By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
“Silent Lucidity” is arguably one of the greatest ballads ever written. Operation: Mindcrime is considered one of the most powerful and critically acclaimed concept albums ever put together. The band that helped shaped this song and album is the progressive metal powerhouse known as Queensrÿche. One of the key ingredients that made them so delicious was the impeccable work of lead guitarist and founding member Michael Wilton. Better known as “The Whip,” he would brighten each song with amazing riffing and solos. Queensrÿche has just released their newest critical darling, The Verdict, and are on the road in support of it. I was given the opportunity to sit down and chat with The Whip himself just before their show at the House of Blues in Anaheim. I was very honored and anxious to get to know the guitar master, so I wasted no time getting into it.
I fired away the first question in regards to the origin of the name Queensrÿche. Whip told me that band, back when they were known as The Mob, was about to put out their debut EP in 1983, but a record store owner told them they could not use the name because it was already taken. So, according to Whip, founding guitarist Chris DeGarmo suggested naming themselves after their song, “Queen of the Reich,” and spell it with an umlaut ‘y.’ We would have a good discussion about The Verdict and how lead singer Todd La Torre ended up working on the drums for each song. I had no idea La Torre was a drummer. When it comes to recording, Whip says that computers helps with the process, but it also hinders it as well. We would talk about how the recording process has changed so much since the 1980s and how a lot of bands rely heavily on touring and merchandising for bigger paychecks.
Empire is about to turn 30, and Whip would go into discussion how that album compared to Operation: Mindcrime, and how it catapulted them to superstardom. In terms of what songs he likes to perform off of Empire, he really likes “Empire” and “Silent Lucidity” because they were special to him. I asked him where he got the nickname, “The Whip,” and he told me that he has had it since he was a kid when he started playing guitar. He went to tell me how the group got together with La Torre and how it gelled together nicely. Other topics that we dived into included the absence of original drummer Scott Rockenfield and how Casey Grillo of Kamelot came to tour with Queensrÿche.
I had an absolute blast getting to know Whip. He was very down-to-earth, like a lot of other musicians I have met, and he prefers himself to being a humble musician instead of a rock star. We even had fun with his nickname to the point where we threw in the ‘Cool Whip’ skit from Family Guy. In the interview, I called their 2015 album, Condition Hüman, as Human Condition, but he was cool with it, so my mistake on my end. That evening, Whip and Queensrÿche blew the fans minds away, so all in all, a very successful show and chat. To the Whip, I salute you. Horns up!!!
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