Not long after A&GS started QUEENSRŸCHE released their 2013 self-titled masterpiece. It was The Maestro’s Album of the Year, and when I first started doing interviews that summer my goal was to one day sit down with the voice behind that album…Mr. Todd La Torre. Now, nearly six years and countless fun converstions with various rockers and rollers I finally had my chance. I spent about 20 minutes talking to Todd, and he couldn’t have been a nicer, more humble, more gracious guy. My crazy fangirling had him laughing, too, and we had a really cool chat about new album The Verdict (out now, Century Media Records), him playing drums on it, and more. Have a look:
Amps: Tell me about playing drums on The Verdict. The way you did, the sound was undeniably QUEENSRŸCHE.
Todd: Well, I’ve been playing drums since I was 13 and when I joined the band and the guys were sending me demos for the 2013 record I remember Scott (Rockenfield, drums) was working on stuff and his hands were kind of full. So the other guys would send me stuff saying, “I know you’re a drummer, would you mind putting drums to this music?” I was like, “Sure, no problem.” So, since I joined the band I’ve done a lot of drum parts on some of the demos with Scott’s endorsement and approval. I did the same with Condition Hüman. And Scott is the only Scott Rockenfield, he’s extremely unique in style. but there were times when he said, “Dude I’m just gonna play exactly what you did here, because I think it’s great.” And I was really flattered, that was awesome. So when it came time for this record, he’d had a kid in February of 2017, he had a new baby. And of course we support him taking paternity leave. He took that whole year off, we were hoping he’d come back in January of 2018, and he still didn’t give us a commitment. So Casey Grillo, who had been filling in and continues to fill in, he wasn’t participating in the writing of this album. Since I played everything on the demos, when it came time to do the recording, up until four weeks before pressing RECORD we still hadn’t heard anything, we had to figure something out.
Amps: At that point what did you think? Did you know that you would be manning the skins on the actual album?
Todd: So I said to the guys, “Look, I did all the drums on the demos, I can record on the record.” I’ve tracked in studios before here where I live. The short version is they loved what I was able to do in pre-production, and they were like, “Okay. You’re gonna do it,” which blew me away. Eddie (Jackson, bass) and I really worked together because we wanted that rhythm section to just be really tight.
And then because I sing, there were vocal things on the demo that wouldn’t go on the record, I was able to use that to my advantage, so I would or wouldn’t play a fill in certain places based on what the vocal was doing. It was really amazing because I grew up learning QUEENSRŸCHE songs and loving Scott as a drummer. So to actually be able to record drums on one of our records was pretty awesome.
I’m glad that you think the drums sound like QUEENSRŸCHE because it’s a unique head space that Scott drums in. You have to think a little unorthodox to make those parts interesting. I’d say 90% of the fills on this record, the alternating hi-hat and ride cymbals are based on what Scott does. I just did what I felt what was appropriate for the music and beneficial to the band. And I made sure not to overplay and be all, “Look what I can do!”
Amps: As far as songs on The Verdict go, what are some of your favorites?
Todd: I like ’em all for different reasons. And I don’t mean to give the cliche answer but, “Light Years” is one of my favorites, Eddie wrote that. Great chorus, a cool little proggy middle section there. “Bent” is a fun, interesting song, and then closer “Portrait” is one of my favorites. That’s kind of the slow, melancholy, pretty song on the record. I love ’em all, but those are three I gravitate towards right now.
Amps: “Interview Todd La Torre,” they said. “He won’t get in your brain and steal your favorites,” they said. For me it’s “Light Years,” “Inside Out,” and “Portrait” after one and a half listens.
Todd: (Laughs) sorry, man. I think some songs are more quickly palatable and then others are growers. They take a little longer to wrap your head around what’s going on. Overall I think it’s a really good-flowing record, and I cannot wait till this thing is out.
Amps: What do you like to do in your spare time away from music?
Todd: A lot of my time is just doing stuff around the house and spending time with family and friends. We’ve had a lot of downtime, so I’ve been at home doing normal house stuff, nothing spectacular. We’ve been so engrossed with this record, the artwork, liner notes, videos, our new setlist, etc. that it’s just been non-stop.
So the downtime has been nice. The setlist is gonna be really cool and fresh this time around. Everyone should do their homework on this new record because we’re doing quite a few songs from it, along with some older deep cuts. We’re also doing one I’ve never sung with the band before, so watch out for that!
Amps: My 16-year old Mini-Amps absolutely loves you guys. He’s non-verbal and has autism, and he just lights up whenever anything you sing comes on in his iPod!
Todd: That’s awesome, man. Please bring him out to a show, we’d love to meet him and take pictures with him, and give him a great night.
Amps: Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. So what would you like to say to all the fans of QUEENSRŸCHE and Todd La Torre out there in the world?
Todd: Honestly we really are thankful for the people that have embraced this line-up of the band. It’s been a rebuilding process for seven years. Three records in the band is in good shape, we’re excited about the music we’re doing, and we’re gonna keep going, doing more records.We have more albums we’re gonna be doing with Century Media Records, there’s gonna be lots of fun stuff, touring, and we really hope people dig the record. We’re thankful for everybody’s support. Without those people we’re dead in the water, and we know that. We are truly thankful. And we’re very thankful for guys like you who are interested in the band and want to talk to us.
See? I told you guys he was really cool. At the end of the day Todd La Torre is not only an amazing vocalist for QUEENSRŸCHE, one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands in the world (FACT!), but he is also super-humble and just a great guy. I’m so glad that my almost six-year journey culminated in this interview, and I hope all you metal maniacs like it too. Be sure and pick up your copy of The Verdict if you haven’t already, and catch the band on the road on this tour they’re on as we speak. You can find dates HERE.
BAND IMAGES: GRIZZLEE MARTIN