Hard rock/metal icons Queensrÿche will soon be wrapping up their current tour in support of their latest album, “The Verdict,” which was released nearly a year ago via Century Media Records. With decades of creating music, the band has secured a legendary status as they have sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Recently, the band played a show at Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit, where I caught up with founding member Michael Wilton to talk about the bands legacy, their evolution, as well as the current tour.
Thanks for speaking with me! How are you, and how has the tour been?
The tour has been great. We started this about four or five weeks ago, and everything had been going amazing. We’re having a blast with John 5 and Eve to Adam, who is on this package. It makes it a very collective show and very entertaining for the fans. So I think we’ve kind of hit a home run with this tour.
You were touring extensively in 2019; is that something that’s going to continue into 2020?
Well, 2019 was the start of promoting ‘The Verdict,’ and you know, that was very heavy touring. Just under a hundred shows and for us, that’s a lot. But for 2020, not so much. There are pockets of time that everybody needs to recharge and, you know, start writing riffs and new song ideas for the next album
We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of the release of ‘The Verdict’ which is an album that still feels fresh and has gotten a lot of well-deserved praise from critics and fans. How happy have you guys been with the response from everyone?
We’re very pleased and thankful. I mean, the whole world has really embraced ‘The Verdict.’ It’s allowed us to tour around the world. And because we’ve charted in markets where Queensrÿche hasn’t charted in 15, 20 years in some places, it’s opened up a lot of doors for us.
Usually, bands, these days do a couple of years, sometimes spend up to three years and touring on a release, and the landscape has just changed in the industry. We do as much as we can to promote the album and to tour on it and, as it is our business. So we do tour if there’s demand, we obviously grasp for that as well.
Speaking of which, weren’t you guys just here? It feels like you were here six to nine months ago?
Michigan is an amazing place for hard rock and metal. So from time to time, we do fly dates where we do festivals. I’m sure we’ve been in all parts of the state, doing festivals, casinos, and special concerts. But this is a ground tour, and this is one that goes to the city’s “A market tour.” In the offseason, we do lots of fly dates, especially in places like Wisconsin as well, which has tons of festivals.
You’re going to be doing ‘Rock Fest’ there this year right?
We will be. They keep adding lots of festivals there, so it’s great here in the Midwest. We get so much support; mostly because it’s just a hard rock area. People love their metal, they’re rock ‘n’ roll, and God, they drink more beer than half the world.
They are the nicest crowd too!
Oh, they are so supportive of us, and that’s why we love coming here. We love to connect with the audiences and give them our A-game.
When it comes to your music, your songs are edgy, aggressive, and energetic, and you guys can channel great melodies and hooks. Do you consider melodies before or do you guys tend to come up with the instrumental rhythm first?
There is no set rule in creating a song. A lot of times they start from a guitar riff or a lyric line. It’s a matter of how just it goes. But I think we’re more like a power metal band. That being said, we do have a lot of melodic content, we’re not per se a cookie monster band, so the vocals do have melodic parts that we’ve and out. As we may get a bit progressive and a bit edgy we still try and manage a melodic sense that we’ve had through our 38-year career of melodies that people will remember in their heads
The band is one of rock’s most respected acts with uncompromising music. What you think is the most enduring legacy of your band?
I think it’s something we’ve just built through endless touring and we’ve gained the respect of so many audiences, but I think Queensrÿche is one of those bands that you can’t really describe. We’re a little bit metal; we’re a little bit melodic, we’re a little bit progressive. We could be on a festival with Slayer, or we can be on a festival with Jon Bon Jovi.
We have that kind of uniqueness, so were not really put into a box. I think fused with the way we view writing our music it kind of makes us unique.
Queensrÿche seems to be the answer for a lot of fans that first got introduced to hard rock and heavy metal. How does it feel to have such a diverse fan base and be a bridge for the new listeners?
We’re truly excited! Especially on this tour, we’re seeing so many younger kids that are coming to the shows along with so many first time newcomers that were just curious to see our show. That’s really exciting for us because we like that, you know, we like people giving us a chance. I think it’s very important that you reach those audiences. It’s working.
Plus, we have those diehards that have been with us since the early 80s, and then we have new fans that pretty much just know us from only the last three recordings. What’s great for those new fans, is that they get to discover the past legacy of Queensrÿche and all of those songs, and great moments in time. For Queensrÿche, some of those fans weren’t even born yet
Your music retains it’s core DNA, while your sound has evolved with each new release, so I think that definitely attributes to constantly growing your fan base as you said with younger generations. Your music is a little bit different, but you somehow master it. As you mentioned, you might be a little more progressive; you might be a little more melodic. So I think that definitely contributes to constantly growing your fan base. Like you said, with younger generations, you know, your music has a little bit different, but you somehow master it.
Many younger bands have followed in your footsteps and you been creating music inspired by what you do. Are there any newer bands that you like or follow closely?
We’re kind of encapsulated here, and were so concentrated on what we’re doing, and for me personally, I don’t have time to go searching out new bands. They basically have to fall on my lap for me to listen to them and I couldn’t tell you their names. (laughing)
There seem to be so many people lamenting with the fact that “rock is dead.” What is your take on the music scene today?
I think it goes in cycles. I’ve seen this happen over my career. Every once in a while, metal and hard rock become mainstream again. I don’t know if it will again, but now it seems to have its own core audience, and it seems to be semi-underground, but it is definitely not dead.
In the beginning, the band worked with Bruce Egnater and have been using Egnater amps, which of course is a Michigan-based company. Do you still use any of his gear?
I still have what I call my ‘NASA rack,” that has lots of rackmount processors and preamps. I have three preams in my rack and one of them is an Egnater. It’s one that he introduced a few years ago with the modules that plug into it, and he was kind enough to make me some custom modules that plug into it. I still have it, and it’s a great piece of gear.
With the way that we’re touring right now, I have more of a compact version of what I do. There is not the big-budget anymore did take the “NASA rack” on the road, and obviously, I can’t fly with it, so I’m in a different scenario now.
It’s probably safer at home anyways.
It is. I know those things are sought after and are hard to find, but they had their brief moment. They’re very popular.
Thanks again for chatting with me. Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers and your fans?
Yeah! A big thanks for supporting music. Definitely support live music because the hard rock bands have to tour to make their income, and that’s due to people not buying music anymore. So a very big thanks to everyone supporting Queensrÿche and supporting live music.