When Todd La Torre took over the reigns as vocalist for Queensrÿche back in 2012, many felt that he’d have a hard time filling Geoff Tate’s shoes. Admittedly, I was one of those early doubters and could not imagine anyone else hitting those incredibly high notes across some of progressive metal’s most cherished masterpieces.
That all changed when I witnessed one of Queensrÿche’s earliest shows with La Torre at the helm. From his opening salvo to the final curtain call, Todd’s vocal prowess was on full display throughout among classics such as like “Roads to Madness,” “The Whisper,” and “Take Hold of the Flame.” It was as if I was transported back to the early ’80s all over again with La Torre crushing every song he wrapped his vocals around.
Fast forward to 2021, and La Torre has not only filled Tate’s shoes, but expanded on the Queensrÿche legacy tenfold. Sure, he can slay the classics. However, Todd’s also been instrumental in bringing back the band’s classic sound seemingly lost sometime after Promised Land. With three releases under La Torre’s belt as Queensrÿche’s lead singer, the band is back (and in a really big way). And while many in the music industry took an unscripted break due to Covid-19, Todd La Torre used the downtime to release his first solo album, Rejoice In The Suffering.
How did you get your start in music?
Here’s the nutshell version. I started playing guitar at 10, got my first set of drums at 13, and have played in multiple bands throughout my life. I joined Crimson Glory in 2010 and was with them for three years. In 2012, I ended up joining Queensrÿche and have been their vocalist ever since. Bottom line, I’ve always played music and primarily have been a drummer my whole life.
Who were your greatest inspirations as a young musician?
I grew up listening to a ton of rhythm and blues because of my mom. She was into legends such as Al Jarreau, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, and of course Michael Jackson. She was also into a lot of progressive jazz like David Sanborn, Keiko Matsui, Spyro Gyra—stuff like that. My dad, on the other hand, was into Earl Klugh, Elton John, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, that kind of stuff. All very inspiring artists to say the least.
As I got older growing up in the age of radio, I really got into the great singer / songwriters of the ’70s such as Fleetwood Mac, Jim Croce, and Jackson Browne. I then transitioned into ’80s rock and to this day I’m still a huge fan of bands like Tesla, Dokken, and Ratt. In my formidable teen years, I began listening to heavier stuff like Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, Testament, Overkill, Halloween, and Slayer which helped mold me into the musician I am today.
So how did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
I honestly never really believed that I was going to have a career in music. In high school I always wanted to be a drummer and constantly dreamed of making it big as an musician. In my late twenties, I figured that ship sailed and became an upholsterer by trade. I had my own business and ran it successfully for 22 years while having a really great reputation in the Tampa Bay area. During that time I still liked to play music and was gigging in local bands. I was having fun as a drummer doing cover songs at beach bars and it gave me something to do outside of work. It wasn’t until I joined Crimson Glory back in 2010 where I actually began singing in a band—which is not something I ever really aspired to do—and the rest is history.
Give our readers some perspective on how you ultimately got the gig with Queensrÿche after Geoff Tate’s departure from the band.
It’s a very long story, but here is the short version. I met Michael Wilton at NAMM as a fluke thing at a dinner party. We got to chatting, and I shared with him that I played drums for the band Crimson Glory. Mike had some side music that he wanted me to drum on and asked if I could sing like Chris Cornell because he had some stuff that he wanted that kind of sound on. We exchanged information and he ultimately sent me some songs.
I just started writing to one of those, sent it back, and Mike really liked what he heard. Next thing I knew, he was pitching me to the other guys too to do some Queensrÿche stuff on the side, outside of Queensrÿche. That was for a group known as Rising West. This was immediately followed by a period of turmoil within Queensrÿche where ultimately Geoff was fired, and I became the new guy in Queensrÿche shortly after that.
You released your first solo album Rejoice In The Suffering on February 5th. Tell us a little about the album and its conception.
Releasing a solo album has always been something I’ve wanted to do. I already had demos and a few solo ideas before I even joined Queensrÿche. Once in the band, it immediately became a full-time thing and from that point forward could never find adequate time to dig into my own stuff.
When the pandemic hit and I knew that we weren’t going to be touring, it seemed like the perfect time for me to brings these dreams to life. I got with my lifelong friend Craig Blackwell—who’s an awesome guitarist and songwriter—and focused my efforts on releasing a solo album. We wrote all the songs last May, minus the title track, and aside from a few riffs, it was all brand-new material. None of the initial demo ideas I had made it into the final album. We recorded the album over a four months period and it was truly an awesome experience from start to finish.