I’ve travelled overseas a few times in recent years to see particular bands and being based out here on the West Coast of Australia we even have to make that long trip over East on occasion to see bands whose itineries or promoters budgets won’t stretch to a trip West. It makes things interesting and of course all these road trips give you a great chance to catch up with old friends and the larger Rock Community.
Queensryche is one of those bands who are always worth the travel. We caught up with Michael Wilton earlier in the year when the tour was announced and now we get the chance to talk to ‘new’ lead singer Todd La Torre via Skype. It looks a nice day out there as we catch him on the porch. His smile and easy going nature I soon find out are infectious.
After an overrun on previous interviews we’re up and running, it gives me enough time for a coffee and a bite of toast.
TODD: Hi mate what time is it there?
MARK: It’s six thirty A.M. here on the West Coast, but the coffee’s hot!
After a couple of seconds of fiddling with skype and wondering why there’s no audio my end we’re back and Todd is still grinning despite my frustration!
MARK: So Queensryche is finally coming back to Australia, and we finally get to see you on stage. It’s been a while for the band, I caught the first two tours but the last show was almost ten years ago now and a lot has changed in the band since then.
TODD: We’re looking forward to showing you guys the new show.
MARK: You stop off in Japan to play Loud Park on the way.
TODD: Yes we do, that’s gonna be a great show. Weâ€™re looking forward to it and getting out there to play for you guys.
MARK: Based on the West Coast we don’t get our own date this time so we’re coming over to you! It’s a ways to travels but it’ll be worth it!
TODD: I think you’ll love the show.
MARK: The last time we managed to catch Queensryche was on that Monsters of Rock Cruise in Miami back in 2015.
TODD: Ok you did that did you, that was fun.
MARK: Yeah and the pre-party at Magic City was great too before we all got on the boat, we even had time to taste some of Michael’s (Wilton, guitar) beer!
TODD: That was a great show, we played with Stryper there!
MARK: It was a great night, and to finally get to hear your take on the songs was well worth the trip, after about half a song I already knew the legacy was in great hands! It was quite interesting for me as the previous time I’d seen Queensryche live was at Rocklahoma when Geoff (Tate) played his final gig and got into a bit of a tiff with the crowd.
TODD: Ahhhh…(pause). Maybe not the best show to catch.
MARK: (laughs), it was interesting and in context even more interesting to be there. As a great live band I’ve seen many times over the years dating back to the eighties, I don’t think I’ve ever been as accepting or more impressed with a change in singers.
TODD: (smiling) thank you I try my hardest!
MARK: I think the interesting thing is that in the early days I really liked the way that you dealt with fans when you came on board, even the detractors got treated with courtesy and politeness even if they didn’t always treat you the same!
TODD: I think there are always some ‘purists’ who want you to fail and it sounds like shit so that they can say “I told you this guy was no good” and it’s sad, you look at them and say, “Come on man, embrace the songs”, try to get past that negative mentality, things change. I take it one show at a time man, all I’m saying to these people is give me a chance and then if you still think I really am not a good singer then you have that right, but just give me a chance. And thankfully nine times out of ten people have gone, “Wow that was really good”.
MARK: Well you’ve certainly got the pipes for it in my book and to think you started out as a drummer!
TODD: I’m a drummer first! One day I’m gonna drum in another band!
MARK: I know you said it a few years ago now, but do you still feel like a drummer who sings?
TODD: I do.
MARK: I remember reading somewhere that you were looking to see if you could incorporate both you and Scott (Rockenfield, drums) drumming at some point in the stage set. Do you think that would ever happen, I know it would look great live on stage?
TODD: I’d really love to but I have brought it up with the guys, it doesn’t have to be a whole other kit but what if I had another set up kinda off to the side, I could have a small set up and use some really tasty stuff that doesn’t walk all over what Scott’s doing and that would add to the song in just a few places. And visually it would look cool, I could do things with the sticks throw them to the people make it really cool you know, and in my head I can hear what I would play on drums. And I know it would work in certain songs and you’d be like “Oh shit (yes)!”, it’s just a matter of getting everyone to agree to just let me try it! Do it! I know we’ve never done anything like that before but guys, I can totally play!
MARK: It would look great, you’d get my vote for sure! As far as new music is concerned, what’s going on in camp Queensryche? Are you guys recording anything at the moment?
TODD: Just demos, in fact I talked to Eddie today he said “hey remember that song I was going to do with you, well I’m going to send that over to you. I know you had some really cool vocal melodies for it so why don’t you sing on it, give me two versions and we’ll see what comes of it”. So we’re working on things, I think Michael’s (Wilton, guitars) sent me three or four songs, Eddie (Jackson, bass) has a few songs and there’s a few more, but we’re really in the beginning demo stage.
MARK: Are you still as quick getting back with ideas?
TODD: Am I?
TODD: (laughing) No!
MARK: (laughing) No!
TODD: When we came home from the tour of Europe we played two shows and had just one day off, now we got four more. I met up with Michael and the first thing he asked me was “Did you have a chance to work on that song I sent you?”. I said “Hell no! Iâ€™m doing my chores, mowing my lawn! I just had a new washer and dryer delivered today so I’m doing laundry. I’ve got four days at home after touring for four weeks, I’ve gotta take my car in, I gotta see my mom, I’m not even thinking about music!” (laughs). And he kinda laughed because he’s doing the same sort of thing!
MARK: (laughs) That reminds me, I have to do my laundry! After you see us you’ve got a pretty extensive tour of the States in November/December, a pretty cold time of year to be getting out on the road?
TODD: Yeah we did a tour last year after the Scorpions run, we went out on our own in January and on the tour bus I was kind of nervous but the driver was cool trying to get us to the shows on time without hauling ass or being over-cautious. And everybody was sick! There were like 30 people sneezing and coughing and some with their whole body aching! And there were a couple of shows that were real hard for me because I was sick, you know what it’s like five in a row, six in a row, a day off, and we’d just done 17 shows in 20 days in Europe then we did six in a row day off, five in a row day off, three on, day off, two in a row! And I’m like, “Give me some time to breath!” (laughs), but touring in the winter is tough because some of the venues were snowed, and people get sick in the winter, but it’s worth it to play for the fans. I definitely feel nervous about touring in winter because I don’t want to get sick and have a shitty performance. But it’s on you to look after yourself.
MARK: A lot of people take that for granted but I know there would have been a good six weeks this year when I could barely talk let alone sing! Interesting that you mentioned touring with the Scorpions because they play their first ever date in Australia three days after your Melbourne show, it would have been great to see you down here on the same stage.
TODD: That’s too bad, we love those guys.
MARK: I think we just have time for a last couple of questions before we go. The first I’d love to hear your answer to. If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any album at any point in time just to see how the magic happened, what would it have been for you and why?
TODD: “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”, Iron Maiden. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time, although if you go with the band’s earlier albums there would probably be a lot more to hear because they’re still learning, but by Seventh Son they were ready and made the album of their career. I think in those earlier albums there was probably a lot more discussion, and there’s more unpredictability, so probably the earlier works might have been juicier in the studio!
MARK: And the final question – the real easy one we always close with, ‘What is the meaning of life?’
TODD: That’s the easy one!? (pause) I don’t know, I don’t know if there is meaning. I don’t think that there’s a creator, I don’t think that there’s a divinity so to have meaning and purpose, I don’t know? To procreate, is that meaningful? Well it is for survival, but is there a greater purpose? I don’t know. I mean we always want there to be but for me personally it’s just really to love and feel the wonderful emotions you can experience and be conscious of all of that wonder and to really feel it. To really feel alive I guess. For a lot of people I guess it’s “Same old shit, different day” and not a lot of people feel truly alive, I’m lucky that a lot of my life I feel truly alive and not just in those moments on stage that I love. I like that I guess it’s the age old question, what is the meaning of life?
MARK: Thanks you so much for your time today Todd, it’s been a pleasure. We can’t wait till you get over here, have a safe trip and don’t forget to get that laundry done!
TODD: I can’t wait to play down there, I’ll see you soon and personally shake you by the hand. Have a great day.
QUEENSRYCHE AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2016:
Tuesday 11th October – BRISBANE, The Triffid
Thursday 13th October – ADELAIDE, Fowlers Live
Friday 14th October – MELBOURNE, Prince Bandroom
Saturday 15th October – SYDNEY, Manning Bar
Tickets and tour details can be found at Metropolis Touring.