Geoff Tate seemed to be working for the weekend during the Labor Day holiday. On Sept. 1 the singer, who was fired from progressive rock band Queensryche in June, announced the lineup of “the new Queensryche” on Queensryche.com, and followed up with an early-morning post on Sept. 2 on two Facebook pages: the official Geoff Tate page and the band’s original page.
“Today is a new day and I am thrilled to announce the new Queensryche,” the statement said. “Joining me are: Rudy Sarzo, Bobby Blotzer, Glen Drover, Kelly Gray and Randy Gane. Together we shall embark on a new musical journey that will be a greater extension of where Queensrÿche has ever been.”
Tate’s posting solved the mystery of who would tour with him in an all-star band for a Queensryche anniversary tour, which he announced via Facebook post on Aug. 16. That post called the lineup “Queensryche Starring Geoff Tate the Original Voice.” Tate fronted the band for 30 years. Billboard ventures a bet that Tate is referring to the 25th anniversary of “Operation: Mindcrime,” the band’s breakthrough concept album that was released in 1988. (The Facebook page currently bears artwork from that album, as does Queensryche.com.)
Whether this lineup will be billed on marquees as Queensryche Starring Geoff Tate or simply Queensryche when it tours is a sticking point, since Tate is engaged in a lawsuit with three other original band members — drummer Scott Rockenfield, bassist Eddie Jackson and guitarist Michael Wilton — over using the name. Tate and his wife, Susan, Queensryche’s former manager, filed the suit on June 22 in King County Superior Court in Washington, charging that Tate was illegally fired and the trio will tarnish the Queensryche brand by replacing him with a new singer, Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre. Tate also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the trio from working and touring as Queensryche.
Superior Court Judge Carol A. Schapira denied the motion on July 13. Audio recordings from the hearing were posted on Aug. 28 in the Breakdown Room, a chat room dedicated to Queensryche that has posted documents from the court case (which are public record) as they become available. In her remarks when she gave her decision, Schapira indicated that among the reasons she denied the injunction were because it would be considered “extraordinary relief” for the plaintiff to stop the band from working for time being and, in essence, cause it to cease generating income. (Tate could end up benefiting from said income once the case is decided, since both he and the plaintiffs agree he is entitled to some form of compensation in the wake of his firing. The trial is scheduled for Nov. 18, 2013.)
Schapira also noted that, at that time, she could not determine whether or not Tate could also currently tour under the Queenryche banner since she didn’t have enough information to make that call. “I don’t see any reason that Mr. Tate can’t have the benefit, if he gets other members, of whatever name he uses of using the brand. I think [doing that would be] inherently confusing, although I’m sure the market can get these things sorted out,” Schapira said.
How ironic that comment is. In a day’s time, the post on the original Queensryche Facebook page garnered more than 2,775 “likes” and 1,300 comments on the site’s official Geoff Tate page. The reactions from fans were wide-ranging, from disbelief and confusion to support and derision. Some examples:
“Nice lineup….can’t wait to hear it” (posted by Rory Grams)
“This could work if they don’t diverge from the prog metal style. Solid picks.” (Jeff Loo)
“BARF!!!! So, this will be like Guns N’ Roses where the band with the name only has the Lead Singer and another band is the original band with a different singer? Hey Geoff, ask Axl how that arrangement is working for him!” (Bubba LeDuc)
“Horrifying and sad.. rip queensryche, you’ll never be what you were.. you will be missed” (Tim Scherer)
“Let’s be real for a moment. This new line up isn’t Queensryche. It’s the Geoff Tate Solo Project. It’s not Queensryche. Come up with a different name for the band, Geoff.” (Jeffrey Cheever)
Wilton, Jackson and Rockenfield started posting on the QueensrycheOfficial Facebook page on Aug. 3 and launched the website QueensrycheOfficial on Aug. 14. In legal documents and an interview with Billboard they stated they’ve been denied access to the band’s social media sites since firing Tate. Through the summer, only Tate-related posts have appeared on the original band Facebook page.
Kelly Gray and Randy Gane have previously worked with Queensryche. Gray replaced original guitarist Chris DeGarmo after DeGarmo left the band in 1997, and has also worked for the band as a producer and songwriter. He’s best-known as producer of Candlebox’s 1993 quadruple-platinum self-titled debut. Keyboardist Gane has worked as a songwriter and touring performer with the band. Both he and Gray have a long history with Tate, having performed with him in the band Myth before Tate left that band to join Queensryche in the early 1980s.
Bassist Rudy Sarzo initially made his mark performing with Ozzy Osbourne before joining Quiet Riot, followed by stints in Whitesnake and Dio. Bobby Blotzer, the longtime drummer for Ratt, shares with Tate an interest in diversifying into product lines outside of music, as both have their own brand of wine (Insania and Ratt N Roll, respectively). Guitarist Glen Drover, who spent four years playing with Megadeth, has also worked with bands like King Diamond, Testament and Eidolon.
Billboard exclusively broke the news that Tate had left Queensryche on June 20. At the time, his departure was attributed to “creative differences,” according to a statement from the band.
In interviews with Rolling Stone and Billboard, Tate claimed the threesome were bad businessmen with little interest in contributing musically to the band, and they had cold-heartedly fired his wife, step-daughter Miranda and Miranda’s husband (both of whom also worked for the band). In legal documents from the defendants and an interview they did with Billboard, the trio defended firing him because, they claimed, he had taken over creative control of the band and Susan was making questionable business decisions.
The boiling point came, they said, when Tate was informed prior to an April 14 concert in Brazil that his relatives had been fired and Tate, enraged, hit Wilton and Rockenfield, and spit on the band during the show. (Tate originally told Rolling Stone he “tried to punch” Rockenfield and “managed to shove” Wilton that night, but during an Aug. 25 appearance on VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show,” Tate admitted that he did hit and spit on them.)