Queensrÿche

An interview with Michael Wilton
by Tommy Rage
February 2019

Queensryche

Queensryche

Change is inevitable. Especially in music. Whether it’s the change in the music scene, a change in style or just a change in the way a band approaches their craft, it always comes back to the ability to evolve in order to stay relevant. One of those bands which has had to evolved and overcome change is Queensrÿche.   

The changing music scene of the 90’s lead to some difficult times for Queensrÿche. Internal riffs and a desire to pursue other careers, lead to the band taking on guitarist Parker Lundgren in 2009, as well as new lead singer Todd LaTorre in 2012.

Building on their last album from 2015, Condition Hüman, all 5 members of Queensrÿche: Todd LaTorre (vocals), Parker Lundgren (guitar), Scott Rockenfield (drums), Eddie Jackson (bass) and Michael Wilton (guitar) collaborated in helping push Queensrÿche to the next level. The 2019 release The Verdict, combines the essential Queensrÿche sounds of dueling guitars, along with complex drums, and the Rÿche-ian vocals of Todd LaTorre. Helping form Queensrÿche in 1980, founding guitarist Michael Wilton explains how the band approached their new release, The Verdict. “It’s a natural evolution, and it’s because the band is touring so much now. It brings in subtle inspirations, and makes it a little heavier. The songs have some energy to them, that we got when we saw crowds and relate to them and their energy. You’re not blasted over the radio anymore, nor in magazines; I don’t know if there are any rock magazine anymore [laughter]. It’s all digital media and the few stations that promote rock. It’s a situation where we pull the energy from touring and the fans into the album, and I think that’s where everyone put in their influences on this album.” 

‘Blood of the Levant’ kicks off The Verdict with a fast paced metal battle-cry. Mixing the familiar-feel of a Queensrÿche song, ‘Blood of the Levant’ has a heavier and darker feel than previous Queensrÿche songs. “Levant is an area in Syria which this song is about”, shares Wilton, “it’s more of a heavy-metal approach for Queensrÿche and it’s a great opener. I think we are really going to have a lot of fun playing it live and we are really excited to get this out, this is something that will definitely get your motor running and for our fans to enjoy.”

Throughout all ten tracks of The Verdict, a heavier, and more dynamic Queensrÿche is heard. This robust sound is derived from a group of musicians which have jelled as a writing group over the last few years. “This rendition of Queensrÿche has been together 7 years now”, notes Wilton, “and Queensrÿche is a well-oiled and constant moving machine. It’s really about the sum of the members, and what we’re known for – our live performances.”

With founding drummer Scott Rockenfield taking a hiatus from the band, singer Todd LaTorre filled in for the recording process on The Verdict. Asked if this was an adjustment for the band to make, Wilton noted the ease of LaTorre on drums. “It wasn’t a big hiccup at all. Todd had been doing the drumming for most of the demos for the last two albums. He knows the Queensrÿche style. He grew up playing the drums and he was foaming at the mouth to play. He wrote the drum parts and a lot of the lyrics. He had double duty on the album, and I think it was a piece of cake for him.” 

Breaking into the heavier Queensrÿche sound, ‘Man the Machine’, ‘Light-years’ and ‘Propaganda Fashion’ were put together under unique circumstances. Explains Wilton, “This is Queensrÿche’s 15th album. We were touring for the last three years and we had a lot of demos. We didn’t go into the studio with a lot of pre-production. It was writing and building the parts as a band, and getting it put together as a band. Everyone was giving 100% and everyone was happy with it. It was quite the recording endeavor. Obviously the recording process is a lot different than what it was in the 80’s. With our touring we had to find a producer who was able to work with our creative ideas and on a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ schedule. We used the same producer we had for Condition Hüman, Chris “Zeuss” Harris, and we can’t say enough about him. It was a really a band effort and it came out the way we wanted it to. We are so overjoyed about it.”

The standout track from The Verdict harkens back to the early Queensrÿche sounds of the 80’s. ‘Dark Reverie’ is a song brought to the band by guitarist Parker Lundgren. “That song was penned by Parker and it’s obviously very personal to him, and it’s something that he was really passionate about. We were proud that he shared that experience with us, and now with the whole world. Parker wrote the music and the lyrics. It’s got all the elements of a Queensrÿche song, the double guitar solos, and up-and-downs, and the orchestration. It’s a very special song.”

The Verdict is truly a culmination of the entire bands work. The vocals of Todd LaTorre have clearly superseded the bands former singer. Contributions from Parker Lundgren and bassist Eddie Jackson along with the leadership of Michael Wilton have taken Queensrÿche beyond the known hits of the 80’s, and have allowed the band to be creative, while pushing them into a heavier direction. The new version of Queensrÿche stands up to the 80’s and 90’s of the Seattle band and is sure to keep their fan base, while still putting on great live shows. When asked if he ever gets tired of playing the older “hits” of Queensrÿche, Wilton laughs, “No, not at all! It’s always good to reminisce and look back at an older song you wrote and reflect as to where your mind was at that age. I love it. I love all of it. The important thing is that the fans want a mix of the old and the new songs. It’s great that we have such a wide diversity of fans that admire Queensrÿche. When we play live, there’s quite a variance on the audience. People have pockets of their favorites.  It made a big fingerprint on people in certain points of their life. It’s really endearing and it’s great that we can be a part of everyone’s memories. I love it!”

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Queensrÿche
CD: The Verdict Record Label: Century Media Records
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