Todd La Torre says that had "a nice, complimentary exchange" with Geoff Tate when the two singers recently encountered each other at a festival in Spain.
La Torre joined QUEENSRŸCHE as the replacement for Tate, who was the band's original lead vocalist, after the latter was fired in 2012. A two-year legal battle followed where Tate sued for the QUEENSRŸCHE name, only for his former bandmates Michael Wilton (guitar), Scott Rockenfield (drums) and Eddie Jackson (bass) to respond with a countersuit. They eventually settled the dispute, with Wilton, Rockenfield and Jackson continuing as QUEENSRŸCHE, and Tate now having the sole right to perform the albums "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Operation: Mindcrime II" in their entirety live.
Last month, Tate gave an interview to the "92 Minutes Of Hair With Mel" show on the Las Vegas, Nevada radio station KOMP 92.3 where he revealed that he had "a really nice little reunion" with his former bandmates on June 30 when they all performed the Rock Fest Barcelona festival in Barcelona. "I was playing with a band called AVANTASIA. I did a guest appearance with them, and they were headlining the festival," Tate recalled. "And I read on the roster list that QUEENSRŸCHE was opening the festival. So I went out earlier in the day and watched their set. It was the first time I'd seen the band play without me. I'd never heard their new singer, but I watched them play and they were great, and that singer is fantastic. He's amazing! He sounds just like me. It was eerie and weird. And then I met all the guys afterwards and shook hands with them, we hugged and said hello, and it was a really nice little reunion, you know, get-together."
During an August 7 appearance on "Trunk Nation", Eddie Trunk's show on SiriusXM channel Volume (106), La Torre recounted his meeting with Tate at Rock Fest Barcelona. He said: "[Geoff] was guest-performing with AVANTASIA. And I went to the [QUEENSRŸCHE] tour bus and I came back, and I noticed... It's a big backstage with all the drum risers there — you know how it is; they're rolling them in and out — and I saw him talking with Eddie. And so I thought, 'Oh, that's interesting,' because, you know, with everything that went down, you never know how's that dynamic gonna be if we're ever in close proximity together."
According to Todd, the guys in QUEENSRŸCHE "didn't know" that Geoff was going to be at the same event until "somebody had messaged me and said, 'Hey, did you realize that there's a likelihood that you're gonna run into Geoff Tate there?' So that was when I said to the guys, 'Hey, just an F.Y.I.: he is performing with this band, so we're probably gonna be in the same area. Just a heads up. I'm sure it'll be cool, hopefully.' And everyone was, like, 'Okay. Whatever.''
La Torre continued: "And so I saw him chatting with Eddie, and it was cool. And then we were going on, I don't know, maybe an hour, an hour and a half from that incident. And so our show started. He was stage left, so near Michael Wilton's side of the stage, and he stood there, I would imagine, it seemed like probably the whole show. I knew he was standing there watching. So afterward, the show was done and he came over, I exited the stage and he came over and kind of tapped me on the shoulder or something and said, 'Hey,' and put his hand out and said, 'We never really had a chance to meet, really.' And I said, 'Sure.' I shook his hand and he said, 'With everything that kind of went down…', and I said, 'Of course.' And he said, 'This is the first time I'ver heard you sing.' And I didn't know if he meant at all or, obviously, live. And so I said, 'Okay.' He said, he goes, 'Wow! You're amazing!' And I said, 'Well, thank you very much. That's nice to hear.' And I was complimentary of him. I said, 'Listen, for what it's worth, I have defended you. I know that sometimes the media and people can try to stir the pot, and for what it's worth, as far I'm concerned, you've done it all. I was kind of just expressing the sentiment, like, 'You don't have anything to prove in my book. You've already done it all.' And I said, 'I'm doing the best job that I know how.' I told him that the 'Empire' material is actually more difficult for me. I expressed to him that he's always had a very smooth control over those vocal parts, and that's more difficult for me. Now the older stuff is easier for me.'
At some point during Todd's conversation with Geoff, "Michael came over and [Tate] shook his hand and said, 'Man, the set was tight. It sounded great,'" La Torre recalled. 'So that was… We joked around and I think at the very end, I had said, 'It would be funny, since everybody is always trying to start shit between us,' I said, 'if we took a selfie together, that would be kind of hilarious, pointing at each other.' And we did, but I never posted the photograph, 'cause I thought, 'I don't need to stir any waters.' But we had a little laugh, and there was no craziness, nothing weird. So, at the end of the day, as an outsider, I thought, 'You know, this is good that we can be in the same area, and there's no craziness or anything.''
Todd said that he he appreciated Geoff's encouraging words, especially considering how awkward it must have been for Tate to witness his former band performing their classic songs with a replacement singer.
"Of course, there are some people that are divided still, the purist type of mentality, and I've heard it all: I suck and I don't sound anything like that, blah blah blah. And so I thought, what better testimony that the band is on the right track, the vocals sound worthy than to hear that from the original singer…" La Tore said. "I don't like to use the word 'endorsement,' but certainly acknowledging that the vocals sound great, the band sounds tight. I just thought, 'Wow, that's kind of an interesting perspective,' if you look at it from what I'm mentioning, where some people say, 'Oh, it doesn't sound right,' or this or that. And you say, 'Well, the original singer seems to think that it sounds excellent,' and what better testimony do you need?"
Asked by Trunk if it "played" on him at all during QUEENSRŸCHE's performance at Rock Fest Barcelona that Tate was standing on the side of the stage watching him sing, La Torre said: "No. No. I mean, at first it's, like, 'Okay, he's standing there watching.' I guess there's a moment of, 'Well, that's really kind of surreal: 'Here's the original singer watching the band perform and I'm singing those songs.' So for a split second [I thought about it], but to be completely honest, I don't care who's on the side of the stage, I just am always gonna just do what I do and not let that affect my psychology of 'How am I gonna perform?' or 'Do I feel intimidated?' I just threw it right out the window and said, 'Okay, there's some people on the side of the stage, like there typically is. Just do your show.' I don't ever get nervous before a show. I mean, if my voice doesn't feel good, then sometimes [I think], 'I hope tonight's gonna be good.'"
Todd continued: "In fact, [Geoff] had asked me [after our performance], he said, 'How do you think the show went?' And I said, 'Do you mean for the band or for me?' And I can't remember — I think he might have said 'both.' And I said, 'As far as the band goes, I think we did well.' I said, 'As far as my performance, I can blow that away,' because I can. I said, 'We've done all these shows — another six in a row, and then four in a row.' I said, 'I've only had one day off, and then another day off. So I'm a little tired, but I got through it.' He was still, again, nice. He said to me, 'I pity what you have to sing.' And I thought, 'I don't know what that means.' Because those records were so amazing and it's not easy material by any means. And I just said to him, 'You know what? Yeah, I can hit the high notes and do this and do that,' I said, 'but you know what you have that I don't have?' I said, 'You created a sound and style of singing — in my opinion — that is iconic. And so you've done it all.' I said, 'You've forgotten more, probably, than most singers would ever really achieve on that kind of a professional level.'"
La Torre added: "So it was a nice, complimentary exchange. We shook each other's hands, we did a little selfie. He was nice to me, I was nice to him. So, should there ever be another time where we're in the same area, it's nice to know that he could walk up to me or I could walk up to him, or whatever, and it's fine. So that was good."
Todd also defended Geoff against criticism that has often been leveled at the latter singer for performing altered versions of QUEENSRŸCHE's classic songs that suit his current dimished range better. "Like I told him, I said, 'You don't have any…' Not that he needed to hear it, or he needs validation from anybody, but I just said, 'Look, you've done it all,'" Todd recalled. "I always compare it to an athlete that set a world record, for example. Is Michael Phelps gonna swim in his late 50s like he did when he set the world record? So you achieve all that you can when you're ripe and in your prime and you're kicking ass. And, look, the fact that he's still singing and doing his thing… I mean, the guy is still doing it, so you can't criticize that. He set a high bar for himself and for anybody, so the fact that he alters things to suit his… you know, where he's at right now, and you choose the right notes and you find a maybe lower note but a very complimentary, harmonized note or something, you're allowed to do it."
Having said that, Todd emphasized his own personal desire to perform the QUEENSRŸCHE material in a way that is as close to the original versions as possible. "Some of those people [that come to see us play live], they know the note on the record and they're just waiting for you to hit it, and so I know the importance of that, so that's why I always go for it," he explained. "And, again, you still have to pace yourself sometimes. If you feel a little tired vocally, you find the right spots where you can kind of go a different route, but then here comes the money note and you deliver that. And 99.9 percent of the time, people remember those things and they're more forgiving if you had altered another little section or something. I just try to represent the material as true to the record as I can, because I think that that's what the music deserves. And I'm gonna keep doing it that way until I can't. But I do work at it sometimes, to stay vocally in shape to hit those notes."
QUEENSRŸCHE has released two albums thus far with La Torre on vocals: 2013's "Queensrÿche" and 2015's "Condition Hüman".
The band is scheduled to enter the studio in September to begin recording its next disc for an early 2018 release.