Last week, RISING WEST and CRIMSON GLORY singer Todd La Torre was interviewed on KEEL frontman Ron Keel‘s “Streets Of Rock Roll” radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
In addition to La Torre, RISING WEST features in its ranks Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Parker Lundgren of QUEENSRŸCHE. RISING WEST played its first two shows ever on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9 at the Hard Rock Café in Seattle, Washington. The band performed rare and classic hits from the first five QUEENSRŸCHE albums — from the 1983 EP through 1990’s “Empire” — as well as a cover version of the IRON MAIDEN staple “Wrathchild”.
The following interview excerpts were transcribed and edited for clarity by BLABBERMOUTH.NET.
On how the first RISING WEST shows went:
Todd: “It was amazing. I’ve actually been told how critical the people of Seattle can be with their music — they take it pretty seriously, and seeing as it is [QUEENSRŸCHE‘s] home turf, I expected to be severely ridiculed. To the contrary, I felt widely accepted. The fans were amazing. Everyone that came out… We sold out the place both nights. Our merch was gone the first night. I’m a huge fan of QUEENSRŸCHE. I’ve stated it before — they are my favorite band since I was probably 14 or 15 years old. I’ve been a drummer my whole life; I still play drums. The songs that we played are the songs that I’ve loved for so long. I’ve told the [other RISING WEST] members, anything past ‘Empire’ I wasn’t really a huge fan of. My heart really lied in the classic songs that embodied their sound. And so to be able to play those songs with the actual members was really a dream come true. I remember telling them backstage right before we went on. I said, ‘I’ve done some amazing things in my life and I want you to know that tonight is the best night of my life.’ I have a lot of friends that joke about the movie ‘Rock Star’ [based on a well-publicized New York Times article about Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, an Akron, Ohio singer in a JUDAS PRIEST tribute band who, in 1996, was selected to be the new lead singer of the heavy metal legends] with me of actually growing up listening to [QUEENSRŸCHE‘s] music. I mean, I met them 20 years ago at a signing session they did in Clearwater, Florida. And they signed my ‘Warning’ album cover; I still have it. In my home studio, I have ‘Promised Land’ signed and beautifully framed by all the members. So when this actually came to be, I had to pinch myself. I’m still with CRIMSON GLORY, and I’ve got to do amazing things. We’ve played shows with ANTHRAX, ACCEPT, OVERKILL, DEATH ANGEL, QUIET RIOT… Playing to 20,000 people over in Europe, it’s an amazing experience. This resonates very personally for me because I have a lot of emotional connection to this music, and the fans do, too. It was an awesome experience. We’re gonna be doing a lot more. And the band, as a whole, is really excited. I mean, even the bandmembers’ wives have told me, ‘Todd, these guys haven’t been this happy in 10 years.’ I’m seeing them glowing. I mean, they’re smiling; we’re laughing. We laughed so hard at practice, at rehearsal, and it just all feels very comfortable and natural. And I couldn’t be more honored. This is a legendary band that’s never had another vocalist front those members. And so, out of all the people in the world that could have gotten chosen or would be vying for that position, I feel very lucky and fortunate that they chose me.”
On plans to record new original music together:
Todd: “Actually, there is new original material. And that’s a goal that they wanna do. Look, there’s so much talk about… The fans, you know how they can sling the mud. And they like to say, ‘Well, Geoff Tate is QUEENSRŸCHE.’ I mean, he was the voice of QUEENSRŸCHE, undoubtedly. He’s regarded as one of the best metal singers of all time. In my opinion, he created a style of singing. I had not heard anyone phrasing things and singing in the way that he did, and it was very captivating to me. But let’s not forget, Eddie Jackson is a writer and an original member. So is Scott Rockenfield on drums. So is Michael Wilton on guitar. The fact that [former QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Chris] DeGarmo isn’t in this right now is… that’s OK. But the fans can’t discredit the fact that these are three original members. And then Parker, Parker is a great guitar player, he’s a super-nice guy. He’s a very good songwriter as well. And let’s face it: when they were performing, I saw their last show, on their 30th-anniversary tour, in Clearwater… That is the band… That was the band QUEENSRŸCHE. So due to, I’m sure, legalities and reasons why it’s not under that name right now, RISING WEST was formed. I think that performing the classic tunes or any QUEENSRŸCHE material that they wrote is a good bridge to them being true to their original works. And also, kind of getting me exposure to their fans. And then we do have original music that is in the works. There’s some really great stuff that’s already happened. Obviously, we wanna try and write something that’s heavy, but also has a common thread of what is QUEENSRŸCHE‘s sound — very melodic guitar parts. Vocally, I’m in a very unique position because a lot of people like to throw around, ‘Oh, he’s a clone, he’s an imitator, he’s this, he’s that.’ And I feel like I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t. My style of singing and phrasing is very similar to Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford. I mean, a lot of my high metal screams are grittier and dirtier, like Rob Halford. My vibrato is more similar to Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate. A lot of the crying and ways of entering a vocal phrase and phonating, the way I say words, are very similar to Geoff Tate. I wear my influences on my sleeve, but I also think that I have a heavier vibe than Geoff Tate ever had. With a lot of the heavier, gritty, thrashier metal style… I mean, I love to do some of the death growls like Chuck Billy [TESTAMENT] does. Is that QUEENSRŸCHE sound? No. But if they want it kicked up and give it a heavier edge, I think that I have that, and that’s something that Geoff Tate never did. Not taking anything away from him, but I think I do show a wide range of versatility. I have nothing but respect for Geoff Tate‘s voice. I don’t know him as a person, so I can’t comment either way. But the new songs, we want them to be heavy but still try to maintain… As a writer, the people that love the roots, a lot of those people don’t wanna move past that; they love it. But as an artist, you wanna spread your wings, and you wanna try things that are creative, and you wanna still stay current. So it’s like, ‘OK, how do we achieve, how do we pacify the masses?’ You don’t wanna write a record that sounds like 1986. But you don’t wanna sound so changed that the older fans aren’t finding that common thread in the music that they loved that is from the early-to-mid-’80s or even early ’90s, like ‘Operation: Mindcrime’. I mean, that’s regarded as one of the greatest concept albums of all time, and it’s stood the test of time. Is that a real heavy, heavy metal record? In my opinion, no. I call it ‘metal,’ but it was progressive and it had a lot of wonderful instrumentation and elements, and it’s a masterpiece of a work. So we just wanna do what we do. They’ve told me, ‘Todd, don’t feel like you have to try to sound like our past. We want you to do you.’ And so the things that we have worked on together, there are elements that are indicative [of], or very similar to, the classic QUEENSRŸCHE vocal sound, but I’m still doing things that are me. And so it’s kind of frustrating for me when people say, ‘Oh, he’s come in and just tries to copy him.’ Well, if I sing [the songs] so close to the original [versions]… Obviously, I want to represent the songs in [their] truest form that I can do. I think, live, I still kind of end up phrasing things a little different and will do things kind of my way, but I try to stay as true as I can. So if I do that, people are like, ‘Oh, he’s a clone, he’s a copycat, and it’s never the same without Geoff Tate,’ which I do respect. On the other hand, if I’m so different, then they’re gonna say, ‘It’s nothing like Geoff Tate. It’s nothing like QUEENSRŸCHE sound. This isn’t QUEENSRŸCHE. It’s not even close to the same style.’ . . .So if the fans wanna hear the hadrcore, classic heavy high-screaming stuff that they haven’t heard in many, many, many years, we’re gonna stay true to the classic material that the fans have been wanting to hear for so long and then we’ll be interjecting some new stuff soon.”
RISING WEST‘s setlist for both shows was as follows:
01. Queen Of The Reich
03. Walk In The Shadows
04. En Force
05. Child Of Fire
06. The Whisper
08. The Needle Lies
09. Take Hold Of The Flame
11. My Empty Room
12. Eyes Of A Stranger
13. Wrathchild (IRON MAIDEN cover)
14. Roads To Madness