Michael Wilton
of Queensrÿche,
The TVD Interview

Michael Wilton is one amazing guitarist as well as a brilliant songwriter. Co-founder of the legendary progressive band Queensrÿche, he has seen it all (and then some) over a near 40-year career in the music industry. No easy feat by any stretch, Wilton continues to reinvent himself in an ever-changing world that’s far different from when he first took hold of the flame back in 1980.

We had a chance to catch up with Wilton prior to Queensrÿche’s recent show in Anaheim, California to discuss their recent release, current tour, and of course all-things vinyl. 

The Verdict is Queensrÿche’s 15th studio release and was one of the most anticipated releases of 2019. It peaked at #16 on the US Billboard 200, amongst rave reviews from the metal community at large. Were you at all surprised at the initial success it had right out of the gate?

Well, when you create an album, you may love it, but you don’t know how the public’s going to perceive it. Obviously, Century Media Records put a lot of thought into this one. It’s one we took a lot of pride in and was a big release. The Verdict has been embraced by numerous countries around the world as well as our fans here in the US.

It’s interesting that the sound and feel of The Verdict seems to take me back to the original roots of Queensrÿche. Was that planned or was it just a re-evolution of sorts for the band?

I guess when you have the DNA blueprint in the band, it’s always going to kind of sound like that. Queensrÿche is its own animal. We’ve always been like that. All our influences fuse together and make the sum of what we are. It’s unique in itself that we can still BE who we nearly 40 years later.

What’s your favorite track on the album?

It seems to change from day to day. Right now, I’m kind of digging “Inner Unrest.” That’s one of the songs that I think we’ll eventually be doing a YouTube lyric video for.

You’ve been touring relentlessly in support of The Verdict since mid-February of last year including opening stints with the Scorpions, headlining sets with Fates Warning, as well as countless festivals all around the world. How has the touring life been treating you?

You know, it’s what bands like Queensrÿche and others like us do. Let’s face it, people don’t buy music anymore. So, for bands to survive, they have to tour. The only exception to that rule might be bands that have rich parents (laughs). Otherwise, it’s something you just have to do. The thing is, we can’t over tour because you want the clubs and promoters to want you.

How have fans been reacting to your live performances of “Bent,” “Man the Machine,” and my favorite off the new album “Dark Reverie” vs. traditional Queensryche classics?

It’s going over great. The setlist that we have on tour right now is almost a 50/50 of legacy and new Queensrÿche. When we were doing this a few years ago, they wanted to hear Todd sing the old stuff. Now we’re in a position in our career where fans want a balance of everything, and I think that’s a great position to be in.

Seems like a no-brainer to be teaming up with John 5 on this leg of the tour. He’s one incredible guitarist. What were your thoughts behind adding him to the bill in 2020?

There were a bunch of bands in consideration, and our management was pushing John 5 because his brand of power metal is so out of the box. Previous to this tour, I’d met John numerous times and always thought he was a really great guy and one extraordinary guitar player. We rolled the dice and ultimately went with something that was going to be a bit more eclectic. John definitely added a lot of diversity to the bill and I think our decision is turning out great.

Fans were excited to hear that you’d be rejoining Scorpions in Las Vegas for their “Sin City Nights” residency in July at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood. How did this incredible residency materialize?

Well, we have a nice relationship with the guys in Scorpions and have been able to tour with them a number of times in the past. For us, we’re just thankful that maybe we’re their “go-to” band and can help them out during special shows like this. Plus, our two styles of music work well together. At the end of the day, we’ve got a good organization and don’t step on any toes. I think they appreciate that and enjoy having us out. It’s also super cool because when I was a kid I used to listen to the Scorpions.

As The Vinyl District is a publication focused on all things vinyl, I’d be remiss not to ask you a few questions near and dear to our hearts. First off, are you into vinyl?

Love it! I have a nice collection of vinyl at my home along with a pretty nice turntable. I’ve actually got one of those classic old-school Hi-Fi systems. I also love the fact that our record company, Century Media, actually presses vinyl. No doubt in my mind that there’s a vinyl resurgence taking place around the world as we speak.

In your opinion, how does listening to vinyl sound, versus music in newer digital formats?

To me, I can hear slight differences in the music. There are obviously enhancements to the way things are recorded digitally these days, but nothing beats the classic vinyl sound. We have fans that say that the silver colored vinyl sounds the best, but I don’t know. I’ll leave it up to them to decide that one.

What about album artwork?

Oh yeah. We’re old school and artwork is always something that we think of when recording an album. This is especially true if it’s going to be released on vinyl. However, you have to realize that most of the time the artwork is going to end up being a little JPG on an Amazon site (shakes head).

If we were to dig into your personal vinyl collection, who would be the 2 or 3 artists that might stand out?

Wow. There’s just so many. I grew up listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and of course Deep Purple. There were so many different artists that I was exposed to in my younger days. This group would definitely be found in my vinyl collection for sure.

As we wrap this up, I’d like to ask a few rapid-fire questions from a few of TVD’s constituents. Who is your biggest musical influence?

I think my all-time favorite—who I still love to this day—is Jimmy Page.

What’s your favorite Queensrÿche album?

The Verdict—shameless plug! (laughs)

What’s your favorite Queensrÿche song?

That would probably be “Empire.” This was released at a time in our career (and a time in history) where we collided with public opinion, and that was a time when record companies were developing bands. People were buying CDs, records, cassettes… those were good times.

When touring, do you have a particular venue here in the US (or worldwide) that you just can’t wait to get back to?

Some of the big festivals in Europe are really exciting. The ones in Germany typically have hundreds of bands and sell out every year. We also love the House of Blues, but I’ll tell you we’ve never performed in this one, only the older one that recently closed. I hear its much bigger and the acoustics are fantastic.

The Verdict, the 15th studio album from Queensrÿche is in stores now—on vinyl.

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