Fit For Royalty: An Interview with Queensrÿche

Most music junkies would assume their favorite bands have a lust for partying well into the wee hours of the morning—that may be the case for some groups, but not for the members of Queensrÿche. Of course, don’t rule them out as “boring dudes.” Just take a look at their performances and you’ll understand why they value a good night’s sleep while on the road. These artists deserve some down time after giving their fans their all. For example, lead vocalist Todd La Torre is extremely cautious when it comes to germs—and who can blame him? When you need to rely on your voice each night, the slightest sniffle can determine whether that high note will shine or shatter.

The day of Queensrÿche’s first show of the tour can be a little intense, even for a group of professional musicians. But what’s the fun if seasoned performers didn’t get at least a little nervous? So, with a spark of anticipation and the roar of the crowd, these guys are ready for a wild set of performances. I was lucky to be able to speak with Todd just before they kicked off their tour about the band’s newest album, touring life, and what’s in store for the spring.

I know you guys are already out on the road; how’s it been going so far?

            Well, today is the first show of a full month of our tour throughout the U.S. So, tonight will be the very first night.

Geez, are you nervous at all?

            Yeah. We’ve got a lot of new songs in the set. We’ve kept some of the staple songs the fans wanna hear, but we changed things up a lot to improve the production. So, yeah. We’re a little anxious to get some of these shows under our belt. We’ve had six weeks off and we’ve had some rehearsals, but it’s always different when you’re doing it live.

You said you have a lot of new material in the setlist—I guess it’s mostly from your new album, Condition Human?

            Yeah. So what we’ll be doing is we won’t be playing an identical set every night, a lot of it will be the same but we have some new stuff from Condition Human, so we’ll play one song one night and then not play that and play another the next night. So we’ll have a catalogue of a lot of the older stuff—songs that we haven’t played in a very long time and then some stuff that they used to play before I joined the band.

How do you actually develop a setlist? You’ve got 14 studio albums!

            Like I said, there’s always gonna be those staple songs that the band will always play, but then we just listen to the fans and see what they wanna hear. Then we take the majority when we ask people and then also combine with what we wanna play and what’s fun for us to do. We put a setlist together so that most everyone hears what they wanted. There’s just so much material and there’s only so much time to play. We do the best that we can.

For Condition Human, what was the writing process like? I know you’re lead vocals, but you also play a variety of instruments.

            The process is… I mean, I live in Florida and everyone else lives in Washington State, so a lot of it is done over the internet and email and we all have different ideas, so we’re all working on things—different songs at different times. When we are together on the road, we’ll go over those things, but when we’re home, it’s just a bunch of sending files back and forth and building songs that way. Because I don’t live there, everyone has a life, too. I know most bands do it like that nowadays.

Thank god for the internet! Do you write most of the lyrics since you’re the vocalist?

            Yeah, I write the majority of them. I mean, everyone’s allowed to write something. I’ve written guitar parts, drums parts… It’s just for the sake of building the songs and sharing ideas and we just go with the best idea and run with it. A lot of the times I do write the lyrics because there’s so much that’s tied to the singer and there’s a certain style that I use vocally and if someone else were to write something, it may not be the way I do it. But I’ll add my own flavor to it.

Well, since you mentioned that you go over what was written while at home, have you ever actually written a whole song while touring?

            Yeah, we’ve done that before. It’s just that it’s harder to do that on the road because of the touring schedule and the demands. I mean, we have meet and greets and stuff—like this interview that we’re doing now. There are just a lot of things that take up the time. And for me, it’s just best not to talk much because of the touring schedule. This tour, we’ve got 25 shows in 30 days, so I try my best not to have to talk.

While on tour, what do you do for fun?

            That’s a good question. I don’t know. We’re pretty chill people. We don’t really party. We’re usually on our computers, watching movies… We don’t have time to wander. The schedule doesn’t allow much downtime. I think our fun time is saved for performing because our schedule is so demanding. There’s a lot of preparation and waiting around to get on stage. We’re all just in our little space. But we don’t have any wild and crazy stories to share. Rest is the best thing. A lot of times, somebody will be lying on their bunk just having quiet time.

I can imagine. That last thing you need is to get sick while on tour.

            That’s always my biggest fear. I mean, we’re touring in the middle of winter and we’re meeting people and I don’t shake hands. I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just that… Even touching markers when signing stuff. I bring my own because it takes one time and then you touch your face or your eye and the next thing you know… Or we’ve got 12 people on the bus. All it takes is one person to get sick and in three days, the entire bus is sniffling. And if I get sick, that’s a major, major issue. If the singer gets sick, that’s a problem because it’s our voice. If the drummer or guitar player is sick, sure they might feel bad, but their instrument sounds the same. So I take every precaution not to get sick. I like to be alone a lot. I’m not somebody who really likes to be part of the party. I’ll just be quiet and listen to everybody. I’m kind of a boring guy (laughs).

No you’re not (laughs). Anyway, I saw that you grew up listening to rock and jazz—how’d you get into metal?

            Well, growing up with my mom, she was into jazz and then my dad listened to some jazz stuff, too, and rock. And then when I was 13, I got into the dark stuff and I just fell in love with the darkness and heaviness of metal. And Iron Maiden I was a fan of and then I was introduced to Queensrÿche. And metal has a lot of classical elements, more so than your average pop. The imagery that went along with metal wasn’t so happy and the darkness intrigued me… Morbid may not be the right word… But the sounds and the power that metal gave me something that no other music gave me.

I get that completely. In another interview, I saw that you wanted to be a famous drummer. But you’re a famous singer. What happened?

            (Laughs) Well, I was playing in bands my whole life and I never really made it to the next level in a band as a drummer. I still play with a few bands when I’m off. So by chance, a friend of mine was playing in another well-known band and I wanted to try some singing—I mean, I always sang, but nobody ever really heard me before. So, one thing led to another and then the drumming thing became secondary and everybody knew me for singing.

How’d you end up in Queensrÿche?

            Oh god, that’s a long story. In a nutshell, I met Michael Wilton out in California at a dinner party and we starting talking about doing a side project together and one thing led to another and we started collaborating. Then the old singer was working on his solo record and they were having problems, so that kind of thing happened and it just made for a natural transition where I could play in the band. That’s the short version!

Hey! Worked out for you! Now, once the tour is over, what’s next?

            After this January run, we go home for a couple weeks, then we do the Monsters of Rock Cruise, then we have one or two more dates in Florida. Then we have some fly dates… I think they’re putting together more dates I think in Europe. We’re always touring and on the road. But we’ll be playing throughout the year.


Catch Queensrÿche as they pull into the Theater Of Living Arts on Jan. 20 and Starland Ballroom on Jan. 22. For more information on these guys, visit their site: