Geoff Tate: Rock ‘n’ Roll, Revolution, and Wine

By all measures, Geoff Tate is a very, very busy man.

His tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Operation: Mindcrime has extended into 2019 by popular demand. He just released an album in collaboration with Italian artist Simone Mularoni entitled Sweet Oblivion—and if that weren’t enough to tire anyone out, he’s headed back out on the road this month on an East Coast swing that finds him playing three dates in the tri-state area alone.

Recently, AQ spoke with Tate about his rigorous tour schedule, an upcoming solo release he’s working on, and why Operation: Mindcrime still remains relevant against the backdrop of today’s socio-political climate.

You’ve been touring quite a bit recently. How’s that been?

Well, I was in Europe and then went to Asia, and then Mexico, then South America, and then finally back to North America.

And now you’re heading back out to do a summer run in the States. What’s your approach to touring these days, both mentally and physically, now having done it for decades?

A lot of my contemporaries think I’m crazy because I tour so much, and that I should be slowing down, given my age [laughs]. But, you know, I feel good. I feel strong. I love playing live, and the promoters keep calling me to do shows. So, I figure ‘Well, I can do it. I feel good, and there’s demand, so I might as well do it as long as I still can.” Because I guess there will come a time where I can’t, you know? I look at it very positively. I just got back from a four-month run, and then I have a week off, and then I have a two-week run, and then two weeks off before I start festival season in Europe, which is really an easy schedule because you do two festival dates  and then you have a week or two off, and then you come back and do three festival dates, and it kind of stretches over the summer.

Does it give you an opportunity to do a little exploring with your down time?

Yeah, it does, actually. Which is nice because you have some time to yourself, which is hard to find these days. So my wife is joining me, and we rented a house in France, so we’re gonna base ourselves out of there, and we’re going to do all the different festival dates, and then I’ll start work on a record that I have pieces and parts that I’m going to work on.

I wanted to ask you about recording. You did a trilogy of records between 2015 and 2017. What are you working on now?

Well, since the trilogy release, I’m just getting ready to release another album that I did with an Italian artist named Simone Mularoni. The album is called Sweet Oblivion. It’s a record that we did over this last winter. So that’s coming out.

And what’s the vibe of that recording?

Oh, gosh…. I don’t know…. I can never describe music. Music is something you gotta experience on your own, because we all hear it differently, you know? What one person hears another person doesn’t. It’s all very personal, really. But, I would say it’s a nice collaboration between two people who come from wildly different backgrounds, coming together without any other communication other than the music. We’ve actually never met.

Oh, ok… so did you guys do this record digitally through email exchanges?

Exactly. We did it in the virtual world. Which was actually really refreshing because you work on the music itself, you don’t work on your relationship. You don’t have all of those things that go into building a relationship or are distracting from the work. You’re just communicating about the work, and it’s so exciting now because you can work like that virtually anywhere in the world. Like, I worked on the road, traveling through 14 different countries working on that record, and he was in Italy, in a studio there.

Is it a conceptual piece?

No, it’s random music that we wrote and put together. We’d start with a guitar line or a melody, and pass it back and forth, and just built it as we went.

That’s really cool. And then you have another record you’re working on?

Well, over the last year, I’ve been constantly writing songs. So, what I’m going to do when I go to France is put it all together. I’ve got six tracks where the majority of the track is finished… like, ‘this one needs an ending,’ or ‘that one needs an intro,’ things like that… just the details. But I’ve got most of it already, I would say, close to mixed.

Will this be a traditional solo album? What are you thinking in terms of a release?

You know, I don’t know if I’m even going to release it as a record. I might just release it as individual tracks. I just haven’t come to that conclusion yet, because it isn’t all finished. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I hear it all together, and I’ll think ‘Oh, well this sounds like it needs to all go together on a record.’ Or, it will be, ‘Well, these fit really nicely together as a record, but these don’t. These would be better as individual [tracks].’ So, I just don’t really know how I’m going to release it yet, but I’ll get to that point where I’ll make a decision. It’s music that I’ve written and performed by myself, and then some of it is collaborations I’ve done with different musicians.

Do you think it will ultimately be a 2019 release?

I think so. If I do it individually, I’m going to release a song this summer, and then maybe one in the winter. If I do it as a record, I’ll do it in 2020.

Is there anything thematic that you noticed in the material that may have been either planned or unplanned?

Oh, it’s all unplanned [laughs]. It’s all just stream of conscious kind of material that just starts happening, and you just try to get out of the way and let it happen.

Cool. So, this next round of shows that you’re doing this summer is being billed as a “greatest hits” tour, so does that mean fans can expect to hear songs like “Silent Lucidity” and “Jet City Woman” mixed in with some of your more recent material?

There’s two different shows I’m doing. I’m trying to ease into what would be just my regular show of my music—I’ll call it my “greatest hits’ tour even though I don’t really care for that title, but that’s what people call it. And then I have the Operation: Mindcrime 30th anniversary shows that I still am doing. I’ve been to close to 25 countries with that show. It was supposed to end in December, but now it’s stretching into two weeks of shows on the East Coast, and then I’ll finally be finished with that. And then in August, I have two weeks of dates primarily in the U.K., and that will be a mix from all the different records.

In talking about Operation: Mindcrime and its legacy, the record itself had some pretty forward-thinking, socio-political themes in addition to the main narrative. I was just wondering: do you see any parallels between those themes, and what’s going on—certainly in American politics—but as someone who travels a lot, throughout the world today?

Yeah. I think one of the things that has been a factor in the album being so successful and effective for so many years is that the themes of it are age-old themes of how people deal with love, betrayal, and how power affects people. The story of the haves and the have-nots, and the struggle for equality—these are really age-old themes. So, I think that speaks to every generation somewhat.

It was interesting for me because just recently I was in Montreal where I wrote the album. A big group of us were going out to dinner on our day off, and we were sitting across the street from what was this little dive bar back then called the Saint Sulpice on Saint Denis Street where I spent most of my time writing the record. And I was influenced by a separatist movement that was going on at the time, where the French were trying to separate from union of Canada and become their own country, and there was lots of unrest, violence, car-bombings, kidnappings, and extortion going on. And I just happened to be sitting at the bar with all these people who were neck-deep in the whole movement and they became my inspiration for the album.

That’s really interesting. I didn’t know that about the writing of the album. Well, I know you’re a big wine enthusiast, so I have to ask: red or white?

Well, I like white for breakfast, and red for every other meal.

That works for me!

That’s my motto in life, ‘White wine to start the day.’


Geoff, it’s been great chatting with you today, thanks so much for your time.

No problem. Thank you, Dan.

Be sure to catch Geoff Tate’s Operation: Mindcrime at the Starland Ballroom on June 26, The Space at Westbury in Westbury, NY on June 28, and at the Tail Winds Music Fest on June 29.