Todd La Torre’s first solo album ‘Rejoice in the Suffering’ was released in February. It’s an expansive album that will appeal to the Queensrÿche fanbase, but it also explores other directions. Todd was gracious enough to chat with me about his new album, cassette tapes, and why he probably won’t be duetting with Geoff Tate on a Christmas album. This interview took place on his birthday, which i didn’t realize until after the fact — so here’s a belated happy birthday to Todd!

Sleaze Roxx: What kicks off the songwriting process for you? A lyrical line, a concept, a riff, a beat, an image, or what?

Todd La Torre: All of the above. Some songs just start with a drum beat like “Critical Cynic.” That started with a drum groove that I came up with. Then, Craig wrote to that. The intro to that song was a piece of music Craig and I had back in the mid-’90s. We always thought it was cool. “Hey, remember that riff we had a long time ago that we wrote? That would be cool to put that in a song somewhere,” so we did. Other times, Craig will have a really cool guitar part, and we’ll write the song around that, or I’ll have a melody in my head and I’ll sing the melody to Craig, and then he’ll come up with something around that.All of those ways that you mention can start the process. There’s not any particular method we always use like, “Hey, we write music, then the vocals come.” Sometimes it’s the other way around. When ideas just pop into your head, you try to capture ’em and record ’em. It could be through a drum beat, a guitar riff, or just a vocal on its own that doesn’t even have music.

Sleaze Roxx: Is the lyric “pretenders of the faith” from “Pretenders” a wink to Judas Priest’s ‘Defenders of The Faith’?

Todd La Torre: You know, it wasn’t. This sounds blasphemous, but I didn’t even know that was a Judas Priest title until after I showed it to the label. I said, “I don’t know. I hope this has never been used, but I feel like the way it’s rolling off my tongue…” He goes, “Yeah, like ‘Defenders of The Faith’.” I go, “What is that?” He’s like, “Judas Priest.” I’m like, “I had no idea.”

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Todd La Torre: Honest truth. I had no idea. So, no, it’s not a nod to that at all.

Sleaze Roxx: “Pretenders” seems like an indictment of religion or a certain aspect of religion.

Todd La Torre: It was me writing about the charlatans of religions, the snake oil salesmen.

Sleaze Roxx: Please tell us a little bit about the bonus tracks.

Todd La Torre: Sure. So there’s three bonus tracks. In the context of songs one through ten, we just didn’t feel that these extra tracks really fit into the flow of the record, but they were still cool songs that we thought were worthy to share with people. The three bonus tracks are totally different songs.

Sleaze Roxx The last bonus track “One By One” is a very different style of singing from what we’ve heard from you previously.

Todd La Torre: “One By One” obviously has gutturals. It’s more melodic death or black metal a little bit. It’s a song that I love and I was very adamant about it being on the record, even if it’s a bonus track, because I wanted to have something even heavier on the record that the main record didn’t have. It’s the one song where I’m doing full gutturals. I know there’s a huge demographic out there that just loves that. People that listen to Behemoth, for example, or any of that black metal bands that love that kind of delivery or love death metal will be into this. I thought it was just something that I really wanted people to hear, another side of my voice. So that’s why it’s a bonus track.

Sleaze Roxx: Have you thought about what direction another solo record would take? Are the bonus tracks an indication?

Todd La Torre: Where this record stops is where the next one would pick up. At this point in time, I’m thinking the next record will have less singing like this record has and maybe more of the brutal style of vocals. “One By One” is just a fun song, man. Some people love “One By One.” Some people hate it — or not hate it. They just don’t like that style at all. That’s why it’s a bonus track.