Queensrÿche’s Geoff Tate give kudos to Maiden, Priest, and Sabbath (with Dio)

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 14, 2000

By Steve Newton

At the big metal show slated for the Pacific Coliseum on Wednesday (September 20), Seattle hard-rockers Queensrÿche will perform between openers Halford—featuring former Judas Priest screamer Rob Halford—and headliners Iron Maiden. You could say that it’s a return to the band’s roots, somewhat, because as a cover act back in Bellevue, Washington, circa 1981, Queensrÿche took many a cue from its current Brit tourmates.

“We were very influenced by the first and second Maiden albums,” says Queensrÿche vocalist Geoff Tate from a New Mexico tour stop. “I think you can easily hear that in our first EP. And Priest, of course, the heavy stuff. Black Sabbath, especially with Dio. The hard rock of the day, really, we were very interested in.”

Back in the spandex ’n’ leather era, when Maiden’s Killers and Priest’s Point of Entry were making metal maniacs out of decent youngsters everywhere, Queensrÿche was happy just to re-create the molten hits of the day. At that point the band didn’t even bother to sneak any originals into its set to see what the reaction might be.

“We just kinda played a bunch of cover tunes,” recalls Tate, “and did them very well. Then we decided that what we wanted to do was really focus on writing our own music, so we quit playing live and went into the studio and wrote songs. We started our own record label, 206 Records, and released our first EP on our own label, and pretty soon we got signed to a major.” As metal lore has it, a glowing demo-tape review in influential headbanger rag Kerrang! was the spark that hotwired Queensrÿche’s career.

“It definitely got us noticed,” says Tate. So did Operation: Mindcrime, the band’s 1988 concept album, which sold three million copies and earned a Grammy nomination. With its complex arrangements and detailed story line of a drug-controlled hit man working for an underground revolution, Mindcrime made the band stand out among the lowbrow likes of Poison, Warrant, and the umlaut-hogging Mötley Crüe. “It wasn’t like we were looking for some sort of angle or niche or anything,” says Tate, “it was just that we had an idea. You get on a creative roll and you follow through, and Mindcrime just kinda came out of that.”

Queensrÿche followed up Operation: Mindcrime with Empire, which racked up sales of more than four million and spawned the Top 10 hit “Silent Lucidity”. On the 18-month world tour that followed Empire’s 1990 release, the group performed the entire Mindcrime album from beginning to end, drawing capacity crowds in North and South America, Europe, and Japan. On the current Iron Maiden tour, however, the Mindcrime selections are minimal. If, like me, you were hoping to relive the virulent strains of “Spreading the Disease”, forget about it.

“We’re not doin’ that one at this point of this tour,” notes Tate. “We’re kind of doing a cross-section of all our stuff because, one, it’s sort of the environment to do that in, and two, we have a greatest-hits package that came out in July, so we’re tryin’ to build the show around that.”

This scribbler’s not gonna sit around and sulk because his favourite metal tune of ’88 won’t get played, though. Come Wednesday, there’ll be plenty of other ear-bustin’ numbers from what used to be called “the new wave of metal”. Halford’s got a raunchy new solo album out, Resurrection, but might not be averse to heading back to the heyday of Judas Priest for a little “Living After Midnight” or a run at that old Beavis & Butt-head fave “Breakin’ the Law”.

Maiden’s also touring behind a new CD, Brave New World—having reunited with long-time vocalist Bruce Dickinson and instituted a three-guitar lineup—but you can bet the band’ll be plumbing early-’80s albums like The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind.

None of the acts on the bill has been tearing up the charts of late, but Tate figures they’re giving fans of loud rock their money’s worth. “What they’re coming to see are three bands that have kind of been musically influenced by a lot of the same people over the years. You know, there’s a commonality between the three bands, and I think they like that.”

So does the mere existence of a heavy-metal tour like this suggest that the genre’s alive and well in 2000? Tate, whose last two CD purchases were of jazz great Billie Holiday and classical dude Claude Debussy, doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace that concept. “Oh, you know, ‘alive and well’, I don’t know what that means. This genre of music has had its heyday as far as the press is concerned, and you know how the press really does push and form public opinion. If you’re not mentioned, then you don’t exist.

“So the delivery mechanisms for our type of music have definitely shrunk in the last 10 years, but I guess it’s the type of music that’s never gone away. We’re one of the lucky bands that can tour just about everywhere in the world, and pull a decent audience. We do a good touring business, and we sell some records. We do our gig, you know.”

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