The old Spinal Tap joke about drummers spontaneously combusting or choking on their own vomit might still be good for an easy chortle, but truly the most expendable dude in a metal band is probably the lead singer. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, AC/DC, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Mötley Crüe — all carried on after losing an iconic lead singer, and many of them continued after losing a second iconic singer (though usually they circled back to rehire the original guy). It’s an old story, and given the prominence of those aforementioned groups, it’s almost like losing your front man is a rite of passage.
Still, according to a recent story in Billboard, the increasingly ugly war brewing between Seattle prog-metal outfit Queensrÿche and its disgruntled (and possibly crazy) ex-singer, Geoff Tate, has the potential to be uglier (and definitely crazier) than most metal band–metal singer divorces.
Before we get to that, who is Queensrÿche again? You’ve possibly heard of Queensrÿche because of (1) 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime, the era’s foremost nerdy-older-brother classic, and/or (2) the ridiculously ponderous top-10 hit power ballad “Silent Lucidity,” an early ’90s junior high slow dance staple that sounds like side two of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here as performed by the Crash Test Dummies.
Otherwise, no worries, blank stares are to be expected here. As band members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, and Scott Rockenfield concede in court papers filed as part of a legal battle with Tate over ownership of the Queensrÿche name, the group’s bookings have dwindled in recent years, due in large part (say the three other guys in Queensrÿche) to Tate refusing to perform fan favorites and generally being an uncooperative dick.
Information on precisely how uncooperative and dickish Tate could (allegedly) be is readily available on metal blogs. This post from Blabbermouth is far more thorough than necessary for anyone who isn’t already intimately familiar with the liner-note deets of Dr. X’s brain-melting power and how it was foiled by a heroic hesher named Nikki. But still, the story is pretty entertaining if you happen to appreciate collisions of rock-star ego and B-level show-business shenanigans. In a nutshell, here’s what has been reported:
1. Queensrÿche voted to fire its manager, Susan Tate, for using band funds to help another band she was managing, and generally not acting in the best interest of the group.
2. This move greatly upset Geoff Tate, as he happens to be married to Susan Tate, and he expressed this onstage in May during a show in São Paulo, Brazil, with a “performance” that including repeated instances of spitting on his band mates and calling at least one member a “pussy,” possibly in multiple octaves.
3. Geoff Tate set up a deal for an animated film version of Mindcrime without telling the band, or enriching them with the advance. (See story point no. 1.)
4. At Oklahoma’s Rocklahoma festival in May, Tate finally turned on the audience, saying “You guys suck” because the fans apparently weren’t giving him the response he wanted. (As if seeing Queensrÿche at Rocklahoma in 2012 weren’t demeaning enough.) This appears to have been the final straw for Wilton, Jackson, and Rockenfield.
In June, Queensrÿche announced that it was firing Tate and replacing him with Todd La Torre of the band Crimson Glory. This new lineup of Queensrÿche has since performed live, but Tate pledged to carry on with his own version of Queensrÿche that he will head up with new musicians. According to Tate’s website, “The Voice of Queensrÿche” will be rocking Weins Family Cellar in Temecula, California, next month, and fine Canadian venues such as Saskatoon’s TCU Place and Edmonton’s Northern Jubilee Auditorium in November. As the blog MetalSucks recently observed, Tate has essentially pulled a Tracii Guns, repeating the questionable decision made by the glam guitarist to form a second version of ’80s sleaze-rats L.A. Guns to spite his ex-partners and thoroughly confuse a shrinking and yet still fiercely loyal fan base. (At least Tracii Guns already has “Guns” in his name.)
This week, the Queensrÿche debacle spilled over into social media, with the battling Queensrÿche factions wrestling over control of the band’s website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Non-Tate Queensrÿche set up a new Twitter page, but then switched back to its original Twitter once it successfully recaptured the user name and password. This Queensrÿche is also pressing forward, telling Billboard that a tour is planned for 2013, and there are one-off dates scheduled for the fall. Sadly, it looks like we’re all going to be trapped between dueling Queensrÿches for the foreseeable future.