Queensryche - Tribe

Classic Rock October 2003

Crime of the century

“Sequels suck,” say Queensryche – but don't rule out '...Mindcrime 2'

Fifteen years on, worldwide sales of 'Operation:Mindcrime; have reached more than three million copies. Despite the fact that Queensryche have released five subsequent studio albums – 1990's 'Empire', 'Promised land' three years later (sic – it was actually 1994), Chris DeGarmo's swansong 'Hear in the now frontier' in '97, 1999's poorly received 'Q2K' and the brand new 'Tribe' - '...Mindcrime' still looms spectre-like above everything they create.

“It's a very powerful ghost,” singer Geoff Tate acknowledges. “Yes, it does anger us at times that everything we do is still judged against '...Mindcrime'. I've had to come to terms with the fact that humans grab onto things like that. I'm the same. There's no way anyone can tell me that 'Wish you were here' isn't Pink Floyd's best record. It's the one that's been the background to my life. So I understand why people always bring up '...Mindcrime' as our best record."

When asked whether he actually likes the record, his smile slips a little. “No, I do not. Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to start throwing the furniture around, but it is a touchy subject.”

“Our biggest frustration is that people always think they'll get something that sounds like '...Mindcrime' each time we put a record out,” drummer Scott Rockenfield reasons. “Why would they even expect that?” But with its original open-ended conclusion, the door was left ajar for a follow-up. So is it possible that the band will one day do '...Mindcrime 2'? “Maybe,” Tate says cagily. “But if we did a sequel I don't know if it'd be what people might expect or understand. We wouldn't do it in the same musical style we just don't think in those terms any more. We wouldn't want to cheapen what to some was an important record. C'mon, how many follow-ups ever match the original? Just a handful at best.”

“Don't forget, there was also a timing issue,” Rockenfield adds. “What was going on in the world definitely affected '...Mindcrime'.” Tentative parallels can be drawn with the group's new album 'Tribe'. For one thing, its addressing of the brainwashing influence of TV ties in nicely with the censorship issues of '...Mindcrime'. “I'm fascinated by how television influences cultures,” Tate says. “Especially in America, people seem to believe that if something's on the TV it must be real. Look at the Iraqi situation. America couldn't find Osama Bin Laden to take its revenge upon, so the blame shifts to Saddam Hussein. The whole thing was sold to the public by television. It's such a powerful tool.”

Given that Chris DeGarmo co-wrote and played on five songs on 'Tribe', Queensryche fans had built up hope that the guitarist might rejoin the group. It was announced that on June's European tour he would be with them again for the first time since 1997. Unfortunately, DeGarmo has a parallel career as an aircraft pilot, and “scheduling problems” intervened. The previously unknown Mike Stone took his place.

“Chris was unsure about touring,” sighs Tate. “We said 'Look, we really need a deadline from you. Give us an answer.' And nothing came back. So we had to make other plans.” Was DeGarmo rejoining Queensryche ever really a possibility? “I don't think so,” says Tate. “We'd hoped that he'd want to be included in this, but Chris never seemed to thinking along the same lines.”

The confusion concerning DeGarmo only poured petrol on the band's volatile internal relations. During the build-up to 'Tribe', guitarist Michael Wilton called the album's direction “stale”, adding: “I have no desire to change Queensryche into an adult contemporary band. I love the band's hard, aggressive music but those days are dwindling.” Tate himself was quoted as saying the band now do their talking through “business managers and lawyers”. “Oh, lawyers are way too expensive. It never really got that bad,” Rockenfield shrugs. He then nods towards Tate and deadpans: “But the second you're out the door I'm leaping over the table and getting that little bastard.”

During the time between 2001's 'Live Evolution' and 'Tribe' records, Tate recorded his own solo album 'Geoff Tate' and toured it, and Rockenfield made an album with his other project, Slave to the system. Wilton also has another band, called Soulbender. According to Tate, this extra-curricular activity helps to release tension that might otherwise build up to unsafe levels. “Being creative writers, we all have material that wouldn't suit Queensryche,” he says, “and coming back to Queensryche makes you appreciate what this band has.” That comment comes from someone who recently called Queensryche “a dysfunctional group of guys with a lot of hostility toward each other.” “We've tried to deal with that dysfunction,” Tate explains. “We sat in a room and talked. In 22 years we still haven't perfected our ability to communicate honestly with each other. We still hold each other at arms length.” “As we get older it becomes more of a challenge to get us all onto the same page,” Rockenfield concludes. “But when the music comes together, that's when it all falls into place.”