Star Scene: Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche

Todd La Torre’s scene is a lot calmer than his onstage presence. The lead singer of Queensryche states that he is a very private person at home. “I don’t drink. I’m not a party kind of a guy. My thing is pretty low key. I’ve got a handful of really great friends; I don’t particularly favour large groups of people. And I live a very simple life. I’m not surrounded by a lot of materialism. I try to find beauty in simplicity and I guess I consider myself a pretty deep thinker. I’m enthralled by philosophy and science and things like that. So I guess that’s my scene. A lot of my friends are kind of hippie, surf or skater guys and then I’ve got other friends that are lawyers and doctors and that kind of professional people. But I guess my scene is just people that are honest and real and not fake and that’s kind of my scene. I’m a jeans and converse kind of guy. I don’t really care what other people think.”

A fortunate attitude for La Torre as the transition from fan to star was often a rocky one. The band was well established before La Torre joined in 2012. In fact, Queensrÿche has, to date, sold over 30 million albums around the world over the course of their 30-plus-year career. Many were skeptical but the band has gone on to release two acclaimed “comeback” albums with La Torre, and perform hundreds of shows featuring crowd pleasing setlists of fan favourite anthems and old school classics – many of which have not been performed live since the 1980s. When La Torre joined, he was “psychologically excited”. However he continues: “But that comes with some baggage because you’re the one that they love to hate. So that there’s people that loved what I was bringing to the band and then there were other people that were extremely critical and said very mean things you know because I’m not the original guy and so it took a little while before your skin gets tougher and to the point where I don’t really read stuff online about the band. I don’t do interviews that often and so once I’ve done the interview, I’m satisfied with that. I don’t go back and watch stuff of myself. I don’t read comments about anything even if they’re good, I just don’t read them because you’re always going to find that negative stuff and you know that there’s no point in self-mutilating. I mean the transition at first really fun. It was a dream come true and I embraced it fully and I did everything I could to rise to the occasion and do the best job that I could with the band so it’s predominantly been a more than positive experience. There have been, like I said, there have been troublesome aspects of joining the band and being judged so harshly. But as long as I feel comfortable and the band feels good and there is that positive feedback, that’s more than I could ever ask for because I know that you are not going to please everybody.”

I would say overwhelmingly the majority of people have finally accepted me and the band and the two records that I’ve done with the band and are appreciating that the songs are being performed very well live.”

What shouldn’t be discarded is the fact that La Torre was firstly, and foremost, a fan. He has done the background work. He has a unique style that compliments, and enhances, the Queensrÿche tradition. His influences growing up varied, from listening to his mum’s progressive jazz records, as well as RnB and Motown artists like George Benson and Michael Jackson, to listening to his dad’s Elton John, Billy Joel and Cat Stevens records, to his own style where “one of my favourite bands of all time is the band Heart and Fleetwood Mac. Those are two of my – my all time favourites, and then it wasn’t until my early teens when I got more into to rock music and hard rock.” Then, La Torre continues: “Of course I was introduced to Iron Maiden and Queensrÿche and Testament and so those became my favourite bands and were most influential to me and my early teens.”

“The first time that I heard Queensrÿche my sister was dating a friend, well, we’ve become friends now, he was few years older than me and he was also a drummer; I really looked up to him and I think my sister purchased the “Operation:Mindcrime” cassette tape and he was listening to it and learning it and he said, ‘Oh you should check these…these guys out!’ He knew that I really liked Iron Maiden so I listened to ‘Operation:Mindcrime’. This was back when you had a tape player and auto search and it was somewhere in the middle of the tape and I went to rewind to the other song and it ended up going to the very beginning of the tape. Then there was a long intro and I didn’t realise it was this huge concept album at the time and I was just wanting to get right into the song. At that age I don’t think I was mature enough musically to really embrace what I was about to listen to. But nevertheless I did listen to the album “Operation Mindcrime” first; and I think “Eyes of a Stranger” was one of the first songs that I heard that was so captivating to me and then of course I ended up going to my local record store and the only album that was available for Queensrÿche was “The Warning.” So I bought the CD of “Warning” and then I just listened to that religiously and never never took it out of my CD player and….so yeah. “Operation:Mindcrime” was the first cassette of Queensrÿche that I ever listened to and that was kind of the beginning for me.”

Now, on the other side, La Torre has scored two stellar albums to his name, but not without pressure and hardwork. La Torre states: “Obviously the first one was like okay this has to go over well; if this album is not really received well, this is going to be catastrophic. However, because it was received well, there was more pressure on the second one cause like ‘Okay, they did one record that was really good; but can they do it again? And will it be as equally as good or better?’ And so I almost think, to be honest, I think that this record is even more important.” La Torre continues, “We’ve done two that were received really well, but ‘can they really keep this up?’ ‘Okay they did a few records but who knows what this next one is going to sound like?’ I think that every band probably feels like that’.”

The gravity of the anticipated reception of the second La Torre fronted album, Condition Human, was unwarranted. La Torre states: “It was received as good or even better than the last. You’re always pushing the envelope but I think both of them will will almost equally as important from the aspect that you’re that you’re asking about for different reasons though.”

Queensrÿche’s sound in food form: “It would be a buffet because I can’t give you one food. It’s going to be a buffet because there’s sweetness, there’s spice, there’s things that are maybe disturbing, there’s things that make you feel good. You know a buffet has a huge variety of things for everyone’s pallet. And I think that’s Queensrÿche. I think that the music is diverse enough that it really appeals to a very broad demographic and it’s not so linear. We’re not a slice of pizza. We’ve got too many pathways to narrow down to one. So I’m going to go with the whole buffet.”

 La Torre enjoys the recording process and the band is demo-ing the next album at the moment. With the writing and demo-ing, it is often a long process, yet a collaborative and rewarding one. La Torre explains: “Everybody has their own recording studios at home, and so they also have their recordings of ideas from on the road. So those are track ideas and a lot of it is coming up with guitar ideas and then emailing me the MP3s and then I import into pro tools, which is the recording platform that we all use. Then I will start humming ideas and kind of getting a feel of how I’m interpreting the feel of the song. And then I’ll play around with that and then I’ll send it back and say ‘Hey what do you think of these ideas?’ And then it kind of builds from there; but most of the song writing, a lot of it anyway, in the initial phase, a lot of it is done through email and the Internet. But we’re touring all the time together so when we’re in a dressing room, hotel room or in the back of the bus or something, we’ll pull out the computers and we’ll start listening to the ideas and coming up with things collectively in person and then we’ll kind of make some mental notes and then when we go back home, we’ll work on those ideas that we talked about. It kind of works like that until you’ve got a nice skeleton of a demo song. And then you get to ah what’s called ‘pre-production’ and then that’s where all of the songs are listened to and the weakest ones fall away and the strongest stay or there might be some really strong parts of the songs that in its entirety didn’t make it. And so we’ll pull from those song ideas to maybe enhance the better existing group of songs and so there’s this kind of this second wave of song writing that happens in the pre-production phase. Usually there’s not that massive of an overhaul to each song, which sometimes delays some of the recording process or maybe the drums stay the same. But lyrically and vocally something really needs to change and so you have that that kind other phase of the song writing later in the late stages before recording.”

As for touring, La Torre states: “It’s really tiring. On the one hand I love it because I get to work my passion, and perform music for people. On the other hand, I don’t like it because it’s very hard to have a personal life and you’re never home. I think this year, I’ve been gone I believe 200 days out of the year, and I’m married and so when you’re home there’s still work to be done – you’re song writing or recording or whatever. But it’s really kind of a lonely – it’s a lonely part of your life because you’re not home, you don’t see your family, you don’t see your friends. You have friends on the road that come out to shows; but it has amazing positive aspects. But it also has some very sacrificing serious consequences because you give up a lot to be gone.”

From this Australian tour, fans can expect all their favourites performed with energy and immersion. La Torre states: “Our set list is covering seven or eight albums for the live set depending on the length of our show. We are really excited to play there. I think there is going to be a wonderful enthusiasm from the people that come out because it’s been a long time since Queensrÿche has played in Australia and our set list is awesome and we’re playing the hits; we’re playing some more rare kind of obscure songs; we’re playing some new material from my involvement in the band, and it’s going to be a great, high energy and emotional performance from the band. I really think that it’s one thing to watch YouTube videos – it’s a totally different thing to be there in the moment and experience the music and these guys have been doing this for 35 years, the original core members of the band, the fans really I’m sure, just can’t wait to see them in a nice intimate up close and personal setting and so we’re very thankful. We hope that we can sell these places out and have a really nice attendance and give them everything that they want, and we want the promoters to be happy and we would love to be asked to come back to Australia and perform again in the very near future. We don’t want to wait so long before Queensrÿche can come back.”

Catch American progressive metal legends Queensrÿche as they return to Australia for their first tour in nearly a decade thanks to Tombowler www.tombowler.com.au + Metropolis Touring www.metropolistouring.com + David Roy Williams.

Queensrÿche Australian Tour Dates:

Tuesday 11th October – BRISBANE, The Triffid

Thursday 13th October – ADELAIDE, Fowlers Live

Friday 14th October – MELBOURNE, Prince Bandroom

Saturday 15th October – SYDNEY, Manning Bar

For more information, visit: http://www.metropolistouring.com/queensryche

About Mary Boukouvalas 948 Articles
Mary is a music photographer and reviewer.

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