A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Promised Land – Sweet and Lynch

I’ve been listening to “Promised Land”, the new single from the Sweet & Lynch project. For those that don’t know, Michael Sweet from Stryper joined forces with George Lynch to create Sweet & Lynch. They are supported by one of the best rhythm sections in the business in James Lomenzo on bass and Brian Tichy on drums. Underpinning it all is melodic rock label Frontiers.

Their first album, “Only To Rise” was released in 2014 and I must say it’s an excellent listen and a great throwback to a style I remember well, but with modern touches and production.

Well, here we are, 3 years later and “Promised Land” is the first single released from the upcoming “Unified” album.

The first thing that hooks me is the feel of the song. It’s basically a speed metal song and the double kick throughout the whole song adds to the frantic feel of it.

And the pedal point riffs make the song.

To me, it’s a cross between Dokken’s “Lightning Strikes Again” and “Tooth And Nail” in some sections and Stryper’s “The Way” in other sections. Reading some of the comments on the YouTube video, people are linking it to Dio, Iron Maiden, Ratt and Aerosmith. That’s the beauty of music. It’s subjective and I love the way people attach past influences to something new.

Lost on a sea of unreality
Searching for what we don’t know
Too many times we are blinded by fear
And locked in a box down below

We have been conditioned to reside in what’s familiar. We work with people who are familiar, doing jobs that are familiar and we will remain in these careers because it feels familiar. And we feel competent doing it. Change on the other hand is unfamiliar and it makes us feel incompetent.

Don’t let the devil rob your soul
He’ll always try to take his toll

In all forms of life we need to have a baddie, an entity that scares us so much, that we obey a certain way/rule so we don’t come across this entity.

Take my hand, the promised land
Is just where you want it to be
It’s all around, only to be found
Open your eyes and you’ll see the promised land

What is the promised land these days? Do people expect because they worked hard and did their best, something great will happen in the end? What are we seeking here?

Once you lie down it’s so hard to get up
That’s when the birds fly above
Eat from the table and drink from the cup
The glory of what you’re made of

Life is short and the world is forever. What we do while we are alive determines how long we live in the conversation after we are gone.

Don’t let the light go out in you
Look past the problems you pursue

Sometimes the things that mattered in our youth don’t matter as much when we get older. That’s what getting older means. We are able to not give a fuck about things.

The lead break is one of Lynch’s finest metal moments in 2017. It’s got melody, hammer ons, pull offs, sweep picking and string skipping. All at 140 plus clicks a minute.

It’s a crazy chaotic world we live in and a lot of good music is lost in the noise. “Promised Land” will probably be just another song lost in the 30 million plus songs on streaming, along with other Sweet & Lynch gems like “Love Stays”, “Me Without You” and “Recover”. But not to me. I’m streaming it and I’ll keep on streaming it.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Cog

When the History of Australian music is written by the mainstream pop writers, a certain band from Bondi, Sydney called Cog will be forgotten. Seeing the band play live on a lot of occasions, I can say without a doubt, they are one of Australia’s best live bands.

The star of the show without doubt was always Lucius Borich on drums. He rolled and he grooved. The energy he produced on stage, he somehow miraculous transferred over to the audience.

I remember the times when we played with Cog at the Oxford Tavern and UniBar in Wollongong. We all had to load in early as the doors to the venue would shut. (Note: The venue was normally open and entry to watch the live show was free, however when Cog came into town, the venue was turned into a concert hall.)

So we just sat around, drinking beer and watching Lucius sound check. There he is, sound checking the drums, then the guitars and then the bass. The thing that blew me away was the riffs he was playing during the guitar sound checks. At that time, the information doing the rounds on Cog was very vague.

So I had no idea that Lucius was such an accomplished instrumentalist and songwriter. That is why as a drummer he really locks in with the guitar and the bass. That is why his drums move with the peaks and valleys of each song.

No Other Way

What an album track! For an Australian band, it is a ballsy move to open an album with a 10 minute song. The rules are made to be broken and that is what Cog kept on doing with all of their releases. While all their contemporaries went to the hook immediately, Cog took their time to build up to it and when they did, it was well worth the wait. Every time I go back to this song, I keep on hearing little things that I missed with each play before.

Once upon a time albums were not made for radio. Of course, each band had a few songs that could be considered radio friendly, however, the soul of the album was always found by digging deep into the cuts. I remember reading a lot of polarising reviews of the “Sharing Space” album released in 2008, however, if you listen to “No Other Way” and not nod your head, then you must be dead.

Bridges are burning but faces are looking away
People are yearning for someone to show them the way
Tables keep turning and time is the price that we’ll pay
Fast cars and freedom as long as you learn to obey

Fear is the virus they use to divide us
Hoping we’ll all just pretend
That there’s no other way

I remember sitting down to learn this song and I started to break it down into movements. The above lyrics form part of the intro which I call “Movement 1 (0:00 to 2:17)”. It’s got that major chord to minor chord transition and it’s got a melodic hook that draws you in. This is Cog saying to the fans, we are still progressive, we are still mathy, however we are a touch different to what you are used too. This track has melody, it has soul and it has groove.

The subject matter is way understated and so relevant. This is Cog, not playing for a radio hit, but somehow if people stumbled onto it, they would be hooked like it was a radio hit.

Ordered by a god above
To murder in the name of love
And they’ll always claim that truth is on their side

Holding keys to a paradise
All their noise is a lullaby
For years they have ruled over you and I

I called the above, “Movement 2 (2:18 to 3.32)”. Anyone seen the documentary, “Zeitgeist”. It is great viewing. Even Robb Flynn spoke about it recently in one of his journal posts.

Lay down your guns people and start again
And stop digging this hole
Into which we’re all sliding

Screaming down a dead end track
We took a wrong turn now we’re heading back to love
Once this ship has departed
Everyone can feel at home

All invited
Humans undivided
Why not set aside the time to understand your mind

Take it slowly
While facts are showing
Until we’re there
Until we all arrive

I call the above Movement 3 (3:33 to 6:05). People need to listen to each other and take the time to understand each other, instead of talking over each other. “Anybody Listening” from Queensryche, also invokes a similar theme of trying to find a freedom for the soul and to pay attention to what people are saying.

Bridges are burning but faces are looking away
People are yearning for someone to show them the way
Tables keep turning and time is the price that we’ll pay
Fast cars and freedom as long as you learn to obey

Take it slowly
While facts are showing
Until we’re there
Until we all arrive

Fear is the virus they use to divide us
Hoping we’ll all just pretend
That there’s no other way
No other way

I call the above Movement 4 (6:06 to 9.55) – Hearing the melodic hook of the intro sung again over a different chord progression is brilliant.

Are You Interested?

The most famous song off “Sharing Space” is “Are You Interested?” The song embedded itself into the listeners mind and it never left. Producing something magical rarely follows formula. The vocal line of Flynn Gower drives the song.

Yes they’re making lists of people interested in this
And they’re scanning all their databases
Hunting terrorists
Yes their making lists of people interested in this
And anyone who speaks their mind is labelled anarchist

In 2008, Cog sang about how personal privacy is extinct. In 2013, the world is in uproar at the Governments spying on their own citizens.

Four Walls

I am sitting at work listening to “Four Walls” telling myself THIS IS A HIT!. You need to dig down deep into the album to check out “Four Walls” as it is track 12. It’s truly genius, a hooky track based on agoraphobia.

I’m stuck in a space
Four walls
In a room again
But I feel safe
Cause I know, where the end begins

What If

It is the 5/4 timing at the start that hooks me. Again, the vocal line drives the song. It sounds primal and angry. It is almost robotic. It is one of the shorter tracks, however it is still infectious. The song has elements of math rock in it, and in a way the message is one of hope.

What if
In the future
People
Just decided
No more leaders
Fighting to control us

This is Cog offering solutions.

What if
Life was
Just an
Illusion
Made up
By you

We don’t trust our own voice or conscience anymore. We procrastinate and we fail to make important decisions in life. We are fearful of losing what we have, so we over analyse everything to death. So we live a life, that we surround with illusions, just to make us feel better about where we are at in life. I remember this phrase, about proving that a chair exists outside of our mind.

Some things don’t seem right
Change is in sight
Some things are so wrong
Blind eyes too long

It’s like the Queensryche song, “Sign of the Times”, where they ask the question, “Can we do better than this?” The answer is we can, however we have been blinded for so long, we fail to see the wrongs.

Bird Of Feather

This song is dark. It is confrontational.You can hear the anguish in Flynn’s voice at the separation from his three year old daughter and his partner. He was away from them for eight months while he was recording the album in the U.S and then once the album was released, he had to seperate from them again to tour.

 

But I’m only trying to make it better,
Is there no other way,
No other way to go,

Bridging the gap with calling,
Don’t fade away,
Tuning my ears to the sound of your tears,
Is there no other way?

Of course she’s wondering why,
Only three years old,
Dad’s gone again,
Don’t know when,
We’ll all be back home together

Sharing Space

All the faces that we’ve learnt to love
And all the tears we cried when we opened up

I been working, dreaming, wanting something more
And I’m thinking; all this shit I’m doing, what’s it for?

I’m waiting for the day to arrive

They have been writing and touring for years and they have come a long way. They set themselves goals and then complete them. Now they are at a point in their life where they are doing some self-evaluation. They are re-assessing, asking the question why they are together, as life moves so fast, they need to take a pause to absorb it all.

All the fighting, the hurting, the bleeding, the crying
What’s it for?
All the people living, breathing, dying
Wanting more…

For some reason it reminds me of the song, “Promised Land” from Queensryche. Queensryche asks the question, what is success and what is happiness in that song. Does success equal happiness? Our whole society is based on consumption. We are all part of this system, so what’s this life for? Basically all of the ideals our society stands for is a load of crap.

Listening to Cog brings back memories of Tool. Progressive, a bit alternative, a bit rocky, a bit metally, very left of centre, quirky and artistic and in the same way that Tool could cross over with a song like Sober from their album Undertow, Cog do the same with What If?

In the end it just looks like the people that dealt with them, didn’t know what to do with them, how to market them, how to sell them to the public on a world-wide scale. Despite a hard core of die hard fans who purchased every album and went to see the show, the core never really increased.

“Sharing Space” did crossover and the band did see an increase in the fan base during that tour. Maybe they just needed that force of nature personality type, who would not take no for an answer to take them to the next level.

In a country that is infatuated with American Culture and reality TV shows like The Voice, X Factor, Got Talent and Idol, Cog was the antihero to all of this crap.

Cog’s music will endure forever.

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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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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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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

Bridge – Queensryche

Chris DeGarmo really went to town on the 1994 Promised Land album.  His name is all over the song writing credits?

Bridge is a song written by DeGarmo and he is referencing his relationship with his father for inspiration.  Growing up he didn’t have the relationship with his father and now that he’s all grown up, his father wants to be in his life, however the only problem, is that the bridge was never built.

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.  DeGarmo is telling his dad, that he is not going to be there for him, in the same way his dad wasn’t there for him.  Stop trying to have a relationship, it was never there to begin with.  Geoff Tate nails the vocal for it.  This is the Queensryche that exists, not the poor imitations that they are now.

DeGarmo’s dad died during the recording of the Promised Land.

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Music, Treating Fans Like Shit

Queensryche is nothing without Chris DeGarmo.

I really, really, really liked this band.  Note the emphasis on the three really’s.  They started off as a normal metal band, with a singer in Geoff Tate that had a unique voice for the metal genre.  The musical style of the band evolved much the same way my musical tastes evolved during the Eighties, so it was perfect.

I have been forming an opinion on Queensryche, since Chris DeGarmo left in January 1998, after the 1997 Hear In The Now Frontier album.

After listening to what Geoff Tate has released recently with his Kings and Queens solo album and his F.U Queensryche offering, and also listening to the new song Redemption that the Queensryche/Todd LaTorre fronted version released, I can say without a doubt, that the star in Queensryche was Chris DeGarmo.

To be honest, I purchased all the Queensryche releases up to American Soldier.  That is what fans did once upon a time, and none of the new stuff stacks up.  The songs are forgettable and the music even more so.  I thought that Operation Mindcrime II would be a savior, however that failed to get my attention as well.  Who knew at the time that it came out, that session musicians played on it.

For those that don’t know the story so far, Geoff Tate was fired from Queensryche.  He countered that firing by saying that he is Queensryche, so how can they fire him from the band that he lived and breathed.

Stories continued to come out, about violent punch ups before a South American show, involving Geoff Tate vs the rest of the band members, about how the band members haven’t even played on any of the newer Queensryche releases even though they are credited and so on.  Just go to Loudwire, search for Queensryche and you will be filled in.

They have filed injunctions against each other and I am pretty sure if they could throw each other under a bus, they would.  This is one of those bad blood split ups, more controversial than Vince Neil’s ousting from Motley Crue or David Lee Roth’s ousting from Van Halen.

I saw Queensryche at the Metro Theater in Sydney back in 2009, August 31.  The band at the time was the original four, with Tate’s son in law Parker Lundgren on guitars.  What can I say, they killed it.  The Metro is a small venue, it was sold out.  1,200 people paid $90 to watch them.

They did songs from Rage For Order, Empire and American Soldier.  That was cool, because they promoted the shows that way as well, so people knew what they were paying for.   The American Soldier songs became toilet breaks.

Keeping bands together is a tough gig in itself.  Don Henley said that it was a horrible relief when the Eagles broke up.  That more or less sums it up.  On one hand, the break up feels like shit, you are sad and you are on the angry, but on the other hand, you are relieved its over, you are free, you can start over again.

What is pathetic in all of this, is that the fans are being treated like shit.  Both bands do not deserve the name of Queensryche.  They should have taken a new name, however both versions know, that they need the Queensryche name to sell themselves.

One thing is clear in my mind, Queensryche will always be Chris DeGarmo for me.

It looks even that is not working.   F.U debuted at #74, with 5,500 units sold, last week.  Week 2 saw it at #173 with 2,275 sold.  By week 3 it will be gone.  So expect Tate to start spitting out some controversial comments, so that he can get free press come his way.

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