EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Queenryche – Evolution of a band

I conducted this interview with Eddie Jackson of Queensryche in October of 2001.  My first interview ever.  Eddie gave me over an hour of his time, and told me afterwards it was a lot of fun.  This interview was first published on Global Bass.

rycheProgressive metal fans have had much to celebrate recently. With a slew of new releases both on CD and DVD from many high profile bands, there is plenty to be excited about. One of the most exciting of these new releases is ‘Live Evolution’, the very first career-spanning live album from Seattle’s Queensryche. It was recorded over two nights this year, with the band playing some songs unheard in fifteen years. Queensryche has been a leader in its field since its debut EP in 1983, and was well overdue for a definitive live album.

Since the beginning, bassist Eddie Jackson has been there providing the solid grooves and very melodic runs. We recently had an opportunity to speak with Eddie about his band’s extensive back catalogue of songs, and being a musician in general. Picking songs for this double disc was a natural process, as Eddie explains:

“The set list was pretty much just a group effort there. Individually we all came up with certain songs that we thought we would like to perform that night. But you know, at the end of the day, it was putting out something that was gonna be something different from what we usually do, and that [something different] was to go back several albums and perform some of these songs from ‘The Warning’, [and] from ‘Rage For Order’. Because a lot of the time these past few tours we’ve been focusing  from ‘Operation:Mindcrime’ forward. With the exception of maybe “The Lady Wore Black” or “Take Hold Of The Flame” from the earlier albums. But this time around we just wanted to give them something…you know, you figure it’s a live album, a live DVD, let’s give ‘em something refreshing like some of the older stuff.”

Interestingly, the band decided to arrange the shows on those nights, and the album, into suites. Each suite contains songs from a pair of albums, and are played roughly chronologically, a very different approach for a live album. Eddie comments:

“We just figured, OK, we’re going to put together a set list and then we came up with the idea, ‘hey, why don’t we put this together in suites?’ Starting from the beginning to the present. The first suite was the songs from the first couple of albums, the second suite from the next following set of albums, and so on. It was just an idea that we put together, and we thought it would be kinda fun to do. It definitely makes sense when you look at it and then when you hear it.”

When they hear the new CD and see the new DVD, fans will be able to relive the evolution of the band’s sound in the space of a couple of hours. No album is ignored, and such rare classics as “NM156”, “Screaming In Digital”, and “Walk In The Shadows” are rolled out on stage. Even so, Eddie explains that some songs just didn’t make the cut. “One of them was “Enforcer” [sic, “En Force”] and “No Sanctuary”. And I can’t remember the other songs, there was just a handful, not many. The thing is, it’s really tough to sit down and try to perform everything that we have on paper. Because first off, we’re limited for time, and second of all, we’re limited on disc.”

“It’s a long set, it was just [an effort] to put together a good variety of songs that will not only please ourselves but also the fans. And again, if we were to play all the songs that we had written down on paper, heck, we’d be up there like three or four hours!” Not that many fans would complain if they did indeed see a four-hour show!

As many fans are aware, Queensryche’s last studio album, Q2K, represented their first and only lineup change. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo left the band and was replaced by fellow Seattle native, and friend of the band, Kelly Gray. Before joining Queensryche, Kelly was known primarily as a producer. “He’s done producing work with a few bands, Candlebox, Dokken, Sven Gali, just to name a couple of them. What’s the other one, Second Coming. He’s a very talented individual. Not only is he very talented when it comes to playing a producer role, but also as a musician. He’s a good songwriter, a good guitar player.”

Is having a producer in the band a relief?

“That guy, he wears many hats. It’s kind of a blessing in a way to work with someone like that because you’re killing two birds with one stone. Being a guitar player, a writer, but also coming in and helping us produce as well as mix.”

As one can hear on the new live album, Kelly Gray’s addition has not changed the band’s onstage sound. The fit was very natural according to Eddie. “We just kind of let it happen. We really didn’t sit down and try to educate him into, “This is what Queensryche sounds like. This is what we want you to play like.” We just let him have free reign over it and not really…if you think about it, he’s not coming in to replace Chris. He’s coming in to replace a guitar player. By coming in to replace Chris, that can be a little tough on someone.”

Eddie also explained that because of this natural approach, he did not have to make any adjustments as a bass player, although the band’s sound did change on record regardless. “Kelly has a little more of a bluesier background as opposed to Chris’ style. But I think you can tell, Q2K without Chris, stylistically it’s a little different than the songs Chris has worked on. I think he compliments Michael [Wilton, guitar] quite well stylistically and again he’s a very talented guy.”

Various members of the band are taking advantage of their position at the moment and are slowly putting together solo projects. Eddie has not yet done so, but he explains, “I’ve always wanted to do something like that, kind of like step away from Queensryche for the day and then do something on my own. I’m always coming up with ideas and I eventually would like to put something together like that.”

Eddie describes some possible sounds:

“My listening taste of music is so eclectic. It’s like from Abba to Zappa. I love pop rock, I love hard rock, I love jazz. I think one of the last albums that I actually bought was the Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe. I mean it grew on me like fungus! It’s just got some angst and attitude. Stylistically that would be a fun little approach.” Eddie explained that he also loves funk music, and that could be a possible direction for his solo project, should the mood take him.

A few things you are virtually be certain to hear out of Eddie in the future are sonic experimentation on the bass, and his singing voice. With regard to the latter, Eddie’s interest in singing “rivals” that of playing the bass:

“Yeah, I love singing! And I’ve noticed since Chris has left, I’ve had to cover a lot of his parts, and I’m telling you they’re up there sometimes. But still, it’s something that you don’t really think about. Through all these tours that we’ve been performing on, I’ve never realized how much he actually sang.”

As far as sonic experimentation goes, Eddie gave us several examples from the past:

“We actually created some of those sounds ourselves! Yeah, you know at the very end of ‘Walk In The Shadows’? That big ambient reverberated sound? At the very end, ‘Walk in the shadows…walk with me! POW!’ That’s a door slamming in a parking garage!” This continued onto later albums like Promised Land, where soundscapes were created by “banging on top of these big garbage cans.”

As far as bass goes, Eddie finds himself inspired by other bass players’ sounds more than their playing: “There’s a lot of bands out there with a lot of talented bass players, . . . and I go, ‘How the hell did he get that sound? That is so cool! What is he running? Some sort of an effect? I wonder what he’s using!’ You’re just reaching and guessing.” This sonic experimentation can be best heard on such Queensryche albums as ‘Promised Land’ and ‘Rage For Order’, although on ‘Operation:Mindcrime’, Eddie’s been asked by many fans about his bass sound: “I’ve had guys come up to me, and they go, “Hey, how did you get your bass to sound like a truck?” I go, “What? Where’d that come from,” you know? So obviously there’s a little bit of fretless in “Promised Land”. And “Real World”, there’s some fretless on there. So heck, you know, some 5 string here. I’ll experiment with anything. I think I really love approaching the sonic end of it, trying to come up with a really cool sound, something that’s very distinctive.”

One additional thing Queensryche fans can look for is a reissued ‘Operation:LIVEcrime’ on  CD and DVD. Out of print until recently, this album has been reissued with two bonus tracks. “Those are with the original lineup. Those two songs, “Road To Madness” and “Lady Wore Black”, those were recorded at the time LIVEcrime was recorded.”

Finally, fans of Eddie Jackson and Queensryche know that he enjoys placing jokes and riddles inside their releases. From the backwards text he put in as his album credits on the new disc, to some visual pranks he planted on the band’s Promised Land CD-ROM game a few years ago, Eddie likes to have fun. He uses words like “goofy” and “silly” to describe his attitude from time to time. Pay attention to Eddie Jackson at all times. You never know when he’s testing you to see if you’re watching. Pay attention to Queensryche as well. It is a very exciting time to be a fan of the band, as they celebrate their past on ‘Live Evolution’, and look to their future.

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