During the past year or so, I’ve found myself in a situation where I work from home, and generally don’t venture out much. Typically, people like this are called “housewives” and watch daytime television to keep them from focusing on their own miserable lives. Unfortunately, I don’t fit that description, and I demand a little more from my daily distractions. You see, I have a need within me to see good things happen to good people, and more importantly, to see really bad things happen to people who are assholes. And the thing that’s been getting me through the day for the past 10 months is the endless drama of Queensrÿche vs. Geoff Tate.
In case you actually have a life, here’s what happened: Last May, Queensÿche fired Tate, their singer for the past 3 decades, after a bizarre altercation in Brazil where Tate physically assaulted his bandmates before the show, and spit on one of them during it. Court documents further revealed that Tate had shut his bandmates (Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, and Scott Rockenfield) out of the band’s creative process for many years, preferring to work with outside songwriters and studio musicians of his choosing1. The remaining members have since carried on with new singer Todd LaTorre (ex-Crimson Glory) and young guitarist Parker Lundgren (who happens to be Tate’s ex-son in law — seriously, you can’t make this shit up). Predictably, Tate filed a lawsuit to prevent his former bandmates from using the QR name; when the judge shut him down, Tate decided to start his version of the band instead. So for now, there are currently two Queensryches, and there will continue to be until the lawsuit’s conclusion in November.
If this was a daytime soap opera, Tate would be a perfect made-for-TV villain. Judging by his ridiculous antics and appearance (think Anton Lavey at a gay bar), he clearly relishes playing the bad guy. If the court documents are to be believed, he’s a bigger bitch than all of the Real Housewives combined, full of cheap shots and treacherous moves. With the help of his wife (who was QR’s manager for years), he effectively stole Queensrÿche‘s creativity, business, and their very identity from under them. Tate’s bizarre behavior has only escalated since his firing — numerous YouTube videos have revealed shitty performances and questionable wardrobe, but none were as ridiculous as Tate’s self-produced EPK, which might be the very definition of “narcissist.” He continues to sling mud at his ex-bandmates every chance he gets, and his new “Queensrÿche” album, Frequency Unknown, is a not-clever pun on the initials F.U., with the artwork sending a clear message to his former band as well as their fans.
The members of Queensrÿche appear to be the polar opposite of Tate — soft-spoken, regular dudes who honestly just want to make music and get on with their lives. It’s easy to see how someone as egomaniacal as Tate could have imposed his will upon someone as laid-back as, say, Michael Wilton. This is not to say that they are free of blame, however. In their sworn statements, they pretty much admit that they tolerated Tate because Queensrÿche paid the bills, and they didn’t want to rock the boat when there were mortgages and kids’ braces to pay for. And Tate’s accusation that these guys can’t write songs does have a grain of truth to it, judging by past writing credits. Still, they come off as victims and protagonists in the larger story, like the ladies in those Lifetime movies that endure an abusive husband for years before finally leaving him and shacking up with a nice guy who will help raise the kids and doesn’t drink so much (Mr. LaTorre, I guess that would be you).
In the court of public opinion, the Wilton/Jackson/Rockenfield lineup seems to have come out on top. Tate certainly has his supporters, most of whom are of the opinion that “he’s the VOICE of the band!” (apparently they haven’t heard Tate sing lately). These are the fans that will pay to hear “Silent Lucidity” at state fairs for years to come. But for the most part, die-hard QR fans seem to recognize that Tate is no longer an asset to the band, and many are even happy to see him go. Even the court documents have noted the band’s “increased market value…after the parting of singer Geoff Tate.” Can you imagine David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen in 1985 and all their fans saying “good, fuck that guy”? No. That sort of thing can only happen to a frontman when most fans think said frontman is an asshole.
Currently, both bands are planning to finally let the music do the talking. Queensrÿche has signed a deal with the Century Media label, and announced a June release date for their still-untitled record. (Interestingly, Century is the parent company of InsideOut Records, who released the most recent solo album by one Mr. Geoff Tate.) The few clips they’ve released do bear some resemblance to QR‘s better days, and also demonstrate that LaTorre is more than worthy of the mantle.
Tate-ryche, however, has had a far more difficult birth. losing two of its star members (Ratt‘s Bobby Blotzer and ex-Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover) before ever playing a single show. Frequency Unknown includes a seemingly random array of guests (Brad Gillis? Chris Poland? Lita fucking Ford?!). I figured Uncle Vester would swing for the fences on this one, if only out of spite, but the samples on iTunes suggest more of the same faceless, boring old-guy rock that started this mess in the first place. Despite having half of Forbidden on the recording, F.U. belongs not in the mosh pit, but perhaps at the wine bar.
There is one undeniable truth in all of this: the “real” Queensrÿche, whatever that was, is not coming back. If Todd LaTorre lacks some of the magic that Geoff Tate had in 1988, present-day Tate certainly doesn’t have it either. The LaTorre-fronted version may indeed have shortcomings in the songwriting department, but the guy who wrote “Say U Luv It” has no room to talk. And neither lineup includes guitarist Chris DeGarmo, Queensrÿche‘s ace songwriter who pulled a disappearing act back in 1997.
So what happens now? The courtroom drama is on hold until November, with no guarantee of an outcome anytime soon. Will the legal system uphold what the fans have already decided? Will Frequency Unknown destroy what’s left of the real Queensrÿche‘s career? Or will Lundgren have the last laugh on his ex-wife’s dad? My obsession with this scenario is bordering on the unhealthy. I demand closure. I demand justice. If I can’t go to my job and spit on my co-workers, then goddammit, Tate shouldn’t be allowed to either. More to the point, I want to hear some good music, and Wilton and co. seem to have a better shot of accomplishing that [And just look who agrees with you — Steel Druhm]. Ironically, this court case is probably the most entertaining thing Queensrÿche has done in the last 15 years, and it will be hard for either of the upcoming albums to top that.