Queensrÿche ruled the progressive metal scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. After two releases, this band from Bellevue, Washington, entered the worldwide spotlight with its 1988 concept album, “Operation: Mindcrime,” which was followed by the highly successful “Empire.”
Queensryche’s music allowed the band to amass a legion of committed fans that followed them into the new millennium. But 2012 brought a split and a legal battle between vocalist Geoff Tate and founding members Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton. Ultimately, Jackson, Rockenfield and Wilton were allowed to continue performing under the name Queensrÿche, with Todd La Torre on vocals and Parker Lundgren on guitar.
When the band arrives at the Hard Rock, it will bring both an electrifying stage show as well as music from its recent album “Condition Human,” which has been thrilling fans and critics alike. Guitarist Michael Wilton gave Lagniappe a look into the progressive metal band’s past, present and future.
Stephen Centanni: Over the decades, Queensrÿche has established an extremely dedicated following that still flocks to each performance. What do you think it is about Queensrÿche and the music you play that has found a permanent place in so many fans’ hearts?
Michael Wilton: That’s an interesting question. I think it’s due to the uniqueness of the music. I think it’s a bit progressive and a bit melodic and a bit heavy, and that kind of relates to people and audiences. We tour so much and expose ourselves to huge audiences — that has played a role in our acquiring the pseudo cult following.
Centanni: In 2012 on “The Classic Metal Show,” your former lead singer Geoff Tate in so many words insinuated he was the reason Queensrÿche moved forward. Since Tate left, Queensrÿche has released two more albums with the most recent, “Condition Human,” getting a ton of praise. With that said, what do you think of Tate’s statement now?
Wilton: Well … Queensrÿche is what has made Queensrÿche popular. It is the entity of the individuals, not one person. Above and beyond that, I can’t really add much more value to what he said.
Centanni: “Condition Human” includes songs you and Scott wrote some time ago, but had yet to release. How does it feel to finally give those songs to the public?
Wilton: Yeah, we’re in a unique situation where a lot of music was put to the side or not used for whatever reasons. In writing Queensrÿche music, it could be a guitar part that’s just a riff or melody or a chorus, or a drumbeat or a melodic line or a vocal. With that being said, we have plenty, plenty, plenty of ideas that have been stored over the decade. You name every medium: ADAT, data cassettes, micro-cassettes, CDs, tons of hard drives and USB drives. Everything is accessible. Now that Queensrÿche is a band, you’ve got five guys writing right now, and you have all their creativity in the pool to pull ideas and to work together songs. There is no shortage of ideas anywhere for us for many years to come.
Centanni: That’s definitely good news. This album has that old-school Queensrÿche vibe. How did that vibe make it back into the album?
Wilton: The old-school vibe comes from the old-school guys in the band. That’s the short answer. When we put together “Condition Human,” our producer Zuess (Christopher Harris) is a fan of the first five albums. He wanted to bring together the magic of those early recording sessions, of how the songs were put together and how they were recorded, and how the guitar parts were written and how the double solos and melodic lines were put together. It was in such a way that we made arrangements a little more progressive, and people recognize that and say, “Oh yeah! That sounds like Queensrÿche!” It worked in our favor, because you have people who haven’t heard Queensrÿche in a long time saying, “Hey, that sounds like Queensrÿche!” Because it was also a hybrid, modern recording, you have new people saying, “Hey, that sounds pretty cool!” So, it’s a win-win situation.
I think it’s because of the chemistry and bonding of the band members. You have a bit of both worlds. Staying current is what we want to do, but when you have the advantage of having the three guys who started the band, you have their DNA ingrained in the music. That’s the situation that we’re in, and we take advantage of it.
Centanni: The eight-minute title track completes the album. What’s the story behind that monster?
Wilton: The song “Condition Human” was a demo that had been kicking around, that was only about three minutes long. It’s one of those songs that you keep adding parts to it. It got to a point where we saw that this thing wanted to go in all these different paths and all these nontraditional-arrangement ways. We said, “Let’s make this an old-school, ‘80s epic eight-minute song.” So it just grew. You know that movie “The Blob?” It just kept getting bigger and longer. The song appeared and gave itself that eight-minute feeling. That’s how we went with it, and our producer said, “Awesome! This should be the closing song on the album.”
Centanni: After all the drama you’ve had in recent years, critics and fans are saying this is one of your best albums yet. What do you think of all the positive attention this album has been getting?
Wilton: It’s great! In the last four years, we’ve really collaborated and focused on the music and bringing it to sound like Queensrÿche again. The world is noticing what’s happening. With “Condition Human,” we’re charting in countries around the world that we haven’t charted in since the 1990s. What’s happening is that we’re moving along on the path that we want to be on. Basically, a lot of people are taking notice of it, and the world wants Queensrÿche again.
Centanni: You guys have maintained a reputation for having elaborate stage shows. What’s the stage show in Biloxi going to be like?
Wilton: Well, the stage show, when it’s available to us, will have these state-of-the-art LCD screens that are just amazing. Scott Rockenfield and Kerry Pierson put together all these videos and imagery to sync along with the music that we’re playing in concert. It’s definitely a three-dimensional feel. In keeping with Queensrÿche and the multimedia experience, we’ve put together a full show. It’s a full event now, just because we’ve been able to build this into the touring set. People are just blown away. You’re playing the songs that people want to hear and playing the new songs that people want to hear. Plus, there’s this badass visual presentation with light and sound. It’s a full-on experience. It’s what Queensrÿche is known for, and it’s why we’re heading in that direction again.