Queensrÿche has a new self-titled CD coming out in just over a week, and the buzz is electric. Century Media Records warehouses are a flurry of activity making sure the tidal wave of pre-orders for all the CDs, t-shirts, and other goodies is handled. I’ve seen the photos. It looks like Amazon.com the week of Christmas. Well, for me Christmas came early. Not only was I able to secure and review the album, but I was also granted a telephone interview with guitarist and founding member of Queensrÿche, Michael Wilton. As you will see, he’s a very nice, easygoing guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with one of my favorite guitar players OF ALL TIME!!
(photo: Jan Riemersma / Flickr)
Amps: Obviously there’s a renewed energy on this record, but it’s most evident in the guitar work. Did you and Parker (Lundgren, guitarist) just set out to record arguably some of the best licks you’ve ever done, or was it that you went for it, and whatever happened happened?
Michael: It was just very natural, you know. You’re looking at the founding members of Queensryche, we have the band ingrained in our playing, so you’re naturally gonna get those elements, especially in the guitar area, and Parker has really grasped the Queensryche guitar style, and we actually work together really well. It was a great collaborative effort.
Amps: The dual harmonies are back in a BIG way. How much time do you guys spend ironing that out?
Michael: Well, it kind of feels like it’s all about the song. You kind of just know, from being personally involved with it, whether there should be a dual harmony solo there. One guy might have a solo, say at the end of a song, and we might say, “Let’s make this a double harmony”. We have no shortage of that kind of ammunition ready to go (laughs).
Amps: I understand you used a lot of gear from the Mindcrime/Empire-era for recording. How was it going back to that, and did it have any impact on your writing mindset for this record?
Michael: Yeah, I still have all my old amps and guitars. We recorded the guitar parts for the album at my place, Watershed Studio where I have my arsenal of Marshall amplifiers, the JCM 800s that were used on Mindcrime, and for the tried and true lead sound we used the Roland JC-120. You know, (former guitarist) Chris DeGarmo and I have used that amp on so many different songs. It’s one of those things that just works great, and I hope they still make them!
As an artist and a musician, you get the inspiration, and try to get out of your own way and just let it happen. Then you throw it on the wall and you see if it sticks. But otherwise you just write what you feel and what’s true. You know, like I said, we have to thread the past, and you can’t get away from something that worked so well, because you get used to those elements, and those albums because they were so special.
Amps: Michael, the fan reaction to the little bit of new material that’s already out is downright RABID. That’s gotta feel pretty good, right? Everyone is DYING to get their hands on this album. Tell me about what you and the guys are feeling right now, especially live.
Michael: Obviously with the internet, and the advance singles, the songs have gone viral, and it’s great when you have five guys that are working together, and no one more special than the other, and it’s just a collaboration. I mean, the amenities of the group and their creative elements, personal elements, just felt so right, and worked so well together, and bringing Jim Barton back into the fold to produce the album, you know, it just felt like 1989 again.
Amps: How long are you planning to be out on the road?
Michael: As far as touring, let me just say that we signed an amazing record deal with Century Media Records, and they really believe in this album. They told us that they’re gonna work this thing, like 15 months, so yeah, we’re probably gonna be on the road for quite awhile. We’ve got some dates in Europe for September and October, then in November we’ve got business to take care of, and then hopefully we should be coming to see everybody here. We’ve got great people behind us, and the offers are coming in, and we’re just really really looking forward to getting out on the road, and getting the job done.
Amps: I live in Dallas, TX, so I need to plan my road trips accordingly, whether it’s here, Houston, or Austin!
Michael: Texas is a pretty big state, and we have a good time there, so thank you very much.
Amps: Many of the more mature fans, myself included, are very happy with the length of this album, as it really feels like quality over quantity. With that said…how much do you have prepped for the next record?
Michael: Well, it just depends. We had deadlines and schedules. Originally, this was just gonna be an EP, and we were lucky to get the nine tunes on there, and a couple of little short bits. Every song was special, and like you said, we feel each one of these songs is its own entity, there’s no filler or B-sides. And I remember my very first Van Halen records, some of those were really short, but it was quality! You’re not sitting there going next, next, next. each song flows into the next one, and this was bringing the heart back into it, not being dictated by outside forces. Let’s do this till it’s natural. Who knows how many we’ll have on the next record? We definitely have ample material. We’ll work with Jim Barton again, and we’ll make the next album just as important as this self-titled one.
Amps: What’s your favorite thing about playing live with Todd (La Torre, singer) ?
Michael: For one, we get to play the songs like they are on the CD, just like the original recordings. You know, there’s a magic in that when you’re playing the songs and people say, “Wow! That sounds just like the CD!” And he’s doing all the high parts, and he’s got so much energy, he’s a wild man, a fireball out there, and what’s great is it’s not all about him. He comes over and it’s just a new energy onstage, interacting with everybody, and it’s fresh every time we perform. There’s no contrived aspect of it.
Amps: Who’s the funniest guy on the road?
Michael: (Bassist) Eddie Jackson, no question. The guy has a comical side to him, and after knowing him for so long, he’s still got it. He’s such a great guy and he makes everybody laugh. You could be talking about something serious, and he’ll just throw something witty out that throws everybody off kilter.
Amps: How do you unwind, away from music?
Michael: like to play golf. I’m not great, but I’m not a hack. I golf with Chris DeGarmo all the time. We’re both avid golfers. We actually golf with Nicko McBrain whenever he’s in Seattle. It’s relaxing to whack the hell out of a little white ball, if you have the patience for it.
Amps: What are you listening to these days?
Michael: Oh, definitely the new Alice In Chains, the latest Soundgarden, I really love Mastodon, and the latest Rush album, Clockwork Angels, I think it’s great. That’s what’s in my car right now.
Amps: Michael, thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. We all love this new album, and we want to wish you the best of luck with it, and the tour, and beyond.
Michael: Oh, thank you so much. I wanna thank all the fans out there for their tremendous support. Make sure you stay current on Facebook and our website. We’ll be bringing it back to see you, and you won’t be disappointed.
Queensrÿche hits stores on June 25.