Geoff Tate has collaborated with an up-and-coming Italian guitarist and songwriter to create an album that will undoubtedly be a must-have item for the collection of any of the veteran former Queensryche vocalist/songwriter’s ardent fans – an album that hearkens back to the best of his former band, while showcasing his ever evolving compositional excellence and his world-class vocal range.
Sweet Oblivion is the fruit of this prolific partnership with Simone Mularoni. Released through Frontiers Music on June 14, the album features 10 examples of melodic metal musicality at its best, and adds further to Tate’s legacy that not only includes the 12 full studio albums he released as a member of Queensryche, but also his two acclaimed solo albums, and three-album trilogy issued under the Operation: Mindcrime brand, as well as contributions to the recordings of many other artists and bands.
Tate spoke with Music Life Magazine a few days after returning home from an extensive world tour performing with European prog rock band Avantasia, which is fronted by German musician/vocalist/band leader Tobias Sammet, and mere days before embarking on an early summer tour with his Operation: Mindcrime project.
“We did a 21-country world tour and it was really, really amazing, actually: great shows and a great band. I am going out on my own for a two week run on the east coast of the United States and then I catch up with Avantasia again for some festival dates in Europe over the summer. In September I have another short run of two weeks in southern California and the west coast,” said Tate.
“A few years ago, I got a call from Tobias, and he asked me if I would be interested in singing some songs with them. He sent me over the music, and we started talking about it and it fell together nicely. I ended up contributing music and vocals to two albums, their  Ghostlights album and their latest one, which is called Moonglow [released in Feb. 2019]. I did the festival dates with them last summer and they asked me to do the world tour this year and I did that. It was very cool. They’re a very cool bunch of people; it’s an international group of people – German, Italian, American, British, Norwegian, Danish and Portuguese.”
The collaborative spirit has continued with the Sweet Oblivion. One fascinating aspect of this collaboration is that Tate and Mularoni did not work in the same room. In fact, they have never met face to face.
“It was a really nice match up of the creative forces. What’s really cool about this record, I think, is that it was completely written and recorded in the virtual recording world, without ever actually having been in the same place at the same time. We still have not met each other or talked to each other in person. It’s all been over the internet and talking via email. Isn’t that cool? It’s very 21st century. It takes down the walls and the limitations of having to be in the same place. You can work with any musician in the world at any time. You can collaborate with people six or seven time zones away. And what’s really kind of attractive to me is you’re not hijacked by the personality of the person you are working with,” Tate explained.
“You’re really just able to experience the creative process in a really pure atmosphere, without being influenced by how another person is, how their personality is. You’re just creating, and you can focus on the music only. And the way technology works these days, when you collaborate, you can make changes really quickly, within minutes. Before it would take so long. It could be weeks and weeks working on the same place just to do one thing. Now it’s at your fingertips, quick and easier.”
Mularoni is the leading creative force behind the prog metal band DMG, and who is a protégé of Frontiers Music founder Serafino Perugino. He thought the young musician’s musical mastery would gel well with the legendary songwriting and vocal prowess of Tate. And this proved to be the case, as the Sweet Oblivion album sounds like it came directly from Tate’s own artistic wheelhouse.
“Serafino had this guitar player named Simone Mularoni who he was really enamoured with and Simone was a fan of my music and heavily influenced by what I had done in the past. And Serafino thought the two of us might be able to come up with something interesting. Which we did, he was right. I think our starting point working together was that he has been heavily influenced by what I had done in the past, so he was coming at me with material that sounded very familiar to my ears, you know. So, we definitely had a jumping off point that was based on familiarity I guess I could say,” he said, explaining that it was a nice change of pace from the very intense process of creating his recent trilogy of albums under the Operation: Mindcrime banner, including The Key (2015), Resurrection (2016) and The New Reality in 2017.
“I think this record is really more of a collection of stand-alone tracks. I have done records like that with Queensryche and also solo. My first solo albums are just collections of songs with no real connection between the songs in terms of subject matter. It’s an album of where you’re at at the time, what you’re interested in at the time. And I know I said I was going to take a break after the trilogy, but I never really stopped. I ended up getting interested in something and just kept working. I have a whole bunch of music that’s at various stages of completion that I hope to finish up this summer. That’s my goal. Because I am doing the Avantasia festival dates, I am just going to stay in France for the summer and then work on my next record while I am there and take off and go out to the festival dates as they come up.
“As for the new record, I haven’t decided really what I am going to do with it or how I am going to release it, whether I am going to release it as an album or release it as individual tracks, which is sounding really attractive to me nowadays. But I honestly haven’t come up with that concept yet.”
Returning to the subject of the Sweet Oblivion album, Tate is reticent to try and relate the process for creating the songs, or their meaning, preferring that to be gleaned through the ear of the listeners.
“I think this is one of those records that people will experience on their own, and I hope they do, because I think that’s the best way to experience a record. Trying to describe music is a futile endeavour because we all interpret it differently. If you take two people to a concert, they’re going to hear different things and describe different things that they hear,” he said.
“Some people can go hear an orchestra play and describe every instrument they hear and tell you what the melody parts are and how they relate to the harmonic chord, and other people will hear a wall of sound, but they like the vibe. So, it is kind of futile to explain it to people. It’s best that they try to hear it on their own. A lot of people experience music and they like the mood of the music because it aligns with the mood they’re in and sometimes they want to stay in that mood. Or they find some sort of peace within that mood that they’re in. People have told me that a lot about my records. They say, ‘your record was with me when I went through the toughest times in my life,’ because there’s that kind of material on some of the records that stays with you. It keeps you in a certain headspace or a certain emotional space that you’re comfortable in.
“And also, there’s familiarity. When I play a song from a new album that I have just released, my audience, they don’t have a relationship to those new songs yet. It takes them a year or two of them listening to the songs in order to form an emotional bond to them. But then if you come back in a year or two’s time, and play that same song, you can really see a huge difference in the audience reaction.”
Tate is in the midst of a short run of dates under the Operation: Mindcrime banner, performing the Queensryche album of that same name in its entirety, wrapping up a celebration of the 30th anniversary of it’s release that began last year. He will then do another tour as Geoff Tate in the fall, playing songs from his entire pedigree.
“I have so many records and there are so many choices it’s really hard to make up my mind as to a set list. There’s music I want to play and music I feel like I have to play. So, I try to strike a balance between the two. I tend to lean more heavily on playing songs I think the audience wants to hear. But like every musician, you want to play your newest stuff, because it’s what you’re most excited about and it’s what you’re going to perform with more intensity that you would with an older track,” he said, adding that he would love to play at least one song from the Sweet Oblivion release.
“I hope so. I haven’t decided what yet, but I hope something from this album makes it into my set list because I would really like to play some of it. You know, it’s always a surprise when people like what you do or find something interesting in it. I am always pleasantly surprised by that.”
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of one of Queensryche’s most popular and most significant albums – Empire. Highlighted by the powerful ballad Silent Lucidity, the record was a top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and propelled the album to triple platinum status, as well as garnering two Grammy nominations. Tate confirmed that when he hits the road next year, as he did with the Operation: Mindcrime album, he will be celebrating Empire by playing it in its entirety.
For more information on Tate’s various tour dates, including with Operation: Mindcrime and Avantasia, as well as information on Sweet Oblivion and other projects, visit https://geofftate.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at email@example.com.
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