» Michael Wilton - Queensrÿche
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Interview conducted November 09 2013
Interview published December 07 2013

Following a well-documented split with original singer Geoff Tate earlier this year, the remaining members of popular Seattle heavy metallers Queensrÿche marched forward with a new vocalist, Todd La Torre, recruited from Crimson Glory. The new-look quintet released a new self-titled album which earned good reviews and showcased a return to the more classic sound.

With reports telling of terrific live shows containing lots of older, classic songs as well as La Torre demonstrating an extraordinary ability as a singer, it came as phenomenal news when Queensrÿche had been booked for a gig in Sundsvall in Northern Sweden. It came to be a memorable night with an awesome atmosphere as excited fans sang along to the old golden tunes, together with a most impressive La Torre.

Before the performance, Metal Covenant got the honour to chat with founding member Michael Wilton. The guitarist was very nice and humble as the conversation handled recent events, the new album, the tour, the business and other things such as the new, cool video which you have to check out (link below).

Mozzy: So, how is it to be back in Sweden?

Michael: It's great to be back in Sweden. Other than doing the Sweden Rock cruise, we haven't done a proper tour in Sweden in almost… five or six years. It's good to be back and we're connecting with the fans; the old fans and making new fans as well.

Mozzy: Speaking of the Sweden Rock cruise, how did you find that event?

Michael: It was crazy (smiles)! I don't know if you've ever been on it?

Mozzy: Yeah, I have.

Michael: Yeah, it's kind of like a weekend with a bunch of friends where you get a room and drink as much beer as possible and sing crazy songs all night, and just get shit-house drunk.

Mozzy: That sure sounds like Swedes!

Michael: Hahaha! It was fun! Actually, when we went, we were cutting ice (with the ship). That was pretty interesting.

Mozzy: Have you been this far North in Sweden before, then?

Michael: I really don't think so. You know, we've been up in Finland and almost to the top of the world, but not here. This is strange land for us (smiles).

Mozzy: Is it similar to Seattle, perhaps?

Michael: Well, the weather is. It's cloudy, and it's about the same temperature.

Mozzy: I can tell you that there are many who are really excited about Queensrÿche coming to Sundsvall. We don't get many bigger bands coming here

Michael: Yeah, you know for us, it's eye-opening just to be in Sweden, and to be able to see so many cities beside Stockholm. To reach out and play these other cities, it's really great to stretch out. To get back to the roots (laughs).

Mozzy: Cool. I think there will be a great atmosphere tonight. You've been out on tour in Europe for a while, how has that been?

Michael: It's been really great. It's been 23 shows, and we've been all over the place. The UK, Ireland, Southern Europe, the Netherlands, and so on. It's been great, the crowds have been amazing, and it's just been so much fun over here, you know. Everybody's saying "please come back!", for festivals next summer and so on.

Mozzy: You might do that, then?

Michael: Yeah, we're working on it!

Mozzy: Nice. And how has the reception been for Todd?

Michael: Oh, just… effortless. And also the fact that we haven't been here in five years… You know, other than the hardcore fans, the casual fans are surprised, in a good way. After the first songs, their jaws drop.

Mozzy: I can see that, since you open with Queen Of The Reich too.

Michael: Yeah! So it's been no problem at all, it's been great.

Mozzy: When did you first get to know Todd? Have you known him for a long time?

Michael: No. I met him at a NAMM convention in Anaheim, California, at a party. We just ran into each other and he thought I was the guy in Testament (smiles). We just talked and exchanged emails and said that we were going to collaborate on some material, some private material. Then a ripple effect happened and things just started happening. "Hey, by the way, do you sing some Queensrÿche?" (laughs). It turns out that was one of his influences, as well as Iron Maiden and lots of other bands.

Mozzy: You were quite lucky to meet him, then.

Michael: Yeah. I mean, it's almost like faith that it all happened. It went smoothly and effortlessly.

Mozzy: Great. I want to congratulate you on the new album. It's excellent, back to the more classic sound.

Michael: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it is. I mean, when you have the proven assets of the band, it's obviously going to sound like Queensrÿche, cause we are Queensrÿche. It was the chemistry, the excitement and the creativity… just being a team again, and bringing in Jim Barton, who worked on the most popular records, it was just a rebirth of the band. Like I said before, it was a ripple effect; we got a new management and we signed with Century Media. Century Media love the album, they've pushed one single so far and are ready to release a 10-minute video. It includes two songs and one instrumental. They are really pleased with the sales; we've done really well around the world. That's also great about Century Media; they have world-wide distribution, so that helps.

Mozzy: It's good to hear that you've had good sales. But it must be very different for you today compared to the old days?

Michael: Yeah, it's a whole different atmosphere as far as CD sales, you know… We've sold like 50000-60000 world-wide and we feel really good about that right now. But back when we had sales of six million with Empire, it's like… (laughs) But change is inevitable, with the technology and the way people perceive music and the inherent value of it…

Mozzy: What do you think about that, with the downloading and so on?

Michael: Well, it sucks! Because a lot of people used to make their living off of publishing and writing songs, and now you have websites like Spotify and these other things. You know, you can get thousands and thousands of plays and you get like coins for your hard work. But it's just… you have to move with the changes. There are outlets out there, but it's just sucks… You know, the youth they grow up seeing this and they think it should be free. It's just something you have to battle. Before, you had radio and that's where people got their info, and now it's like the web. People have playlists, you know… You've been on those sites; you can have your own Queensrÿche playlist and never have to go out and buy a CD (laughs).

Mozzy: I know. I still buy albums though. I want to have the physical copy.

Michael: Yeah, me too.

Mozzy: But the younger people, as you said, they just think differently.

Michael: Yeah, they do. But there are other avenues of marketing where you have to have a really smart business team to keep you in the forefront, you know. The landscape is very crowded right now, especially the touring with all the bands. You have to be very scrupulous with your touring and income and all that, and the revenue.

Mozzy: Back to the new album; have you been waiting a long time to go back to the old, classic sound?

Michael: Oh, yeah! I mean, there are such enormous positive strengths when you write as a band. It's exciting because you have the influence of every personality in the band. Everyboys's a little bit different but that's what makes the songs develop and makes them cool, and that's what is fun! It's not very fun when you have to learn somebody else's song, and you can't change it. This is just like organically grown, and it's just honest. It's right there!

Mozzy: Cool. And I understand that Todd contributed as well in the writing?

Michael: Yeah. Todd sings and he is an accomplished drummer, and he plays the guitar too. And what is great is that everybody has their strengths in the band. Eddie is doing lyrics and writing melodies for the songs and he plays the guitar as well. And Scott plays guitar and the keyboards, so… (laughs).

Mozzy: I guess you are talented musicians overall.

Michael: Yeah. And there is just a longing of just wanting to write as a team again. That was when Queensrÿche clicked the best. Like back in the Mindcrime and Empire days. You know, we had a big network of really great people; managements, booking agents, accountants… All the way down, everyone was on top of their game. And that is kind of what we're trying to do now, rather than having a homegrown one-trick pony trying to run the business. Like, it's all about who you know in this business basically.

Mozzy: You mentioned the Ad Lucem video before. I saw the behind-the-scenes clip, and it's looks very interesting.

Michael: Yeah! And this is one of the great benefits of having a record label like Century Media, is that they are willing to take a chance like this.

Mozzy: Yeah, that is not a common thing to do.

Michael: Yeah, to actually go against the grain and do a mini-movie rather than a conceptual thing with guys playing. This is actually a movie, and it's going to be really exciting for Queensrÿche fans, and even people to see what can be done with these up-and-coming new directors and producers. And it has some cool actors in it too, who to my surprise are fans of the band. So it was just a great team effort on that part and we're really excited to do a quality video.

Mozzy: What is the status of Queensrÿche in the business today, do you think? I mean, in terms of booking gigs and so on.

Michael: Well, it's an arduous task, you know. Ultimately there is a demand. You know, I see the band work and see it as the real Queensrÿche. It's the ones that play and wrote the music from the CD:s that were very important to people when they grew up. But it's just a matter of time, and I think ultimately there is confusion in the market place in some instances. But the fans know what band they want to see.

Mozzy: I guess you have noticed that on tour now as well?

Michael: Yes. It's very much so.

Mozzy: Your present setlist includes lots of stuff from the early albums which is great; is that also something you have wanted to do for a long time?

Michael: Yeah! And part of that is because in our prior circumstances we were in a situation where someone didn't want to perform anything from The Warning or the EP (the first, self-titled release). And we feel those are great achievements and great albums for the time. So now it's kind of… "Yes! Finally we get to play songs from The Warning! And the EP". And Todd hands down can sing 'em all, in the right keys. That's really important, and it's like I said, the fans' mouths just drop, like "oh my God!". We spent years touring; opening for bands, playing with bands, and playing those songs. And they work! They are good live songs, they kick ass and still do. And now, you know, we have just a new energy. It's just as fresh as it was 30 years ago.

Mozzy: That's what I felt some years back; "the new material is ok, but why don't they play more of the old stuff?"

Michael: Yeah. And you know what's ironic is that now we're giving the hardcore fans what they want. They've been screaming for years, "Play the old stuff!", "Play stuff from The Warning!" you know. So now, we're giving them that. And now they are asking us to play stuff from the new CD. In our prior circumstances this wasn't happening. We were trying to force-feed them these new albums and they were just standing there, tolerable to the tunes but they wanted to hear some classic Queensrÿche. So now you've got the best of both worlds with us. They are not saying "Hey, play something off this album, or that". They are all like "Yeah, great setlist!"

Mozzy: Cool. And it must be fun for you to play it as well, then?

Michael: Yeah! In the guitar area, there's lot of fun dual guitar parts, double solos, and it's just really fun to play as a musician.

Mozzy: Well, as I said I think it will be really special tonight. I've heard lots of people who are really looking forward to seeing you. It was a surprise to get to see Queensrÿche in Sundsvall, but a great surprise!

Michael: Well, as you know this is our last show of the tour. We've been doing some great shows and some great performances and it's cool that your town gets to be part of this tour in 2013.

Mozzy: We thank you for that!

Michael: Thanks (laughs).

Mozzy: Well, that was all I had, thanks!

Michael: Great, thank you!

Ad Lucem video:

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