The Interview was taken
by Aefa on Monday June 15th, 2009 @ the Metropolis in Munich
(with support from Marcela/Romania ;-)
Some Background on my Interview questions:
Over the past few month I have read and listened to quite a few interviews Geoff had done, so I was familiar with the story of the new album "American Soldier": How he never talked to his dad about his experiences during the Korean War until 2006, how he started out filming him out on the porch, and how it developed into the song "The Voice". Since I have already covered that part in my album review and reports on the website, and with some Germans having difficulties understanding what "American Soldier" is about, I decided it was a good idea to ask Geoff about his point of view and chat with him about the different European and American perspectives - YAY :-)))
I have a digital recording I extracted the interview from and there is also some video footage; however, the quality is not the greatest, since the light in the small backstage room was quite shallow, and there was also lots of noise from people talking outside.
I suppose it did. The difficult thing about answering that question is that you donít really have anything to compare it to, you know, growing up, cause itís the only life I have. My dad was kind of a strict disciplinarian, military minded, and we had to do things very systematically, chores and things like that, growing up. So I guess I kind of carried that out on my own kids. Kind of like one of those guys that likes the ship to run straight. I suppose I kept that from him. Thatís the only way I can think how it might have affected me.
You were born in Germany, did you experience a lot of moving around, was dad always gone?
No. Actually, my dad was in the technical field, so he didnít get transferred a lot to different places like a lot of military people do. I was born in Germany, then we moved to the States and we lived in the Seattle area for a long time. Then he got transferred to New Mexico, but only for four years. So we lived there for four years and then we went back to the Seattle area and before he finished his military service there. So we only lived in three places in my entire life.
Queensryche are well-known to be a band with a message. There are many political references (I am for example referring to the LIAR jacket with the face of W Bush) and of course youíve many moral issues discussed in the lyrics. So I have to admit I was quite surprised when I first listened the album, because you all left it to the soldier's perspective. Have you ever, during the production, thought about making it more political, as in using your own words rather than leaving it all to the soldiers perspective?
Really the whole premise of the album was really trying to find out and explore the soldierís perspective. Iíve never been in a war, so I have actually no comment about it, I donít have any experience. Anything I would add would just be speculation. It seems like we have so much of that these days, everybody has an opinion about everything, even though a lot of people have no experience in what they are talking about. Maybe itís just my place I am at in my life nowadays, but itís hard for me to comment about things I havenít experienced. So I chose not to do that but to let other people who have been there and done it speak about it.
Is it easier to sing about your own personal feelings and experiences rather than other peopleís stories and viewpoints like you did on American Soldier. If you write the lyrics to a song from your perspective, Iíd figure you sing it from your heart?
I suppose so. But I think on the other hand, one can empathize with somebody if the experience is translated to you in a way that moves you. I donít know...easier? Thatís tough to answer - I guess they are just different. Itís perhaps a different place youíre at when you are singing from your own perspective than you are singing from somebody elseís. I donít know, I canít answer that, thatís a though one. *laughs*
I know from experience that military people are highly regarded in the US. Although I am a German I once had a loved one at the First Gulf War, (my ex-fiancť, he was US American) So listening to the album for the very first time, some very emotional memories returned. But to be honest, I wasnít really sure if I wanted to be reminded, cause it was a rather sad period in my life back then in the early nineties. Are you aware that this piece of music might be hard to swallow, depending on the grade of personal involvement?
Oh, for other people? Yeah. Very aware.
Next I want to talk about the different European and US perspectives, on how we regard the military. For once, we are not directly involved in war and we have a different historic background. Germans don't really acknowledge the military, over here it is much more common to chicken out because it is a compulsory military service. We donít really look up to military members. If youíd actually volunteered to go or they are asked to go, people are like ďWhat is he doingĒ? Cause it is not really popular to wear a weapon. How do you think the album be received by the European audience who lacks this US experience and understanding?
Thatís a tough one to answer, cause I donít know *laughs*. We havenít played a show yet. You know, I have done a lot of interviews for this record and all over the word, different people commenting. And all of the input Iíve heard has been very positive about the record, so thatís nice to know.
I am not so certain that in America, we look up to people that are serving in the military either. But I think what we donít do nowadays, which is great and wonderful, is that we donít take out our frustrations on our military personnel. We understand that they have a job to do, and itís a very important job and their position should be respected. When my dad was in Vietnam and came back to the States, the country was very torn up about the Vietnam War and people took out their frustrations on the soldiers. But weíve kind of come a long ways now and realized that doesnít really do any good. Itís really non constructive. War is one of those things. I think any kind of intelligent person realizes that war is not a good thing. We donít try to glorify it, its one of those things thatís with us and has been with us since human history started, perhaps. So itís going to be there and you need to have a strong military in order to protect your way of living. Because if you donít, someone will come over and beat you up. This is kind of the way it works, there always going to be a bull, there is always going to be somebody that wants something you have, so you have to protect it somehow. So itís kind of inevitable to have a military. Even countries Ė well, Germany has a military, Italy has a military, every country has...
...but I think we have a different approach...?
...yeah, definitely a different approach. The whole subject is one thatís interesting to me, because it is so debatable and so full of different opinions and different objectives. I like the debate about it, I like people talking about it, and I hope that thatís what this record does. It gets people talking about it. Cause I think the more that we talk about a subject, the more we have the ability to understand it. And once we understand something Ė human beings are pretty industrious Ė once we understand something, we can work to change what we have. It would really be great if, at some point, we could all fall to a point where we have a partnership society and we donít have war anymore. I would love to be in that position, I think everyone would.
I actually had Germans approach me, and they were afraid that the title ďAmerican SoldierĒ suggested that Queensryche turned out to be a pro-military band. Are you?
Pro Military... I think weíre supportive of the military, I believe in a military strength, I believe in being very prepared militarily. So I guess if that is pro-military, yeah, I guess we are. We have a lot of fans that are in the military. You know, I donít understand what people would be afraid of...*laughs*
I think itís the different approach, a different German - I donít know if itís a European - point of view. Maybe it is a little misleading from a German perspective, because Germans just donít understand what being an American is about. I do understand, I mean Iíve lived over there. But for Germans it might be a little hard to grasp.
I was also under the impression that the actual soldiers feel like someone finally cares, someone finally listens, gives them a voice, pays attention: Do you consider yourself a spokesman for the military, now that you also toured a bunch of bases?
Oh no, not really. I think what we are doing is we are kind of like, perhaps a voice for soldiers in a sense, maybe a vehicle is a better term. We are simply telling their stories. Acting like a biographer in a sense, telling other peopleís stories. By doing that I think that it helps people talk about it. A lot of times, soldiers come back from a war, being a very dramatic experience. They kind of shut down about it emotionally and canít really talk about it how they feel for a long time. That emotional distance sometimes has a tendency to really have a dramatic effect on their family. I think if families can understand perhaps a little about what a soldier does over there, goes through, it will help to not destroy the family and keep in more intact. Cause theyíll see that itís not their fault that dad or mom is acting the way they are. Maybe theyíll be able to understand that what they just went through is a very dramatic experience and they need time to adjust. We hear a lot of stories from soldiers, once they hear this record, they hear their own lives in these songs...
...I was moved, I was really touched, but I wasnít sure...I mean I love your music, always in a good way, but it was also really tough...a lot of emotional heavy baggage.
Yeah it affects you.
Before the album was released in March, I have seen an image of the albumís backside and it featured a US flag lying on the ground. Then they took the image off the Internet. I was wondering if you were afraid to upset anybody and did a last minute change of the cover?
When youíre making a record cover, you go through all those different drafts, the artist submitting different ideas. Some ideas you accept, and other ones "no, thatís not the right one". The image that was up on the Internet was not the right image that we had accepted.
...so youíve never chosen it in the first place?
No, so it was a mix-up with somebody set the wrong image in and nobody looked at it to make sure that it was okay. It went up, then somebody noticed it and brought it to our attention. We said "take it down, this is the right image". In the age of email and that kind of thing...
...it travels fast, even to Germany :-)
Yeah, it travels fast, so we tried to take it down as quick as we could, cause that wasnít the image that we wanted.
Tonight youíll be playing in Munich, tomorrow in Stuttgart. Since you were born in Stuttgart - is that just a city mentioned on your passport, or did you ever return to see where baby Geoff played in the sandbox?
Yeah, actually I know some people there, family friends. They have been friends with our family for years. Itís a beautiful city, wonderful city. I really donít have a strong connection to it cause I didnít live there very long, but I always enjoyed going back and playing there, seeing the friends that we have.
What can we expect tonight and on the upcoming dates in Europe and Germany? Is it the same line-up as we have seen in Seattle? I am not really sure if Emilyís there, AJ Fratto? Iíve seen Jason...
Jasonís here. Emilyís not here and AJís not here.
I have been wondering because the dates were not listed on AJís Myspace site. Are you going to play the three suites of American Soldier, Empire and Rage for Order? Is it the same setlist?
It will be similar setlist.
How do you feel the audience and your fans are responding to your music today compared to 20 years ago?
Responding to it? I donít know. Iíve never been a very good judge on that. I only see music is a very personal thing for people. Some songs, some pieces of music really affect you. Others donít, others affect you in different times of your life, some never do. We all grow, we all change, we all take in life and experiences. Things we liked when we were 20 now we are not so into. People grow and change. So, I donít know, it seems like people are moved by music, different songs, different albums, the same as theyíve always been, really. I guess...I donít know...thatís a tough one to answer, too (laughs)
I remember you once told one of the German Empire members that age 50, you would stop doing QR and enjoy more time on your sail boat.
Did I? *surprised*
Yes you did! :-) As we all know, the big day passed last January and Iím of course happy to see you here touring. What changed your mind?
Well, music, really. I think as long as youíre writing and producing music and feeling good about it, you should keep doing it. I guess some day it will stop when you donít have anything else to say. So thatís a good time to put the sails up and go...
With all the things you have experienced and accomplished in your life, is there anything you still want to do?
Oh yeah, lots of stuff. I started this wine business a few years ago and thatís doing pretty well now. Iím liking that a lot, although itís pretty time consuming. Iíd like to spend more time on the boat *laughs*, doing things like that. I started getting together a race circuit for sailing vintage boats. Itís just really in the emphasis right now. Getting all the different owners and boats together, being at a certain spot at a certain time so we can race. Iíd like to do more of that.
One of my daughters is getting married next month, so maybe Iíll have some grandkids soon. That might be kind of neat. So Iíd like to spend more time with them.
There are a couple of books Iíve been working on, doing some film work this summer.
What ever happened to that one movie...[referring to House of Eternity with
Blackmore's Night's Candace Night] ?
It got postponed cause of the worldwide market crash Ė it strikes. But itís back on and weíre shooting in August. Doing that in August and then doing the music for that film as well. So thatís kind of taking up a lot of my time.
Can we expect you to be back for more? Is there going to be another album,