QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Michael Wilton recently spoke with Chuck Marshall of Metal Wani. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On the band’s new album, “The Verdict”:
Michael: “I view it just as a natural evolution of the band. I think this is perfect as far as what we’re striving for — to continue on as QUEENSRŸCHE. From my perspective, it’s all the touring that we’ve done, and it just kind of infiltrated into the writing process. I’m really happy with this album. I just think it’s a natural evolution. Everybody in the band is more comfortable. They’ve been consumed by this monster machine called QUEENSRŸCHE, and it’s really at a great point in its career right now.”
On whether it was a conscious decision to make an album that sounded “more metal”:
Michael: “I think it’s actually an unconscious decision. [Laughs] I think three and a half years touring on ‘Condition Hüman’ and just seeing the energy that our live shows product, it’s invigorating. I think it creeps into the writing style in a sense. It’s that kind of day and age — you’ve got to hit people in the face now or else they go onto the next thing. It’s just kind of the way it worked. This was definitely a different way of writing a QUEENSRŸCHE record than the past two, and we’re really happy with the outcome… To some people, it’s going to sound like old QUEENSRŸCHE because you’ve got the old guys in the band that are in the band. It’s only natural that it’s going to sound that way. We’re trying to be more ‘now.’ We’re trying to move forward. We’re trying to be relevant in this genre that we’re in, so it’s not like we’re treading on the past. In that sense, hopefully this is a little more current and has that kind of edge, I guess, that a lot metal and progressive fans are looking for.”
On the writing process for the album:
Michael: “It’s basically one song at a time. The writing process for ‘The Verdict’ was quite different than the [past] two albums. This one, the demos weren’t 100 percent written, so we had built the songs from the ground up and Frankensteined them until we got them in a working environment that we could build the songs in. That goes for every instrument, especially drums. It was a matter of everybody being on their A-game — spontaneous creativity. [There’s] a lot of spontaneity in this album, a lot of parts that were just written on the spot. Being in a band with that kind of chemistry, it’s kind of exciting. It’s fun to see what transpires. That being said, every song was very thought-out in the writing process. Everybody was involved in every song in every aspect. Obviously, it was a lot of pressure, a lot of hard work, but very gratifying when we [finished]. We basically came down from 28 song ideas to 10. This was the best flow; this was the best energy [and] diversity for the album. We’re just super-pleased with it.”
On the new song “Inside Out”:
Michael: “‘Inside Out’ is very special to me. I’ve been sitting on that guitar riff for probably 15 years, and because of its Phrygian or middle-eastern flavor, it doesn’t always fit into a QUEENSRŸCHE album. This is the first album that it’s fit in, so it’s got its day now, and I’m super-happy that this riff made it onto this record. It’s a very dark, minor kind of passage, and the middle section, obviously, we wanted to make a big statement — a big guitar solo, the whole thing. The song title is about searching within yourself and coming back out, and maintaining who you are and continue on your journey. It’s an interesting QUEENSRŸCHE song… A lot of that, as you’ll find in our songwriting, is twists and turns, where you’d expect something and may not go there. We’re always trying to challenge the traditional, and that makes it interesting for us and more proggy for [listeners].”
On whether the fact that vocalist Todd La Torre played drums on the album led other members to change their approach while writing and recording:
Michael: “Not at all. When you’re in a pressure situation — you have deadlines with the record company; you have certain slots that are available with your producer — you can’t delay things anymore. When it got to the point when Scott [Rockenfield] couldn’t do the album, we had two choices — we had to either get an outside drummer, or use Todd. [Producer] Zeuss said, ‘If we get an outside drummer, it’s going to delay this project probably another three months, and I’ve got other commitments.’ [We said,] ‘That’s not going to work — let’s get Todd in here and let’s see what he can do.’ We hooked up a mini-drum kit and went song by song. Zeuss gave the thumbs-up, and it as all done in respect of the QUEENSRŸCHE drumming style. When I played the demos to the record company, they didn’t even know… We’re careful and obviously scrutinizing to make sure we’re not getting outside the boundaries of drumming, and it’s just ‘Play for the song’ and ‘Respect the song.’ That’s the way we do it.”
On whether Rockenfield will return:
Michael: “I’ve been saying this for the last two years — we don’t know. We respect his privacy. He’s doing his thing. He told us he didn’t want to tour. He recently had a child and had paternity leave and left. He’s down that path, and we just give him his space. The door is always open. If he wants to make a comeback, that’s fine, but we’ve got to respect his privacy and what he’s doing. Look at it as a team — if somebody wants to go out for a while and go do something else, someone picks up the pieces and you keep the machine going, like a sports team. Somebody gets a broken leg or a sore arm, they don’t fold — they get somebody to replace them, and it’s still that team. Support the team. Support the band. We’re recording the music. You’ve [still] got the DNA of QUEENSRŸCHE in there.”
“The Verdict” was released on March 1 via Century Media Records. The disc was produced, mixed, and mastered by Chris “Zeuss” Harris (ROB ZOMBIE, ICED EARTH, HATEBREED) at Uberbeatz in Lynwood, Washington; Planet-Z in Wilbraham, Massachusetts; and Watershed Studio in Seattle, Washington.