|The 'RYCHE' Way
by Dave Reynolds
Guitarist CHRIS DeGARMO and his QUEENSRYCHE cohorts have finally hit on the best way to record their new LP, the follow-up to the incredibly successful 'Empire' - just record everything separately in your own home studios, then gather together to put the home-grown songs down on tape. That way, reckons Chris, the next, as yet unnamed, album will be as spontaneous as possible - and it should be released before the end of the year. Meanwhile, as DAVE REYNOLDS discovers, the just-released video extravaganza 'Building Empires' should keep all those rabid 'Ryche fans more than happy...
QUEENSRYCHE GUITARIST Chris DeGarmo bubbles proudly on the line from his home in Seattle. "We were obviously very happy to see 'Empire' received so well, and we enjoyed touring off it," he beams. "We were out on tour for 14 months, and could've gone on longer, but I think that we were getting a little burned out. I know that it wasn't the longest tour in the world, but when it starts grinding a bit..." It ceases to be fun?
"Oh, it was fun, but we just got to the point where we decided to stop because we were ready to come home and do something else."
Yet while Queensryche were doing "something else", they found the time to work on the 'Building Empires' video package (just released into UK stores). The video keeps the band's name alive nicely while Queensryche start work on the follow-up to their world-colonizing 'Empire' opus. Yet the video is very much for die-hard fans only, and is hardly likely to catch the eye of yet-to-be-converted 'Ryche-ites.
"I don't think it was designed as any sort of lure to catch people who just stumbled across us," responds Chris with his usual honesty. "I don't think that any of our videos have been like that. We decided to put it out mainly because we had such a wealth of film just lying around, including some that we hadn't included on the '...Livecrime' video. But we didn't want to rip our fans off just by putting out a couple of tunes and nothing else. We tried to put as much as possible on there, making it a bit more collectible."
ONE SUCH item included is the original video made for 'Another Rainy Night (Without You)', shown back-to-back with the version shown on TV. The first, as they say, was good, but..."It was a situation where we hooked up with a director and liked how it all looked on paper, but when it was finished, we thought it was very interesting, yet it had drifted a bit from what we initially were going for," explains DeGarmo. "It was very abstract. And whilst it was good, we just decided that the whole thing was too far disconnected from the song and was asking too much of people to figure out what was going on. So we shot another one. It was far simpler." If a little morbid. "I guess that's because it was more in tune with the solitary deal of the lyrics. It as more real. More bleak."
You were all very critical of the video for 'Queen Of The Reich', but not the clip for 'Night Rider'. "That's because 'Night Rider' was as early a clip as we did. It was made just after we'd done the first EP. We were only JUST a band! The cameras were all manned by interns from a local TV station, and it was far removed from the sort of cut that's the status quo these days. That was just the way we were."
AND THE feeling is that, as a straight 'live' performance of the song, the video is more representative, with the band more in control. Not so on the EMI-budgeted 'Queen Of The Reich' epic..."Now, that was just over the top!" laughs Chris. "We were just led down the road, given a director and a storyboard, and told that this was our video. We were just so elated that we had a record deal - a rare thing around these parts back then, unlike these days - that we just thought it was the norm. It wasn't until after we'd done it that we realized that we could have more control and become more involved. It was an early lesson in what not to do."Just as well that the planned sequel never materialized! "Yeah, that old 'to be continued...' - I'm glad someone lost the script!"
A DECADE later, and Queensryche are in the midst of piecing together their latest recorded work. DeGarmo, somewhat disappointingly, points out that there is "not much to report, other than we're all really excited about it. We feel we've got some good stuff, but I don't really like to speculate on things until they're done. There are no song titles to report, simply because things may change. But we're working really hard on everything to ensure that everything is absolutely perfect."
IN THE light of 'Empire's success, do you feel any pressure to come up with something as good, if not better? "Had we rushed in straight off tour, then, I guess we would have felt some pressure. But because we took a healthy break after a couple of pretty serious years of recording and touring, then we don't. And we needed to have that break, to step away from the lights and recharge our batteries before regrouping. Once we'd got back together, we found that we were starting from a different point than we had on previous projects. I don't think our approach has changed any; it's just that we're more confident, in that we don't have to all be in the same room at any one time to work on songs.
"Rather than write everything and then record, we find that we're recording as we write. So we're capturing the spontaneity of it in our homes. I actually feel that a good percentage of things we've recorded at home will be meshed with newer things and will make the record as they are. It's a whole different way. A bit of a home-grown deal, really. The quality of the stuff we're doing at home is really fantastic. We know that we've set standards for ourselves in previous recordings, that we don't want to do something that isn't going to sound right. But it's just the whole vibe of what we're doing at home that I'm really excited about."
NO PRODUCER is involved, as yet. Could this mean that all you need is an engineer involved at some point? "It could well end up that way! Normally, at this point we'd have someone picked out to do pre-production, but it's not like that now. We know what we want in our records - but, having said that, we do like the objectivity of having an outside party there, cos you can get too close to the music."
It sounds like a set release date is out of the question until Queensryche decide how far to go with this essentially home-produced album. It could well be that the record doesn't see the light of day until next year. "I hope it comes out before then," states Chris with some concern in his voice. "I'm sure it'll be out this year. The pattern we did things in before, you could always predict the month of release, but we're so into uncharted waters that I really can't say for sure how long it's going to take us to complete the new record. But we ARE working every day!" So EMI haven't given you any deadlines, then? "Not at all. They're cool. They just want us to make a good record. It's kinda nice to have a relationship like that. I think the days where record companies played God are over. EMI don't hurry us. They did get involved early on in our career, but now the deal is that if the band and management are happy, then they don't mess with things. Like, last time, we just gave 'em a tape when we were done and said, 'Here, this is called 'Empire'. See what you can do with it...'."