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Michael Wilton on Queensrÿche's "Progressive" and Unpredictable New Material

“When you’re young and you see your vision and you believe in it, I’m kinda the guy who did that,” says Michael Wilton, founder and guitarist of Queensrÿche. “I’m the kind of guy that if I’m going to do something, I’m gonna do it to the utmost and best of my capabilities. I never felt defeated and I never gave up.”

Formed in the former sleepy Seattle suburb of Bellevue in 1982 by Wilton along with guitarist Chris DeGarmo, bassist Eddie Jackson, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and singer Geoff Tate, Queensrÿche would have a slow start with its debut album, The Warning. In retrospect, that album failed to capture the imaginations of the fans and the band.

With 1986's follow-up effort, Rage for Order, the band began introducing progressive elements, then nascent studio techniques to achieve a distinct sound that immediately set them apart from other metal bands. With the release and subsequent touring for Operation: Mindcrime and Empire in '88 and '90, respectively, Queensrÿche became a household name and one of the most successful metal outfits, with numerous Grammy Awards and over 20 million album sales worldwide.

“I’ve been able to be a musician for over 30 years. I just kept going at it, doors kept opening and opening,” Wilton says of the band's longevity. “We’re a band that evolves with each album.” But with 30 years of roadwork behind them, things haven't always been smooth sailing. As the glory days of the '80s fell away to the alt-rock explosion of the '90s, the band soldiered through the decade on its own terms.

“Everybody [in the band] has their own idiosyncrasies and their own ambitious natures to them, but you know, I would say that everybody loves what they do, playing their instrument and expressing it to the utmost. And the fact that we keep evolving as musicians and as human beings and people works for us.”

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At the conclusion of the '90s, the band amicably parted ways with DeGarmo and in 2012 famously entered into a bitter split with singer Tate that resulted in the temporary usage of the moniker by both camps — a move that caused a splintering of their fanbase. After this highly publicized debacle, Wilton and the rest of the band eventually reconvened with singer and Florida native Todd La Torre, formerly of Crimson Glory.

“Now that we’ve moved on from that, it’s old history, we have rebuilt what was basically damaged goods. And we’ve been doing it for the last four years, so now the fans know this as Queensrÿche, with the added bonus that we have so many new fans just because of Todd and this version has taken this into the next chapter of history.”

With La Torre, Queensrÿche is now two albums into that new chapter, the most recent being Condition Hüman, produced by Chris “Zeuss” Harris, who’d been looking for a respite from producing grindcore albums. “He took the assets of the band and built a foundation for the recording with a modern set, which we wanted, with cues from how we recorded the early albums. A little progressive here, a little intriguing here; the stuff that made Queensrÿche special because you never knew what was coming next.”

Queensrÿche
With special guest Dokken. 6 p.m., Saturday, February 27 at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1806 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach. Tickets cost $38 to $78 plus fees. Call 954-519-5500 or visit theamppompano.org

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