Queensrÿche: Catching up backstage with Michael Wilton at The Asylum – ME

Interview and Photos by: James Pappaconstantine
Show photos HERE
When Queensrÿche hit the music scene in 1983, It was like something I’d never heard. Geoff Tate’s voice was operatic without being boring and the music was as heavy as anything else out at the time. I went down to Boston in 1983 to see them in support of Twisted Sister when they played two shows at the Paradise Rock Club. They were amazing, I have since seen them many times, and photographed them thrice.
Geoff Tate has since move on to his own version of the band and the fight for the name is in the hands of the courts. There are fans of both versions and many heated discussions from both camps as to who is the better band or who deserves to keep the name. I find myself a fan of both bands. I must admit knowing the big shoes that singer Todd Le Torre had to fill, I had my doubts to his abilities, but as they launched into the first song, early this year during the Monster’s of Rock cruise, I knew he was up to the task.
I got to sit down with founding guitar player Michael Wilton for a little Q&A before the show and this is what he had to say.
Hey Michael, Welcome to Maine and thank you for taking my interview, by the way this is totally off the cuff, I didn’t know I was going to be doing this, Ha ha
Ha ha No worries, I didn’t know I was going to be doing this either.
 James: OK… So you just got back from over seas?
Michael: Yeah, so we just got back. We just did a 30 day stint over in the UK, Ireland and Southern Europe and ended up in the Netherlands. We did like 23 shows in 30 days, Pretty brutal.
James: Big Arenas?
Michael: No, These were mainly theaters and clubs, The festivals don’t happen until summer time, so it’s pretty much the club scene right now. Their all gearing up for the big festivals and we’re bidding for all those as well, we hope to get back over there and do some of the bigger ones, you know, the ones we should’ve been doing. Ha ha ha.
James: Now how are the shows in Europe different than here?
Michael: Ya know, It’s about the same, I think, as far as the economies Europe hasn’t fully recovered that much, everybody’s really dedicated to the fans, they goo there for the show, for the music, people in the US, I think are getting more like that, ya know, rather than just going to see who showed up and get drunk and who’s the band? Ha ha or whatever.
James: Like the Monster’s of Rock Cruise? Ha ha
Michael: Ha ha yeah, and in that since I think it’s changing over here, cause people don’t have tat tons of entertainment dollar to see every band so they’re pin pointing who they want to see and they really want to enjoy it, so I think they are going to pay more attention to the band rather than the event.
James: Now are you finding it’s the same thing over there, where everybody’s got their cell phones in the air recording the shows and looking at a little screen instead of the live acts in front of them?
Michael: You know, It’s inevitable, It’s… well Nokia’s from over there, so they have even better phones, ha ha So believe me the next morning parts of the performance were on Youtube already.
James: And that sucks, especially if you are having an off night or the monitor mix isn’t good.
Michael: Oh I know, It’s like Oooohhh, but it’s like every band has to deal with that, you’re just on parade and you better have you’re a game going because it’s gonna be on Youtube the next morning and everyone is going to judge you based on a recording from a phone.
James: Speaking of tours, I first shot this carnation of Queensrÿche on the Monsters of Rock cruise. How did you guys like that cruise?
Michael: Ah you know, the Monsters of Rock was fun, it was a blast, we had good weather and we got to hang with some band guys we haven’t seen in a long time and it was fun, I mean those kind of events are a great vacation, I mean you get to see your favorite bands and enjoy the weather.
James: Did you get the chance to take in some bands on the cruise during your down time?
Michael: Yeah, I caught Tesla, cause I’m good friends with those guys and Loudness, I was definitely into them and who was the other one? I think it was Saxon, so that was fun, you know the whole cruise thing has kinda become a way of life, I mean we just did a cruise in Oslo Norway and went to the docks in Copenhagen and came back to Oslo, and like they have like ships that are doing that constantly in the different oceans and seas over there and some of the bands that are on those vessels, they say, that’s all they do, they can spend like a month playing just on the boats.
James: That’s awesome, just as long as you don’t get seasick. Ha ha
Michael: Ha ha yeah, there was one of those we did over there where we were actually cutting ice, a bit different than the Monsters of Rock where everybody was getting sunburned over there it was brutal.
James: Another thing I wanted to ask you about, was… I saw you guys on what I think was your first tour, you were in support of the EP and opening for Twisted Sister at the Paradise in Boston.
Michael: Awesome
James: Do you have any memories of those days?
Michael: Oh yeah, I remember those days, and it was such an interesting pairing, I mean hanging out with the guys in Twisted Sister, yeah we rocked some of these clubs that are no more, but it was so great and we see them all the time, they are always headlining festivals over in Europe when we are over there or in the US. We toured with them and I think Quiet Riot for a little bit on that tour. Well the first shows besides paramount’s in Seattle and Portland was down at the Country Club in LA, we did that and then signed a record deal and then we were on a bus.
James: Yeah, I remember you guys didn’t even have a full sets worth of songs, so you played some covers.
Michael: Yeah, and that’s kinda cool because, you know, and we were just thinking about that, I mean, do bands do that anymore, because we released, Live in Tokyo, Tokyo Tapes with songs from the Warning cause we didn’t know any others, so we played those songs that we had just written but they hadn’t been released yet and there were lots of bands that did that, and that’s actually kinda cool so maybe we might do that again, get back and record some more songs, but not all polished or anything and bring them out on tour and see how that goes. You know lots of bands used to do that, I remember Michael Schenker did that, I remember he was playing songs from the next album and so, sometimes out of necessity though so it’s a cool thing to do.
James: So I gotta ask about the name, how’s that going, is that stuff still in the courts, and where did the name come from?
Michael: Yeah, that’s all in the hands of legal. The name actually came from the guy who’s not in the band anymore.
James: Degarmo?
Michael: Chris Degarmo, My buddy, we were called, The Mob and that was taken and he had written the song called, Queen of the Ryche and then he just made the word.
James: I was wondering, because it’s such a weird word.
Michael: I spent my whole career trying to explain it, ha ha especially over in countries where that Uma lot changes it, so it’s a different pronunciation.
James: So you guys are still good friends with Chris?
Michael: Yeah, yeah, I’ve always been good friends with him.
James: What is he doing now, is he still playing?
Michael: He still plays music but he’s a pilot for a private firm in Seattle and he flies lear jets for big executives and stuff. You know he loves to fly, but by all means he hasn’t stopped writing music and playing, actually he has written some music for his daughter and if you can search on Youtube you can see that and you can definitely hear Chris playing and he always plays with Alice in Chains when they come into town. I go over there to his house and we just hang out and you know, I don’t push him. He’s very supportive in what we’ve done and he flat out shook my hand and said congratulations, He took the CD down in his studio by himself, he wouldn’t let anybody come and he critically listened to it, and he said, Well done, I’m really proud of you guys, I’m really supportive of this moved it was really needed.
James: That’s awesome! Any chance of him joining forces with you guys in the future?
Michael: Like I said, I’m not gonna push it, but if there’s any way in any capacity that Chris wants to get back into it in some way that the doors open.
James: Now when you were auditioning singers, who else did you audition?
Michael: It really wasn’t an audition, It was kinda like a ripple effect, things happened so fast that, I had et Todd and we were going to work on some music together for films and TV and stuff, and then everything started happening and I looked at his email, and he said, I see what’s goin on with you guys and I grew up listening to you guys and Geoff as well as Bruce Dickenson and Ian Gillian, Halford and so I asked him, You wouldn’t happen to know any of our music and he was like, yeah, I know your first five albums by heart and I know them on the drums, yeah but can you sing them? And he was yeah I can sing them too and ah, he was sending s demo’s and putting stuff on Facebook and so I got together with the other guys and ah, we were doing the Rising West thing and it was a matter of putting trust in me that this guy was legitimate. Because we had to book the show before we had even rehearsed, cause you know how you gotta book shows before hand? But once we started rehearsing the songs for the first time the look on everybody’s face was just priceless, Parker our other guitar player, his jaw just dropped and Todd was like, What’s wrong? And he was like, Dude I have never heard the songs sound this way. Ha ha It was just, after those two shows it just blew up, it was viral. We had management teams after us we had booking teams after us we had people who wanted to invest in us it was rabid and so literally wasn’t an audition, you know it was just kindly asking maybe you’d like to do these two shows and maybe something will come of it.
James: I shot you guys at M3 which was the second to last show with Geoff and then a few months later on the cruise and I had met Todd at breakfast the morning of your gig ad I had my doubts but as soon as I heard him sing I was like.. OK this is for real. So that’s pretty much all I have is there any thing you’d like to share? New projects? Tour dates?
Michael: Ahhh.. I could tell you about our video/movie that we have just done, we just viewed the final cut of it. It’s got all the right levels of dialog and music, and that’s gonna be released here pretty soon. I think the fans are really gonna like it, it’s two songs, and instrumental fused together in a mini movie and it’s really different in the sense that it’s not like the typical conceptual video where the band is playing. It’s a movie intertwining with this, so watching it, It’s like a little movie, it’s like, I don’t know, a CSI episode or something, ha ha ha but it was a great collaboration between our record label century media and they have a lot f artist doing this and they have all these connections with up and coming producers, and they were down in Los Angeles and they got a hold of the album and they immediately went to work and you know, here’s our script and it was really like back and forth and really like working as a team and it was all done for us in one day of shooting down there, a really long day, but they’ve got good actors that I was surprised to see so.
The show itself was fantastic, Opening with Queen of the Ryche and ending with Take hold of the Flame, Queensrÿche played a solid set that spanned their decades of hits. For those in attendance who may have had their doubts about Todd’s voice, I think they all left believers.
Local act Hour Past opened the show.


The Set List

Queen of the Ryche

Speak the Word

Walk in the Shadows

The Whisper


Child of Fire

The Warning

X2 – Where Dreams go to Die

A World Without

Needle Lies

NM 156

Roads to Madness


My Empty Room

Eyes of a Stranger

Jet City Woman

Take Hold of the Flame

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