of those points in time where it’s hard to know how to evolve, because there is so much change, with the big labels dying. It’s sad.
Our last question is an easy one, and it is, what is the meaning of life?



Geoff: I wish I knew that answer. Well, an idea that I have been exploring a lot lately, is how do we get our model that dictates how we live. Most of us inherit it from our parents, or our family, that becomes our model and we carry it through our lives, to a certain point and then we hold back and question, why are we doing this? I think it’s probably a rare person who questions that and makes the change to a model they have been carrying with them all their lives. In America we have this puritan work ethic, which probably started in Europe, with the feudal kings in the middle ages, in which there was a giant work force who would toil away every day and make our lives great, all we had to do was manage the situation, and that kind of idea spread to America, and so we feel we have to work our fingers to the bone every day, and  wait for some time in the future where we can either take a vacation for two weeks and forget about the pressures of work, or we wait until we retire. This is when we can do all these things that we have always dreamed of doing. My question is, why do we do that? Why do we feel the need to kill ourselves, by working so hard, while other things in our lives fall away, like our relationships with our family and friends? We are convinced we have to achieve some sort of economic goal, we have to make $200,000 a year in order to be happy. The pressures of our society dictate that, they feed us with the need to have a brand new car or this new computer, you have to keep up with the latest technology to live a happy, productive life. So, we have to work all these hours to afford all this, and it’s a rat race, and a tread mill of work, work, work!! Honestly, I’ve been questioning that a lot lately, maybe, it’s the age I’m at, where I’d like to slow down a little bit, and feel that I don’t have to achieve as much at all times. I think we feel unfulfilled as human beings, and we cram as much stuff in to our lives as we can. We have this gaping hole that needs to be filled with stuff!



Mark: It is interesting, because I think everyone has those constraints in them in some way, and everyone needs a certain framework, and I guess it’s deciding what you can leave behind. You are right, your parents mould you when you are young, and all the research suggests, by at the age of four, you are about 90% of the person you are going to be! This is frightening in a way.



Geoff: There’s an analogy that I like to think about, there’s a mother and she’s in the kitchen and she’s cooking up a Sunday dinner for everyone, and her daughter is helping her. She’s baking a ham and she cuts off the two ends of it, and puts it in the pan. The daughter says how come you are cutting off both ends of the ham? The mother stops and thinks about it, and says, well I don’t know, that’s just the way I learned to do it, why don’t you call your grandmother and ask her about it? So, she does, and the grandmother says well I just never had a pan that was big enough for the ham, so I had to cut the ends off!

So, we do, do things without questioning them. That same idea applies to every walk of life; we take those ideas and pass them on to our kids. I have an aunt who is incredibly wealthy, she is loaded, but she lives her life feeling like she never has enough, so she scrimps and saves, and takes coupons out of the Sunday papers, and buys the least expensive food she can! But, she has millions of dollars in the bank, but she just can’t get past it!



Mark: That’s amazing, I think most people don’t have the ability to step back, and contemplate things with all their day to day pressures.



Geoff: Sorry, that wasn’t a real short answer!!



Mark: That’s fine! The last answer I got was that’s a Monty Python film!!
It’ll be great to see you at Rocklahoma; we’ve flown in from Australia for it, so Queensryche, will definitely be one of the highlights. Thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us, and hope to see you in Australia some time soon.



Geoff: Thanks for the interview, I appreciate it, and hopefully will see you next year in Australia.



Mark: You take care of yourself Geoff. See you at ROK...






By Mark Diggins