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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Queensr├┐che

Interviewed by Scott Prinzing
Interview with Todd La Torre of Queensryche from 2013
MSJ:

A lot of people might not realize that the current line-up of Queensryche was originally a side project by several members of the original QR called “Rising West” that focused on songs from the original five releases which a lot of fans wished were offered more in concert by the full line-up at the time.  Did you ever imagine that you would end up a year or two later as the lead singer of QR?

Ha!  Ha!  Hell no!  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  When the first Rising West thing happened, when I was actually… well, before I was unofficially offered, I just said to Michael, “Hey, look…if you and the guys talk about it and you officially offer me the opportunity to do some shows with you guys under any band name - I don’t care what you call it – count me in!  I will definitely do it, I would love to do it, it would be a dream come true.”  And, fast forward to the Rising West shows, I said to a couple buddies, “You know, I’m actually playing with Queensryche, even though it’s not under that band name, to me it’s Queensryche, ’cause these are the guys that were in the band; this is the band.”  And then when I actually became an official member under the name Queensryche, it was like, “Wow!  This is huge.  This is such a big deal.”  You know, I was 18-years-old and drove to a record store to have these guys sign my Warning CD cover and take pictures with Chris DeGarmo and all these guys, and so, yeah, it’s been such an amazing experience and I’m very thankful.

MSJ:

Well that’s cool.  That leads right into my next question: When did you first become aware of Queensryche; how far back do you go?  At least to The Warning

Mm-hm…14-years-old.  My sister’s boyfriend at the time was also a drummer; I was a drummer; and he gave me the tape, Operation: Mindcrime.  That was my introduction to the band.  Then I went backwards and got The Warning and started listening to the other previous albums.  I think The Warning lived in my CD player, I mean, for months and months and months without ever taking it out.  I just loved it.  So Queensryche and Iron Maiden and Stryper and Dokken; those were the bands that I loved when I was in my mid-teens; and they were my favorite bands, especially vocally.  I was really into that heavy vibrato and that style of music and singing.  So, it’s been pretty surreal to say the least.  Right now, you know, it doesn’t feel surreal, because I’ve developed relationships with the guys and we’re all really great friends.  But there are those moments where I go, “Wow!  I can’t believe this is really happening to me.”  It’s awesome.

MSJ:

I think of Ripper Owens with Judas Priest and then Tommy Thayer in Kiss.  I remember years ago – I grew up in Portland – so, I knew several of the guys in Black ‘N’ Blue and I remember when Tommy Thayer and Jaime St. James were in a Kiss tribute band and here he is now a member…

It’s a similar thing, although I was never, like Ripper was a singer, I was always a drummer.  So I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would be the singer of a band, much less, Queensryche.  I mean, come on, that just seems out of this world and so far fetched.  But here it is.

MSJ:

So, from some point you went from being a young drummer and the singer for Queensryche, you also had a pretty successful band of your own.  What’s the status of Crimson Glory at this point?

That was a band that I joined in 2010, I believe – I’m getting really fuzzy on dates.  The original vocalist passed away in 2009 - Midnight – he was an amazing vocalist.  My good friend Matt LaPorte played guitar for John Oliva’s Paine… I think the guy for Sabotage, and he introduced me to Crimson.  And they were kind of dormant for a good ten years and then I met Jon Drenning. We developed a friendship, and started writing, and he introduced me to the band, and thought, “Man, this guy can really capture the old material, and that essence of those songs.  Let’s do something again!”  And we did.  We toured on the 25th anniversary of the band, and had really great success with it.  I started getting in a bunch of magazines throughout the world, primarily Europe, and I was gaining exposure and some notoriety.  And then the band, we were working on a new concept album, and that was starting to go really well, and then the correspondence just started to fade.  I wasn’t getting phone calls from people and we were waiting on certain members to have their schedule free.  It just got worse and worse with the productivity, to the point to where when I was finally introduced to Queensryche, you know, I had this scale… and I was gonna do both of them.  But I just got tired of people asking me, “What’s going on with the record with Crimson Glory?”  And I didn’t want to dodge the questions anymore and I just said, “You know what?  I’m tired of waiting.  I want to be a full time musician.  I want to wake up every day, fire up my studio equipment and song write.  I want to tour.  This is what I want to do.”  And Crimson Glory just wasn’t doing that.  They were an amazing cult-followed band with extreme talent and an amazing fan following, but it just wasn’t even near the scale of what Queensryche could do and offer professionally.  And lucky for me, I’m with an amazing group of guys that this is all they do every day.  And this is what they’ve done every day for 30 years.  And I have no complaints.  I feel like I’m right where I belong; and right where I should be.  And had it not been for the Crimson Glory experience, this very well would not have happened.  I just considered that a wonderful experience and a learning experience.  And it’s really kind of groomed me for the transition when I entered Queensryche from dealing with promoters to fans to pressure to being called horrible things because I’m not the original guy to taking a band who really had lost some of their fan base because the writing style and what they were doing.  Now the band’s back to a cohesive unit where everybody feels the same way about the music and the direction that the band needs to go.  And what’s important to the brand.  We’ve got a wonderful new record label and publicist and PR team and management and booking agency and a great group of people that are believing in us and supporting what we’re doing and helping us to propel the band further again.

MSJ:

Well cool.  That touches on a couple of things I wanted to ask about, so if I could just hone in a little bit about – in particular – songwriting; how that process went; had you been much involved with songwriting before Queensryche and how were the songs approached?

In the band that I played in, in my teens and early 20s, I was a heavy songwriter in that band, and with the Queensryche material, with the new stuff, I was a very essential part. I was one of five that was an equal writer.  Whether it was a guitar idea, or a drumming idea, or vocally, or lyrically, you know… I’ve written the lyrics to the majority of the songs on the new album.  Michael Wilton wrote vocal melodies.  Scott wrote guitar parts and orchestrations.  Eddie Jackson wrote bass parts and vocal melodies and lyrics.  Parker wrote lyrics and guitar parts. And we all threw our ideas in the pot and stirred it up and what tasted the best is what we served.

MSJ: Well that sounds cool.  I’ve actually read several reviews of the album and I just got my copy last night and have not had a chance to listen to it yet, so why don’t you – for me and for folks who have not heard this, or who haven’t followed Queensryche as much in the last, say, decade of the band – say how this album kind of fits in musically with other Queensryche stuff.

A lot of people have said that this album could have very well fit after Empire.  So, there’s a little bit of everything, I think, on the album.  “Spore” is a more progressive song; it’s got a little bit higher vocals and a different singing style.  “A World Without” maybe would’ve been a Promised Land song.  “Don’t Look Back” is a more metal, kind of a grooving song.  Then you’ve got something with a little more of a commercial appeal, “In This Light” or “Open Road.”  “Vindication” kind of has more of an old school metal style to it.  We just wanted to write really great songs.  I think for the first go at it with me in the band and with Parker solidified as a true band member, not a hired gun, you know?  This is a real authentic album with just us writing.  And it’s a great beginning.  I think that there’s a little bit of everything.  Some people have said, “Yeah, we can hear that you touched on the roots of some of your older material, but it definitely has a more modern sound.”  It doesn’t sound like a throwback album from 1986, you know? 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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