Queensrÿche's Geoff Tate: I Made Wine as a 14-Year-Old Boy Scout

​Geoff Tate, lead singer of prog-metal band Queensrÿche, is known for his four-octave vocal range as well for his band's conceptual epic albums. On its 30th-anniversary tour, the group's newest, Dedicated to Chaos, is a break from that format.

Tate recently shaved his tresses not because he wanted a new look but to support a friend with cancer. He's gone bald before but finds it spiritually uplifting and jokes that he's more aerodynamic. Once a vegan, the singer also has his own line of wines, has acted, and scored an upcoming film. We caught up with the singer to talk about all of his interesting projects and the band's newest musical endeavor. 

Queensrÿche has spent the past six months on the road with only two breaks to stop home. Though all the band members have come down with colds, they'll be well and ready to go again when filling up Revolution Live with sound on Friday.

New Times: Have you had any major incidents in the past six months, anything that stands out as an achievement or a challenge? 

Well, it's been pretty eventful. We've been a lot of places, played a lot of shows, it's been a really good tour considering the worldwide economy is in such a state. We were wondering how the tour was going to go because of that, it's actually been very successful. We're very happy that people ace come out to see the band. We're not complaining, we're very happy to be working. The biggest challenge is to stay healthy, we've all come down with colds. 

You're scoring a movie Fallen Moon. Has that project been completed yet? 

No, it hasn't. It's actually been an ongoing thing. 

You've worked on other movies, but is this the first full soundtrack you've done? 

Yeah, first one that I've done personally. As a band, we've done a few other films. I just acted a film last year called the The Burningmoore Incident, should be coming out this winter at some point. That was an interesting experience. I've never acted in a film like that before. It was amusing for me challenging. 

You're a performer so you might think it's a natural transition? Was it awkward in any way, did you feel uncomfortable in front of the cameras?

I got very comfortable with it. There's a lot of stuff you have to learn. I worked pretty closely with the director, Jonathan Williams on it. It was very helpful. I kind of adapted to it. I had to do a lot of stunt work which I'd never done before. The stunt coordinators show you how to roll, how not to get hurt. It's still really physical work, come out every day with scratches and bruises. 

You also produce a wine. Have you always been a fan of wine? 

Yeah, I actually have. I made my first batch of wine when I was 14. It was an experiment when I was in scouts to earn my merit badge. I kind of became fascinated with the whole chemistry aspect of it. The more I learned about it as I grew up, the more interested I became. About six years ago, I partnered up with Holly Turner out of Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, Washington, and we started making Insania brand. We released our third vintage last year in April. Two batches of white. Washington wines in the French Bordeaux style. 

It's crazy you made wine in Boy Scouts! You're involved in the process of how the wine is made? 

Yeah, from the grape selection to the craft to the fermentation process. I do a lot of selling, personal appearances at wine shops, people come to try the wine, I sign bottles for them. It's kind of fun actually. 

You used to be a vegan. Is living a responsible lifestyle like that important to you? 

Yeah. I'm not a vegan anymore, but I was for about 15 years, I guess. That was very difficult on the road. People hadn't heard of it yet. There wasn't a lot of selections to choose from on the menu. But since then, it's really caught on and a lot of people kind of eased up on the meat consumption quite a bit in our country. I think meat in moderation is probably a good idea for a lot of reasons. 

It must be hard on tour to eat anything good unless you're driving from Whole Foods to Whole Foods. You were voted, for instance, by VH1 as one of the top five metal vocalists of all time, you've received other honors with the band. What's been the greatest honor for you as a musician?

I think the greatest honor is being able to performing a show and having people show up and be into the music. I always feel very honored and very humbled when I sing a song and look out on the audience  and they're singing it back to me. It means something to them. It's affected them in a positive way. Makes me very proud. I'm not so much interested in awards, accolades, in that respect, I get more satisfaction out of getting a one on one experience performing for people. 

Your latest release Dedicated to Chaos, could you tell me a little bit about you went about making that and how you feel about the final product?

We're kind of known for doing concept records. The last two albums previous to this one were concept records. We wanted to step away from that, kind of change it up and experiment a little with our style and songwriting. So, we did, we wrote a collection of songs 15 or 16 tracks on the record. It was really just a conscious effort to stretch out and try some different things within our chemistry. Try some different ways of writing, change up our rhythm section is more featured in some of the songs, use the guitar more as a melodic instrument. Really kind of break away from the conceptual format for a while. Which is really interesting to do, but there's a lot of work to it, you have to connect all the dots, you have to be very concerned with how songs go in and out of each other, it has to tell a story. 

For this record, we wanted to step away from that and have the freedom to just write anything. Come up with any ideas, explore any musical ideas. Kind of a chaotic blend, mix of different kinds of music together. 

Queensrÿche. 8 p.m. Friday, November 11 at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $29. Click here.

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy