Todd La Torre, vocalist for Queensrÿche, will be releasing his debut solo record, “Rejoice in the Suffering”, this Friday February 5th via Rat Pak Records. As global touring came to a sudden and unexpected halt earlier this year, Todd used the pandemic downtime to put the finishing touches on his debut solo record. He and Craig Blackwell wrote all the songs and played all the instruments on this record with Craig on guitar/bass and Todd on vocals/drums.
“Rejoice in the Suffering” combines the best elements of Todd‘s voice with thought-provoking lyrical content and a hunger that delivers an electric assault of metal songs! The duo doubled down on their talents to combine tightly wound riffs, rhythmic fury, naked emotions with pushed-to-the-edge vocals. The songs are fast and aggressive, with standout tracks being “Dogmata,” “Crossroads to Insanity,” and “Rejoice in the Suffering.”
Pre-orders for the album can be found here.
Correspondent Robert Cavuoto spoke with Todd about creating his solo album, why it incorporates different styles of metal, the subject matter that intrigues him when writing songs, and the brutal style of music that his fans can expect to hear on his next solo album. Continue reading for their full conversation.
The songs on “Rejoice in the Suffering” are heavier than what I expected. Is this style in your sweet spot of what you like to create and listen to?
[Laughing] It’s a culmination of everything. The CD has a couple of different styles of metal, which I like, and I tend to write songs that encompass all those aspects.
Being submerged in Crimson Glory’s and now Queensrÿche’s signature sound, was it fun to break out and write more in your own style?
Yeah, absolutely! When I sing Queensrÿche, that my style and voice too. It’s a type of music that calls for a different type of singing. With heavier music, I sing for how the music makes me feel, whether it needs to be clean, gritty, gang vocals, or guttural. Like with any style of music, it lends itself to new things. This is a great opportunity to show people what else I can do.
My favorite song is “Dogmata.” Can you share any insights into its creation?
That’s a song that touches on the extreme side of dogma in theism. It touches on various religions and the dogma that those religions subscribe to, which is not the good side. That’s a topic that I’m always reading about, watching lectures, and listening to debates. I’m a big fan of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. It’s just my perspective of what I consider a poisonous aspect of religion and the dogma of what goes along with it. I don’t have an issue with anyone’s faith; it’s just some of the teachings which call for things that are not just in my opinion.
The album ends on an even heavier song, “One by One.” Can you tell us more about that song and why it was positioned last on the record?
I really consider the main CD; tracks 1 through 10. Initially, there was some talk about having bonus songs available for different territories. When it was all said and done, we decided not to hold anything back and make the bonus songs available to everybody. I really wanted to put that song on the CD, but it doesn’t fit among the other ten. It’s a standalone song, more in a melodic black metal style. I enjoy writing and voicing songs like that I like, so I was very insistent that it was going on be on the CD [laughing]. Where this CD leaves off is where my next solo will pick up. I anticipate the next CD I make will be much, much heavier and will have more brutal vocal styles. It won’t be throughout the whole CD, but it will be more in the melodic black metal style. I wanted to end this CD with “One by One” to broaden my listenership to a demographic that might not know who I am or what I do. This is the first dip in the water to show a side of me in what I enjoy and capable of doing.
What’s involved in preparing vocally for that guttural voicing?
I’m a big fan of Testament and started doing it because of them. Songs like “Practice What You Preach” and “Disciples of the Watch” have that guttural voicing by Chuck Billy, which I always thought sounded cool. It’s a technique that I started playing around with then practiced jumping to a clean singing voice. I would start by doing the guttural voicing for about 20 seconds and then trying to go longer from there. That way, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s easy for me to do. If I felt any pain, I would stop. Everybody is different; some guys can scream loud like that with some force and pressure. It provides texture and an attitude that you are just not going to get otherwise. There are a lot of people who call it the “Cookie Monster” voice and think it’s stupid. There are different styles to that type of voicing, but I don’t consider it singing; I consider it vocalizing. There are no notes that are happening; it’s a bunch of sounds coming out which are brutal. Even with Queensrÿche at the very end of the show for “Queen of the Ryche,” I’ll do one of those low growls. I can switch from that to clean signing on a dime.
That type of vocal technique should be left to the professionals [laughing]!
[Laughing] You know something; I’m not professionally trained! I’m self-taught. The best thing you can do is to experiment with your voice. There are some teachers and coaches who can teach you on those techniques. I do what works for me. There are a lot of other areas of singing and vocalizing where I can improve. I have always loved mimicking sounds and find those nuances that make singers sound the way they do. I mimicking cartoon characters and accents from around the world. You find things that you are good at and strong at. I try to highlight my strengths.
Who is a favorite cartoon character to imitate, and can you give me a sample?
There is a character called Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy who is really funny. He is this disgusting old pervert. I’m surprised it’s allowed on TV, but it’s pretty funny. We were on tour with Fates Warning, and during soundcheck, I would sing a Queensrÿche song like Herbert to crack up one of their tech guys named Ian. He would then chime in with all these funny lines from the show as well. My Dad would do Droopy Dog imitations all the time. I love Mel Blanc (proceeds to do a fantastic imitation of Yosemite Sam). It’s just finding those sounds. Eddie Jackson does an amazing imitation of Porky Pig! [Laughing]
That is awesome; my wife and I are always trading off lines from 70s cartoons, not necessarily in the accurate voice [laughing].
My wife and I would be doing something in the house, and she would say, “You can’t do that!” I would say, “Yes, you can!” Eventually, it turns into this debate like Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny (proceeds to do a spot-on imitation of Joe) “I guess the f**king thing is broken then!”
(To hear Todd‘s hilarious imitations, click here for the audio interview)
When writing lyrics, what type of situations do you typically like to write about?
I have always had an interest in social things, geopolitical, political, and different ideologies. I’m atheist and always pushing back on ideas where religion is trying to force its way into legislation; poking its head into our business. These are things I see that are troublesome to me. I travel around the world and inspired by things I see or experience. This CD has subject matter about dogma, songs that touch on my Dad’s suicide, and a song called “Critical Cynic,” which is about science deniers crying about wearing a mask and thinking the pandemic is like the flu. They also feel that higher learning is not a coveted or revered thing. They claim to have done their research, but they confuse doing a Google search to actual medical research done in a laboratory with data and analysis. They are not achieving professional results if they only look for information that supports their views.
When recording or listening back to these songs, are you more critical of your singing or drumming?
I don’t think I’m more critical of one over the other. I’m equally critical of both. With my vocals, I microscope everything, whether it’s on my pitch or if I didn’t carry a note as long as I wanted to. I’m pretty nuts when it comes to making things exactly how I want them. At the same time, you have to know when to put the paintbrush down. You have to know when enough is enough; you’ve done the take ten times, and you are never going to do it any better. There have been times I got to that point and have to leave it until the next day or work other stuff. Some people say, “I won’t put anything on the CD that I can’t do live.” I don’t do that because Mike Tyson can’t fight like he did 30 years ago, Michael Phelps can’t swim like he did in his prime. If I can do an awesome take when I am recording, it’s forever. I want what is going to be the best for the CD, and then I’ll figure out how to perform it. I’ll take a big bite of food and then figure out how to chew and swallow it! There were a few spots on this CD where I thought a note was slightly flat. Sometimes your ears can play tricks on you with stuff like that. I left it in, as it’s real, and I’m not going to fix it; so whatever.
Looking back on the last three Queensrÿche records, can you share how you and the band have grown and evolved?
The songs are different from the 2013 CD to “The Verdict” CD in 2019 with different batches of songs. I understand the band’s writing approach better now. I’m now able to say; I don’t gel with this, can we try something else that touches on my strengths to enhance the song. It’s a communication growth. I have become better at writing melodies. Even though there are some thrashy songs on my solo CD, there are good hooks and melodies. I’ve not always been the best hook writer, but I have been strong at writing intros, verses, and bridges. Eddie Jackson helps me out with the choruses as we work together on them. In turn, it gives them other ideas like a different guitar part from a melody that I sing, which could now be a major guitar part. If we picked all the strong songs off the last three CDs, there is a sizable body of work. If you look at the song “Redemption,” I painted myself into a corner because there is no breathing room. I wanted to do what was best at the time, not realizing that I would be doing it live. I’m singing throughout it, and it’s hard. I won’t let that happen next time. I learned from things like that. With Queensrÿche, we have all grown closer as friends, and connecting as people is a huge part of the creative process?
What is the status of the next Queensrÿche album?
We are writing music now, and it’s going really well. Hopefully, we can get into the studio later this year with all the distancing and safety protocols. I’m hearing that there are lengthy delays in CDs and vinyl production, affecting release dates. I would think we would have a new CD out at the beginning of next year.