The Return Of The Reich - Michael Wilton & Parker Lundgren.
Queensryche are legends in their own right, having influenced so many bands that I have grown up with throughtout the years it is only right that I pay homage to the Ryche. Having formed back in the early 80's the band recorded their EP which saw the likes of 'Queen of The Reich,, 'Blinded', ;The Lady wore Black' and 'The Prophecy'. THis was the turning out for all Progressive Power Metal, the birth of this genera of music. In 84 the band recorded their finest master piece in my mind 'The Warning' with a successful tour with Dio throughout Europe and the UK. The band soon became more successful and more highly recommended album soon followed. Sadly in 2012 Geoff Tate left the band and now the band are fighting in Court to decide who owns the rights to the bands name.
The band soon found new singer Todd La Torre, formely with Crimson Glory for a short time, but sadly never recorded an album with them. Todd is a talented musician, having played guitars, drums and vocals and is due to release his solo album soon. I caught up with the Ryche in Nottingham 'Rock City' in the UK in October 2013 to ask Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren about the new album and how the tour is going so far. Here is what the guys had to say...
Well it's a pleasure to meet you again guys, last time was Bang Your Head' in 2010 in Germany. I guess a lot has happened since then and with Todd been the new singer lets talk about the new album and more.. I remember see in Queensryche back in 84 when the band released their 1st album 'The Warning' when you supported Dio in my home city of Hull. What a great gig that was, do you have found memories of that tour Mike?
(M) "Well it's good to see and meet you again Jason, and welcome to the dressing room of the Ryche. Yes that tour holds found memories for all of us, it was the start of what is now really. (Ed: I still think 'The Warning' is the album that opened so many doors for bands such as Lethal, Mystic Force and so on... It's the beginning of the Progressive Power Metal movement). It is funny you should mention that, as the fans have been screaming for songs from the early days, especially 'The Warning;'. What is great about this tour, we are bring back the stuff the kids want to hear, the old Ryche. The fans have taken to the tour so well. We find it hard to believe that bands like you mentioned are so influenced by our music, it's kind of funny. When I listen too all these Queensryche tribute bands there are so many of them now.
Talking of tributes, what do you think to all these tribute albums that have come out so far?
(M) "Well we get a lot of discs sent to us and and the last one I got was a compilation of different bands doing their versions of our songs, which were pretty interesting. (Ed: Have you heard any strange and fucked up versions of your songs, like Nevermore did with Judas Priest's 'Love Bites'?) I actually like the version of 'Walk In The Shadows' by Mike Amott did and it is very Arch Enemy metal (laughing)."
Moving on Parker, what band was you in before Queensryche? I have never asked you this and how did you become part of the Ryche family?
(P) "Well I did a tour with Geoff Tate before the Ryche and before that I was playing in a ton of bands that really never went anywhere. I was in like 3-4 bands in one time in Seattle, a couple were signed to small labels and I was in a band from Hungry who were a Punk band called 'Sledge Back'. (Ed: When I 1st saw you're image in Queensryche I thought you were out of a Punk or Hardcore, that's no disrespect.) (Laughing) That's ok I grew up playing in Punk bands and Psycho Billy bands and I also went to school for Jazz guitar and played in a couple of metal bands."
So who are you're guitar influences guys?
(P) "I grew up with the classic like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, so I liked Randy Rhodes, and now with modern guitarists like Jeff Loomis (ex Nevermore) and there are so many great guitar players out there."
(M) "I grew up with guitar players like Hendrix, Page, Blackmore, Steve Morse, I was into the Southern Rock thing and the psychedelic thing and in my later teens I got into the Euro metal like Michael Schenker, Uli Roth, the technical playing and I like the technical style of playing. I also studied classic guitar, and I got the basics on that and I could read music for the guitar."
I have been doing Friday 13th now for 25yrs and I have met you before, interviewed Metallica, Judas Priest and so on... and I love metal music.
(M) "That is so cool Jason, so what is you're secret? (Ed: I love metal haha) (Mike & Parker laugh) that's so cool Jase."
When you guys are not touring what do you like to get up to in you're spare time? Do you teach guitar lessons?
(P) "I teach guitar, both in music schools and on Skype. It is cool it keeps you on top of things, and it makes you become more influenced by things that you normally wouldn't be. Some people want to learn different style of methods and it makes you a lot better player."
(M) "Well I am pretty much consumed with music and if I am not doing Queensrcyhe I am doing solo projects and I am not doing that I have a beer company I work on that . I sell beer and it's called 'Whipale'. (Ed: Are you trying to do the same thing that Iron Maiden are doing with their beer 'The Trooper'?) I haven't tried that yet. I have little things I do that keeps me out of trouble."
Looking back at the past albums with Queensryche, which is you're favourite and why and least favourite?
(M) "Well there all great for what ever reason and I can't say which is my favourite or more important. They all have great meanings and the EP was just some kids in their teens just getting together and finding out which is the cool gear or not. Then came 'The Warning', it was great and memorial and we came to the UK to live and record that album. Been from Seattle was a shock to us and I was 21 yrs old and living in Notting Hill Gate and learning to ride the tube and working with James Guthry was awesome as we all loved Pink Floyd and 'The Wall' was the holy grail to us. We recorded the album in a church called 'Angel', and Mayfair recording studios & Abby road with Michael Kamen doing the orchestral parts of the album."
Each album has it's own story for whatever reason and their all very special , especially the 1st 5-6 albums.
(P) "Well I have played on almost all of them now, and I think the most fun I had was on the 'Empire' and 'Rage for Order' and 'The American Solider'. I think all the guitar parts of the 'Rage For Order' album are so much fun to play. (Ed: I think 'Rage for Order' was a hard album to get into at 1st, but saying that 'Operation Mindcrime' was the hardest for me, there was so much going on it took me a long time to adjust to it). (Both Laugh)."
Have you talked about doing a new live DVD in the very near future with Todd?
(M) "Well we did talk about it, there has been a lot of times were we filmed the whole making of the new album (Ed: So why was that not on the new album as a bonus DVD?) Well we have to put it all together and we have piles of footage which needs editing and there is too much footage. We did a video for the song 'Redemption' which has a taste of what is yet to come."
(P) "That is just footage from behind the scenes of the album and so that it just little snip bits and we have enough footage to make a DVD. We have 100 and 100 of hours worth of footage to go through and every session we did there was a film crew there."
(M) "This is about rebuilding and re-establishing and getting good communication with good venues and promoters and England for the last few years has been a tough market for the band for whatever reasons and now we are trying to repair and re bridge that gap and that problem. We are here to show that we are a band again. (Ed: Do you feel like you are like Judas Priest when Tim joined the band, having the same problem when Rob left the band?) No not really because we are more of a band with Todd and that is the reason why the album came together and why it is so successful reviewed and accepted around the world and the sales are great."
Did it ever worry you that Todd might leave as he was once with Crimson Glory, he did a great job for them.
(M) "I really didn't know he was in them and I think we played a show with that band back in 80's."
(P) "When he joined the band there were people online that were skeptical about him joined the band and if Queensryche could carry on with a new singer. Once our record came out and playing live shows with him things quickly changed. Now we have nothing but support from the fans and it has been all positive."
Before choosing Todd as the new singer, how many auditions did you do? You must of had tons of demos sent right?
(M) "Well we didn't do any auditions at all, it was just a series of events and we wanted to do something because our lead singer had decided to take some dates off by doing his solo thing and were at home doing nothing. So we decided to do the same, and I had met Todd that the Nam convention and I pitched it to the guys that I had met Todd. He was a screamer and he is operatic, and really cool and down to earth. The idea just spawned and it happened really rapidly and decisions had to be made and we had to book 2 shows at the 'Hard Rock' cafe before even having rehearsed with Todd and even before these guys had met him. It was a eye opening event and we had 10 days to get our stuff together before those 2 shows and we rehearsed in Scott's basement and everything was riding me on as Todd could of been a nut job. He was so professional and he knew the songs inside out, and we were all blown away by his voice."
When I 1st heard Todd singing for the band I thought it was a younger version of Geoff.
(M) "Yeah you're right, when we were at the 'Rising West' show Tom Hall who recorded and produced the EP was there and and he came up to Todd and said that he was stronger, and better than Geoff ever was. Todd is a very more honest and personal person and that works a little better with the crowd, and he doesn't say the same thing every night and he is loving it live. He has big shoes to fill but he will get there we believe in him! It was working so well, better than we thought of and dreamed of."
Before we move on to talk about the new album, there must be a lot of bitching about who owns the name between Geoff and yourselves. So who does own the name and how difficult is it for you to tour and likewise for him?
(M) "Well that will be decided in the court in January of 2014. From an logistics point of view , you have 3 original members in this band, we are a majority and these are the guys who wrote the music for the albums that you love. To me that just makes more sense. We have our producer back Jimbo Burton back and he totally believes in us now!"
Ok let's talk about the new album now, so why self title the album? Didn't you have any other names?
(M) "Well we didn't have anything else to prove, Queensryche has always been about the band, not about 1 person it's the image and the symbol of the band."
(P) "It is also like a rebirth of the band, a new chapter and era."
How long did it take to record the new album?
(M) "Well what happened was we were doing shows every weekend or every other weekend and we had to fit into the schedule. I think in January of 2013 we had the opportunity to get the drums recorded at 'London Bridge' studios with Jimbo and then he had to go back to L.A. and we had gigs to do. So it was a matter of when we could get Jimbo back in the studio with us and we did not have a stretched time of recording. We did it in a weekend here & there basically."
Do you think this album would of turned out as good if you had of done it in a shorter time?
(P) "Well it is hard to say, the songs were pretty much far done before we started tracking them. Once we had time to record everything it went pretty fast and we did a song a day with the guitars."
(M) "The pre-production was done with Scott recording his drums and Jimbo flew up for that. The rest was done when we had some time to record the songs like we said earlier. We then signed a record deal with Century Media, and a management deal then it was getting everything networked together so that everybody got the jobs done. Parker and I where at my studio and Eddie was at another studio and Jimbo called up Tom Hall and he helped us out and recorded the bass for us. We had some guest vocals by Pamela Moore."
So what's your favourite songs on the album and why? Also were the songs wrote as a team effort?
(P) "Well it was always kind of all over the place as far as we were collaborating goes and on every song everybody contributed and wrote their own parts . As far as writing the whole songs it would be Scott would write the music and send it to Todd or Mike would write a song and Eddie would write the lyrics. It was all of us getting involved to be honest. (Ed: Todd is a talented musician right? He can play drums, guitars and vocals, as he has his own solo album coming out soon right?).My songs on the album have changed from day to day and I like 'A World Without' is a song I like right now, it is a slower song but it is one of those songs once you play it live it grows on you more. We have a 3 song live video coming out which is like a short film which is 10 minutes long. The songs are 'A World Without', 'A Midnight Lullaby'."
(M) "I think that he played drums on you're demo song didn't he Parker? (laughing). I wrote the music and lyrics and Todd recorded the drums so it is all over the place. There is no set way and who jumps at the opportunity or the idea. I don't have a favourite song, there all so different for me, I like the song 'Vindication' and I want to see them play it live and see their fingers flying (laughing), especially Scott as it is so ridiculous part for him to play."
I love the album as you may of seen my album review, but the 1st song 'Where Dreams Go To Die' which has a great intro and sounds heavy but after a few bars to goes mellow again, why did you decide to make that a rather mellow song? I mean its a great song but it could of been the 'Painkiller' of Queensryche if you wanted it too? Didn't you ever think of re-recording it with loads of double bass?
(P) "Well I think the beginning and choruses were like that when we 1st recorded them, but it is the way how the song ended up and Scott will play it his style. I think Scott would have to answer that question about beefing the song up. When we recorded the demo I cant play drums for shit and my demos are double bass recordings. Our music is about dynamics within the songs."
You were signed to Roadrunner a while ago until the new album was released, what went wrong there?
(M) "Well the whole Roadrunner thing just folded and we were approached by Century Media and the president of the U.S. company but we have not met the guys in Europe yet. The label have been awesome towards us, and they have world-wide distribution and our records are everywhere. We had 3 labels that showed interest in us, they were Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner and Century Media. We also had interest from Gene Simmons label too."
How long is the deal with the label and will you be re-signing to them?
(M) "We are doing 2 albums with them with options to re sign if we are all happy."
Moving on guys, how's the tour going so far? How's the fans taking to Todd and the new music?
(M) "The tour has been great, the response has been great too. The venues have been great too and it has been a brief week in the UK, but I think we have made a great impact. (Ed: Have you been approached to play Bloodstock next year?) There is talk about it, only time will tell."
Well I would like to thank you guys for taking you're time out and doing the interview. Best of luck with the tour and record sales. Do you have anything to say before we finish?
(M) "Thank you for the support to our fans, and we hope to be back in the UK soon. Thanks for the interview, pleasure meeting you again Jason."
(P) "Yeah come see us live with the new line-up we are really excited to be out on the road with a new album and to play the old material and it is like a rebirth of a legendary band. So we are very excited to be out with a new album and touring again."
Many thank's to Nina @ Noise Cartel, Fozzy the tour Manager and the band.