American Soldier by Queensryche: Interview With Front Man Geoff Tate
April 4, 2009
A week or so ago, I wrote this article on the new album by the band Queensryche. An album that tells the story of the American fighting men and women, aptly titled American Soldier. I told you that I was working on setting up an interview with the band and if I was able to arrange it, I would write a follow-up article based on the interview. While I wasn’t able to interview the entire band, Queensryche front man Geoff Tate did take some time out of his day on March 31st, the release date of American Soldier to speak with me on the phone about the album, and what inspired the band to delve in a new direction.
Queensryche is known for their concept or theme albums, where all songs on the album remain with a central theme. This album is no different, remaining in true Queensryche form a concept album, with one notable difference. Past albums have told the story of the bands experiences, in their words, their thoughts and their feelings. American Soldier is different, with the band telling the story of American Soldiers in combat from the perspective on the American Soldier themselves. I wanted to find out what inspired the band to go in this direction and why they chose American servicemembers as their topic.
When Geoff called me, I let him know that because I was talking to him, that I officially suck. He got a kick out of that and asked why that was. I told him that my fiancée Marty and my oldest son Corey are huge fans of Queensryche. While I’ve listened to some of their music over the years, I tend to gravitate towards things like Lynyrd Skynyrd and some of the classic rock bands I grew up listening to. When I told Marty and Corey that I was going to be conducting an interview with Geoff, they both immediately told me that I sucked. Ahhhhh, such is life!
Because this was a bit different for Queensryche, I asked Geoff how idea for American Soldier came about. Geoff shared that his father is a veteran of the military, having served in Vietnam and Korea. His father had never talked about his experiences before. One day he did, and Geoff was so moved that he video taped the conversation. That conversation sparked the idea for American Soldier.
“He never wanted to talk about his experiences. Whenever I asked him about it through the years, he would just say that it was something I didn’t want to hear about. I thought he just wasn’t comfortable talking about it”. Geoff shared that his father had retired to Oklahoma, where he’s currently busy building a home with his own two hands. “During the summer of 2006, while I was visiting my dad in Oklahoma and we were sitting on his porch drinking tea. Out of the blue, he started talking about his experiences. I got to know him in a way that I’ve never known him before.”
Geoff shared that his dad retired from the military, so I asked him what branch his father served in. Geoff shared that his dad was in the Marines during the Korean War. He was injured in Korea and spent approximately 9 months recovering from his injuries. After the Korean War, Geoff’s dad enlisted in the Air Force, where he served for 20 years. Born in Germany, Geoff grew up a military brat and thus traveled in several states, before the family finally settled in Washington state, where his father retired.
Growing up a military brat, Geoff stated that while his upbringing was strict and disciplined, his father taught him to never be afraid of hard work and to follow through with your word. According to Geoff, Perry Tate, was a good dad and always encouraged his children to follow their own path in life. For Geoff, military service never crossed his mind, instead, music had been a part of his life from a very young age and his father encouraged him to excel in his chosen path and has supported him as he’s followed his chosen career of music. Geoff shared that he tries to use his dad’s philosophies in raising his 4 daughters. I asked if any of the other band members were military brats or had served themselves.
“None of them have served and none had family members in the military. I’m the only one.”
Once the idea of American Soldier was born, Geoff started on a journey that would be a very rewarding one for him. Interviewing close to 350 Soldiers and Veterans, spanning a time period from World War II Veterans to Soldiers currently serving, he was able to get a peek into the thoughts and feelings of the men and women who serve in the military. Not only did those stories touch Geoff, but when he played the interviews for the rest of the band to introduce his idea to them, they all walked away very moved. Within a few days of seeing the videotaped interviews, the band met again, with each of them sharing ideas they had for songs, based on the interviews. Geoff shared one thing that he learned about our Troops through the interviews he conducted. To further show their appreciation for our Troops and the sacrifices they make, Queensryche is working with National Military Family Association, which is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing assistance to military members and their family. Geoff explained that on their website, listeners can purchase specific merchandise and the band will make a donation to National Military Family Association. That’s fantastic and yet another way that Geoff and the band can make a difference for our Troops!
I asked Geoff if the band has had the opportunity to perform for the Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Up to this point, they have not, however, he’s hoping that they’ll be able to do so, with their upcoming tour, which encompasses touring 28 countries. The tour kicks off on April 16th in Seattle. The hopes are that they’ll be able to visit military installations around the world as the tour progresses. Good news for those of you in the Fort Hood area, Queensryche will be making a special stop at the Fort Hood Clear Creek PX on Monday May 25th at 4pm, after shows in San Antonio and Dallas. If you’re in Fort Hood, stop by and say hi to Geoff and the band. I’ll be there for sure!
Geoff shared that after the album was completed, a process that lasted from the summer of 2006 to January 2009, the album was played for some of the Soldiers who Geoff interviewed. Their reaction is one that will likely stick with Geoff for a long time.
“It was a very amazing experience. A very emotional one for the Soldiers and many of them had tears in their eyes. For them, coming back home and the extremes they experience, is very hard. Soldiers feel really alone with their life. What they think and what they do. They feel that most Americans don’t really understand them or understand what they go through. With this album we hope that our listeners will be able, to for an hour, walk in their boots. I learned that our Soldiers are very thoughtful about their reasons for serving. All of them have an innate sense of duty, service to country and honor.”
Throughout the album, American Soldier, you’ll hear the voices of some of the Soldiers that Geoff interviewed, including his dad. On some tracks, you’ll hear the vocals of some of the Soldiers as well. I wondered what reaction Geoff had gotten from his dad, towards the album. Geoff said he’d sent the album to his dad and spoke with him on the phone a short time later.
“He told me, you know you’ve been waiting for me to talk about the war for 40 years now and then when I did, you only used 19 seconds of the interview.”
I hope that I was able to convey to Geoff, the depth of my appreciation for Queensryche’s undertaking of this project, this tribute to the Troops. I know I told him so several times during the almost hour that we spoke on the phone. As we ended our conversation, I asked what message Queensryche hoped to send with American Soldier.
“For the Troops, this album gives the listeners the chance to walk in their boots – to see their perspective. I hope that it will spark a dialog between people and our Troops. Through this album, I’m hoping that they’ll definitely get into contact with each other. So many of us, me included, take for granted what we have. We don’t think about the men and women who make that possible or how many of them have sacrificed for us, to allow us to live like we want in this country. We don’t think about the fact that they’re willing to sacrifice their lives for people they’ve never met. I’m hoping this will help to open those lines of communication.”
(Photos and video from the Official Queensryche website)