Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Metal Without Limits

Hot Metal was a monthly Australian publication that I religiously purchased each month between 1989 and sometime towards the end of 1995.

The issue I am flicking through right now is the August 1991 issue.

In the mag there is an interview with Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton from Queensryche taking place during the “Empire” tour. The album by this time had moved over 1.6 million copies in the U.S and MTV had “Silent Lucidity” in constant rotation. By December of the same year, the RIAA would certify the album as 2x Platinum.

Chris DeGarmo interviews well. He comes up with a lot of good quotes and truths.

“Rock records seen to have these long legs. We learned that with Operation Mindcrime.”

So true. Rock and Metal records if done right just continue to stick around. While Pop might rule the airwaves and get the mainstream ink, rock and metal records just keep on sticking around. Let me rephrase that; the great rock and metal records just keep on sticking around.

Look at the Whitesnake 1987 album. It came out in March, 1987. By January 1988, it was certified Platinum x5 (for U.S sales). By July 1992 it was certified Platinum x6, By February 1995, it was certified Platinum x8. It just kept on sticking around almost 8 years after its release.

Go on Spotify and YouTube and you will see counts of 10 million plus for “Here I Go Again”, “Is This Love” and “Still Of The Night”. It’s still sticking around.

There is another issue from July 1989 that also caught my attention and that one has another interview with Chris DeGarmo;

“Who are Queensryche? Why, after years of slogging around, supporting everyone from Bon Jovi to Metallica, has “Operation Mindcrime” suddenly captured the imagination of a whole new world of listeners? “

They caught the mainstream by surprise with “Operation Mindcrime”. No one knew what to do with them. Chris DeGarmo was pressured in the interview to describe Queensryche’s brand of music. This was his answer.

“Hmmm, lets see, aggressive pop music? (laughs). No, I wouldn’t call it that. I guess it would be… metal without limits.”

Not too sure how many people read Guitar World. In a December 1991 issue Dave Mustaine referred to Queensryche as “Yuppie Metal” which I found hilarious. But you know what, DeGarmo is spot on with both of his definitions. How cool does “aggressive pop music” and “metal without limits” sound?

“Promised Land” was their real “metal without limit”s album. The overall sound was still rooted within the hard rock/metal genres, however there was a melancholy undertow simmering underneath that dabbled in different styles and song structures. It didn’t have a crossover hit single, but man, it has some killer moods.

It was very interesting how we had been out there working our asses off for the better part of a year and some people thought this new album had just come out.”

You see even back in 1992. getting the news out there was still a challenge. So when you add to that challenge all the noise that the internet creates, you can see that the difficulty in getting your name out there today has grown exponentially. And for any artist in the music game, getting your name out there is still the challenge. Not P2P.

“In a lot of people’s minds we are a new band and we have to get used to that.”

Spot on.

Hell, a lot of people thought that the 1987 Whitesnake album was Whitesnake’s first album. When I looked at the video clip for “Still Of The Night”, I couldn’t make sense why the album shows one guitarist and the video clip has two. The information travelled slow and for me in Australia it was tied up in expensive import magazines.

Bon Jovi broke out big with “Slippery When Wet” and when these new fans found out that “Slippery” was actually the bands third album, they started snapping up the back catalogue. By February 1987, “7800 Fahrenheit” was certified Platinum, while “Slippery When Wet” reached Platinum x6 at the same time.

For Queensryche, “Rage For Order” and “The Warning” achieved a Gold certification in 1991. And that is because of the “Empire” album and the success of “Silent Lucidity”.

Artists could be huge in certain states or countries however it didn’t mean that the whole world or even their own country knew about them. And this was in the era when the record labels controlled everything and even they couldn’t get the narrative out.

“It’s funny when someone comes up to you and says, ‘I heard that song “Silent Lucidity”. Do you guys have any more songs?’. You don’t want to insult them by saying, ‘Of course we do, you fool. We have been around for ages!’ How are they to know, when no one has ever played any of it?”

The importance of MTV during the eighties and the early nineties was astronomical for a band to get that instant payola. If their clip got constant rotation on the channel, then the platinum armies would come a knocking. So while “Eyes Of A Stranger” opened up the MTV door, it was “Jet City Woman”, “Another Rainy Night” and “Silent Lucidity” that took it to a whole new level. However, it was only those songs that MTV played, so if people didn’t go out and purchase the old catalogue how were they supposed to hear it.

“There wasn’t enough people into Queensryche to support coming to Australia. If we came we would like to bring the whole show, but we’re just not sure of our following there”. 

They never came to Australia during the height of their popularity. The first Queensryche album I got was a cassette recording of “Operation Mindcrime”. “Empire” by default became a blind purchase for me.

I watched Queensryche in 2009, a version of the band that was missing Chris DeGarmo. The venue was at 1500 capacity. The ticket cost $80. The tour was billed as songs from “Rage For Order”, “Empire” and “American Soldier”. It was enjoyable to watch and no time would we have known the bullshit that was going to come.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Uprising – This Revolution Is Calling For War. The spying on people controversy done in a Rock N Roll way.

As fans of music, we always looked to our heroes and the artists we liked for inspiration. So what would Queensryche say on the current state of the world and the spying on U.S citizens by its own government? The song Speak is from the Operation Mindcrime album, released in 1988.

The rich control the government, the media the law

1988 was a time when hard rock ruled the day, and the bands at the forefront had the whole rock n roll cliché surrounding them. You know the one, party hard, sleep with groupies, trash hotels and eventually get together to perform live and record.

Queensryche on the other hand simmered under the surface, focusing on issues that affected everyone, however at that time in 1988, we were all blind to it.

Revolution Calling led the way with the words;

Got no love for politicians
Or that crazy scene in D.C
It’s just a power mad town

Let’s look at some recent events making the news. Copyright czar, Victoria Espinel, is best known for playing a large role in the SECRET negotiations between Hollywood and the recording industries to punish internet users under a six strikes initiative. She has know taken up a job with one of the groups that used to lobby her office.

Let’s reword the Revolution Calling verse;

Got no love for corruption
As everyone sells their soul in D.C
It’s just a knife in the back town

Later on, Geoff Tate summed up American corruption in Spreading the Disease. In 2013, people actually care, however they should have cared back in 1988.

Religion and sex are power plays,
Manipulate the people for the money they pay.
Selling skin, selling God
The numbers look the same on their credit cards
Politicians say no to drugs
While we pay for wars in South America
Fighting fire with empty words
While the banks get fat and the poor stay poor
And the rich get rich and the cops get paid to look away
As the one percent rules America.

Let’s reword the above lyrics in the following way;

Copyright Infringement is a power play
To shakedown the people and to get them to pay
Lobbying hard, bribing all
As the numbers need to look good on their balance sheets
Politicians say no to piracy
While judges allow copyright trolls to extort
Fighting fire with empty words
While the banks get bailed and the poor stay poor
And the rich get rich and the cops get paid to act for them
As the one percent still rules America

Does anyone remember the shutdown of MegaUpload in January 2012? Yep, the FBI was in charge of the shutdown, based on evidence provided to it by the Hollywood Movie Studios and the MPAA. Talk about cops doing the bidding for the wealthy. Isn’t it funny how Victoria Espinel, now has a job with a lobby group that used to lobby her department!

Another recent event is how a cyber-locker like Hotfile was found to be personally liable for facilitating copyright infringement. In a nutshell a judge in the U.S. Courts, found a business entity that provides a cloud service liable for how users choose to use it. Of course, Hotfile was no saint in this matter, however, what Hotfile did show is that Hollywood still doesn’t get it, when it comes to servicing the people or fans of content.

Finally, Grooveshark has achieved licensing agreements with Sony and EMI. So for years, the record labels pursued them in the courts, while also sending Google millions of takedown requests. A court in Denmark even ordered that the ISP’s block access to Grooveshark. WHY? The site was providing a service to customers by allowing the users to stream and upload music that they can play immediately or add to a playlist. However the record labels wants the music to be licensed, which means that Grooveshark needs to pay a fee. So if you are a user and you have uploaded music that you have purchased legally, why should you need to pay a monthly fee for it to license it.

Makes me think of the excellent Metallica song, Eye of The Beholder from the ..And Justice For All album also released in 1988. It looks like something was afoot around this period, as both Metallica and Queensryche touched on the same subject matter. They even toured together.

Independence limited
Freedom of choice is made for you my friend
Freedom of speech is words that they will bend
Freedom with their exception

The “they” in the song can be the Corporations, the lobby groups, the judges, the government. As Warren Buffett said, the class war is already over and the rich have won. The 1 percent own all the important land and they either own or control the corporations. In the process, they have also purchased the Politicians and the Judges. They also own the big media companies, so they control what news we get. THAT IS WHY they fear the INTERNET. They spend millions on lobbying, so that they get what they want, which is more wealth for them and less for everybody else.

Where is the voice of the people, like the song Vox Populi from 30 Seconds To Mars, that was released on their excellent, This Is War album in 2009.

This is a call to arms
Gather soldiers
Time to go to war
This is a battle song
Brothers and sisters
Time to go to war

And the story ends with the lyrics of Uprising from Muse, that was released on Resistance in 2009. In the same way that Queensryche and Metallica touched on similar themes in 1988, Muse and Thirty Seconds To Mars did the same in 2009.

Rise up and take the power back
It’s time that the fat cats had a heart attack
You know that their time is coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

Amen.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Semi Obscure Queensryche Songs

Queensryche appealed to me for a few reasons.
1. Insightful lyrics
2. Great messages and themes in the songs
3. Brilliant arrangements
4. Each album that they released with Chris DeGarmo followed my own musical taste changes.

Revolution Calling
With all the other great material on Operation Mindcrime, it was easy for Revolution Calling to slip under the radar. It is a dead set classic and it is the first real song that you hear when you press play on the Operation Mindcrime album. It’s lyrical take on money, power and corruption is brilliant. It is written by Michael Wilton and Geoff Tate.

In relation to the Operation Mindcrime concept, Revolution Calling is a flashback for the main character Nikki who realises how he has been indoctrinated by Dr X through his speeches.

Got no love for politicians
Or that crazy scene in D.C.
It’s just a power mad town
But the time is ripe for changes
There’s a growing feeling
That taking a chance on a new kind of vision is due

Operation Mindcrime came out in 1988. Fast forward to when the financial meltdown happened in 2008. Did anything really change in the corridors of power?

I used to trust the media
To tell me the truth, tell us the truth
But now I’ve seen the payoffs
Everywhere I look
Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?

The media was once a beacon of honesty, keeping politicians honest. Now the media is just another corporation, that needs to make profits for investors and shareholders. When making money is the name of the game, the stories change. Apart from reporting on real tragic events, like a natural disaster or a shooting or a bombing, the media’s news items are all sourced from newspapers and social media.

I guess Warhol wasn’t wrong
Fame fifteen minutes long
Everyone’s using everybody, making the sale

Geoff Tate really went to town on this song. The way the lyrics flow to tell the story of American life is just brilliant. It’s like he looked into a crystal ball and saw into the future. Has anything changed from 1988? People are still using each other and still trying to make the sale in the name of wealth.

But now the holy dollar rules everybody’s lives
Gotta make a million doesn’t matter who dies

Another take on this, is “Now the holy dollar rules everybody’s lives, gotta keep my millions it doesn’t matter who dies”. When the GFC hit, did the One Percenters take the hit. Nope they sure didn’t, they even got bailed out by the Government. It was the poor and the middle class that took the hit. They are the ones that lost their jobs, their homes and their savings.

I still need to kick myself to remember that this was released in 1988. This was a time when hard rock was ruled by glam bands intent on living the Guns N Roses and Motley Crue lifestyle. For Queensryche to even go down a concept album path with Operation Mindcrime is a risk that paid off. Geoff Tate summed up his feelings on the state of American capitalism and corruption in Spreading the Disease;

Religion and sex are power plays,
Manipulate the people for the money they pay.
Selling skin, selling God
The numbers look the same on their credit cards
Politicians say no to drugs
While we pay for wars in South America
Fighting fire with empty words
While the banks get fat and the poor stay poor
And the rich get rich and the cops get paid to look away
As the one percent rules America

Again fast forward to 2008 and the whole Occupy Wall Street movement was against the one percent of people that rule America.

Resistance
It is written by Geoff Tate and Michael Wilton. In a Guitar World interview, Chris DeGarmo had the following to say about the song;

“Resistance (the song) didn’t even exist before we went into the studio. Michael had a real, cool, aggressive piece of music. He played this thing for me and I helped arrange it so that it seemed like we had something of a cohesive musical arrangement. We tracked it and had a melody together. It took only a second for [drummer] Scott “One Take” Rockenfield to blaze off his track. In the end, we came out with a really powerful song which wouldn’t have made it on the record had we not risked it. And we’d never written a song from scratch in the studio before. We thought it was the complete reverse of the way we work, because we communicate very thoroughly on song ideas before we actually record them.”

In my view Chris DeGarmo should also be getting a writing credit for this song. Arranging musical pieces into a song, is an active contribution to the final product, regardless if he came up with the music or not. I am sure that Lars Ulrich doesn’t come up with any music, however his name is on every Metallica song. That is because, he is an active contributor to the arrangement.

So what is the song about?

Queensryche always touched on themes far removed from the typical hard rock themes. For Resistance, Geoff Tate is singing about the environment and the world in general. The common theme of this is our world, we all share it, we need to stop abusing it, we need to stop neglecting it and we need to co-operate in trying to save it.

Protests in New York
Listen to the call of the wild
Brother, sisters carrying signs
Breathe deep before it’s too late
The sky is falling, burning your eyes

I believe that the actual lyric relates to the Anti-Nuclear Protests that happened in New York City in 1979 and 1982. The lyric of “Breathe deep, before it’s too late, the sky is falling, burning your eyes” supports this viewpoint.

Hearing Resistance today, these first five lines bring back memories of the Occupy Wall Street Protests post GFC. Isn’t it funny how nuclear weapons don’t bother us anymore, however the zeroes in our bank accounts do.

Thank the Lord, daddy’s working 8-5
Paying the doctor, baby’s got cancer

This what so many of us do. We do what it takes so that we can take care of our families. Like the lyric in Revolution Calling, “the holy dollar rules everybody’s lives.

Look around at what we’ve been given
Maybe we’ve taken too long

Anyone seen the movie Soylent Green. Eventually our resources will end. What comes next?

Promised Land
It is written by the whole band. That’s right, Chris DeGarmo, Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield.

Everyone has to consider what the promised land is for them. Society is quick to define success as having houses, cars and money. Is that everyone’s definition of success? It’s not mine. Our own promised land is there for each of us to discover.

Standing neck deep in life
My ring of brass lay rusting on the floor, is this all?
‘Cause it’s not what I expected

What a way to define the accumulation of money. It’s laying all over the floor and it’s rusting away. Success is all about how much money you have accumulated. It’s a very shallow definition for what success is. Making it isn’t about having houses and cars and money.

People and artists that get caught up focusing on that aspect, will end up obsessed with it. Me personally I would rather appreciate being alive each day. I may not have a lot of money however I am content with my life and who I am inside.

Somewhere along the way
Friends I once held close fled in the fast lane
I didn’t notice, I just had to make it

This is the part that refers to making it. I see this as, in the quest to “make it”, the past relationships they had, disappeared. The sad thing is, they didn’t even notice it, which leads me back to my previous point, that if you are caught up focusing on accumulating houses, cars and money, you become obsessed with it and end up missing out on life in general.

Where did it all go wrong?
I feel like I’m dying.
Here’s to love, to hate, to promises and Promised Land lies.

Does success equal happiness? This is what Geoff Tate had to say about it in an interview with Raw Magazine in November 1994.

“Everything about our society is based upon consumerism and selling. Having that as the main reason to exist seems so shallow.”

Geoff Tate further expanded on the song with the remastered CD linear notes in 2003.

“Reaching the Promised Land is a metaphor for obtaining the American Dream of prosperity, materialism and the happiness one derives from the ownership of things. The manufactured image constantly sold to us that materialism will make us happy is, I suppose, the only real thing in our society of stimulation and consumption.”

My father used the term Broken Promised Land a lot. After the GFC crisis, I thought of this song from Queensryche, and wrote a song called Broken Promised Land.

Bridge

It is a song written by Chris DeGarmo. This is what Chris DeGarmo had to say on the subject in an AOL interview;

“He passed away while we were recording “Promised Land” but prior to that he had seen what had happened with the band up through “Empire.” I loved my father. I just didn’t know him and I think he got to a point in his life where he started realizing the things that were really important to him. Recognizing some mistakes and some regrets, but also experiencing a bit of denial, almost like nothing happened and that’s what spawned the ideas in “Bridge.” How relationships need to be built particularly the parent/child relationship. All the best relationships have a real foundation to them of love, trust and respect. Without those building blocks they really don’t reach the area of the very, very special relationship.”

Chris DeGarmo, Dave Mustaine, Robb Flynn, Nikki Sixx and Corey Taylor. All of them wounded and abandoned by a father. All of them turning to music and seen as heroes to a generation.

Time has made you finally realize
your loneliness and your guilt inside.
You’re reaching for something you never had,
turning around now you’re looking back,
and you know… I’m not there.

You say, “Son, let’s forget the past.
I want another chance, gonna make it last.”
You’re begging me for a brand new start,
trying to mend a bridge that’s been blown apart,
but you know… you never built it dad.

You can feel the anger, the disappointment. It’s like Cats in The Cradle, however this is rawer. On the silver screen it eventually ends on a happy note, well, real life is not the movies. This saga didn’t end on a “lets ride into the sunset moment.” Hearing this song, back in 1994, I felt sorry for Chris DeGarmo. Hearing this song today, there is a different feeling. There is anger at the father for walking away, as I am a father to three boys, and I cannot imagine doing that.

Secondly, as a father, you sort of expect that if you reach out to your own children, that they would welcome you back with open arms, regardless of what transpired before. You sort of believe that by saying SORRY, everything will be forgiven and life will go on as normal.

Imagine the shock that Chris DeGarmo’s dad would have felt when his son said, sorry, I’m not interested in reconciling. It is a total different song to Things My Father Said by Black Stone Cherry.

Someone Else (with full band version)
It is written by Chris DeGarmo and Geoff Tate. I don’t know who pulled the plug on this version, however it is a big mistake. This is Operation Mindcrime/Empire era right here. The connection to the old Queensrcyhe while still forging ahead with a new Nineties version of Queensryche.

This is what Chris DeGarmo had to say on the song in a Kerrang interview from September 1994.

“That’s Geoff looking at a part of him which he’s re-evaluated. He’s got to grips with a certain part of his life that’s now focused in a new direction. I think he’s recognised that when he was younger his career, himself, and what he was going to do was of sole importance, and that he didn’t spend as much time thinking about his family and the relationships around him. I think he’s had another look at that and has realised it was another person and that he can’t relate to that way of thinking anymore.”

Here I stand at the crossroad’s edge
Afraid to reach out for eternity
One step when I look down
I see someone else, not me

The whole song has the lyric “someone else, not me” and right at the end it says that someone else is me.

All my life they said I was going down
But I’m still standing stronger proud
And today I know, there’s so much more I can be
I think I finally understand

One More Time
It is written by Chris DeGarmo and Geoff Tate.

Behind my eyes I keep my truth from you
No one enters this secret place,
The barrier only I embrace

Life will get too complicated if we shared our problems and fears with others. Dave Mustaine even sang about A Secret Place on Cryptic Writings. Even Tesla sang about sharing secrets on the song In A Hole Again from their 2008 album, Forever More.

When I am driving home from work and I have the music cranked, that is my secret place. How good are the stereo systems in cars these days. Actually how good is the insulation in cars. You can’t even hear the outside traffic when you are in the car.

Work hard in life boy,
There’s paradise in the end
Year after year we struggle to gain
The happiness our parents never claimed
They told us all we had to do
Was do what we’re told, buy what was sold,
“Invest in gold, and never get old”

Remember this is 1994. So what did we do? We kept on investing and we kept on falling more and more into debt until it all exploded in 2008. If we had ONE MORE TIME AROUND, would we do the same mistakes?

Reach
It is written by Geoff Tate and Michael Wilton. It is the only writing credit for Michael Wilton and it is probably the best song on Hear In The Now Frontier. Chris DeGarmo said that the song is about finding one’s self.

Geoff Tate said in a recent 2013 interview with DigBoston.com that Hear In The Now Frontier was a record that was very difficult to work on. From the Chris DeGarmo era, this is the only one he listed as difficult. The other albums he listed The Tribe and Operation Mindcrime II are post DeGarmo.

I know where I’m going,
and I’ve got all my cards showing

Intentionally showing your move, letting others into your world. Is this Tate saying to DeGarmo, I am not into Queensryche at this point in time. I need another break.

Armed with time on my side
and a field of vision miles wide
I’ll keep searching for some meaning
whatever makes me feel alive

Aren’t we all searching for something to make us feel alive. Just because Queensryche had made it, it doesn’t mean that behind closed doors it was all high fives and smiles. In the end a band is made up of people, who have lives. I know that if my private life is all messed up, my work life is off. You need to feel good in both mediums to excel, otherwise it is miserable. That is why so many heroes turn to different vices, just to numb the mental pain they are in.

Today I felt something so strong
It took my breath away
Now I long to live like this every day
I’ll find it some way

You know that moment in time when you see something and it destroys everything that you have known until then. It shatters the walls around you, awakening some suppressed primal emotion.

Right Side Of My Mind
After Chris DeGarmo left, the next album had the motto that all songs are written and composed by Queensryche. So in this case it’s Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson, Kelly Gray and Scott Rockenfield. It is a great Queensryche song, on a very poor album called Q2K released in 1999.

If you take time and look for clues
Scrape the shit off your shoes,
You’ll feel the real today

I’d love to take you to see what I see there, on the right side of my mind

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Copyright, Music, My Stories

Words of Wisdom from Chris DeGarmo

Chris DeGarmo always interviewed well. At times he was cautious with his words and no matter how hard the interviewer tried to get him to slip up, he always put up a front of unity within the band.

DeGarmo (in 1994 doing interviews for the Promised Land record)

“I like to think of our song writing as people that soak in life and turn around and express it through our music. You have to take time to absorb life to be able to let it breath through your work. You can just hammer out music like you do boxes of soap but I can’t do it that way.”

(The Crossroad’s Edge… Chris Degarmo AOL Interview, http://personalpages.tds.net/~dreemland/tce/chrisint.html)

Chris is talking about his song writing, however he frames the answer in the context of the band, so that if the band members read it, they will be pleased. It is our song writing and our music and then right at the end he contradicts himself, by saying I.

Artists that create songs from their experiences end up having a career. These artists are the anomalies, the paradigm shifters. Look at artists like Dee Snider, Nikki Sixx, James Hetfield, Brent Smith, etc.. They all write about their experiences. What they have experienced, someone else has experienced. Straight away a connection is made. That is why We’re Not Gonna Take It connected and Hot Love didn’t. Both are great songs, however We’re Not Gonna Take It is about as real as you can get, where as Hot Love is about a fantasy relationship.

Queensryche connected with people on Mindcrime, because they had a good story accompanied by great music and melody. People always love a good story. That is why we read books and watch TV shows and movies.

Copycat artists fail. When Guns N Roses came out in 1987, a million other artists came out with a similar look and sound. Even bands that where around changed their styles to suit the GNR sound.

Does anyone remember bands like Skin N Bones, Junkyard, Love/Hate, Shotgun Messiah, Spread Eagle, LA Guns, Danger Danger, Tangier, Faster Pussycat and Saigon Kick? I do and that is because I have all of their albums.

Artists that sing songs written by committees, will have instant fame. There is no doubt about that. This is the corporatisation part of the music industry. The labels that control the charts want that to happen. The label business is all about making money today. The labels are not interested in building a career for their artist. The mainstream press will see these artists as champions. However it doesn’t last. People these days can see that there is no substance and integrity to what they are doing. Everyone that hangs around to be with the star of the moment will abandon them.

Artists that write songs with the thought of being paid straight away will never achieve anything. Creating music is never a dollar driven game. The below quote from DeGarmo sums it up.

DeGarmo (in 1990 on life after Mindcrime and before Empire came out);

“It starts dawning on you that this can actually be lucrative, which is something that has escaped us for so long”.

(Guitar World – Nov 1990)

This is around the time that Empire came out. They have been at it for nine years. Creating albums and touring. The fantasy put out there by the press, is that these artists are loaded. However that is so far from the truth. The record labels are loaded. They make all the money from the sales of recorded music. That is why the RIAA is shaking down sharers and trying to get legislation passed to bring back the glory days. Real artists, that are in the game to create music, remain silent. They just go about their life, creating and building connections and trying to force another paradigm shift.

DeGarmo (in 1997 – doing press for Hear In The Now Frontier and asked about the writing process)

As a songwriter, I think you have to be true to yourself first, and I think we’ve done that, and by doing that, we’ve been able to find other people who are interested in what it is we do, as opposed to at some point changing the strategy all of a sudden and creating albums based on what we think other people think we should do. That gets you into this terrible house of mirrors, and you can’t find your way back.

(Scream.org – Dan Birchall)

DeGarmo sums up my point of view. The reason why the fans came to Queensryche is because they remained true to themselves as artists. By doing that, they found other people (fans) that connected with them. We love a good old story. These days even reality TV shows have scriptwriters. So when a song tells a story, it is magic. When an album tells a story, it is priceless. Operation Mindcrime (the album) told a story. Empire had songs that told stories. Promised Land had songs that told stories and it had a theme of disconnection running through it.

No one should create an album just to please the label bosses. It always ends bad.

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Music

Why Chris DeGarmo walked away from it all?

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.

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Copyright, Music, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime

A telephone rings twice.   Nikki walks over to the phone and picks it up.
“Hello,” answers Nikki.
“Mindcrime, Mindcrime,” is the reply from the other end.
The music behind it sounds sinister.  In a panic, Nikki hangs up.  He is disorientated.  The words are strange and yet familiar.  His hands are shaking.  The phone rings again.  Don’t pick it up he tells himself.  Don’t do it.  What he is thinking and what he is doing are two different things.  They are out of sync.  He picks up the phone…

I added the above, in an attempt to describe how Operation Mindcrime (the song) begins.  It is a song written by Chris DeGarmo, Geoff Tate and Michael Wilton.  To be fair to Wilton, he has had his share in co-writing some Queensryche classics (Empire is one song that comes to mind immediately), however compared to the quality output of DeGarmo, it pales. 

In order to explain where Operation Mindcrime (the song) fits into the story arc, I need to back track a little bit.  Nikki, is a heroin addict who is manipulated into joining an underground organization dedicated to revolution (this is the Revolution Calling song).  At the head of this organization is Dr. X, a man who manipulated Nikki by feeding his heroin addiction, while at the same time brainwashing him in the process.  Whenever Dr. X says the word “Mindcrime” Nikki becomes his servant, his puppet, a catatonic mental state which Dr. X uses to his advantage, by commanding Nikki to undertake any murder that the Doctor wishes.

It just takes a minute
And you’ll feel no pain
Gotta make something of your life boy
Give me one more vein
You’ve come to see the doctor
Cause I’ll show you the cure
I’m gonna take away the questions
Yeah I’m gonna make you sure

A hit man for the order
When you couldn’t go to school
Had a skin job for a hair-do
Yeah you looked pretty cool
Had a habit doing mainline
Watch the dragon burn
No regrets, you’ve got no goals
Nothing more to learn

Story telling in music.  This song came out in 1988.  How relevant does it sound today.  Just think of all the current Islamic terrorists.  They are normal kids, from poor backgrounds, that are all looking for a place where they can belong.  They are perfect prey for the religious demi gods looking to turn them into weapons, to turn them into puppets and servants, so that they carry out their bidding. 

Here’s a gun take it home
Wait by the phone
We’ll send someone over
To bring you what you need
You’re a one man death machine
Make this city bleed

How many cities have bled from the actions of a few individuals.  Operation Mindcrime deals with death by assassination, in real life, death by terror is what we are confronted with. 

As much as Operation Mindcrime is a story, you can go as far as to call it a prophecy.  A vision of a future where the democratic governments, become far from democratic.  Where our Government elected officials serve the Corporations, instead of the people that voted them in.  The lyrics in Speak state the same, “the rich control the government, the media the law”. 

These days, people do more jail time and pay more fines for Copyright infringements, then people smugglers, then drug smugglers, then murderers and rapists do.   How can that be so?  The answer is easy.  Copyright is controlled by the Corporations, and who do the Corporations control, the Government.  The Government even granted the Corporations a Government granted monopoly. 

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Music, My Stories

Eyes Of A Stranger – Queensryche

Eyes of a Stranger is another Chris DeGarmo special, that he co-wrote with Geoff Tate. In the Operation Mindcrime story, it is an introspective on Nikki’s character. Throughout the story he was surrounded by death and depression. He was brainwashed into becoming a sleeper political assassin. He was triggered into action by the words Mindcrime. He was a drug addict and he was a lover. In Eyes Of A Stranger Nikki is looking into the mirror, and realizing that he doesn’t recognize the person he’s become. He is broken and alone, trying to find some form of redemption. The beauty of this song to me is that even though it is a song in a greater story, it also stands alone on a song on its own and it gets me thinking.

And I raise my head and stare
Into the eyes of a stranger
I’ve always known that the mirror never lies

There is a saying that there is no more honour left in life. Looking at the meaning of honour, I came up with the following words; personal integrity; allegiance to moral principles.

When we do something regrettable, like talk to people we don’t really care for, about a person that we know very well and care for behind their backs or betray someone so that we can get ahead in life or in the work place or take credit for someone else’s work, can we then look into our eyes and see the same person there.

I have experienced all of this. I was first the betrayed and then I was the betrayer, because I started to form the viewpoint that is how I need to play the game in order to survive in this world. I have broken a lot of my moral principles, that left me questioning my integrity and my self-worth. That is why the scene/chapter in Game of Thrones, when Eddard gets his head chopped off, is such a big moment in literary and visual circles, because everyone is led to believe that the honourable man would win and become King and everyone lives happily ever after.

Is this all that’s left
Of my life before me
Straight jacket memories, sedative highs
No happy ending like they’ve always promised
There’s got to be something left for me

They don’t teach you this kind of stuff at school. They don’t teach you that life has it’s twist and turns, ups and downs, wins and losses, success and failures and most importantly happiness and sadness. Even our school teachers are damaged, but they always turned up to school, smiles on their faces, ready to mould little children, while at home their marriages are crumbling and their kids are doing drugs.

From the outside looking in, people are led to believe that our lives are just wonderful. We surround ourselves with pictures of fun times, good times and full of laughter. We film ourselves doing things that we love. Where are the photographic memories of the bad times, the times that we cried, the times that we raged and broke stuff. We don’t record these memories on some form of media, we keep them inside, as mental scars.

How many times must I live this tragedy
How many more lies will they tell me
All I want is the same as everyone
Why am I here, and for how long

Isn’t that what we all want in life. Why are we here and for how long? We all want the same as everyone, and all those everyone’s want the same as us. There is never a perfect life. Whoever tells you so, is a liar. To use a cliché, life is a rollercoaster. It pushes and shoves you in many different directions. All of these thoughts and emotions, the song Eyes of A Stranger put there in me.

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