The 10th of July 2004 is a day that will be carved in my memory for the rest of my life. Not only was this the first time that I attended a Queensryche gig, but I also had the unique pleasure of making an Interview with one of my childhood heroes, Scott Rockenfield. At the backstage of the London Astoria I had the opportunity to express my admiration for his band, and also to talk about their new album and DVD release ďThe Art of LiveĒ. Well, sometimes dreams do come true!
Hi Scott. Before we start, let me just say that this is one of the happiest moments in my life. I am very glad to be doing this interview with you, the first question of which is: what brings you here in London?
Scott: Well, you know, we started the tour over here. We've been touring as we're on this "Tribe" record that came out last May, so it's been out over a year now. We toured all last summer in the States and made a small break during the Christmas holidays. Then, we went back on tour, again in the States, a few months ago, did again a break, and now we're back here again doing more shows and summer festivals. Actually, it's really funny!
This show tonight here in the Astoria...it was one year ago on June the 6th that we last played here - it's almost a year right up to the day. London is always a good place for us. After we leave here, we're making our way towards Europe, where we'll be doing some festivals and also be playing some headline shows - we're going to be here for five weeks! We haven't actually done a full proper tour in parts of the UK or Europe for a couple of years. Last year it was only five shows. This time we'll be making twenty-five shows. We always wanted to come back - Europe is cool, it's fun hanging over here. It's funny because when we stayed in London, a couple of years ago, doing some rehearsals, we stayed at Cambridge Crescent, at Cambridge Court Hotel, and right around the corner is where we lived in 1984. All five of us lived in an apartment when we made the "Warning" record. It was right around the corner - I could see the old flat that I stayed in... it's cool.
Congratulations for the release of your latest album "The Art of Live". Your previous album "Live Evolution", was recorded three years ago. How come you decided to release another live album in such a short notice?
Scott: You know, there are actually a couple of reasons. We're very much a live band, you know, we strive to be a fun live band to go and see. We kind of pride ourselves on having a unique show, working out songs and being perfectionists. Sometimes it's good, and some other times it's bad. So, live music to us is a cool thing - I think that it's a good way for us to present ourselves. Also, with this one it's different.
"The Art of Live" is actually a much different type of presentation than the "Live Evolution". "Live Evolution" was a big budget with digital recording equipment - all the high-end cameras. It was kind of a polished high class looking product. We didn't want to do that again with "The Art of Live".
"The Art of Live" is the tour we did last summer for the "Tribe" record. We recorded the whole thing ourselves on camera. When we got there with the tour, we realised that it would be a good idea to make a video out of this, and put it out. In the live album that we did, a lot of the songs are from the "Tribe" album. You know, in a couple of years, you may just get another live record from Queensryche. Like you, being a fan, all our other fans seem to like it. They want more live stuff from us, because it gives them something between our records, the studio records that is. It could be a couple of years before we release our next live record, to please the audience (laughs).
As you correctly said, this live album was recorded during the promotional tour of the "Tribe" album. As far as that album is concerned, which are your current feelings towards it? How did the media and your fans received it?
Scott: Oh, you know, it's been great! "Tribe" was another record for us in our evolution of being a band of musicians. I think that we feel really good that we've succeeded in making this type of record that we've wanted to make. "Tribe" turned out to be a really cool thing for us. It's been a lot of fun playing it, and on top of that...it's funny - we can never figure our fans out! In some shows maybe we won't play anything from it - we'll play a bunch of other things - we'll play "Operation Mindcrime" in it's entirety, or something, and if we don't play any track, you'll see the fans going: "What happened to the Tribe" stuff? - I wanna hear that!" God, for the last couple of years they've been telling us that they want to hear the old stuff...
Well, you kind of spoiled us with every new release - it's not our fault, you know!
Scott: (laughs) Hopefully, it's just another good record for Queensryche, but the response has been really great. We've done well with it, worldwide, and we're still touring on it after a year, so...
Ok Scott, let's go back to "The Art of Live". I believe that with this live release, Queensryche decided to show a more "humane" face, and what I mean is that the sound of the album is more "natural" - it kind of makes you feel as if you were part of the audience of that specific show. Was that originally your intention?
Scott: Well, it became a very quick intention, absolutely! When we started touring last year, we had digital remote cameras that we set up on stage and projected us on these big screens that we had in the United States. In doing that, we realised that we can use cameras, put tapes in them, and record what was being shown on them. These are little robot cameras, you know, so they're really high quality - it's not like we had a camera crew or something like that! In doing that, I think that it captured kind of a closer feel for a band as it wasnít in a big Ďdirectedí type of presentation. I believe that we've captured what you're talking about. You feel like you're just there, you know? And a lot of our shows were in places just like the London Astoria that we're playing tonight - smaller clubs. It wasn't big arenas and stuff in the States like when we did "Live Evolution", an album that was recorded in a huge venue with a different feel. This album captured us, and what people enjoy about us, instead of the "big thing", you know (laughs)?
Who's responsible for the production of the album? Who did you choose to work with, this time?
Scott: Well, we Queensryche produced the "Tribe" record, and we worked with an engineer called Scott Olson, an old friend of ours from Seattle, and let's see...who else?...and Adam Kasper, who's been a producer and a mixer type of guy. He has worked with Soundgarden and other old bands, and he mixed our record. So, it's good that very much most of our records nowadays are driven by us, produced by us!
Who knows your music better than yourselves...?
Scott: That's exactly how it feels! We spent six months writing the songs - who's going to know them better than us, you know?
What about the song selection process for "The Art of Live"? Which are the things that you take under consideration when you choose the track list, and what made you choose those specific fourteen songs? If it was up to me, this record would have been a six CD release!
Scott: (laughs) Six CDs? That's a lot of songs! (laughs)
I would gladly pay for it!
Scott: I'm sure! So would I, I would pay for it emotionally (laughs). We actually had a few more songs written for this record than what's here on this album.
Generally what happens for us is that we sit down and we're formulating an idea for a record - the songs. We start with a list of ideas and a concept, and we start working on them. Some just stand out more than others to us, they feel better...the chemistry works better and the whole thing starts to follow itself over the course of a couple of months.
In the case of "Tribe" CD it was ten songs, and the same kind of thing happened with the song selection for "The Art of Live". We have all the stuff, old and new, ready in our minds, and when the time came for the song selection, we just kind of did what feels the best! We had a meeting, and we said: "Ok, what is it that we want to do?". It almost becomes like a voting process. We decide what works and what doesn't, whether this is a studio album or a live record.
You also seem to enjoy changing the style of your songs when you perform live, as for example with the "Roads to Madness" in "The Art of Live". This time you went for an acoustic version...
Scott: Oh yeah, right! That kind of thing comes out after so many years of doing the same thing with some of these songs. We just really wanted to try to work new things, and make different presentations of some songs. We did this acoustic part of the set during our last summer tour. We all came out, sat on the stools and made this unplugged thing. "Roads to Madness" was one that just worked so well in that type of presentation.
"The Art of Live" is also going to be accompanied by a DVD release. Is this DVD simply going to be the visual part of this performance, or will the Queensryche fans be able to find any goodies there?
Scott: Oh, that's right! So, I've been talking about the DVD that we've filmed, but it's not out here yet, is it? Ok, let's see...yes, we shot the show and it's a presentation of Queensryche more in kind of video. Itís not a high-class production like "Live Evolution" is. It's more like small cameras that we captured ourselves during the show, and when we watched all the tapes after the show we realised that the whole thing was very intimate - it feels like sitting right there! So, you have the CD that feels that way, and then when you see the visual part of the concert, you feel like you're on stage! It just feels like a new way for us to present ourselves. The DVD is out on the States already, and the response is really good! People say:Ē Wow, really different what you did this time, but cool". We wouldn't want to make the same thing over and over again - who would like to buy it anyway?
I have to ask you to explain to me this whole situation with Chris De Garmo! We were happy to see him participating in the recordings of the "Tribe" album. In the official Queensryche site, he is mentioned as a member of the band, but when the time comes for Queensryche to go on tour, we see Mike Stone filling in for him. What's going on? Why are you doing this to us?(laughs)
Scott: (laughs) Chris...left the band in 1997 to pursue other things in his life - he didn't want to pursue music much any more. Then, after seven years of us being apart, we started to write music for the "Tribe" record. Michael, Eddie, Geoff and I had the record written that we wanted to make, and that's when Chris got hold of us.
All of us kept in contact with him periodically, and he expressed interest in maybe doing a few songs with us for the record, in the studio. It sounded like a good idea for all of us to kind of get back together and do some songs. That was really all we talked about - doing a few songs. In the studio, that's exactly what happened: we did a few songs together which came out great, they fitted the record really well. We co-wrote a couple of songs with him, and after that he basically said: "that's all I wanted to do". I don't think that you'll ever going to see him again. I think that he has pretty much pulled the plug on being a touring musician forever! I don't know if he's ever going to change his mind - he just didn't want to go on the road with us, he doesn't want to leave town.
So, how are Queensryche going to deal with this issue? Are you guys going to hire a different guitarist in every album?
Scott: That's a really good question! I think that we're just going to keep it open. On this record Mike Stone was actually playing with us prior to us going into the studio. We've done a few shows with him filling in, being the guitar player with us, and he actually co-wrote one of the songs on the album. "Loosing Myself" was co-written by Mike Stone and Geoff. He got to be involved, and he's been playing the guitar with us for the whole last tour. I think that either tonight or tomorrow is his 100 show with us. He's done really well, and he also fits really well with what we're doing. He's a great guy for us to get along with. He has become a really close friend, and when the time comes that we will have to make another studio record, it's very possible that Mike will play on the record with us. It's also possible to get a bunch of people to play - I really don't know!
We never know what happens next with you guys anyway (laughs)
The main reason why I respect and appreciate Queensryche, is because you guys never tried to repeat yourselves. Every studio album is a different story, and I don't know many musicians which have the guts to do such a thing. What is it that inspires the band to write music nowadays?
Scott: One of the reasons why we evolve and change musically from record to record is because we, as people, do that. As you grow older, you experience and you become influenced by many different things, and that's kind of what we do. Once every two years it's kind of been our pattern for making records. After we've travelled and seen different things we have witnessed many changes - we're getting older. We have families that influence our lives, that gives us things to talk and write about. Also, all the different types of music that you're into during that course of time.
Really, what we do with every record is that we just write what we feel at the time. Me, being a drummer, I'm influenced by different things which influence the way I play - give that to what I do for the band. We all kind of bring in our life experiences, and make a record together. It's a personal evolution which also makes the band evolve. That's what we are, and we definitely don't want, nor would we like to keep on doing the same type of music over and over again, when we grow old.
I would hate the idea of making a "...Mindcrime" album all over again, using the same people in the studio, etc. It's all about evolution and interaction with different things in your life, and fortunately our fans let us do that - they let us evolve!
We don't really have any choice (laughs)
Scott: Yes, you don't really have a choice (laughs), and sometimes some people like the things that we do, and some don't like them as much as other things. People have favourites, people like new things or not new things, but that's ok - they still let us do it! They still come to see the shows and buy the records and evolve with us.
When people who grew up listening to bands like Pink Floyd ask me what are Queensryche all about, I let them know that the only possible musical comparison would be with a musician like Frank Zappa. Just like with him, every one of your albums is a totally different musical proposition.
Scott: Zappa is a legend. He did some really cool stuff. That's a first for me to hear such a comparison, and I can see why you claim that - I'm flattered!
After the release of the album "Empire", which is the band's best selling album up to date, did you ever feel the pressure of having to record a similar album success-wise, and was "Promised Land" (the band's following album) a reaction of the band towards something?
Scott: You're smart (laughs). You heard a couple of our records before, haven't you? (laughs) Absolutely! "Empire" was a huge monetary success worldwide. We sold 4,000,000 records in the States...it was a big record for us. We toured for two years almost solid around the world on that record, and when we got back home the pressure was there once again.
We were trying to figure out what we wanted to do but the record company wanted to keep on going on that...
The big money-making machine...
Scott: Oh, God...it was such a burn-out for us, and I think that one thing that we were afraid of was that we didn't want to jump right back into such a thing. We needed to take some time to ourselves - to find something new, otherwise we were just going to repeat ourselves, and we didn't want to do that!
So, we took some time off, and in doing so I think that we found a lot of things about ourselves. One, that "Empire" and all of its success and what it gave to us was momentarily fame-wise. Money and Fame doesn't buy you happiness, and I think that it was exactly that thing that most of the members of the band, if not all, realised through that experience.
Money and fame doesn't buy you happiness - you buy yourself happiness, you know? Just by being a happy person. Needless to say, "Promised Land came about, and I think that happened when we started to feel good and we wanted to get back together and make a record. "Promised Land" was kind of a look in all that. Geoff was the main lyricist for the record, and that album to me is not an "Empire" with the fame and fortune - "Promised Land" is me - just being myself, and that's what the record is all about. It's a darling record that's completely different than "Empire". To this day, "Promised Land" is my favourite record.
You are quite brave to record such a personal album after "Empire".
Scott: I think that the problem is the music industry. "Empire" was released in 1991, and you had just gone through the 80's where if a band had a 2.000.000 hit-selling record, they would just do the exact same thing six months later! Same record, same hits, same videos, same chicks and that ends so fast. It doesn't give you anything to last for - it's party music! That was a way for all these hair-metal bands to make money and have fun, but our music is more serious to us. Music is art, and we have to be careful how we do it! Picasso didn't just throw stuff out there (laughs), he sat down and painted for a reason!
You have personally composed many songs for Queensryche, most of which were for the albums "Promised Land" and "Tribe". Am I to understand that you're more attracted to the progressive side of music?
Scott: Yes, I got a lot of that. Progressive to me is a very broad definition, but I think so. My influences for the past 15 years have been completely out of the Rock type of music. I also like film music, and classical orchestrated stuff and have actually written some of that stuff on my own.
I have some solo albums out there that are all instrumental orchestrated music, and I have actually scored some movies. I got a Grammy nomination in 1998 for scoring an animated film, my first ever! I was very honoured to get that, and so I just kind of pursued that kind of thing. All this influences I managed to pass on to the songs I wrote for albums like "Promised Land" and "Q2K" - I actually had a big part in that, but it's kind of credited differently. Kelly, Geoff and I had a lot to do with that at the time.
I have a big studio back home, and I kind of sit and do stuff, trying to push the envelope to the band. I try to add one more thing to our music that we didn't have before - I think that it helps, and it's an inspiration to the other guys. That's like a feeding process - we just feed each other concepts of things and ideas and we normally come back and forth with them. Sometimes people go "That's s***" or "that's cool, but it cannot fit with this", or "that's really cool, we should work on this", and we do this for each other.
The band is considered to have one of the most loyal and organized fan bases throughout the world. What is it in your opinion that makes people so passionate about Queensryche and their music?
Scott: Well, I think that it's probably the same passion that we emote from what we do. It's like what we were talking earlier about making records that are different from each other, and write about what we feel. I think that when you're writing from inside, without any outside influence from record companies, that comes across to people! We write what we feel, what we like. We don't care if anyone else likes it, but fortunately people do like it! I think that when you do that, you gain a fan base that feels the same way. They appreciate that, and that's really cool. To hear people saying: "I'm looking forward to see what you're going to do next" - that's cool.
Your first ever VHS release was "Live in Tokyo", recorded during the "Warning" tour - a VHS release that unfortunately I never managed to get my hands on. How come you haven't released it on a DVD yet? Is it possible for us to see such a release in the near future?
Scott: Oh, the Japanese one on DVD? You know, I wish I could tell you more about that, but I'm sure that at some point EMI or Capitol will release it. They're always putting new stuff out, and a lot of people have asked about that specific release. I don't have any answer to that - hopefully soon. But we do have some other cool things with EMI that we're talking about - old stuff from the vaults of our career. We're trying to get them together and release something interesting.
How important is the band to its members? You have obviously achieved things that other musicians wouldn't ever dream of, and you keep on going, producing quality music. Where does this energy derive from?
Scott: I think that it's just what we do. We've been a band for so long now. I think that we're really lucky that we have such an amazing chemistry together, and every time that we think that we don't have anything new to offer, we tend to come up with something, you know? And it's been almost 25 years now - we know each other for all this time. I think that we've been physically a band for 23 or 24 years now - it's a long time (laughs). We're headlining some big festivals in the weeks to come...I don't know...nothing tells me that it's time to stop - it's just getting better and better (laughs). That's what you wanted to hear, right? (laughs)
Allow me to say that you have created what I consider to be the best album in the history of Rock/Metal music, and that album for me is "Operation Mindcrime". The first time that I listened to this album, I started crying for no obvious reason and I have to admit that this thing still happens 16 years later!
Anyway, back to my question...Considering the events in the Middle East at the moment, and the political ideas that you were not afraid to wear on your sleeves all these years, do you think that it's an obligation of bands such as yourselves to speak about these ideas in their music, or has Queensryche fulfilled their duties towards the social conscience with that release?
Scott: Well, I think that for us once again it's just that we were writing about what we were experiencing. I got to say a funny kind of analogy of "Operation Mindcrime"...for one, we received a great response from that record, just like yourself. That record has stuck out with us. To a lot of our fans, it's been like the milestone of the Queensryche career. "...Mindcrime" really did something for us!
"Rage for Order" is equally impressive and not so far away from "Operation Mindcrime" in my heart!
Scott: That's probably the second one that our fans prefer, for sure! The interesting thing about "...Mindcrime" was that it was 1988 the year of the release, but we started writing it in 1986, right after "Rage for Order". We started writing some ideas, some of which were around for a couple of years, and that record was about an era and things that were going on.
Strangely, it's repeating itself as we speak - we have Bush in office! During "Operation Mindcrime", it was a Reagan era for us in the US, and it was a big republican...crap that went down. War was over in the Middle East and stuff. Now we have the same thing going on again.
The funny analogy is that, last year when we were touring in Europe and doing interviews with other journalists like in Germany, they thought that "...Mindcrime" and "Tribe" talk about some of the same things that are going on with the Bush administration. I guess that it's like a big circle.
Current events have kind of always played a part of what we've done lyrically. I think that we leave the door open for other bands to express such feelings, but I believe that we did a pretty damn good job with "Operation Mindcrime"(laughs).
You had some problems in the States if I remember correctly when the album was released, is that true?
Scott: There were some really "interesting" things that were happening at the time, but the funny thing is that the record started doing so well, so fast...it was like a tank - we drove over them all, and no one could stop us!
The Greek Metal Hammer at the time was referring to Queensryche as the music of the sophisticated Metal head. I think that your fans were smart enough to realise a couple of things!
Scott: Absolutely! The majority of the fans that come to see us now at our shows, they're our age! We get a lot of younger people, absolutely! It's very cool - passing through to a younger generation, but we have a lot of fans that have been with us for the last 20 years, and they still come to see us! They're 40 years old, like I am, and they're still totally intrigued by the thought process. We're not just an 80's hair Metal band! We evolved, and that whole evolution thing is still just carrying on for us. Our fans are evolving, you know!
Do you believe that your fans and people who listen to your music all these years have understood your vision?
Scott: I think so. I think that some people understood some of our records more than others. Yeah, I don't think that we're too hard to understand. Of course, it's not like our records are for party music (laughs). I think that a lot of our fans look at our music as music that they want to sit and focus on for a while. "Operation Mindcrime" is not the kind of album that you will understand just by listening to it once. Twenty years after its release, people still find new things in it, saying "I never noticed that thing being there" - a lot of our records are like that. Our fans understood from the very beginning that they're going to need to take some time to listen to our records!
Geoff has quite recently recorded his first solo album. How do you perceive his need of making music outside Queensryche?
Scott: I think that itís a natural thing. All of us have always been just musical people. I started making records and music outside the band years ago. Iíve done six solo records of my own, and with a few other people that I go out with. Iíve also done some movies and some music for commercials and video games.
Iíve done quite a few things, and Geoff is now starting to do the same thing. Heís done a solo record and heís working with few other people in various things. Michael is the same way. Heís just released a new record with his side-band called 'Soulbender'. I think that it just came out in the States, and you can get it on the Internet - thatís where most of our stuff comes out!
I think that this is good for all of us. You learn new things by working with other people, and then you can bring along those experiences, and see how we can apply them to Queensryche. Iíve been doing that for years. The movies I scored is a completely different way of doing things. The schedules are just ďgot to be there tomorrowĒ Ė itís a lot of different type of work, but what I learn from that, I bring to the band. Itís a very good learning experience.
Which word would you use in order to describe the character of each and every member of Queensryche?
Scott: Which word? (Laughs) Thatís difficult - well, Geoff- moody, but thatís where he finds his inspiration from, and thatís great. Michael - quiet, until he drinks (laughs). Eddie, heís a comic, heís the comedian of the band, and myself, logical.
Iím usually like "guys, we cannot do that, it doesnít make sense", and usually Iím right. You need to have a balance with things like that. Geoff is the passionate/moody guy that presents stuff, Iím the one that goes 'that doesnít work', Eddie will make a joke about it, and Michael will just sit there quiet (laughs).
Quite recently you toured the States with two of my favourite bands, Fates Warning and Dream Theater. Quite lucky the US audience was, but what about the European? Are we ever going to see such a trio sharing the same stage?
Scott: You know, that was a really great tour! It was a very cool combination of musical tastes, and I think some of us have the same influences. It worked really great in the States, and honestly we actually tried to bring this over here, but we had schedule problems. Dream Theater had to go back to the studio - it gets really difficult to get those things working sometimes, but the futureÖweíre still talking about this possibility, so I think that something will happen, and it might be a different type of happening.
You have lived the Rock ní Roll way of life, touring and stuff, for the last 24 years as a member of this band. Do you still enjoy playing live as much as you did in the very beginning?
Scott: Oh, yeah! It all has its ups and downs. Some days you enjoy it more than others, just as every job so to speak, but itís really great!
The cool thing that has kept us going, is the fact that our audience is so responsive when we go out and play a show. Some nights youíre tired from the travel, you make a soundcheck walking up and down in an empty venue thinking 'what am I doing here?', and the second our audience walks in and we get out on stage staring at them screaming, looking at you with that look like saying 'Iím a fan of this band for the last 25 years', everything goes away! This is a vibe (laughs). Itís a balance. As you get older, you need to balance everything - be healthy.
When your family is out with you, itís good - when they canít - well, thatís the hardest thing. We all have kids. I have young kids at home, and I donít see them too much when Iím over here, and that becomes hard. The kids donít understand that, but thatís ok - itís what I do to try to make a living and pay for their house and their college tuitions in the future. You probably have kids yourself.
Not yet, but Iím working on it.
Scott: Oh, not yet? Ok (laughs). Iím sure that youíll become a great father (editorís note: now, thatís a compliment if you ask me!). And you know, the second youíll have kids, that changes your life. You donít look at yourself anymore, you look at the responsibility of the kids.
I need a positive response now! Are we to expect many more releases from the band in the future?
What are you going to do 'when the crowds are gone', quoting Savatage?
Scott: The damn thing is that the crowds never seem to be going away (laughs). I suppose that weíll keep on making music as long as people will keep accepting it! At the point when weíll make a record and nobody buys it, that will probably be the day when weíll look at each other and make a break Ė not do things for a while, or something like that. We keep making record, and they keep putting them down. So far, so good!
Your highlights with Queensryche?
Scott: Thatís really tough! I think that itís probably the obvious beginning - the release of the EP. It was a milestone for us, and I still canít believe what happened after we put that one out! Getting a gold record that I have proudly placed on my wall. When ďÖMindcrimeĒ was certified at 500.000 copies in the States, we were touring with Metallica at the time. After we played a show with them, we were sitting in our dressing room, and people from the record company came with bottles of champagne. They told us that that exact night we sold our 500.000 copy of ďOperation MindcrimeĒ, and they had our golden record sitting there for us. I remember saying ďwow, golden recordĒ. Now I have a bunch of them on the same wall, and they just collect dust (laughs). Some others are in boxes (laughs) Ė theyíre so many! I was a young man, and Rock ní Roll was a cool thing at the time!
One thing that I always wanted to say to a member of Queensryche is that 'Operation Mindcrime' is the only album that I bought seven times in my life, on vinyl. The first six copies were destroyed while playing the damn thing! It was also the first CD that I bought, for the exact same reason!(laughs)
Scott, Itís been an honour, and a unique pleasure! A message to the subscribers of Get Ready to ROCK!, and the people who are going to watch the gig tonight, here in the London Astoria!
Scott: Thanks for everything! Enjoy tonightís show! I canít give away the secret for tonight, but it is going to be unique. Have fun tonight, and be safe on your way home!
Interview © 2004