Todd La Torre – Queensryche ‘Bulletproof Metal’

Todd La Torre is a vocalist who really came from nowhere when he debuted as a guest vocalist in Crimson Glory at ProgPower in 2009. From this gig people started talking about this thirty year old guy called Todd who just killed all of the Crimson Glory material; a formidable task considering the vocal expertise of Crimson Glory’s first vocalist, Midnight. Not much was seen of this new guy for a few years as Crimson Glory seemed to disappear off the metal map; once again. Then in 2012, he was announced as the new lead vocalist of Queensryche amongst the tumultuous ousting of original lead singer Geoff Tate. These were monumental shoes to fill under very trying circumstances, where the remainder of the band were recovering from the decision of letting their front man go and countering the looming lawsuit from Mr Tate that followed. Throughout all of this the band stood strong and resolute and Todd La Torre seemed to be this guiding light that enabled the band to rebuild and rise from the ashes of the line-up split. The band released the first album with Todd in 2013, with their self-titled release. Todd was welcomed with open arms by fans and critics alike. He is a vocalist with tones not far different from a younger Geoff Tate, but with a subtlety and vocal maturity all of his own.

Fast forward to 2016, the band has since released their second album as the current line-up Condition Human, a more complex and richer release that harks back to early Queensryche with a new sense of urgency and passion. The band are now heading our way for the first time as this line-up in October and I was lucky to sit down with Todd and have a chat ahead of the tour.

Todd, Condition Human is the second album you have made with Queensryche, so how is this album different to your debut self-titled?

I my opinion it’s a longer album. I think there is more complexity to the songs and a lot more layering o guitars. There is also more breathing room in the songs. I love the first one (self-titled released in 2013), but this one is better in so many ways. You know, we had more time to work n on the songs and get a handle on things. It is also heavier than the last one which I like too. 

Did you approach the writing and recording of this album differently to the previous one?

On this album we had more time and we spent more time in preproduction as I said. We also had a lot more songs to work with this time around. There were actually many songs that did not go on the album. However, the song writing approach was the same, in that the band worked on their own ideas and then it was sent to me and I worked on melodies for the songs. Everyone was working deeper and we worked more on preproduction. This was a huge difference that supported the album and it definitely shows when you listen to the two together.

What was your audition process to get the gig as lead singer of Queensryche beyond the Rising West project?

There really wasn’t one. I think with me doing the Rising West project you know it kind of spoke for itself. We all knew there was chemistry amongst us and I could show that I could do the older material. I still had to work on them and improve, but when we did those two shows under Rising West there was a huge enthusiasm around that. So when everything got ugly with the former singer it made sense to have this lateral transition. We were having a great time playing together and becoming friends, so when everything happened they just put me in the band as the vocalist. So ultimately there really was no audition process at all.

queensryche2Were you intimidated at all by the bands back catalogue and the legacy of Geoff Tate, or was it just something you just took in your stride?

Pretty much that you know. I knew that I would be criticised and that people would be critical, but at the same time I was singing songs in the standard tuning, and they hadn’t played those songs in standard tuning for years. I was hitting notes that hadn’t been hit since 1995, and this was an advantage. But we were all having fun. All I can do is my best and that was my approach. I just embraced what I thought I was doing well in the band. I am just Todd and that’s all I can be and control. Thankfully, you know, the band is really having a resurgence. The band is making a name for itself again as over years many fans fell off the radar with some of the latter albums. The last two records we have done are more like Queensryche. I am not trying to be cocky or rude but as an outsider I had left the band as a fan, as they lost their touch and they had no balls. There are tons of songs on hard drive that we are now sifting through that the previous lead singer had knocked back and you know there is some great stuff there. You know outside writers were manipulating the material and turning it into something it wasn’t.

To take a few steps back in your career, we all know that you started as a drummer, is this an instrument that you still keep in check?

I really miss playing my drums and at the moment they are in cases. I still think like a drummer and I am still passionate about drumming. I would love to record with the drums at some point with another band. I have been drummer for thirty years and it comes naturally to me and I don’t want to lose that.

With your transition to vocalist, did you have any formal lessons, or is singing something that comes naturally to you?

No I was never a trained vocalist. It is something that has come naturally to me.

To focus a little on your time in Crimson Glory, I know that you started to write material with them, is there any chance that this may see the light of day some time?

No. I mean I am the only one who has the recordings and you know Crimson Glory is not a band any more. They don’t officially say that they are over but they are on hiatus again, and they are not pursuing anything at all at the moment. We were rehearsing and working on stuff but the band just disappeared and there is only so long that you can wait around and try and move forward. Everyone has their own band now and they are happier with what they are doing. I loved being with the band and we are friends but that is behind me and I don’t suspect that they would like to put another album out. 

Now to move on to Queensryche again and the live line-up in 2016, I have only heard great things with your inclusion in the line-up, so what should Australian Queensryche fans expect from your up and coming live shows?

They are going to be high energy with a lot of fun. We have got a great set list with a mix of the well-known hits to some of the more obscure songs from Rage for Order. We will be scanning the Queen of the Reich ep right through to Promised Land and then to the 2013 release and Condition Human. You will be getting a great show and I am sure that we won’t disappoint anyone.

To finish Todd, do you have anything to say to your fans ahead of the Australian tour next month?

We are very excited to come there. It has been a long time and this will be the first time that anyone in Australia has seen the band with me in it and showing these people that Queensryche is alive and well! Thank you for everyone who has expressed an interest and want to see the shows. Hopefully it will be a great turn out and we can keep coming back.

Todd is a very serious man, who seems very focussed and comfortable in his role in Queensryche. Over his two releases with the band he has established himself as a formidable front man, and a singer who can comfortably tackle the back catalogue and the intricate melodies written within the band to date. This is a metal show not to be missed!

The impending tour to Australia kicks off on the 11th of October in Brisbane and concludes on the 15th in Sydney. Check out the following link for more details

An earlier interview with Queensryche’s Michael Wilton can be found here

Interview By Mark Snedden