RS: When exactly did the tensions within Queensryche first surface?
GT: Well, with every band there’s tensions that arise over time. You’ve got different personalities all mixed together and there’s always that kind of thing going on. We’d never been a band that had lots of tensions. We’ve had challenges with making records and with personnel changes. When Chris DeGarmo left the band in 1998, it was a pretty big hit for us. But really, this new thing is kind of out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting anything like this at all.
RS: How did this new thing begin?
GT: I think it really began around February of this year. It mainly started with a disagreement about economics, about moving our merchandising to a third party. We had control over our own merchandising company for years and years and we ran it ourselves. It’s a very successful entity, and the other three guys wanted to take it out of our hands and hand it over to somebody else and pay them more money to operate it, which just seemed liked a ridiculous business idea to me. That’s really where the disagreement started.
RS: Where did things go from there?
GT: It forced us into trying to talk sense into them, our manager and myself and our business manager, trying to get them to see this was not a good deal. Why were they so adamant about taking money out of our pockets and handing it to somebody else? Our manager found another company that would do it for considerably less and they ultimately went with that.
RS: How about musically? Were you guys seeing eye-to-eye on the sound of the band at this point?
GT: Well, this is kind of a weird situation too. In the press release they said there were “creative differences.” But to have creative differences, you have to have two entities or more offering up creative ideas. And that just wasn’t the case. Queensryche has always been my idea, starting from the first record. Queensryche is about albums. It’s about concepts and themes, and those concepts were mine. [Laughs] I started out with The Warning, bringing those ideas in for Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime. . . all the albums. I write 81% of the music and the lyrics. Of the 144 songs that Queensryche has released, I’ve written 116 of those.
I am the creative energy in the band, especially since Chris left. When he was in the band it was more of a shared thing between him and I. But once he left, the burden was on me. I don’t consider it necessarily a burden. That’s what I do. I’m a creative person. I write everyday and I’m constantly coming up with creative ideas. I present them to the other guys and they go, “Yeah, sure, that sounds good to us.”
RS: How did they feel about the last album?
GT: Well, you’d have to ask them about that.
RS: Did they ever tell you they weren’t happy with it, or with the direction the band was going?
GT: Nope. No. Nothing.
RS: I’ve read lots of accounts about what happened in Brazil in April. The story on the Internet goes that you overheard them plotting to fire you and then you pushed Michael to the floor and pointed a knife at Scott. What actually happened?
GT: Well, you know how the Internet goes . . . The way it went was, we had a gig in Sao Paolo, and before the show we had a meeting in the dressing room. I asked them straight up about the rumors I’d heard about them replacing me. I was definitely concerned about this. What kind of plan was that? Was it serious? What was going on? They said that they weren’t planning on replacing me, but they had just fired our manager, our office assistant and one of our guitar techs, who all happened to be my family members.
I asked them, “Why is this happening?” They really couldn’t give me a straight answer, or any kind of answer that made any kind of business sense. It seemed like a personal vendetta against me. Anyway, the meeting was short and we went to do the show. I’m getting ready by my station, ready to go on stage, and Scott [Rockenfield] looks at me and he smirks and says, “We just fired your whole family, and you’re next.” I just lost it. I tried to punch him. I don’t think I landed a punch before somebody grabbed me and hauled me to the side. On my way, I managed to shove [Michael] Wilton, and really, that was it. I cooled down and we did the show, and everything went fine.
RS: There was no knife involved?
GT: No. No knife involved. You can’t really get knives into foreign countries.
RS: Do you know why they decided to push you out of the band?
GT: Well, I think it’s economically driven, mostly. I’m a 25 percent holder in our companies. I think it’s just business in their minds. Cut me out and then split 25 percent and hire some young guy that’s gonna work for a weekly wage so they make more money. It’s just ridiculous.
RS: You’d think they’d make more money with you in the band. Now they’re going to be presumably splitting up a smaller pie.
GT: It doesn’t may any sense. [Laughs] Neither does taking a very successful merchandising company and giving it over to somebody else and then paying them more money to run it. It’s bad business. It’s short-sightedness, and it’s just ridiculous.
RS: How did they actually tell you that you were fired?
GT: By a legal letter from their attorney to mine.
RS: In your estimation, do they have the legal right to fire you and carry on as Queensryche?
GT: No. They don’t.
RS: What’s gonna happen now?
RS: Well, we’re in a lawsuit right now and it’s probably gonna get ugly. I filed a claim a couple of days ago. So it’s all going to the legal system now to sort out who is what, and who owns what, and that stuff.
RS: Are you going to form a new version of Queensryche, and possibly have two competing groups out there?
GT: No. I’m not interested in doing that at the moment.
Read Geoff Tate’s entire interview at Rolling Stone.