|Q & A with Chris DeGarmo
by Shiela Rene
Hear in the Now Frontier" will please all strata of fans. There's something on this album to excite every fan. In some ways it's back to basics with the music of the early '80s and then there are three songs that suggest an on-going fascination with the work they did on Operation:Mindcrime and Empire. Whatever style, the band's chops continue to exceed any fans dream.
Chris DeGarmo: (laughing) Yeah, I like that.
SR: Who gave up the ear in the bottle for the cover?
CD: (laughing) It's a mystery ear. We have to have some mystery around this album. If I went ahead and told you that there would be one less mysterious thing.
SR: Alright. I'll go with that. Last time we talked you said this was going to be a quick one. It has been two and one half years.
CD: Quick is all relative isn't it? It seems to be pretty quick for us. We toured pretty extensively on the Promised Land album. We had actually written this album very quickly after returning home, but for some reason it still added up to that amount of time.
SR: You waited for Peter Collins so that took some time.
CD: We've done two unique projects unto themselves with him Operation:Mindcrime and Empire before this one. We were very pleased with his work on those projects and he really adds a nice, healthy objectivity to the band. After we had organized this material we sent it over to him and he was very excited about it. He loved it and wanted to work with us. We thought we'd just go for it and we wound up with something different again. We've all moved forward and grabbed something of the moment now. Also we had "Jimbo" who recorded and mixed our last three albums and did a great job was back. We love "Jimbo" and he's a dear friend. On this one we had Toby Wright come in and shake it up a bit in the mixing. He is a new relationship that we've opened up on this project which was also great to behold.
SR: I have no complaints except that I didn't get to see the Promised Land tour. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first album you've ever sung lead on.
CD: You are correct.
SR: "All I Want" with that sad opening guitar riff. A new trend?
CD: I don't know if it's a new trend. As you know I've been singing on our albums all along, but it's the first lead vocal. I'm excited about it. It's a different little offering, different prospective and certainly we have a fine voice to deliver these things in Geoff. He has a very open mind and is always open to experimentation. I really wanted to sing this song and he was cool with that.
SR: I lost a bet on this album. I figured with the music trend today you'd take us back to the characters of Sister Mary and Dr. X. And, the last three cuts are in that style.
SR: What's the next single. "Sign Of The Times" was a very good choice for the first one.
CD: We haven't thought beyond the moment honestly. Others may have, anything is possible. We've got a lot of options there.
SR: You've done it for everyone on this one... from the early fans in '84 and beyond. Geoff has said that "Spool" is his favorite.
CD: (laughing) He was asked on a given day what his favorite song was and he mentioned that one. A number of people have asked that question since and now he's recanting by saying he likes them all. I think it's natural to be in the mood for a certain song or a gravitation to something different every day. The lyric in "Spool" is one that is certainly great and I can see Geoff being excited about that song.
SR: "I think therefore I am" from the philosopher René Descartes opens that tune. That is my motto for life.
CD: Geoff borrowed that meaningful phrase to propel this idea that people are individuals and should think of themselves like that. It's so easy in this day and age...notice it's not 'they think therefore I am' but a lot of people are so concerned about what others think and so concerned about how they're perceived by the choices they make in their lives that they neglect their own road.
SR: You also address almost the same subject on "You" where you say you are responsible for your own life...we don't take the blame.
CD: Yes. This is not a theme album but I think there are throughout our work an ongoing affirmation of self and free thinking and of people to recognize their own forte, needs, wants, wishes and dreams. Go for it and don't look back. After all, life is but a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of things. Drink from the well.
SR: You've always been known to your fans as the "thinking man's band."
CD: Without being gender specific I take issue with that.
CD: I don't know who came up with that. We certainly didn't. It's funny that phrase has followed us around but we have a lot of females that are interested in the band and you are one of them Sheila. So to say that we are a "thinking man's band" is incorrect.
SR: Darlin' I'm not meaning it that way.
CD: I know, but I just love to attack that little phrase. Initially, it was intended as a compliment, I'm sure.
SR: I should have said that your music makes us all think. CD: Then maybe we should call it the "thinking fan's band." (laughing)
SR: Any new looks in the band? I haven't seen a current bio photo yet. Has Geoff cut his hair any shorter?
CD: I don't know if it could get any shorter than he had it last time. He had a buzz cut going there. My hair is shorter. I can't remember, Sheila, the last time I saw you.
SR: It was '91 at the Cow Palace.
CD: Then my hair is a bit shorter. I'm a little more aero-dynamic than I was. We're still the same size.
SR: Taking care of your body and your mind.
CD: That's right.
SR: Has Geoff picked up another octave? Some of these tunes sound as if they're in a higher octave.
CD: You know I wouldn't be surprised about that. He has them laying around his house, you know. He just brings along the ones he wants to use.
SR: I just signed up recently for Screaming in Digital your web talk/chat machine. Do you guys ever get in there and discuss your music with the rabid fans?
CD: Oh, good. Well, we do peruse certainly from time to time. I think possibly one of us has gotten in there once or twice before but it's a forum for the fans and they seem to do just find with us staying out of it. We leave ourselves to doing what we do. We pop in there. We've got some great support in Dan Birchall who runs the site and Kevin Skurlock who has another web site up for us. A number of fans just run little "empires" in our behalf around the country and the world. We've got great fans is all I can say. We're blessed in that respect.
SR: In 1988 when you came out with Mindcrime the same type music was being released by Killing Joke, The Young Gods, KMFDM and others. You were all ahead of your time because it looks like the record labels are just now picking up on the whole rave scene that later branched out into industrial.
CD: (laughing) The rave thing is being pitched now as the sound of the moment it would seem. Time will tell whether it's a blink or it's a lasting moment in music history. I certainly think there are some talented people out there. There is talent in all forms and styles. I don't know what's going to happen with this latest thing. I know that the music industry would love to call it the next big thing.
SR: U2 has changed their sound on this new album. David Bowie is back on his old band wagon with the Eno-type feel on some cuts.
CD: I prefer to think they're leading the band wagon as opposed to their jumping on the band wagon. It will be interesting to see what happens with those groups. I've heard a little bit of Bowie and a little of U2 so I don't have the whole thing absorbed yet.
SR: I'm working on it too. You and Geoff wrote an equal amount of songs on this new album, correct?
CD: Lyrically, yeah. We pretty much have shared the lyric and the music was a combination of us all. I wrote much of it or collaborated on much of it. Eddie our bass player co-wrote two tunes and Michael worked with Geoff on a tune.
SR: I have the advance without artwork and track breakdowns. Is the artwork the picture on the web site? An ear in the jar.
CD: The album cover is on one of the web sites. It's on the Queensryche Campaign site which can be accessed a number of different ways and for sure on the EMI site. Look under the "what's new" category.
SR: Let's talk about the guitar work here. Any new guitars or all the favorites?
CD: Some new old ones and some old new ones so to speak. I used mostly Gibson guitars and Michael and I dipped into a variety of instruments. ES 335, a lot of different Les Pauls. I used an old 61 SG and a couple of Dan Electros and Michael used some Rickenbackers. We used a lot of different guitars and this time instead of using processing to create the guitar sound we actually let the guitar play out its own characteristics. Often times if you just plug them into an amplipher that is complementary to the guitar it lets the guitars own identity come out. That was our approach this time instead of using a lot of rack effects to create things. We just let the guitars show their own identities. I think we actually have a more diverse combination of textures on this album than probably almost anyone we've had in terms of the varieties of guitars. It was fun, it was fun to do. It was exciting.
SR: Staging has always been a wonderful trait of this band. Anything special this year?
CD: We'll start touring in June. We have a great show planned which will be a little less extravagant in terms of the moving sets. Last time we had a very certain thing we were trying to accomplish with the Promised Land tour. This one, in the spirit of the record, will be a little more direct and a little more stripped down; but we'll still have some interesting visual points. We're going to have a really happening show with a focus on quality sound and hopefully a good presentation that people will find inspiring.
SR: June 20, where and what route are you taking to Austin? CD: About that..we're starting up here in the northwest and then weave around the top of the U.S., down the eastern seaboard, wrap around in a circle and then up the middle. Austin I would think would be right in the middle of summer.
SR: You guys have always had the best paraphernalia. I'm wearing my Tri-Ryche pin as I leave for my hairdresser appointment.
CD: I think the fan club has the list of everything we have available. We are going to have a lot of new items with the new imagery that's related to the album.
SR: I'm just a paraphernalia freak.
CD: Sheila, what are all your addresses on the Internet magazines?
SR: Okay, I'm going to take us off line.
CD: I'll certainly talk to the EMI folks about hardradio.
SR: I'm also in touch with your management...just to let them know what's possible for the launching of this new album.
CD: These are all on-line sites right? Cool.
SR: Yep. I'm crazy about this Internet.
CD: It's certainly amazing what's happening with this whole Internet thing.
SR: I'm going to let you go. I've taken up enough of your time today. I'll see you on the road.
CD: Sheila, thank you very much. I hope to see you soon.