A Washington state judge ruled Oct. 19 that singer Geoff Tate -- who was fired from the band Queensryche after fronting it for 30 years -- may perform with his own version of the group until a lawsuit he filed against three former bandmates is settled.
Superior Court Judge Carol A. Schapira denied a motion for partial summary judgment that guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield and bassist Eddie Jackson requested Sept. 21 to stop Tate from using the Queensryche name and associated imagery as the case proceeds to trial. The trio filed the request because Tate had announced his own Queensryche lineup online on Sept. 1-2. According to a statement to Billboard from Jackson, the announcement "of a second Queensryche lineup, upcoming tour plans and new musical direction has caused some confusion for our fans."
Tate originally sought a preliminary injunction to prevent his former bandmates from working under the name Queensryche when he and former band manager Susan Tate (Geoff's wife) filed the suit on June 22 in King Country Superior Court. Schapira denied their request on July 13, but noted in her remarks that, since enough information wasn't available for her to make a determination, Geoff Tate was not forbidden from using the name, either.
Billboard asked Tate's representative, Jeff Albright of Albright Entertainment Group, if Tate wished to comment on the ruling, but did not receive any comment by press time.
"Queensryche is disappointed in the denial of the motion to prevent our former vocalist from using our name, but we respect the court's decision to do so. That said, we apologize for any confusion to our fans that a second entity sharing our name may cause," the band said in a statement to Billboard. "We look forward to seeing all of you on the road and bringing you new Queensryche music in the near future. Thank you all for your continued support, and for now we will just have to let the rocking do the talking."
The Tates claim the defendants illegally fired Geoff from the band because of "blind greed," and that their attempt to move forward as Queensryche without him will harm the band's brand. They seek compensation that includes Geoff Tate being awarded the rights to the band's name. Queensryche, which filed a countersuit against the Tates, accused Geoff of creative obstruction and violent behavior, and Susan Tate of questionable business practices.
Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson asked Schapira to issue the partial summary judgment based on the premise that Queensryche legitimately fired Tate due to an April 14 pre-show incident in Brazil where, after learning the three had fired Susan and his step-daughter (another band employee), Tate punched Rockenfield and Wilton, attempted to go after Jackson and spit on the band throughout the ensuing concert. Video of Tate spitting at Rockenfield during the show surfaced on YouTube in July and contributed to negative commentary Tate received online. Tate later said, "Oh, I did it. I don't make any bones about it," regarding the fight, during an Aug. 25 appearance on "That Metal Show."
However, Tate accused Jackson (in a declaration filed Oct. 8) of kicking him in the face in 1988 after a night of drinking. Tate stated in the declaration that Jackson, "unprovoked, [then] proceeded to 'kung fu' kick me in the face. It was a brutal blow that caught me completely off guard." He further stated Jackson began swinging at him and had to be subdued by two people before calming down and being put to bed. Jackson later apologized for his behavior.
Tate's attorney, Joshua C. Allen Brower of Seattle's Veris Law Group, notes in the plaintiffs' response to the motion for partial summary judgment that if the Brazil incident "is the litmus test to justify oppressive corporate action … Eddie Jackson should have been fired 14 years ago." While the defendants state in their motion that Tate "admits that he engaged in a workplace assault against his bandmates" in paperwork Tate previously filed in relation to the suit, Brower counters in the plaintiffs' response that Tate "disputes the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident in Brazil and does not 'admit' that he 'assaulted' anyone … Geoff Tate says Mr. Rockenfield taunted him, saying, 'I fired your wife, I fired your daughter and your son-in-law [guitar tech Chris Zukas], and you're next.'"
Tate has continued performing as a solo artist with such dates lined up as a Canadian tour supporting Alice Cooper that starts Nov. 7. He's supporting his new solo album, "Kings & Thieves," which arrives Nov. 6 on InsideOut Music. The version of Queensryche he announced online in September includes drummer Bobby Blotzer, guitarists Glen Drover and Kelly Gray, bassist Rudy Sarzo and keyboardist Randy Gane. A 25th anniversary tour has been teased, presumably to celebrate "Operation: Mindcrime," the 1988 concept album that put the band on the map, but no dates have been announced.
Meanwhile, the original Queensryche told Billboard in August it's planning a Return to History tour next year it wants to take worldwide. It has such dates as Los Angeles' House of Blues on the books for 2012. Singer Pamela Moore, who performed on "Operation: Mindcrime," is joining the act on Oct. 27 at Snoqualmie Casino in Washington.
If the case proceeds to trial, the date is set for Nov. 18, 2013.