Between A Rock And A Prog Place: QUEENSRŸCHE’S TODD LA TORRE – “We Brought Out The Amps From The Warning, Rage For Order, Operation: Mindcrime And Empire”
October 6, 2022, a month ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, we speak to Queensrÿche singer Todd La Torre, who has been fronting the veteran prog metal band since 2012. Shortly before the arrival of the group’s 16th studio album overall, Digital Noise Alliance, La Torre discussed the group’s latest effort, as well as his tryout for the band and his favorite prog artists.
How does Digital Noise Alliance compare to previous Queensrÿche albums?
“I would say that it differs in the sense that some sounds were used on this album that weren’t used on the last several albums. For example, the synthesizer sounds, the Mellotron, and of course using all of the old vintage real amps for guitars. Michael brought out the amps from The Warning, Rage for Order, Operation: Mindcrime, Empire, and Promised Land. I would say that there is a bit of a vintage, dare I say organic warm sound that really changed how the songs sound. There are also some similarities, in the sense that many of the core stylistic things that make Queensrÿche songs sound the way that they do.”
Which tunes are your personal standouts?
“For me personally, I really love the song ‘Forest’ for its simplicity, space, and relatable subject matter. ‘Behind The Walls’ is another favorite of mine for its hook on the chorus, the double harmony guitar solos, and just the overall style. I think ‘Hold On’ also is a stand out track for its peaks and valleys. It has a great singable chorus, pertinent subject matter, spacious verses, and a very interesting progressive outro. The drumming on this is just perfect, too. That being said, there are so many other great tunes on the record in my opinion that continue to showcase the diversity of the bands writing. I think there’s something for everyone.”
What are some memories of filming the ‘”Behind The Walls” video, and what is the song’s lyrical inspiration?
“The song is about someone dealing with different forms of abuse, and might that person reconcile their faith without divine intervention. The video was shot by Thomas Crane of KillDevil Films. The first location performance shoot was on a friend of a friend’s personal property with acres and acres of land where we were allowed to have a raging bonfire behind the drums, shoot pyro cannons, etc. without needing outside permission from authorities. The other content portions of the video were shot in various locations. Thomas and his crew built a set to portray a psychologist/psychiatrist office, but also with the ability to have it rain with different zones inside the office. Other effects were used which is very evident, like blood pouring down walls, flying pages of a bible in the room, etc. Thomas and company did a fantastic job, as well as the female protagonist that was just so fun and easy to work with. It was a great execution of our vision for this song and video.”
What do you recall about your tryout for Queensrÿche?
“Well, I can’t say I had any in person ‘tryout’ per se. I would have to shed some light on the backstory for context. I met Michael Wilton at a NAMM show and we talked about different side music stuff. I told him I sang for a band called Crimson Glory, but that I was also a drummer first and if he needed any drumming or singing for any material outside of Queensrÿche that I would be happy to work with him in any capacity. That morphed into him seeing some live touring footage from my time in Crimson Glory. I actually had recorded some vocals for ‘Queen of the Reich’ I believe even before I met him if memory serves me correctly. I did share that with him, and he asked if I could record a few more classics. Some old tunes were done by me and he showed the other guys. That turned into forming a side project called Rising West with two shows booked and sold out before I ever sang a single note with those guys in person. We did rehearsals at Scott’s house and performed those two shows. They basically asked me to call off songs that I knew for us to get started with rehearsals, but that question was asked of me once I was there. I recommended ‘Queen Of The Reich,’ ‘Child Of Fire,’ ‘Take Hold Of The Flame,’ ‘Roads To Madness,’ etc. It was a surreal time and quite magical really.”
Who are some modern-day prog metal artists that you enjoy?
“Honestly, I cannot speak of any modern-day prog artists since it isn’t a genre I really gravitate toward much anymore. I’m sure there are many great artists out there, they just aren’t on my radar these days. That being said, two of my favorites and the best bands that one could say are prog metal - albeit aren’t new artists but still are very current - are Opeth and Fates Warning. Their music is still very interesting and appealing to me. I think their approach is original sounding, unique, and really stands out from all of the other prog metal bands out there in my opinion. While both are in fact very progressive, they are able to do it without the constant overplaying and forced changes. They clearly understand melody, space, fluidity, and that certain things have a time and place. No question that both bands do it masterfully.”
“The band has been doing tons of fly dates. We go back out with Judas Priest from October through all of November here in the States. We will also be doing a full headline ground tour in support of the new record early next year, with much more dates being booked after that as well.”
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Veteran Canadian sci-fi metallists Voivod will be issuing a new EP on November 4, Ultraman, which can be ordered right here. Mostly-instrumental proggers Polyphia will be issuing their latest album this month, the cheerily-titled Remember That You Will Die, and recently unveiled a new video for their tune “Ego Death” – featuring shred icon Steve Vai (and can be seen below).
Italian proggers Even Flow issue a new EP this month, Mediterraneo, which can indeed be ordered online. Once upon a time prog rockers Styx have confirmed a five-night engagement at The Venetian Theatre inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas (the shows will be held on January 27 and 28 and February 1, 3 and 4, 2023), and tickets are available for purchase via Ticketmaster or through the Venetian site.
Since their music videos are a kin to mini-movies, it should come as no surprise that Sabaton will be issuing a full-length musical motion picture featuring songs from the band’s 10th studio album, The War To End All Wars (described as ‘vividly tells the stories of World War I by way of animation and live action’). Slovenia-based prog metallists Seventh Station will be releasing their new album Heal The Unhealed on November 7, and in the meantime, you can enjoy their video clip for the tune ‘The Heart Of The Nation.’.
German symphonic metallists Xandria have issued a new single, “You Will Never Be Our God” (which features Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear), and its video is ready for viewing. Self-described ‘modern prog rockers’ the Vintage Caravan have also issued a few video, “Hell,” which can be viewed below (and if you’re in Europe, catch them on tour this month!).
Montreal-based violin prog rockers, Cydemind, have a new album coming our way November 4, entitled The Descent – and a video for the track “Hoax” can be viewed below. Meshuggah are in the midst of a US tour and recently issued a dramatic video for the tune “I Am That Thirst.”
The sole surviving member of ELP, Carl Palmer, will be launching the Welcome Back My Friends: The Return of Emerson Lake & Palmer Tour in November in the United States – and all the info you will need is included at the official ELP site. And lastly, another prog trailblazer, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, recently issued a new single, “Living For Love,” for which a lyric video can be heard/seen.
October 2022 New Albums
Maraton: Unseen Color
Queensrÿche: Digital Noise Alliance
Brian Eno: Foreverandevernomore
Even Flow: Mediterraneo
Todd Rundgren: Space Force
Frank Zappa: Zappa ’75- Zagreb/Ljubljana
Polyphia: Remember That You Will Die
Devin Townsend: Lightwork
As Todd La Torre mentioned earlier in this month’s interview, one of the first tunes he ever sung with Queensrÿche was their early classic, “Queen Of The Reich.” What does the song sound like with La Torre behind the mic? Here is a live clip from 2015 (from Wacken Open Air)…