GEOFF TATE Looks Back On QUEENSRŸCHE's Early Relationship With Seattle Grunge Acts: SOUNDGARDEN Was 'An Opening Band For Us'
August 31, 2023
In a new interview with Rockin' 101's "The Johnny Rock Show", original QUEENSRŸCHE singer Geoff Tate spoke about his former band's early relationship with the groups who were in Seattle grunge scene just as it was exploding in the early 1990s. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Well, SOUNDGARDEN, we played shows with them; when they were coming up, they were an opening band for us and they appeared on festivals with us as well. So yeah, we kind of watched that episode happening, from a distance, actually. Honestly, at that time in our careers, we were, I think, five albums into our career at the time, and we were touring constantly. So we weren't even in Seattle when this scene was happening."
Tate told Chicago At Night in a 2012 interview that he was happy to see the commercial focus shift from hard rock and metal to grunge, especially with QUEENSRŸCHE coming up in the Seattle area shortly before the grunge floodgates opened.
"Oh, it was exciting to watch especially since we knew most of those young bands that were coming up behind us," he said. "SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, PEARL JAM, those three bands toured with us quite a bit during the early nineties, so we got to know those guys quite a bit. So it was exciting seeing their rise to popularity. It was fun watching that."
Tate's sentiments were echoed by QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Michael Wilton, who told Hot Metal in 2016 he didn't blame the grunge explosion for the collapse of a flourishing — and very lucrative — scene. "Let's face it, the industry got stale, you know?" he said. "We knew those guys in those bands and I was totally happy for them. I was, like, 'Right on! This industry needs a shot in the arm!'"
In the court documents that were filed in 2012 during Tate's bitter legal battle with his now-former bandmates over the rights to the QUEENSRŸCHE name, Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield and bassist Eddie Jackson admitted that the poor sales performance of their 1994 album, "Promised Land" — which came out four years after the band's mega-successful "Empire" LP — had put "huge" pressure on the group to "stay on top." They wrote: "With the now huge phenomenon of the 'grunge' sound, the production for [1997's 'Hear In The Now Frontier'] album was very sparse and raw as we were trying to capture an essence of that sound to make us sound more current."
Earlier this year, Wilton talked to Max Davallo of the "Sonic Dorms" music talk show about how the rise of grunge forced most hard rock bands off the radio and MTV, with album and tour sales plummeting.
"I think as far as the metal, the progressive rock and the hard rock, we catapulted," he said. "So I think we were kind of in our automatic way of existing. And it's something that you see technology changing, the dynamics of the record companies were changing, a new crowd was coming in and they wanted something of their own. And that all was great for all those bands, and especially all the bands from Seattle because we knew 'em all. For us, it was a time of just a shift in the industry. And I think we weathered it. We kind of went through some changes, probably like most bands do. I think we had such a solidified following that it really didn't matter. We just kept doing what we do. And then the whole grunge thing happened. That was really great. Music got stale, I guess, and this new music came in. But for us, it's always been about a certain way we do things. Whether trends and things happen, I don't think we follow trends. We just do what we do."
Wilton previously discussed grunge's impact on QUEENSRŸCHE's popularity in a March 2019 interview with the "Cobras & Fire" podcast. At the time, he said: "The grunge thing happened pretty much in the mid-to-late '90s, so we had already gone through that whole early-'90s explosion of rock videos on MTV and lots of record companies selling tons of CDs and albums and everything. It was a glorious time.
"I remember, I think we were playing in '96 or '97, and that's kind of when it all hit, right? It just kind of goes in cycles. There's a new generation coming in, and they want their own thing. And for us, we never fit into any concrete genre and we weren't a band that was on any trends. We were kind of oblivious to it all, and we just kept doing what we were doing. And lo and behold, look at us today — we're still going strong. And I think it's just because QUEENSRŸCHE's music is unique and it has its place. And it obviously, for the most part, can be timeless."
Six years ago, Tate said that he was offended when his band started being compared to the so-called "hair metal" acts of the 1980s.
"When we started, genre wasn't really a thing in the business," the singer said. "Rock music was all encompassing. You had different bands doing different things and it was all totally fine.
"What happened was that the marketing mentality came into the business," he explained. "They started breaking everything down and putting music in boxes. At that point, writers began placing us in the same box as MÖTLEY CRÜE. It wasn't about the music — it was a selling technique.
"To be compared to MÖTLEY CRÜE… I took it as kind of an insult, frankly."
In April 2014, Tate and QUEENSRŸCHE announced that a settlement had been reached after a nearly two-year legal battle where the singer sued over the rights to the QUEENSRŸCHE name after being fired in 2012. Fellow original QUEENSRŸCHE members Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson responded with a countersuit. The settlement included an agreement that Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson would continue as QUEENSRŸCHE, while Tate would have the sole right to perform the albums "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Operation: Mindcrime II" in their entirety live.
Tate was replaced in QUEENSRŸCHE by former CRIMSON GLORY singer Todd La Torre.
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