Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hats Off to The Old New Queensryche

You really remember how much you love a band when you learn they've become somehow broken in two.  You become wild of hair and eye, railing vehemently about it to your hapless roommate. You are deeply, personally sad and angry. You take sides and, nowadays, put in your two cents. Because: internet.

Yesterday, before all this, I was talking about bass with the aforementioned roommate, a former music industry insider of the publisher/marketer variety. (Cred sidebar: he earned a platinum album for marketing Janet Jackson's Janet LP.)  I gave Queensryche's Della Brown as an example of a prominent bass line that I really love. It was played by the incredible & sinfully underrated Eddie Jackson (speaking of assorted Jacksons). Now in a QR mood, I Googled 'em to see what was new.

This is the studio version of Della Brown:

Once you've marked out that bass for yourself, watch this haunting MTV Unplugged version just for the hell of it. This is the old Queensryche at their dark & intelligent best, or close to it. Guitars featured beautifully here:

Google's results just slayed me. "Old" Queensryche? Yup. Is there a new Queensryche? Um.... as far as I am concerned, there remains the original Queensryche, who now have a new lead singer. But then there is also this absurd new parade of guest musicians "Starring Geoff Tate..."  also calling itself Queensryche (WRONGFULLY, Judge Carol A. Schapira, according to the contract they all signed at the beginning of their career, which I read this morning, and according to what is morally correct in this case. You are a blithe, careless numbskull. And those are not words I throw around lightly).

I've been a fan of this band since before they were fully formed, bought the EP within weeks of its release and played it until I killed it and had to buy a fresh one. That was 30 years ago, when I was an 8th - 9th grader and attempting to survive an increasingly toxic set of circumstances. Music I loved was saving my life, sometimes from day to day, and I loved this music. My favorite guy in the band was Michael Wilton, because his guitar had a sensibility I recognized as bluesier, more raw, subtler and darker than the golden, soaring lead guitar. Don't get me wrong, please: I adore Chris DeGarmo's guitar, but grittier stuff was cathartic somehow for me; I took Michael Wilton personally. I identified better with him. He also seemed like a really bright, happy, decent human being (I hung on every word of every interview). And I had connected the smoking hot guy I had seen play in a battle-of-the-bands band in Bellevue called The Mob as this smoking hot Michael Wilton playing with Queensryche. I loved that.

All that to say that I bothered learning these guys. All of them. I read every word on every album sleeve multiple times; I knew what the contribution of each to the whole consisted of, at least according to the listed credits. I knew the very early history of the band. Hell, I was a party to the very early history of the band. Sorta. And I've loved them ever since.

More or less. Ahem.

Anyway, so when I tell you that my loyalty, which is fucking fierce and equally sticky, is with the 'old' Queensryche, go ahead and assume I've done my research. Know that I didn't just flip a coin. Know that I know better than to equate a single band member's signature contribution with the band as a whole (I'm looking at you, commenters who cry "But Geoff Tate IS Queensryche!". Fuck that. Seriously).

This made me gasp and it hurt me, reading the claims lies (unless he is genuinely delusional) Tate forged here:

Rolling Stone: Geoff Tate on Queensryche's Ugly Split, Backstage Brawl in Brazil

It was early morning, but the rest of the day was shot after I read that: I spent the bulk of it online, sorting all this out. I drew my conclusions and found myself wanting to demonstrate which side I was on. I never sign up at artists' websites, and I never 'like' artists on Facebook (one afternoon on that slippery slope and I swore it off). So I made exceptions to those rules today: I signed up at the website, and I added them as an Interest Group on Facebook (still couldn't bring myself to 'like' [UPDATE: Queensryche posted this humble blog entry to their Facebook page. They have been officially, properly 'liked' - I now regret that I could only do that once, and without any exclamation points or ecstatic smiley faces]). It's solidarity with Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield - and Chris DeGarmo, by the way - but it's also a Disapproving Rabbit face to GT & his *crumbling assortment of tossed-together strangers he blasphemously calls QR.

I am sorry to be negative, but I am currently still rather mad. It'll have dissipated by the time I wake up tomorrow. I'm following the example of the gracious guys in the old new QR, who are handling this beautifully and as healthfully as can possibly be expected. They are moving on. They are taking performing vocalist Todd LaTorre and performing guitarist Parker Lundgren and playing dates & making a new QR album. Bully for them. They sound great so far, and I'm really looking forward to that album.

Which is more than I've been able to say about a QR album in quite some time. :P

The final decision about who gets the name will take place in court in November at the latest. There is a possibility the matter can be settled before then, but that would entail GT coming to his senses and doing the right thing. I will hope for that.

UPDATE - I love this answer from Michael Wilton in an interview at Music Enthusiast with William Clark, so I'm throwing that in here:

William: What is it like, working with Todd as compared to working with Geoff?
Michael: Well, obviously you have a renewed energy. The chemistry within the band is renewed, and it’s got a different dynamic now. Basically we want to rock, we like the hard rock element, we like a bit of the progressive element, we want to collaborate with our fanbase and really make this a situation where we listen to the audience and hear what they want, and we build upon that. Queensryche has always been a touring act, that’s what we did in the early days. We were a guitar duo band and toured the world, and worked our asses off to get the respect of the audience. And I think that we’ve come full circle and we’re at that point again. For the following years we’re going to work our asses off and get the respect of the audiences again, and just really show this new energy and this new chemistry with Todd La Torre as our new frontman. And you know what, it’s just a lot of fun again. In the past, it was just becoming “This is a job. This is just a business, this is a job”, and there was no fun in it. It’s come back to how we started out in the beginning, a bunch of guys having fun, working hard and doing what they love.

Rock on.

*Crumbling, because as soon as his recruits recognize what they're getting themselves into, they bail.

UPDATE May4, 2014:

The Battle is Over.

"The agreement stipulates that original Queensryche members Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield, as well as newer members Todd LaTorre and Parker Lundgren, will now be the sole band recording and touring as Queensryche, performing songs from a musical catalog that spans more than 30 years [emphasis mine]."

Yay, and Amen!