|Queensryche have produced one of the most important albums of the age with Operation:Mindcrime. It represents a giant leap forward for rock and metal and has already been heralded by critics as one of THE seminal works of the Eighties. Influential writer for the New York Globe Irma Putz wrote recently: 'Jeez, it's so FAR OUT' Wise words indeed. Now we have invited CHRIS DEGARMO, the band's lead guitarist, to describe track by track the album that tells the story of Dr.X, Sister Mary and the mysterious hero who may be a villain.|
|I Remember Now:
A concept album was something the band had fancied doing for sometime and was extremely challenging to put together. We wanted the music to paint a picture. We had a vision and worked very hard on the segues like this part. The story is set in contemporary times and there is a bit of finger pointing at certain things going on in America. It has a cynical edge to it, but disguised in a fictional tale. Geoff Tate is responsible for the lyrics which reflect what we see going on. It's not a let's go to the beach and party record, that's for sure. But we're not unpatriotic. We just like to write dark, twisted tales that make you think. This first piece is a flashback for the character Nikki a street kid gone wrong who has a heroin addiction and is pretty unmotivated as far as life and goals go. He becomes the subject of manipulation by Dr X who wants violent political change. He is used as a hit man to eliminate people. 'I Remember Now' begins this wild roller coaster ride with Nikki having a flash back as he comes out of a coma, watching himself on the news, seeing the horrible crimes he has committed. We used English actor Anthony Valentine to play the part of Dr.X and Debbie Wheeler plays Mary by the way.
Our friend, Nikki, charged with several counts of murder involving members of this city's political and religious leaders, has been committed to State Hospital under heavy security. London-born nurse, Debbie, seems determined to administer the tranquilizer and give us her personal feelings regarding her patient. Hmmm? Injection completed, Nikki listens to his favorite tape and retraces his past.
This is the segment where Nikki is introduced to X while speaking at a rally and lasts just a minute.
Weeks ago in Occidental Park, hundreds of people gathered for a political rally. There was a man shouting above all the others:
Do we have freedom?
Do we have equality?
This country is changing!
It is no longer for all of the people!
It is for some of the people!
This is X laying out his philosophy and indoctrination, and Geoff became quite psychotic singing it. He had to believe in it you know! Hopefully we will be doing the entire album in a headlining situation, which we are planning now.
This is a call to arms and the next step after indoctrination. Dr. X is speaking to Nikki, sort of "Join me Luke Skywalker, we'll rule the world!" He orders him to bump off religious and political leaders. X is a cool, calm and sinister character who thinks he is going to right the world through violent means.
The phone hasn't stopped ringing since the hypnotic meeting with Dr X. His plan is brilliant in its simplicity: assassination and replacement. He calls it "Operation:mindcrime", and Nikki is the key player. Nikki has a weakness. He likes the needle. Dr X makes sure Nikki feels good so he can do a good job. The chosen "Death Angel" is then easily manipulated through subliminal suggestion over the telephone. The password into Nikki's brain is "mindcrime".
This has a crowd chanting with Nikki saying "Hey listen to me" while he does soap box preaching. He claims here that he has the answer and the vision about the future. This track is very up tempo, aggressive and staccato, with heavy guitar lines and special vocal effects.
"Revolution!" was the word on his lips as he stood in the streets and screamed "Hey, listen to me!"
Spreading The Disease
There is an interesting drum part that Scott Rockenfield came up with. Geoff Tate does a vocal rap about the indoctrination process, and the songs brings in the character of Mary who is a former prostitute. She gets recruited by a preacher and thinks religion will cleanse her. It turns out Father Williams takes advantage of her. The song isn't meant to slam religion but points out people in respectable positions can still self destruct and go wrong. It's about the manipulation of people's thinking. It's not a sexual disease.It's about corruption and the media, where the disease can be capitalism or communism.
Mary worked the S&M shows in Times Square. At 17 she met Father William, who arranged her cloister with "Our Lady of Immaculate Pain". A new life. A different way of living. Except for her debt to him, which was expected to be paid in full, weekly, "...on the alter, like a sacrifice." When she was 18, Father William introduced her to a man named Dr X. Now she works for him.
This is my composition. On the other albums we have done, Geoff and I have split the lyrics. On this album Geoff had a clear vision of what he wanted to write, and I was very busy worrying about the music, so I didn't get so many words in. His lyrics were great anyway. With this song I did get a chance to write the words. This is where Nikki has done the dirty deeds and Mary is giving him solace in a church. X has planted her to be Nikki's helper to absolve him of sins. She is being used by X to help comfort Nikki. In this song Nikki is in a candle lit room musing on all the people he has killed. He is convinced his mission will save the world and he should be proud of himself. He lights a candle for each hit and by the end of the tune he's sitting in a room full of candles. Can you imagine the scene!
Nikki spends quite a lot of time these days in his room; drawing gruesome, detailed depictions of his victims' death upon the dingy white walls. Drowning in guilt, he sees Sister Mary as his only means to salvation. He lights another candle and flips through the TV channels one by one. The familiar face of Father William appears. Is it wrong? Is it right? .....ring.....ring.... "mindcrime". Decision made.
The Needle Lies
This is a very fast piece and when Nikki walks into X's lair and says he wants out. And X just laughs at him. Basically its about the clutches of heroin that Nikki has been locked into to make him commit his crimes. The title of the song tells you not to trust drugs. To cure himself he carves into his arm "never trust the needle that lies."
Father William lay crumpled on the stairs leading to the sanctuary. Mary watches in disgust as her lover Nikki's troubled face dissolves into the leering, drooling face of the priest huffing and puffing above her. "...alter..sacrifice" something snaps inside her head. Nikki fels the coldness overtake her. He pulls away, vowing to kill Dr X and set them both free of their master's manipulations. Pulling closed the huge door behind him, he stumbles into the rainy night to keep his appointment with his "maker".
A moody segue where Nikki comes back to the church and finds Mary dead hanging by her rosary, y'knOw, There is a bit of mystery here. You don't quite know who killed her. Was it X or Nikki? Requiem of course is a mass for the dead and we did it in very twisted fashion,
After Nikki leaves, Mary is plagued by the vision of Nikki turning into Father William. As they made love on the alter, the memories came flooding back. Years filled with men who had used her, degraded and beaten her, and driven their hatred and coldness into her heart. Once, she thought Nikki was her hope. But now he seemed like all the rest. She hated him. She hated men. She hated life. "Anybody home?" Unable to shake his addiction, and feeling beaten in his confrontation with Dr X, Nikki returns. "Mary?" He finds her dead in her room.
Breaking The Silence
This and the next song are both very remorseful. He has fallen in love and has been deceived by it for the last time. He fell in love with Mary and it turned out a bad experience - This is about him running through the streets screaming. It starts slow and hypnotic with lots of whispering.
Unwilling to accept Mary's death, Nikki runs like a raving madman through the streets calling her name.
Waiting For 22
This is just a little moody guitar piece that lasts about a minute which I wrote and all the guys and the producer liked.
Left alone, Nikki thinks of Mary; of the night she died and why.
My Empty Room
There is a clocking ticking through this one. It's where Nikki is sitting in an empty room tracing Mary's figure on the wall and spacing out, wondering what he is going to do, all by himself.
He wonders about his future. Who will be there to card for him and be his friend?
Eyes Of A Stranger
This closes the album and is sort of the end going back to the beginning. It takes place in the hospital isolation room where Nikki is looking at himself in the mirror trying to figure out who he is. We see a whole flash back of the album, with segments of each of the songs. You can hear bits and pieces flying through the mix culminating in a giant revolution vocal. It's like when you die your whole life flashing before you. It ends with him saying,,"I remember now." The whole thing comes round in a giant circle. What happens to X? Ah, we are into the unknown here. X seems to escape doesnt he? Or can we believe Nikki's story?
Charged with several murders, Nikki is committed to State Hospital to overcome his addiction. Awaiting trial, he suffers insomnia and is delirious. Searching through his past, he tries to find reasons for his actions and his weaknesses. Staring into the mirror, he sees a stranger.
"I remember now."