As global touring came to a sudden and unexpected halt earlier this year, Queensrÿche frontman Todd La Torre has been using his recent pandemic downtime to put the finishing touches on his debut solo album Rejoice In The Suffering. The idea for a solo album was always in the cards for Todd. With Queensrÿche tour dates postponed indefinitely, the world events offered Todd the opportunity to explore his ideas for Rejoice In The Suffering. Todd teamed up with longtime friend and collaborator Craig Blackwell, and alongside producer Chris “Zeuss” Harris created a diverse heavy metal album that draws influence from different styles. These styles will surprise fans who only know La Torre from his previous work with Queensrÿche or Crimson Glory before that. Rejoice In The Suffering is scheduled for release globally on February 5, 2021, via Rat Pak Records.
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ANTIHERO: You’ve got a solo album coming out. I just wondered if the songs were always designed for a solo record rather than be on a Queensrÿche album?
Todd La Torre: Yeah. Everything was written just for this record. Nothing for Queensrÿche.
ANTIHERO: What about the songwriting? Were they old songs or new?
Todd La Torre: “Rejoice in the Suffering”, we wrote a few years ago. And then we had some riffs from like “Hell Bound” and “Down” and “Pretenders”. Everything else was written starting in March. So yeah, I would say almost all of the record was written and recorded beginning in mid-March in about a four-month period.
ANTIHERO: What about lyrically then? Were you able to incorporate what was going on in the world at that time, or as you said, had the songs already been pretty much written?
Todd La Torre: Lyrically, everything was written starting pretty much in March. Some of it has to do with what’s going on in the world, others various topics from religious things to social issues, to even a couple of songs on there that have to do with my dad and his death. He committed suicide in 2016. And so, there’s a couple of songs on there that have to do with that, but yeah, there are various topics throughout the whole record.
ANTIHERO: What about in terms of creating the album, do you have to adopt a different mindset to do solo material rather than something for Queensrÿche? Obviously, Queensrÿche has an identifiable sound that’s kind of maybe limiting in terms of how you create music, but obviously, you’ve got free reign for the solo album release.
Todd La Torre: Yeah. Yeah. The solo stuff, I just wanted to make it, Craig and I wanted to write songs that just have elements of heavy metal that we like to listen to as fans of heavy metal. And so, we didn’t have any true objective. We just wanted to write fun, cool metal songs. And that was really the approach. There was no pressure with having to have a certain style or sound. We just wrote what we felt like writing.
ANTIHERO: You didn’t feel any pressure at all, given that it bears your name rather than the name of a band?
Todd La Torre: No. No, because what we did on this sounds nothing like Queensrÿche. The last thing I wanted to do was write something that was trying to sound like Queensrÿche music. And so, we just wanted to write a really cool metal album and I wasn’t going to put something out that I didn’t feel good with, but I wasn’t really writing this thinking about, well, what’s the Queensrÿche audience going to think? Or what are these people going to think? I just said, I just want to write what I want to write and if people like it, great. If they don’t like it, that’s okay too. I just want to put out my music the way that I want to do it.
ANTIHERO: Who else is playing on there? I assume that you’re also doing drums as well as vocals yourself.
Todd La Torre: Yeah. So, I did the drums and vocals, and Craig Blackwell did the guitars and bass and keyboards. The two of us made the whole record. And then we have a guest appearance from Jordan Ziff who plays the second half of the guitar solo on “Rejoice in the Suffering”. And then we have a friend named Al Nunn, N-U-N-N, Al Nunn, and he did some keyboard stuff on “One by One”.
ANTIHERO: Has working on the album assisted in attending your own mental health, giving you a focus and a sense of purpose in what is essentially a very difficult time for most of the world, not just musicians?
Todd La Torre: Yeah. It is definitely a good outlet. You’re pretty much stuck at home. Well, we’re not touring. Most bands are not touring, and it can drive you insane. And so, it’s definitely a good outlet physically to perform these things on a record. And it’s also a good outlet to write lyrics and get some of these things out. You know what I mean?
ANTIHERO: You’ve just released the video for the track, “Vanguards of the Dawn Wall”. Was it difficult to create and make a video given what’s going on and obviously the COVID restrictions in terms of production?
Todd La Torre: Yeah. It was, yeah. So, “Vanguards of the Dawn Wall”, at that time, when we were getting ready to do something, there weren’t really any film crews happening around here. Very few film crews were doing anything anywhere. And so, at that point in time, we had to make a decision. We either delay this, not knowing when we would be able to film something and maybe we wouldn’t be able to get something done on time, or Craig and I decide to shoot it ourselves. So, Craig and I did that on our own to guarantee that we would at least have a video. Some bands were using cell phones. I remember Body Count put out a video and Ice-T was just saying, “Look, nobody’s filming, nobody’s doing this.” But he told his band to grab their cell phones and film themselves.
Well, we actually used professional cameras and stuff, but yeah, we did it ourselves to make sure that we could have something not knowing when film crews would be able to open up and start filming again. So, we did that one on our own, and then we have a couple more videos that were shot with a film company that was able to handle those duties for us. Those videos will be coming out later, but that’s how “Vanguards of the Dawn Wall” happened.
ANTIHERO: Obviously, it’s difficult to outline plans for the year ahead. Queensrÿche had a tour canceled. In terms of solo album promotion, had you provisionally planned any solo tour dates?
Todd La Torre: I haven’t planned any solo tour dates, but when touring starts up, Queensrÿche will obviously be my number one priority. And then if there’s a chance where Queensrÿche is not touring and we have some downtime and I’m able to play some shows of my own material, that’s something that I would like to do in the future, around Queensrÿche. Queensrÿche is always first, but yeah. It’s something I would like to do.
ANTIHERO: What was your motivation when you set out to actually do this album, was it to challenge yourself vocally in terms of what you’ve achieved in the past?
Todd La Torre: It’s obviously a challenging record to sing. But it was really just kind of doing things that I know would not be suitable for Queensrÿche. And like you say, having the ability to just sing in any style that I wanted without worrying about compromising the Queensrÿche sound. There are things that I can do and things that I cannot do in Queensrÿche. And so, this was an opportunity to just show different styles of my voice that most people probably don’t know I can do.
ANTIHERO: I’m thinking there’s one of the extra tracks, “One by One”, which nearly sounds like something that would belong on a death metal album.
Todd La Torre: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite tracks. I have other material written in the kind of melodic death, black metal style, even a little more so than even One by One, as far as the music. I’ve got a few other songs that are pretty much completed that are in the melodic death style that I’d like to continue doing. But yeah, that’s a song that people will definitely not expect me to do, but I like singing the gutturals. I like singing with vocalizing that way.
ANTIHERO: In an age where musicians and artists are becoming more actively involved in their own careers in terms of marketing and promotion, I just wonder why you have decided to release this album through Rat Pak Records. Is that a new connection you have or something that goes back?
Todd La Torre: No, I’ve known the owner of that label for many, many years. And he does a great job, that label does a great job marketing, promoting and I don’t have to deal with a bunch of different people in all these different departments. So, if I want to talk about something with this record, for example, I call and I literally talk to the owner and I don’t have to go through 10 different people to get an answer or to deal with artwork or product or any of the decisions that go involved with doing this. They treat me really, really well. And honestly, it’s the label that I wanted to do this with, and the pre-sales are going great. People seem excited about it. And I’m very, very happy with all the decisions that have been made in working with this label.
ANTIHERO: I think also that label, from a fan perspective, put together some cool packages with each album release.
Todd La Torre: Yeah. They do. They put together unique bundles and really, really neat stuff. To me, it’s not a label with a thousand bands on their roster and you’re just kind of like just a number. I get treated very, very, well and they put their heart and soul into everything that they’re doing. And I think it helps that they don’t have a thousand bands on their roster. That’s a lot to take on and yeah, it’s a really good label and I have nothing but good things to say.
ANTIHERO: Obviously over the last year, a lot of people have had extra time on their hands. I just wondered if in all the enforced time you’ve had the opportunity to maybe develop some new interests or hobbies.
Todd La Torre: I’ve been doing a lot of remodeling around my house. So, I’ve been trying to fix things that are broken, replace things that need replacing, and that kind of thing. I’ve never been home this long in so many years. So, on the one hand, I really love being home. On the other hand, not touring and earning an income from what we normally do, that sucks, but I try to appreciate the positive aspects, which are being home with my wife and our dog. And I get to see my mom and my sister and some friends. So, it has its pros and cons. But no new hobbies, just doing the same stuff you probably do, right?
ANTIHERO: Okay. Just a final one. I’m sure you’ve done many, many interviews over the years, but if the rules were reversed and you could be the interviewer, who would you like to sit down and interview?
Todd La Torre: Who would I like to interview?
ANTIHERO: Yes. Maybe not even a musician.
Todd La Torre: Oh, wow. Damn, that’s really good… Nobody’s ever asked me that question before.
ANTIHERO: Thank you.
Todd La Torre: Pat yourself on the back. Let’s see, who would I like to interview? I would have loved to have had a conversation with Christopher Hitchens. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him. He passed away a couple of years ago. He was a writer for Vanity Fair and a brilliant mind. He was an author. He was an anti-theist. I watched so many of his debates and lectures. He’s just a really interesting guy. His name is Christopher Hitchens. If you don’t know who he is, look him up.
ANTIHERO: I will indeed, yeah.
Todd La Torre: Yeah. But a really, really interesting guy. I don’t even know that it would be an interview. I would just love to have a conversation with him. So, there’s one for you.
ANTIHERO: That’s great.
Todd La Torre: Not a musician. Just a very brilliant mind that always fascinated me.
ANTIHERO: Todd, thank you very much. Good luck with the solo album. Hopefully, hopefully we’ll get to see you live, either with Queensrÿche or doing your solo record, doing some live shows in the UK.
Todd La Torre: Thank you so much, Mark. Yeah. I hope to see you guys in the near future as well.
ANTIHERO: Cheers. Thank you very much again for talking to me. Take care.
Todd La Torre: Okay. My pleasure. Thank you so much.