Before The Storm : The Early Days of Queensryche

The 4 MOB guys were SO different. It was like the story of the squirrels - the one who gathered his nuts and survived the winter, and the one who frolicked and then starved. I remember us calling Mike Wilton to go party. We were 21 years old then. Mike told us he had to stay home and do hand & finger exercises for his fret hand. We thought he was being ridiculous at the time. Lots of times we'd call Mike or Chris to go to a great party we'd heard about and they would time and again say they had practice. We thought 5 times a week was excessive, not to mention obsessive, at the time. We would roll our eyes.

They all took on at least 2 jobs each and saved all the money for a big 24track recording they were going to make. They didn't even have a singer at the time. By the time they had enough money, they booked time at local TRIAD STUDIOS. I think it was 5 consecutive graveyard shifts Monday through Friday.

Geoff had just joined the band band MYTH at the time, a progressive metal 5-piece which included the keyboard player Randy Gane (who later was keyboardist on the RAGE FOR ORDER tour.) The guitarist was KELLY GRAY who now is known as a top producer in Seattle. He produced Candlebox's first CD as well as the new DOKKEN CD "Shadowlife." He was a Ritchie Blackmore-clone big time. A very GOOD Ritchie Blackmore clone.

MYTH Photo
MYTH are (pictured left to right)
guitarist Kelly Gray, bassist Richard Gibson, "Jeff" Tate, drummer Jimmy Parsons, and keyboardist Randy Gane.

It did not go over well when Geoff agreed to help out THE MOB guys and sing on their recording. GEOFF and the band MYTH were very close and all lived together in a ramshackle house in the rural outskirts of Redmond, WA. But Geoff wanted the experience of recording in a professional studio and convinced MYTH that in the long run it would be a net positive for all of them. He really meant it at the time.

So it came to pass that Geoff Tate went with THE MOB into TRIAD STUDIOS to cut those original 4 songs: Queen of the Reich, Nightrider, Blinded and a song that Chris had written the music for but had no words. Geoff wrote the words that week in the studio.

I was in the studio the night Geoff laid down the vocal tracks for The Lady Wore Black. Geoff needed to set the mood, so he had the lights turned off and sang with a single candle burning in the studio. While waiting for his first verse to come up, he whistled along with the opening guitar not realizing they were taping him. He told them it was a mistake, but everyone agreed it was cool, so they kept it. What a cool thing to have seen!

Chris showed up at a party at Brett Umbedacht's house about a week or two later acting very suspiciously. He came over to me and quietly asked if I wanted to hear his new recording out in the car. I, of course, said yes and we went out to the Ford Pinto wagon he was driving at the time.

As the opening chords of Queen of the Reich began with Geoff Tate's soaring wail, my jaw dropped to the ground. I couldn't believe how professional their recording was. How well thought out every part of it was down to the sequencing and segueing between songs. For a whole year, the band walked around with that tape and got a slew of rejection notices. We kinda thought at the time it was a little Maidenish. I was more into the glamrock thing, and our new band LIPSTICK was the Motley Crue of Seattle.

LIPSTICK Photo

Like I was saying, Geoff was really into Peter Gabriel and progressive music like that. He liked quirky stuff like Falco's Rock Me Amedeus. It was funny to hear him sing along with songs on the car radio like Start Me Up and Edge of Seventeen (that Stevie Nicks "White Winged Dove" song). He would sing in that Tate/Halford operaish voice. It sounded so out of context! I remember going to the '81 Stones concert at the Seattle Kingdome and Geoff didn't have any money so I bought him a ticket at the show. He was really happy 2 years later after they got signed when he could pay me back for that.

Everywhere they'd go, every party someone would ask them to put their tape in. Geoff would tell people he wasn't really into that kind of music when they would bug him at parties about how great the tape was and how come he didn't quit MYTH and join THE MOB. The MYTH guys actually (and with good reason) got quite insecure about THE MOB.

It was about a year later in 1982 that the opportunistic owner of EASY STREET RECORDS, who knew his heavy metal, saw dollar signs and talked the 4 guys into signing a management contract with him. Only problem was he couldn't talk Geoff into leaving MYTH, so they half-heartedly set out to find someone else. The new Manager did convince him to take a photo with the band so that they could at least shop the tape. Geoff signed a contract guaranteeing him monetary compensation if using his voice and image got them a contract or something. The Manager then convinced the band to change their name. As the story goes (and it's the truth) they ran out of ideas and chose QUEENSRYCHE from the first song on their tape.

The Manager sent the tape and the photo to a friend of his he knew through metal circles who now wrote for KERRANG! magazine, the top selling Import Metal magazine at his store. Everyone was in a state of euphoria that fateful day when the issue of KERRANG! arrived giving this unknown band from Bellevue, WA one of the greatest reviews any band had ever gotten. Literally proclaiming them the future of heavy metal.

Bags and bags of mail piled into EASY STREET RECORDS after the Kerrang! article from European metalheads demanding to hear the recording. Spurred on by this response, and promises from the wholesalers he did business with to distribute for him, the Manager pressed up the QUEENSRYCHE EP on their own independent "206" label.

The release exploded worldwide. It was unheard of for a small independent release like this to be getting so much radio airplay and selling so many copies. Geoff now realized he had no choice but to resign MYTH and sign on with QUEENSRYCHE as their permanent singer.

Because of their extensive local airplay, Queensryche was offered the opening slot for ZEBRA's "Rising Star" $3 shows at the Portland and Seattle Paramount Theatres (Wed June 29 & Thurs June 30, 1983). Though everyone liked ZEBRA, it was obvious that Queensryche had won the crowd over BIG! It was maybe a week later that I heard EMI-America had signed the band to a major 6 or 7 record deal. Nothing ever was the same after that.

ZEBRA Ticket

Immediately after the re-release of their EP on EMI, the RYCHE was put out on tour with QUIET RIOT through the south. I later heard stories of how their singer Kevin DuBrow wouldn't even say a civil word to them and was totally stuck up. When that tour hit San Antonio, I heard that some huge number of Eddie Jackson's cousins and relatives showed up and he spent hours afterwards trying not to miss anyone.

They then toured with TWISTED SISTER in large clubs up the Eastern Seaboard and Canada. They got along really well with them and got a slew of backstage snapshots I remember.

Their next Seattle appearance was opening for DIO on his HOLY DIVER tour. The band got a hero's welcome back in their hometown and said DIO could not have been more gracious and kind to them.

DIO Ticket

Geoff's more progressive influence helped shape their new sound as evidenced by the Floyd-ish aspects of THE WARNING. By the way, the song NM-156 was supposed to be the opening cut on THE WARNING, but the record company interfered with the sequencing which really had them pissed off at the time. When they recorded the WARNING in London, both David Bowie and Jimmy Page popped their heads in to check out the band. Chris was thrilled to meet Page, I remember.

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