Interview: Queensrÿche’s Michael Wilton Talks New Album, Praises Soundgarden & Alice in Chains

Going strong over thirty years, with sales in excess of 20 million units, Michael Wilton is the co-writer of such Metal classics as “Operation: Mindcrime”, “Walk In The Shadows”, “I Dream In Infrared”, “Revolution Calling”, “Empire”, “The Needle Lies”, “Blinded”, “Nightrider” and “Roads To Madness”.

Queensrÿche has set up a campaign with PledgeMusic where fans can pre-order the new Queensrÿche album and also join the fan club for free. Other perks include the opportunity to book the band at your event, signed merchandise, and even equity in the band’s future revenue.

Currently on tour, the founder and original guitarist for Queensrÿche gave us this exclusive look into his immediate and future plans.

Michael, you are working on the 15th Queensrÿche album. Do you have any info about the album you can divulge? 

Yes, we are just about finished recording the next Queensrÿche album. Stay tuned for any sneak press releases from Century Media Records, as well as Queensrÿche Official.

Producer Chris “Zeuss” Harris (Rob Zombie, Hatebreed, Soulfly, Shadows Fall) has been selected for the new album. How is he different than your last Producer, James “Jimbo” Barton?

Zeuss was the right fit for this body of music. Zeuss brings a modern, mobile recording technique, which is perfect in this high tech age of recording. He works long hours, is efficient and detailed and is dedicated to making the band sound like Queensrÿche.

You’ve recorded in many studios around the world. This time around you will be at Uberbeatz Studio in Lynwood, Washington. It must be very convenient to record close to home.

Mobile recording is a great fit for Queensrÿche these days because we are always touring. We only have allotted pockets of time, rather than 6-8 month stretches. It’s more efficient if a Producer comes to Seattle, rather than us traveling to a recording destination. There are plenty of great recording studios in Seattle area to choose from. For us it’s just about practicality and availability.

How have you been writing songs for this album? is there a process?

Writing music is very right brained for me. I just get bursts of inspiration and build upon ideas. Time reveals if the idea is a keeper or just crap. I have been doing it this way for over 30 years.

Your last album, 2013’s “Queensrÿche”, sounded like the band in the early days and surprised even the most hardened critics when it reached #6 on the iTunes Top Rock Albums charts.  What can we expect with the new album?

Queensrÿche has always been about evolving its music but never losing sight of its roots. I try not to describe our music because it is so personal to me. I leave that up to the listener.

You met former Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre when he randomly approached you at the 2012 NAMM show. Since joining Queensrÿche, your audience strongly embraces him.  Todd is also an accomplished drummer. Has his drumming ability influenced the band in any way?

Todd has influenced the band in many ways, he has many creative strengths, he has a 5octave vocal range and is an accomplished drummer, so his timing is impeccable, and he can get his way around on the guitar so communication is on the level of a musician rather than just a lyricist.

The general feeling is that with Todd, there is a fresh quality to the band. It reminds me of a time as a young boy, when when I heard about this amazing new band from Bellevue with just a four-song demo. Do you and the band also feel like this is a new beginning for Queensrÿche?

I have met so many fans that have not seen the band since the 80’s and 90’s and tell me they love ‘The new Queensrÿche’. I also get a lot of ‘Thank you for saving the band’ comments. I say ‘Thank you for believing in this band’!

You were discovered by the owner of a record store, and he also became your manager. Now that record stores are rapidly disappearing, it seems young bands must use YouTube for exposure. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s really difficult for new bands to make it these days. The industry drastically changes every year. It’s been an eye opener for us to change the way our business runs as well. I think it’s about using all the individual resources you can no matter how fragmented the industry is. “Getting signed ” is not a sure thing of making it anymore.

I understand you may be releasing a documentary DVD including footage from the very first performance with Todd, when you billed yourselves as Rising West…

We have documented many events over the last few years. It’s just a matter of time when we will put it all together.

You’ve been known lately to play songs that have rarely been played live or have never been played live. Will you be surprising us this time around?

We have had such great success with the set lists we have been playing especially for those who have not seen us in a decade or more. I think if we do pull different songs it will be from the first 6 albums. It’s always fun going back and re-learning the old songs.

And while on tour, you will be playing songs from Operation: Mindcrime?

We always include songs from Operation: Mindcrime in our set. We try to balance the set list so we are playing songs from the first 6 albums, as well as the latest Queensryche release.

Do you still stay in touch with (former guitarist) Chris DeGarmo?

Yes, I stay in touch with Chris, we have always been close friends.

Let’s talk more about you. When you first started out, Judas Priest was an obvious influence. Who are your influences now?

My favorite recent CD’s are Mastodon, Soundgarden, Rush and Alice In Chains.

How did you get the nickname ‘Whip”?

I got the nickname ‘Whip” when I was a teenager because I whipped on the guitar.”

You have your own beer called “Whip Ale” and it is now available in AZ, CA, DE, FL, NJ, NV, SC, and VA or can be delivered anywhere online. How did you come to own your own beer?

Whip Ale has been available since 2004. It was at first a promotional idea I did with Lazy Boy Brewing, the owner wanted me to make my own recipe so I patterned it after a pale ale that I liked. There are 3 different incantations, the first: Lazy Boy Brewing, the 2nd: Diamondknot Brewing and now currently with Northwest Brewing Co.

Last year, you re-released the Soulbender album with bonus tracks. Nick Pollock (My Sister’s Machine) is the vocalist on the CD, but you have also worked with Travis Bracht (Second Coming) and Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen). Are there any plans to release the demos you did with these other singers?

Any of my side projects demo material shall not be released unless it’s instrumental and just me.

You have another band called Wratchet Head. The single “Coming For You” is available on iTunes. Who are the musicians and when will an album be available?

Wratchet Head is side lined because I am so consumed with Queensrÿche. I have no idea who the musicians will be, but I would like to keep it semi local.

Michael, I want to thank you for fitting me in your busy schedule. The best of luck to you and the band.

Thank You!

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Edited by Doug McCausland

  • Jiggle

    What? You didn’t get his thoughts on the Scott Weiland/STP feud?

    This site is really slipping.

  • Hwang Sunghyeop

    cool, Queensrÿche is back.

  • dakotablue

    Hmmm, Wilton’s “praise” of Alice in Chains just means he’s been listening to their music, or did I miss something? And would that be the actual Chains with Layne or the more recent Layne-less version? I get it–just a ruse to make Chains fans read this nothing-to-do-with-them interview.