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Interview conducted January 08 2017
Interview published January 17 2017

"I don't write music for my fans. I write for me."

Former Queensrÿche frontman Geoff Tate made a stop in Stockholm, Sweden on his kind of acoustic run over Europe. The man was really sick, was vomiting and had a fever, yet he managed to put on quite a good performance and he insisted on not canceling our interview, but only to reschedule it to after the show. As you may figure out I wasn't too keen on meeting the man in that kind of contagious condition…

Almost everything about music seems to be so obvious for Geoff and even if he might act kind of strange and unconventional from time to time he's still a quite funny guy in a way and it's hard to not laugh when he put all these sides of his personality together.

Tobbe: Who is Geoff Tate, at this point in life, in the early days of 2017?

Geoff: Who am I? Well, until yesterday I was feeling pretty good. [Laughs] Now it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm enjoying the tour. It's been a real fun one. I am with these younger musicians [The Band Anna] and their enthusiasm is really infectious, you know. And I like that. I like playing my music in different kinds of ways.

Yeah, this is kind of fun, because most songs are written acoustically to start with. I usually compose on piano. I can't even think of a song that wasn't composed either on piano or acoustic guitar. So this is kind of like reverse engineering. You know, kind of taking the song back where it started up being and it sounds pretty cool.

Tobbe: Ever since you put out the Promised Land record [1994] or the Hear In The Now Frontier record [1997] I think you've been a person who generates different feelings among the fans. Both positive and negative. So what's it like to be someone who affects people's thoughts about music and their desires about music?

Geoff: Well, you know, I don't really know how I affect people. [Laughs] Honestly. Live, you know, of course, that's very satisfying, when you come to a city and people are there and they sing along to your songs. Of course I love that.

You know, music is art, and art is something that people experience differently, you know. Some people are gonna get what it is you're doing at a given time and other people aren't gonna get it; they're gonna get it later. In fact, many people have told me, over the years, "Gosh! You know, when Promised Land, for example, came out, I didn't get it. But now, I completely get it. It's one a my favorite albums.". - Yeah, I understand that. 'Cause we move at different speeds, you know.

What I'm into right now, maybe you're not at that point, or maybe you've already passed that point and you're into something different. Who knows? But when everything lines up that's cool too, you know.

Tobbe: About Operation: Mindcrime. The band. How much work is there left on the third album, really? Is it pretty much done already?

Geoff: Yeah, just mixing and mastering it, you know.

Tobbe: What's it gonna be called? I guess you have the name already set.

Geoff: I do. But in fact I can't tell you. The record company don't want anybody to know the name of it yet. I don't know why, but that's how they wanna market, you know.

Tobbe: Do you have any loose plans for what kind of chapter you will enter when the trilogy is done?

Geoff: I've got a couple of other projects in the works, musically, right now. I don't know which one is gonna come out first, but I'll let you know though when I do.

Tobbe: About the saxophone in your music. What kind of reaction did you, at first, expect from the fans when you put a saxophone to your music?

Geoff: I didn't have any expectation. I don't write music for my fans. I write for me. You know, it's all complete personal satisfaction [Laughs] and I share it with people. Some people like it, some people don't.

Tobbe: When I hear that saxophone I'm, like, thinking back to the 70's crime series on TV and kind of get nostalgic.

Geoff: You know, Supertramp and Pink Floyd had a lot of interesting saxophone work and those are probably my two main saxophone influences in rock music. But I grew up listening to jazz and playing in the orchestra at school, so. I think the first time I put saxophone on an album was Promised Land.

Tobbe: Besides from today when you're sick obviously, do you prepare yourself differently before an acoustic set than you would normally do before a rock show?

Geoff: That's a good question. They're night and day. The rock show is completely and utterly dominated by an acoustic drum kit. So fucking noisy. It's constantly [makes noisy sounds] in your head. And this [acoustic] is so much easier to listen to for many, many shows.

In one week of rock show my ears are constantly ringing, right? And this one, they're not. So it's a nice break to get off from that. So yeah, when I do a rock show typically I don't use wedges monitoring. I use in-ears. That way I can control my mix a lot better and turn the drums way down. [Laughs]

In this show of course it's very open and it's acoustic instruments, so I can use the wedge style monitors, you know. Acoustic monitors is what they are. Which is nice. That way I can hear the audience and hear what they're singing and hear what they're saying and comment. You know, like anything.

Tobbe: Do you feel like the acoustic show is an easy task for your voice, comparing to what you do when you're doing a rock show where you've gotta be more high-pitched and stuff? Do you notice any differences how your voice feels kind of?

Geoff: No, it's pretty similar actually. It's more about isolating your music mix, so you can control it better, because in this situation you're listening to a really nice blend of all the instruments and you can hear them all naturally without a lot of amplification, but in the rock show it's so loud that it completely overwhelms the vocal a lot of times. So you have to account for that when you're setting up your monitor mix, you know. It's difficult.

Tobbe: When you were out on the Trinity tour with Blaze Bayley and Tim "Ripper" Owens, was it emotionally tough for you guys to share the job as a frontman, because you usually do that job on your own?

Geoff: No. I don't have an ego like that. No. I mean, I don't need to be a frontman. I don't need to be standing up there, you know. I'm perfectly happy sharing responsibilities. I'm just adopting music, man. I'm a songwriter. That's what I am. That's how I define myself. People are always so equipped to define a person, aren't they? I don't understand that.

Tobbe: Now you're doing acoustic stuff, you're doing Operation: Mindcrime, you have been singing the Queensrÿche songs for years ever since you split up and you have done the Trinity shows last fall. So isn't this maybe confusing for the fans?

Geoff: Well, it's the 21st century and they can catch up. [Laughs] Guess what I'm doing next week? I'm getting on a cruise ship and I'm singing with a guitar player named Bumblefoot. He and I are doing a set of music together; just the guitar and vocal. That'll be real fun. Might be confusing for people too. What's he doing…now? [Laughs]

Tobbe: Well, but you never know. Kind of like what you said "What is Geoff Tate doing next week?", so.

Geoff: Well, I just don't understand the limitations that people put on other people. You know, I can do a lot of things and I'm interested in a lot of things. I can also fix my car. You know, I like mechanics. I build wooden cabinets and I had a wooden sailboat. I have things I'm interested in doing, you know. It's not like I can only do one thing, you know. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You have a different band when you're working on the acoustic set than on the rock shows. How come you don't use kind of the same guys for both kind of shows?

Geoff: 'Cause I like this band. My wife [Susan] and I were walking through Cork City [Ireland] in the fall, September, and I heard this music playing and it was that band, playing on the street. And we went and watched them and we looked at each other and said "We should take them on tour with us. That would be really fun.".

So, here we are. They're fine musicians. Really good musicians. They're accomplished and they have their own album that they're working on right now that we hope to have out probably by the spring.

Tobbe: You're a busy man. Do you always work?

Geoff: Yeah, pretty much. I tour a lot and write songs a lot and work in the studio.

Tobbe: The artistic aspect in your personally is quite tangible, I think, and has your strive for artistic freedom ever stood in the way for Geoff Tate to become even more popular?

Geoff: I don't know. I don't really care about being more popular.

Tobbe: Most guys actually do. They wanna play for bigger audiences.

Geoff: Why?

Tobbe: I don't know. I'm not the musician. I'm just asking the stupid questions, man.

Geoff: I don't know. I don't get it, you know. I've played in front of bigger audiences. I've played in front of 275000 people before and it's not any better than playing tonight. Yeah, it's not.

Tobbe: You come closer to the people here.

Geoff: Yeah, you do. It's a little bit more realistic, you know. It's more like you're sitting in a pub, having drinks and singing songs with the people.

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