The Seattle-based band Queensrÿche has made some amazing music through the years.
I was able to interview guitarist Chris DeGarmo several weeks ahead of their Nov. 11, 1991, show in Johnstown, Pa., for a story that originally was printed in The Indiana Gazette, Indiana, Pa.
DeGarmo was a fun and gracious subject, answering every question posed to him and more. A true professional.
“We never write an album around what fans will like or dislike. We’ve just sort of guessed that fans like the chemistry of Queensrÿche. They’ve grown to expect the unexpected,” explained Queensrÿche guitarist Chris DeGarmo during a recent telephone interview from Winnipeg, Minn.
DeGarmo offered a view into the world of Queensrÿche as a preview to their Nov. 11 show in Johnstown. Although Queensrÿche has been recording since 1982, it wasn’t until the last two or three years that they’ve gained more than an underground following.
Their self-titled debut release in 1983 was followed by “The Warning” in 1984, and “Rage For Order” in 1986. The release in 1988 of “Operation: Mindcrime,” an adventurous rock-opera, saw the band breaking new ground and gaining acceptance from rock critics, as well as fans.
“Operation: Mindcrime” details the story of Nikki, a young man disillusioned by the state of the government who joins the “revolution” to help create a better world and instead is tricked into becoming an assassin.
The hour-long album takes the listener by the ear and leads him through the dark world of Nikki, Dr. X and Sister Mary. Locations and events are described with such skill that the listener becomes one with Nikki.
The first hour of Queensrÿche’s current tour is devoted to a lavish production of “Operation: Mindcrime,” complete with video scenery.
“It’s a pretty involved process,” DeGarmo explained, when asked about the staging of the show.
“It doesn’t get boring. The show is so cool, we have a blast playing it. There’s a lot of teamwork involved. The visual show accompanying our performance took a lot of planning and forethought in the way that the equipment is organized. We never had the chance to play it before because time didn’t allow.”
Prior to the release of “Empire,” Queensrÿche’s current release, the Seattle-based band had been relegated to opening spots, usually 45 minutes long — not quite enough time to perform the entire “Mindcrime” segment. “Empire” has spawned five singles, beginning with “Silent Lucidity.”
“Lucidity” earned radio air play on Top 40 stations as well as rock stations with its subtle blending of string instruments — from the intricate guitar work of guitarists DeGarmo and Michael Wilton and bassist Eddie Jackson, to the orchestral arrangements — that create a dreamlike atmosphere which is all tied together by the expressive tenor voice of singer Geoff Tate and the strong percussive backbone provided by drummer Scott Rockenfield.
“We knew ‘Silent Lucidity’ was a special song, but we didn’t know how people would react. It created new inroads for us, and became our first number one rock track and our first top 10 pop single.”
Queensrÿche followed this success with the singles “Jet City Woman,” “Empire,” “Best I Can,” and the latest “Another Rainy Night (Without You).”
While they are finishing up their first world tour as a headliner, they also were a key act in the Monsters of Rock European tour this summer.
“We had a sudden realization that we’re playing in the big leagues now,” DeGarmo said with a laugh. “At first it took a while to adjust to the magnitude of the shows. We were playing for audiences of anywhere from 20-80,000 people a show. It was very exciting.”
Queensrÿche has been on the road touring for nearly a year now, but DeGarmo explained that it wasn’t too hard keeping a handle on the family ties.
“They came on the road a lot with us. I took my wife along on the European leg of the tour. We saw so many different countries — Poland, Hungary, Austria.
“Our mothers complain that the only time they see us is on television. Thank God for MCI and long distance.”
By Christmas the band plans to be on a well-deserved break, before heading back to the studio to start their next project.
A live package, due to be released on Nov. 5, called “Operation: Livecrime,” is a three-piece set — a live 70-minute video recorded during this tour, a live compact disc, and a full color 52- page booklet containing the “Mindcrime” libretto and photographs taken during the live show.
“This is our first official live release,” DeGarmo said. “We’re still planning to maintain our studio schedule, but we wanted to release this live performance. We were captured in the film on a good night.”
It may have taken this unique group of storytellers 10 years to arrive at the forefront of the musical scene, but Queensrÿche plans to maintain a foothold at the top of the hill and continue to live up to the standards they have set for themselves.
“There’s a lot of material left in us,” DeGarmo said. “We’re always pushing in new directions, instrumentally and lyrically. We try to bring a fresh approach to the songs and keep it interesting to us as writers.”
Keeping it interesting for the audience is also important to Queensrÿche, as DeGarmo explained that fans should “be prepared for a trip through Queensrÿche, beginning with ‘Operation Mindcrime’ and following through ‘Empire,’ as well as tracks from our earlier albums. It’s a very intense show that keeps unfolding.”
In other words, be prepared for the unexpected.
The new line-up of Queensrÿche is in the midst of a European world tour. Chris DeGarmo left the band in 1997 and Geoff Tate left in 2012.
Parker Lundgren and Todd La Torre joined original members Eddie Jackson, Scott Rockenfield and Michael Wilton.
DeGarmo works a professional charter pilot, occasionally performing music.
Tate is working with his band Operation: Mindcrime on an album to be called “The Key,” part one of a trilogy. A release date is set for Sept. 18, 2015.