Chris DeGarmo didn’t just leave Queensryche, he left the whole music business back in 1997. Just like another favourite of mine, Vito Bratta, they spent their whole lives making it only to walk away from it all.
Recently, Geoff Tate stated the following on jammagazineonline.com;
“It never was a brotherhood. It was a bunch of kids that got together and achieved success at an early age. We got used to that success and continued doing the things we did to get that success. We found comfort in our way of working. It’s just that simple. We were never close. We never hung out doing stuff and sharing life. It was always just, “Hey, we have another record to make. Anyone have any ideas? Let’s try to make a record. Here we go.”
Between the years of 1981 and 1992, Queensryche had been on a cycle of album and tour. After the Empire tour ended, Chris DeGarmo just unplugged himself from the music industry. He stated the same in a Guitar World interview from January 1995. When you detach yourself like this, it puts a lot of other events into perspectives.
Geoff Tate commented in a Kerrang magazine interview on the break after the Empire tour;
“It wasn’t planned, it just kind of happened. After the ‘Empire’ tour we all went our separate ways for a while. Before we knew it eight months had gone by. ‘Empire’ bought us a lot of time, really. Before that album it had been just a hectic schedule of recording and touring. ‘Empire’s success allowed us to have a nice break, something we hadn’t known until then. It was strange taking time off. I think it was at that point it dawned on us that we’d achieved all the goals we’d set. It was actually kind of difficult to know which move to make next.”
The achievement of their goals is an important point to make. When you feel like you have done all you set out to do, the hunger and the desire starts to die down. It becomes harder to focus again. It becomes harder to detach yourself from your family. So coming into the Promised Land album writing process, it was more or less done from their homes. It took about 8 months to get the material together, and then it was off to a secluded log cabin for another six months to piece together and record the album.
In the same Kerrang interview, Michael Wilton didn’t share the same enthusiasm for the finished product, however he did admit that the album is special in its own way.
“The way we set it all up was real innovative and allowed us to be more inspired, but a lot of the songs I came up with didn’t get finished because the album kind of went in a different direction. It was actually a bit more left-field to the way I think.”
This is another important point to make. Guitarists play a musical instrument, so it is normal that a guitarist will write music. So when a guitarist writes music and it is rejected for whatever reason, it is not a good feeling. I have been in situations just like this. I was coming up with metal riffs, and the band was moving into a Nu Metal phase, that just didn’t suit what I was writing. I had two options, leave the band and start a new one, or just put up with it. In this case, Wilton put up with it and in the end only had two song writing credits for the Promised Land album. He even had less of an input into the Hear Of The Now Frontier album. He only had one song writing credit on the Frontier album. I am pretty sure, he would have been the first person to let Chris DeGarmo now that it was his fault when the album didn’t set the sales charts on fire.
Furthermore, when the band was asked the question, if success has changed them, DeGarmo answered in the following way;
“I’ve probably become a hermit! I don’t really socialise that much. I don’t think I ever really did anyway. I somehow thought that it might change me as a person. I don’t think of myself as an unhappy person, but you think that money might limit the struggle. The thing is, I was so passionate about what we were doing that I never noticed we were struggling anyway! If anything. I think I’m more appreciative of the personal time I get to spend with my wife and daughter.”
So the Promised Land album comes out and the real fans flock to it. The tour is a success and the band members go their separate ways again. Then the bands label EMI America goes bankrupt. The rest of the band members don’t appear to be interested or concerned by this, and it was left to Chris DeGarmo to negotiate a new deal, not just for himself but for the others as well. During this time, the band had the songs written for the album, however they had to wait for Peter Collins schedule to free up, so they can record it. Again, more time away from each other as they wait for a producer.
Hear In The Now Frontier comes out and it doesn’t do well in a commercial sense. By 1997, recorded sales is the definition of success. DeGarmo is blamed for the commercial failure by the other band members, as he was the main songwriter/leader on the album.
Let’s look at how the song writing dynamic changed from Operation Mindcrime to Hear In The Now Frontier.
Operation Mindcrime had 15 songs on it. DeGarmo wrote/co-wrote 9 songs. Tate wrote/co-wrote 12 song. Wilton wrote/co-wrote 7 songs. Rockenfield wrote/co-wrote 1 song and Jackson didn’t write anything.
Empire had 11 songs on it. DeGarmo wrote/co-wrote 9 songs. Tate wrote/co-wrote 8 songs. Wilton wrote/co-wrote 5 songs. Rockenfield and Jackson both wrote/co-wrote 1 song.
Promised Land had 11 songs on it. DeGarmo wrote/co-wrote 9. Tate wrote/co-wrote 7. Wilton wrote/co-wrote 2. Rockenfield wrote/co-wrote 3 and Jackson wrote/co-wrote 1.
Hear In The Now Frontier had 14 songs on it. DeGarmo wrote/co-wrote 13 songs. Tate wrote/co-wrote 7. Wilton wrote/co-wrote 1 song. Rockenfield wrote/co-wrote 2 songs and Jackson didn’t write anything.
The main thing to take out of the above stats is the increasing song writing role of Chris DeGarmo and the diminishing role of Michael Wilton. Tate was always consistent, however his piece d resistance was Mindcrime, whereas Empire was DeGarmo’s piece d resistance.
So when you feel like you have put your heart and soul into managing the affairs of a band and then still get blamed when events don’t pan out well, you ask yourself, what is the point in doing this. Just as so many of us walk away from a job that started off great, Chris DeGarmo did the same with Queensryche.
If the Hear In The Now Frontier album outsold Empire, it would be a different Queensryche world.