Todd La Torre
Rejoiced Suffering.. Todd Speaks Out.
Todd LaTorre is most know for his work with the mighty 'Queensryche', since joining the band in 2012 after former singer Geoff Tate's departure, Todd had massive shoes to fill and believe it or not he did an exceptionally job filling those shoes. Todd's other work outside of the Rcyhe goe back to his 1st band 'Blackwell', which featured Craig Blackwell who released in later years a guitar shredding album. Todd went onto joining the mighty Crimson Glory, toured with the band world-wide but sadly the band never got around to recording an album, Todd explains later in this interview the reasons why.
Todd joined forces with the Queensryche guys for the band 'Rising West', a bit of fun at the start but soon became a dream come true job for him as the band offered him the front man position to record their next album which was self titled and released in 2013 through Century Media.
Todd has come along way since his early career proving himself to be a force to be reckoned with, proving he can sing the classic Queensryche songs in a strong and powerful position that shocked the fans live, proving he can sing them as good as Geoff Tate.
3 albums in and he's got even strong as a front man and as a vocalist, Todd started work on his solo album with long time friend Craig Blackwell on this debut album 'Rejoiced in the Suffering', which has just been released through Ratpak Records. I remember Todd playing me some of the demo songs on the 'Condition Human' tour and I told him they sounded like Over Kill meets Fight. I was excited to hear what the rest of the album would bring to the table. Finally all these years later this album has just been released.
Well this album is totally amazing, a strong and very powerful album indeed, so if you don't have it yet make sure you order it soon, you won't be disappointed. Here is what Todd had to say to the following questions.
Hey Todd, great to speak to you again, hope you're well. Congratulations on a great debut album. I would like to ask the interview off by asking you what was you're 1st band you were in, was it 'Rising West' or was there another band before hand?
"Well thanks for the nice words about my album, it has finally seen the light of day. It has took some time and yes I do remember you for sure. To answer you're question, I was in a band called 'Blackwell' with my friend Craig Blackwell, and back then I was the drummer. After that I was in a band called 'Inferred' and we would play around the Tampa bay area of Florida. I later on did some cover stuff with locals around here as a drummer and then I joined Crimson Glory in 2010, then the 'Rising West' thing was basically 'Queensryche' minus Geoff Tate which was just a side project and I was the singer.
I later on joined Queensryche as the singer 2012 and I was actually in Crimson Glory at the same time."
I believe you played you're 1st instrument at the age of 10, was an acoustic guitar. What made you want to play guitar 1st? What did you're parents think about you wanting a guitar?
"Well my mum bought me a classic guitar 1st and I took lessons for a little while and when I was 13 in school they had a drum set that I wanted to play, so I would sit down on them but didn't know what to do with them, but it was fun and I loved them sound of drums. So at the age of 13 my dad bought me my 1st drum kit which I still have. It is a Remo kit and I still have that 1st classic guitar that my mum bought me too. Drums took over but I still like the guitar and I bought my 1st guitar with is a 'B.C. Rich' which I still have and love that guitar.
Drums actually became more natural to me and guitar was much harder for me to play, but drums became very natural so I was always a drummer for the most of my life. I also like to sing but I wasn't trying to become a singer or even try to make out of here as a singer. I always wanted to be just the drummer so that is where it all started."
As a guitarist who are you're influences? Also who are you're drum influences?
"Well I have a lot of guitar influences, When I was 13 I loved bands like Dokken & Ratt, I just loved the songs like 'Dream Warriors' or 'Kiss of Death' and I always loved the rhythms on those Dokken & Ratt albums. So it was people like George Lynch, Warren DeMartini, who were 2 huge influences on me. As far as drummer go, well I like bands like Tesla growing up and when I got into heavier music I like drummers from Over Kill, Testament, Helloween (only a little), Slayer, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, that kind of stuff.
There are a million drummers in different genres that play great, so it would be difficult for me to pick some drummers. I really do like Stewart Copeland from 'The Police' (Ed: Yeah he's great)."
What about vocalist, who inspired you?
"Well in the early days I would like to a lot of 70's singer song writers kind of stuff, a lot of singers from the 70's, I also liked singers from 'Heart', 'The Police', Billy Idol, then singers like Brian Adams, and when I started to get more into the Rock Scene I would listen too singers that I mentioned before. I heard Iron Maiden with Bruce and I liked the way he sang with the vibrato and operatic vocals just just connected with me. I'm also influenced by Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio who to me is the greatest singer of all time.
(Ed: What did you think of 'Midnight' from Crimson Glory? Did you ever seen them live with him on vocals? I saw him in 89 and he was amazing live). I think his voice was insane and he had an insane range, I could never get that high, but nobody sang with the emotion that Midnight had. Even Geoff Tate I consider to have created a sound of his own but when you compare it to that of Midnight, nobody had the emotion that Midnight had period!! I don't think he was the best live performer but the records he did with the band were outstanding, but I feel that is emotion and delivery was so unique and unparalleled with passion and emotion he would deliver the sound was just eerie and awesome.
I never got to see them live with Midnight sadly, you we're lucky to of seen them live especially on the 'Transcendence' tour. That album was their finest album. (Ed: I wasn't really a fan of their 3rd album 'Strange and Beautiful', what did you think of it?). Yeah it was a different album for them and it had a different sound."
I was really hoping that you would of done an album with Crimson Glory before leaving, what happened?
"Well we we're all writing and Jon was just not focused and we would try to do writing sessions and he would not turn up or he would come over and I wouldn't hear from him and I would sit around waiting for him to arrive. So I would call him and he would still be in Miami, so that would happen so many times that the whole band were frustrated. (Ed: Did you not think of finding a replacement?) I told the band we should look for a replacement and I said I know he has a massive part in the bands sound, but other bands have done similar things and I said to the band this is our chance for the band to make a great record. I said why would you let one person ruin our chances of making a great album? We we're in the press again and we did a couple of tours which were a huge success for the band.
That is the reason why I quit the band, it wasn't going anywhere and I remember Jon saying 'The fans will wait', and I got so pissed off when I heard that I thought it was extremely arrogant and I lost all respect and it was more hassle then it was worth in the end. I feel bad for the rest of the band as they would show up for band rehearsals and he couldn't care less."
Moving on now, when you look back at the early Queensryche albums, which one are you're favourites and why?
"Well I would have to say 'The Warning', I really like that album and the songs are great to play live, no doubt about it."
So when you joined the band do you have a favourite from the 3 albums you recorded with the band?
"Well it's a toss up between the last 2, I think there are some really good songs on 'Condition Human' and there's also good songs on 'The Verdict' too. I really don't have a favourite."
Well you certainly have made the bands music get heavier and darker since you joined the band that's for sure. The band really needed a kick in the arse and you give them that push!!
"Well from what I am told is that Geoff was controlling the sound and style of the band and I lot of idea's were been rejected and when I joined the band I said 'If you want to write heavy stuff then do it!! Show me our ideas, I would never turn down any ideas or riffs they had. I told them that they would never off me anything that was too heavy, so it was an opportunity for them to write stuff that they wanted to write. They just wrote the music that they wanted to do for so long and I sang on them, there was no way a singer would sing something there not happy with.
A lot of the bands later material before I joined the band was done by outsiders getting involved in the writing and taking out parts the some of them members had recorded, they had their parts taken away and those records were boring."
Moving on why did Scott leave the band? I heard he left for paternity leave as his wife had a child, but that was some time ago. I thought he would of been back by now.
"He said he wanted paternity leave for 6 months and and it's been 4 yrs since he left the band. Nobody in the band hears from him, so we have no idea what he is up too."
So you finally got to release you're debut solo album 'Rejoice in the Suffering', what a great album it is, it's so heavy but still melodic. How did you come up with the title for the album?
"Well it was the 1st song that Craig and myself wrote and it surrounds my dad's death who passed away in 2014 and there was a lot of turmoil around his death and not good things happening with regards to my sister and myself the way we we're treated. So basically it was a big 'Fuck You' to certain people around my fathers death. So that title and song is about that topic. "
When we met on the 'Condition Human' tour in UK you played me some demo versions of some of the songs from this solo album, that was like 4 yrs ago. What songs were they if you remember them?
"I can't remember what they were back then, I had the title song as a demo and maybe 'One by One', I'm not 100% sure."
So the album was produced by Craig and yourself with the mixing/ mastering by Zeuss known for his work with Queensryche and Sanctuary. How did that come about?
"Well Zeuss is a producer but he did not produce this album even though the press kit says otherwise. He's an awesome guy to work with and he understands what to bring out in the mix and mastering. He also plays the guitar & bass too, so he understands what it's about so he's a musicians also."
Who did you hook up with Craig once again after so many years to record this album? Did you have any other musicians in mind?
"I met Craig when I was 14, it was my 1st band and we we're called 'Blackwell', Craig and I have been best friends since we we're teenagers and when it was time to record this record I said we should do this record together. I could of asked a lot of other guitarist to record this record that had bigger names, but Craig and I are on the same level and we also think alike.
I knew it would be fun to record and it was like going back to our roots and making this record was like going back to those root, to make a record as if we we're teenagers and 20's and the metal that we liked back then and that is the reason why I wanted Craig to do this record with me."
What sort of style of Metal or Rock music was 'Blackwell'? Is there anything on You Tube the fans can check out?
"Well I think there could be some stuff on You Tube, you would have to look for it. Craig had a solo album out which is a guitar shredding release, and it's really good. He is a super talented guitar player and a great song writer. He played the guitar and bass & keyboards on the album, I did the drums and vocals. (Ed: I am surprised you didn't get involved with some of the guitar playing as well) Well Craig is a much better guitarist than I am and I wanted best for the album."
To me you're music comes across between Over Kill, Fight, Halford mainly do you agree?
"Yes I would agree, I would say more Fight than a little bit of Over Kill and the thing I liked about 'Fight' was they had a lot of groove in their music even though it was heavy. (Ed: The song 'Critical Cynic' reminds me at the start of the band 'Impellitteri'', do you agree?) Well that little intro was something that Craig and I had from 1996 and we always liked the little piece of music.
So we wanted to use it if we ever did an album together. There's another grove in the song 'Vexed' which is just a musical thing are 2 things that we had written in the mid 90's and when it came to writing this album I asked him if he remembered those parts and if we could steal those parts and ad them to a song for this record. And so we took the 2 parts that nobody had heard before and added them to 2 new songs for this record. It was great to resurrect those ideas and record them for this record."
So what songs from the debut album stand out for you the must and why?
"Well I would have to say songs like 'Crossroads to Insanity' is a great song, 'Rejoice in the Suffering', 'Vanguards of the dawn Wall', 'Dogmata', there's a lot of great songs on this record. I also like 'Darkened Majesty' as it's thrash sounding but also fun and then you open up to a chorus which sounds like Crimson Glory or Queensryche. (Ed: To me the title track reminds me of 'Eidolon', Glen Drover's old band, and you song on Walls of Blood album for the song 'Discordia', they sound very similar with the guitar tones). Yeah I did that song with Glen, it was a lot of fun to do the vocals for that record. I guess the tones could be similar for sure."
I noticed the last song 'One by One' has a slight hint of Death Metal in it, 2 bands that come to mind are Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation with the melodic elements of maybe Over Kill and Queesryche that do go really well together. Tell me about that song, it's a great song."
"Yeah I agree, but I am not a fan of the blast beats that happen a lot in that music but this has more grove and yet melodic and the vocals you an understand, kind of like 'Behemoth' you can understand the delivery verses some of the Death Metal bands the growling and guttering are so muffled and I can't understand them. When I am vocalizing you can understand what I am saying. (Ed: Was it funning trying not to laugh when you did the death grunts?) No it was all good, I have been doing the Death Metal grunts/ growls for 20yrs now, for me it's easy to do and I like to do them, and nobody had heard me do them on a record until now."
Besides touring with Queenrsyche which is you're priority, how long did it take to record this album?
"Well with the pieces of material we had it took us about 4 months to record the album. We we're busy every single day when the shut down happened over here in mid March of 2020 so we started on the art work for the album and everyday we would work on the songs and we didn't waste any time and I told Craig this was the time to do the album right now as we knew we would not have this type of downtime to record the album. We would work either 8 or 10 hrs a day getting this album put together, writing and recording the songs."
So what do the rest of Queensryche think of the album?
"Well they like it, they love it and Michael & Casey support it. There's happy for me as they knew I have been talking about doing this album for many years now, I have nothing but full support form my band mates and that really does help a lot. Michael even has some other side projects that he's doing outside of Queensryche and he played me some of that stuff which is really cool too. We both support each other outside of our main band and that is good for us both. Queensryche will always be our main priority that's for sure."
So the deal with 'Ratpak', how long is the deal for and are you happy with the way things are going with them?
"Yes things are going well, they have the option for the next album. Ratpak is a great label and there so easy to work with, and I don't have to talk to various departments all the time, it's just one happy family. I'm good friends with the boss and we exchange ideas back and forth and we get along so well, there just a great label. They out out some professional bungles and packages and there on top of their game. They also love my record which helps a lot."
I have noticed you have released 2 promos videos so far for this album will you be releasing another video for the album? If so which song?
"Well we have released 3 songs for the album now, they are 'Crossroads to Insanity', 'Darkened Majesty' and the new video 'Vanguards of the dawn Wall'."
What sort of press reviews has the album been receiving so far?
"Well every journalist so far have been blown away by the songs, vocals, music and production and it's a kick ass record. A lot of them have said we don't hear music like this coming often anymore, so it's a good feeling to hear that. I put on the radio and I can tell you there's no singers anymore, they all sound the same and you can't tell them apart. I wanted to do something that can show how diverse my music is and how diverse my vocals can be."
As you're debut also album is such a great album, do you thin you can better it with the next album? I have been bands do such great debuts that their next releases don't match up to that, do you think you can better this with the next album?
"Well my idea for the 2nd album is more melodic Death Metal, in the vain of 'One by One', with some clean vocals. This debut album is more of a classic album but I still want to go more brutal and darker on the next album. I have 3 songs written already for this album so we will see how that goes."
If we are allowed to see bands touring in 2021, do you think you will take this project out on tour?
"Well Queensryche will be first, and if there is an opportunity for this project to tour when Queensryche have days off then maybe so. "
Well Todd it's been a pleasure speaking to you, be safe and good luck with the sales of this album. I hope we meet again soon when lockdown is over. Do you have anything to say too the readers?
"Yeah thanks for the interview Jason and for taking you're time to do this interview, it was nice to catch up again. To the fans, thanks for for checking out the album there is a lot of diversity on the record. I would hate for anybody to hear just one song and judge the album on that, because the album has so much to offer. Go grab a copy it's a really solid and heavy but melodic album."
Thanks to Todd & Kevin @ Ratpak for the interview. (c) 2021