Todd La Torre: Pandemic Was ‘Perfect’ Situation to Make First Solo Album
Queensryche and former Crimson Glory singer Todd La Torre was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. After kicking around the idea of a solo album for years, the drummer/vocalist saw opportunity in the downtime forced by the coronavirus pandemic to finally make it a reality.
Rejoice in the Suffering, La Torre's first solo record, was made in collaboration with a longtime friend and it showcases his versatility against a backdrop of varied metal, all riff-oriented and distant enough from Queensryche's overtly melodic style to offer fans something entirely fresh.
What does your first solo album establish about you that wasn't so obvious before?
I'm able to show another side of my writing style and ability and the vocal diversity that people don't get to hear with Queensryche. Just being able to express things musically that aren't always appropriate or pertinent for Queensryche songs. I'm throwing people a curve ball — they're not really sure what they're expecting to hear.
The best thing about the album is it's a no-holds-barred approach, and I just did whatever I felt like and just had fun with it.
Todd La Torre, "Darkened Majesty"
Why is collaboration important to you even when it's a solo project?
I'm a capable guitar player, certainly not like Craig and it's the Henry Ford concept — if you want the best you bring people in that can do things that you can't do.
I'm capable as a drummer since that's my first instrument primarily, so I did the drums on the record and the vocals. Craig, who is my lifelong best friend, is a great musician and songwriter. He did all the guitars, keyboards and bass and it was collaborative.
I knew that this was more of the metal style of what I wanted to do on my own.
Craig and I've been writing and playing together since I was 14 or 15. We really speak the same language and we love all the same things with music, which made it so easy to be able to collaborate. It was a lot of fun and it didn't seem like work.
As far as disagreeing with ideas, we were always like, "Oh, that's awesome," or, "How can we improve something?" It was meeting of the minds, expressing something that we've been doing for a long time together. It's just that nobody ever heard what we could create together.
For the most part, this record was written during the coronavirus shutdown. How did unlimited time and no distractions enhance your creativity?
It helped tremendously because normally with Queensryche we're touring so much. When you come home from performing and you're only home for a few days, it's really hard to get in the mindset of [writing new music]. I want to see my wife, my mom, my sister and do some things around the house. You can't just dive right into the studio again every second that you're not on the road.
Having the opportunity due to the shutdown, which happened for everyone here in like mid-March, was perfect to have no distractions and no travel every day — wake up and focus on the songs until we get it done.
It proved to be extremely beneficial because I've been talking about doing a solo record for years. Between writing and recording and then touring and promoting what we're doing in Queensryche, this was the best time to really nail this down.
We got it all done — written and recorded — in about a four-month period.
Todd La Torre, "Vanguards of the Dawn Wall" Music Video
Your voice and your ability as a performer are widely recognized, but what's your biggest strength as a songwriter, especially in terms of rejoice in the suffering?
I've always invested a lot of care and time into the lyrics, whether it's for my own stuff or for Queensryche — thought-provoking things and deeper subject matter.
I'm stronger on writing verse parts, but on this album I've definitely come up with some really good melodies and hooks, lyrically or vocally, that surprised myself because I've never thought of myself as a super-strong hook writer.
I'm really proud of this record — it's heavy, it's thrashy, it's got riffs, it's got very singable parts and memorable parts that I think are very palatable and digestible for a lot of listeners. I'm hopeful that they get the same thing out of that.
You were already a Queensryche fan before joining the band. How has your appreciation of that music changed now that you're also one of its curators?
I don't know that it has changed. I think that I have a unique perspective in that as a fan of the band before I joined the band, I have a good gauge for what the audience appreciates and really wants to hear from Queensryche.
There were many years where the band's sound changed. Being in the band, I really appreciate the greatness of those first five records especially that the band did and getting to know the people and the personalities that were behind those creations.
But I don't know that I appreciate it much more because good music is good music. I just think I have a different perspective moving forward as to what Queensryche fans love and want to hear as we create new music.
Thanks to Todd La Torre for the interview. Get your copy of 'Rejoice in the Suffering' here (as Amazon affiliates we earn on qualifying purchases) and follow the singer on Facebook, Twitter and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.