Recently Dread Central reported on Fires at Midnight Films’ announcement about the impending release of The Burningmoore Incident, in which Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate has a prominent role. So of course we had to speak to Tate about both the film and the new Queensryche record he’s been working on.
The Burningmoore Incident tells of the 2005 murder of Anne Parrish and her three sons and the disappearance of their patriarch, James Parrish (Tate). As time goes on, James Parrish falls under suspicion for the murders but is never found. Flash forward five years: A construction team from Cole Contracting of New York installs multiple video cameras on their first day of what is to be a home makeover reality show. In no time the Parrish house becomes a slaughterhouse at the hands of a brutal and deranged killer. Soon police discover that they have indisputable evidence that confirms Parrish as the killer.
Many music fans know the name Geoff Tate and his work with the seminal “progressive metal” band Queensryche. His voice is both strong and evocative, and Tate is ranked fourteenth on Hit Parader’s list of the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time. His band’s list of multi-platinum hits are some of the best that harder-edge music has to offer.
With the impending release of both The Burningmoore Incident and the new Queensryche record, Dedicated To Chaos (pre-order it here), Tate is branching out and showing the world that there is more to his talent than solely music.
Dread Central: I understand you’ve finished a new album.
Geoff Tate: We’ve been done since April, and we gave it to the record company so now we’re just getting ready to go on tour here at the end of the month. We’re rehearsing for that now.
DC: Is there anything you can tell us about the record? Is it a concept album? Is there a title yet?
GT: It’s called DEDICATED TO CHAOS. Just a chaotic blend of good music is the best way to describe it, really. It doesn’t really have a rhyme or reason. It’s just a collection of interesting songs.
DC: Is the tone of the album a little harder than before… a little softer… more introspective?
GT: All of the above.
DC: Is there a projected release date ?
GT: June 28th.
DC: How does the record compare to some of the recent Queensryche output like American Soldier or Take Cover?
GT: Well, TAKE COVER was not our music. It was other people’s stuff. AMERICAN SOLDIER was a concept record so this new album has nothing to do with either of those projects. Really, it’s just an album of songs, just tracks we really like and music we wanted to make. How other people perceive it of course is out of my control so I won’t even begin to try to push them in a direction.
DC: I agree. Art is not for the artist to interpret.
GT: It’s not our place to talk about it in those terms. It’s for other people to discover and to talk about.
DC: With the tour, is it just an American tour, or are you guys going around the world?
GT: We start not next week, but the week after in Finland and Sweden, and then we come back home for a couple of weeks, then we go back over to Europe, and we begin dates in Spain, Portugal, and England. Then we come back to the States in July. (For more info on the tour, go to Queensryche’s official website -ed)
DC: Is touring still something you enjoy? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a while.
GT: Yeah, I love playing shows, you know. That end of it.
DC: Traveling sucks. [laughs]
GT: I don’t even mind traveling so much, either. I like going to different places, especially foreign countries and cities outside of the US. I really enjoy that quite a bit. I don’t know about the airlines, especially the airlines in the United States. They kind of treat their customers like crap compared to airlines in other countries, I think. As Americans, we kind of get used to that and take it. [laughs]
DC: Is there a plan for other bands to join you on the road?
GT: It’s pretty much just us. We have a lot of music. It also happens to be our thirty-year anniversary this year so we’re kind of touching base on all our records, presenting music from all of them and kind of celebrating the fact that we’ve been kicking around here for thirty years.
DC: Does the fact that you have been, as you say, ‘kickin’ around for thirty years’ ever give you pause?
GT: Well, yeah… yeah it does, actually. [laughs] It’s kind of a sobering thought. It’s gone by really fast, but I have to say it’s been a really interesting ride.
DC: So, how does The Burningmoore Incident fit into all of this? Is it something that’s been done for a while?
GT: It’s a project I did, and yeah, it’s been done for a while. I got asked to do it and did a screen test and got the gig and then did it. I’m experiencing what all actors experience which is… once you do your job, you don’t have anything else to do with that particular project. It’s not like when you make an album and you’re taking it out and selling it every day. You just kind of walk away from it. When it’s done, it’s in other people’s hands [laughs] which, in a way, is a nice breather, you know? I’m not responsible for the marketing of it or selling it or talking about it other than when people ask me specific questions about it. So I’m kind of done with it.
DC: I know Johnny Depp has said that once production has wrapped, he’s done. He walks away and doesn’t think about, as you say, the marketing or how the film’s going to be interpreted.
GT: And you can’t even really begin to start thinking about how it’s going to be interpreted by people because, honestly, people are strange and they all come loaded with their own sets of issues and filters and childhood traumas and things that screwed them all up and made them what they are. Everyone interprets things differently, and one person’s great is another person’s crap.
DC: I just came from a genre convention in Seattle…
GT: A what?
DC: A genre convention.
GT: Oh my god. I’d shoot myself in the face. [laughs] I hate that word. It’s a concept that’s ruined the record industry, I tell ya.
DC: Well, this was like a horror thing and seeing how different people were reacting to things… there were the people who were the Freddy and the Jason fans and there were the Euro-splatter fans and the Japanese horror fans and it’s all such a personal thing. You hit it right on the head that it is like music where people bring so much of their own baggage to the table that it’s hard to nail any one part of it down.
GT: Well, as an artist, you get lumped into these categories and these genres and you have no idea how you got there. Somebody else decided that’s what you fit in and that’s the way they start marketing you and talking about you and you’ve got nothing to do with that. I don’t want to be lumped into some genre that I can never get out of. Well, actually I AM in a genre I can’t get out of. [laughs]
DC: And to try is so risky. I mean, if you were to suddenly come out with a Bossa Nova record… people would be confused and maybe the record company wouldn’t respond to it because of how that might impact sales. Yeah, I get it. It’s got to be a nightmare.
GT: It IS a nightmare. It’s a major contributor to the demise of Art. Once you start having to be what other people think you should be, it’s time to get out.
DC: It’s a given that you become sort of a commodity and a brand, but… I can’t imagine being an artist and not being able to do what you want to do just because you want to do it and for no other reason.
GT: Well, that’s how it starts. That’s how creativity begins. You’re not saying, “Ok, what can I create within these confines …” You never start out like that, it’s other people that put you in that position.
DC: What was House of Eternity?
GT: That was something that never got off the ground. We had it all sewn up and ready to go, but that was right around the time when all the markets started crashing, all the investment money went south, so we didn’t get to make the film. It’s still there and ready to go. It’s just like every film, awaiting financing.
DC: The Burningmoore Incident is your first acting role?
GT: Yeah, my film debut.
DC: And is acting something you’ve always done or always wanted to do?
GT: Well, I think I’ve always done it… in our own shows and with the way I present music… it all has a bit of a stage acting bend to it. So this wasn’t really a stretch for me. It was just playing to a different audience, to a camera rather than a roomful of people, but it’s the same kind of thing. You play-act and you make stuff up and you present that like you would in a stage show. It’s just a little different, you know?
DC: Did the production come to you, or did you get a notice that they were looking for people and you approached them?
GT: Actually, I met one of the producers at an event and we got to talking and he asked me if I wanted to do it. I said, “Well, I’ve never done anything like that, but…” He said, “We’ll do a screen test and you’ll know and we’ll know and everything will be cool.” So we did that and it was really unnerving. [laughs] It’s just you and the writer and the producer and a camera guy sitting in a room and you’re just kind of making stuff up and reading and throwin’ ideas around. I think it’s not unlike working with a band in the sense that you brainstorm things up. If you’re working in a writer’s workshop, it’s the same thing. You bounce your ideas off of people, “Well, what if we did this?” and you start just kind of using your body to present that idea and that’s where it all starts. You find, at least I did with these particular people I worked with, that they work really well in that way, of brainstorming out ideas so that you can make things up on the spot and add to the script. That way, when you’re on the set, the same kind of thing happens, too. You have this certain blueprint that you start with, but you always end up ad-libbing and taking it other places.
DC: So, your screen test was pretty much your screen test AND audition.
DC: Have you ever gone through the formal auditioning process?
GT: No, I haven’t. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this.
DC: [groans] It’s even more cold than you describe. At least with a screen test, you know they’re at least interested.
GT: At first, it was really, really unnerving just because there is nothing there – no props, no costumes, there’s no sets or lighting to help with the vibe – you just have to make it all up in your head and imagine it all. I’m pretty good at that kind of thing so I started flowing with it, and the people I was with were very perceptive and used to working that way anyway so we just kind of fit together hand-in-glove.
DC: How was the cast? You got along with everybody?
GT: Very well.
DC: How was working with director Jonathan Williams?
GT: Oh, I just loved him. Jonathan’s a really, really creative guy, very unassuming. He doesn’t have a big ego he wears on his sleeve at all. He’s just very down to earth. He’s a creative guy and I just love working with creative people.
DC: Dread Central had some footage on their website looked really good. It’s got kind of a late Seventies/early Eighties feel to it. Not quite grindhouse, but it has a real documentary feel to it.
GT: Yeah, it’s cool. If you like horror films, it’s definitely a fine one. The thing I liked about the script is that it was a very smart one.
DC: Are you much of a horror fan? Are you like a big film guy?
GT: I love film, but I tend to gravitate more toward drama or action films. I like a good crisis and a puzzle, some kind of mental puzzle.
DC: Just ’cause I’m a geek… What are some of your favorite films? And admittedly, that’s a sucky question..
GT: That’s a horrible question!! [laughs]
DC: [laughs] I know, but I’m just curious what kind of thing will get you to pop it in a DVD player or actually get up and go to a theater.
GT: Ummm… Have you ever heard of a film called KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?
DC: That’s a great film! Ridley Scott…
GT: Yeah, it really is. I own that and have probably seen that forty times. I like movies like that quite a bit. I’m really into sailing and there’s a movie that came out several years ago with Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey and it’s kind of a light love story, but the filming on it is just fantastic! It’s called WIND. It’s about The America’s Cup race between the United States and Australia and there’s kind of this love story in there. It’s a light story, but the filming and the racing is just phenomenal. You don’t see many movies based around sailing.
DC: Back to Ridley Scott… He did White Squall.
GT: Yeah, but that was more of a courtroom film and a drama. I love Ridley Scott. I think he makes really great films.
DC: I do, too. Even when he stumbles… I think the Robin Hood thing was a little misguided.
GT: It was light and entertaining, but well done. I just saw THE HANGOVER II last night and I liked it. I like comedies with slapstick. I don’t know why, but it just cracks me up… when people fall down, it makes me laugh. [laughs]
DC: I’m just always curious about that sort of thing. But back to The Burningmoore Incident… From the trailer, the film looks like it has a fair amount of blood and a fair amount of violence. Are you ok with that as a viewer and as someone who is on set having to do a bit of it?
GT: I’ll tell ya… I wouldn’t let my kids watch the film, definitely. It’s pretty violent. I remember when I was shooting it, I had a bit of a hard time with some of the scenes because they were explicitly violent, especially toward women. I have five daughters so it’s kind of difficult for me to stomach that, but I just looked at it like it was an acting job and it’s a story. So it’s not like I’m harming anybody really… but it sure looks like it on film. [laughs]
DC: I think it IS hard. I recently interviewed Stephen R. Monroe for Dread Central, who directed the remake of I Spit on Your Grave, and I watched that film in preparation for that. And I’ll admit to having a tough time getting through it. The last reel is awesome, but getting through all the rape and violence toward the girl was tough… and I’m just experiencing it as a viewer.
GT: Have you seen IRREVERSIBLE?
DC: Oh, jeez… Gaspar Noe’s film.
GT: That’s one of those films… One of the most violent things I’ve ever seen. I almost wish I’d never seen it.
DC: With these scenes of violence and physicality in the film, does it help that your co-star, Jen Weissenberg, has experience as a stunt woman?
GT: Well, for me, this being the first film I ever did, I had quite an education in all the different aspects of it and one of them that I really enjoyed quite a bit was the stuntwork. I’m a pretty physical person and I learned so much about tumbling and throwing a punch and taking a punch and how to make things look real. I worked for several days with the stunt director there to make it look like we did. And even though it was all play-acting, I walked away with bruises and cuts and scrapes. We were rolling down staircases, slamming into walls, and dragging people from Point A to Point B. It was very physical stuff. On one hand, it really kind of ruined watching movies for me because now I see how they do a lot of the things. I’m pretty judgmental and when I see it, I go, “Oh, no… he did that wrong, He should have done it like that!” [laughs]
DC: But ya know… those bruises are kind of cool. [laughs] When you’re hangin’ out with other people, being able to say, “Oh, this? Yeah, I got this when I was in this movie.” [laughs]
GT: [laughs] Yeah… “I got this on the set…”
DC: Is it true that you’ve written an exclusive song for the film?
DC: I also read that you were working on a documentary about subliminal messages in the media.
GT: Yes, that was something that already happened. I believe it was Noam Chomsky who did a whole series of interviews with different people and I was one of the people they interviewed for the documentary (entitled, PROGRAMMING THE NATION).
DC: I also read you’re doing a song for Peter Medak’s (The Changeling, Species, Romeo Is Bleeding) film Fallen Moon.
GT: Yeah… this is another film project that is awaiting funding. I got asked to do all of the music for it. I actually started on it and wrote quite a few pieces. They’re all ready to go; I just have to have the film to cut the music to.
DC: Is doing soundtracks something you have a lot of interest in?
GT: Yes, a LOT of interest.
DC: I think you’d be great at that.
GT: We did it on a movie called LAST ACTION HERO with Arnold Schwarzenegger. They used quite a bit of our music on that. That was really, really exciting… learning how to do it. There are lots of tricks of the trade that you can do, you know? So yeah… I learned quite a bit from that.
DC: I’d love to hear that kind of stuff from you guys. Your music is already almost like a soundtrack to a film that hasn’t been made. Yeah, I look forward to that. So, we have for you the new album, Dedicated To Chaos, coming out on June 28th, The Burningmoore Incident coming out soon, the upcoming tour… you’re already pretty busy, but… is there anything else you’re working on and can talk about?
GT: No… that’s pretty much everything, really.
DC: And long term… more Queensryche, hopefully… and more film?
GT: Yep, absolutely! We’re working on a new album right now.
DC: Wow! So you guys jump from one record right into the next?
GT: Yeah, pretty much. That’s kind of the way we work. It’s even kind of escalated nowadays because you don’t have as long between records. We get right into it.
DC: How do you feel about the new paradigm for distribution of music? I mean, so much of your stuff – especially the concept records – the entire album makes a statement, and with things like iTunes, people are buying single tracks. Is that something you’re trying to get your head around?
GT: That’s kind of just the way it is. One of the things that’s interesting about our newest album, DEDICATED TO CHAOS, is that it plays right into that whole idea that albums are a thing of the past and that people are really interested in making their own playlists. So we didn’t put the songs in any specific order or anything. They just can be put in any order you want and you can make up your own playlist from that. It’s kind of a cool concept. I’m really kind of interested in exploring it.
Our thanks to Geoff for taking the time to speak with us. Keep it here for more on The Burningmoore Incident as it comes, and in the meantime visit the official The Burningmoore Incident website, “like” The Burningmoore Incident on Facebook, and follow The Burningmoore Incident on Twitter.
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