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DailyBoom Your Old School Music Authority

Monday, December 24, 2018

Exclusive Interview: Queensrÿche's Founder Michael Wilton on Performing and That Much-Anticipated New Album

( Queensrÿche Official Promo Shot)


The name Queensrÿche is instantly familiar to any true heavy metal fan out there. The band has been around since 1982 and it has worked hard to cultivate a progressive sound like no other. They've sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and have spent a good chunk of this year hard at work on their 16th full studio release. Summer also means a full roster of tour dates and on any given weekend you'll be able to catch Queensrÿche performing beside other rock heavyweights like Scorpions, Foreigner, Skid Row, Great White, Lynch Mob and more.

If you haven't caught a live gig in awhile then you need to check out an upcoming show because Queensrÿche seems to be playing tighter than they have in years (at least based on their M3 Rock Festival appearance last May). I was lucky enough to steal a few minutes of founder/guitarist Michael Wilton's time yesterday and he happy to discuss the current batch of live shows and how the recording process has completely changed since the early days of the Ryche.

(Photo Credit: Christopher Carroll)

Cate Meighan: How is your summer on the road so far?

Michael Wilton: I'm enjoying the summer. Some of the shows that we've done in the midwest have been blazing hot so it's nice to be back in Seattle for a little break. We have a lot of fun performing and so we're always chasing opportunities. Each one of us has made the choice to keep the band going successfully, and the fans are along for the ride with us. This is my choice as a career and so I've honed in on it. I look inside myself to find the hidden talent and just go with it. Playing is something that I do because I love and cherish it. It's like a candle, you have to keep the flame burning and so I do that because I believe that this is what I'm meant to be doing with my life.

CM:  Is that love the thing that still keeps you out there?

MW:  I just keep going like a freight train (laughing). It's truly just a burning desire, I have a love for music and a love for performing.  I've been doing this for so long that it's ingrained in my DNA that I'm a road dog, so I don't mind all of the travel. Although it does wear you down after awhile, I'm up for the challenge. As long as the fans want to keep supporting  Queensrÿche, I'll keep doing it.

CM: You guys have gone through some changes in your lineup over the years, do you feel like the fans have really been along for the ride?

MW: This incantation of Queensrÿche, with Todd LaTorre on lead vocals, has really gelled as a band in the last six years. It's a natural progression and everyone is learning the elements of creativity that fuel the band Queensrÿche. If anything we're getting more polished as far as our sound because we have figured out exactly what everybody needs musically in each song. 

I think that there was obviously a period of confusion because our fans are so passionate about our music. I think that once they came to a live show and soaked up the performance, then they knew we were back. We're still playing tight and playing the songs that they want to hear. It has been a rebuilding process, but we've been touring solidly all over the world and we're still having fun. We also have lots of new fans that only know of us from the last two albums. People are still curious about  Queensrÿche and they want to come and see us and our style of music, which is great. We've stuck to our guns about who we are and the alchemy hasn't been lost.

CM: I know that you guys have a new album in the works. How has the process of creating new music changed for you over the years?

MW: This is really a great band effort and a great album and I'm head over heels on this one. I just can't wait for everyone to hear this. When you're creating something there's so much unknown, you really don't know how it's going to turn out. Musicians are all kind of junkies for the unknown and the tasty surprises that come from everyone putting their creativity into the music. That's one of the things that's great about being in a band.

The way that bands record now is totally different than the way that it used to be. It's not like the old days where you would block out six months to record an album. We're playing on weekends now. We're playing three shows in a row here and then four in a row somewhere else, so the producer working on the album has to be flexible. They are normally producing three acts at the same time and those acts are all playing shows all over the place, so you've got to be flexible. You do gigs and then come back and record, do a few more gigs and come back and record again. That's how albums get made these days and that's why it takes so long to put it all together. You've got to keep the machine going and food on the table in between recording.

(Photo Credit: Savoia Concert & Event Photography)

The key to making new music now is in the pre-production for us. Everyone throws their ideas out there and we see what we have to work with and build from. When it comes to recording everyone is involved but it has become more efficient to record our parts individually or with another person. That's how we do it, we might do the guitar parts one week, go and do some shows and then come back and record some bass. The set way of doing things has changed so much but at this point, this album, it's about 99% done.

Above and beyond that, the record company likes to put out a set of singles that are accompanied by videos, so I anticipate we'll have all of those things out before the actual release of the album. It really is all still to be determined. We don't have singles picked out or a treatment ready, it's all still a few months down the road for us and we anticipate that the album will then be released next year.

CM: Do you miss any of the old school ways of doing things?

MW: I definitely miss the old school way! We have had to rethink and find different ways of doing everything. It's just a different situation for music out there now. Multimedia is amazing because as soon as a video is made it can be uploaded and your fans can see it within 24 hours. That's crazy for us. In the old days, you had to wait three months before it was even edited so the invention of social media is one of the positive ways that things have changed for sure. You can get an instantaneous response and immediate gratification which is nice. Plus, all of these sites are data counters basically and it's almost like they keep things organized for us with their efficiency.

The times have really changed and so we have to figure out how people will want to buy their cd's or if they'd rather buy albums, and then how do we get them into their hands. So many of the brick and mortar shops have closed and it's harder to find physical copies of things now. That is just one reason why so many people prefer subscription services from streaming sites. It provides instant gratification for the fans but as artists, we make virtually nothing from those outlets. Back in the early 90's, the bands were important, the music was important and selling albums was the main thing for everyone. Now the music itself is kind of in the background and that makes it a bit challenging. You have to figure out your way of making it into the marketplace in order to survive.

We're a band that still puts out vinyl and so for this new album, we'll press some vinyl for sure. I'm a total vinyl head- I have a record player, I have a cassette machine and I even have a laser disk player (laughing). The musical connoisseurs really love the sound of the vinyl and record sales are making a comeback, but it's still not the kind of difference we can feel. I'm just going to have to deal with the streaming reality and take my royalty check to Starbucks so I can buy a coffee with it (laughing).

The vinyl is nostalgic for the fans because playing it is a process of putting it on the turntable, putting the needle on it and everything else. It's not a piece of plastic you shove into a computer, it's all purposeful. I remember back in the 70's buying albums for the cool artwork that was on them. Not knowing exactly what the album was going to be like and buying it anyway was such a cool feeling for me.

(Todd La Torre & Michael Wilton- Photo Credit: Savoia Concert & Event Photography)

CM: Looking beyond the new album, does Queensrÿche have any other plans in the works?

MW: We want to keep creating new music for people to hear and we've talked about putting out some live performances. That's on the bucket list, to get some live stuff properly produced for our fans. Being in a band is really a time-consuming job because there is so much that you have to do behind the scenes that most people don't realize. It has to be your passion if you're going to play in any band longterm and for us, it's a dream gig. So we're respecting it and taking care of this privilege for as long as we can. You have to keep yourself in check because it's easy to get lost in the details of being in a band. Through experience, we've learned the rules of the road and how to do things in the best way possible for all of us.

CM: What would you like all of the Queensrÿche fans out there to know?

MW: We're so grateful to the hardcore fans that support and believe in  Queensrÿche. The love is mutual and the fans are very dear to us. I can get lost in the art and sometimes I forget how old I really am. I love what I do and I still go for it. I may not be jumping off of drum stages anymore (laughing), but I'm still giving it my 100% and playing the songs as they were meant to be played. That's something that the fans can always count on.

Check out  Queensrÿche's official site for tour dates, updates on their new album and of course, grab some merch!