Queensryche Biography

Queensrÿche was formed in Seattle, USA, by Geoff Tate (14 January 1959, Stuttgart, West Germany; vocals), Chris DeGarmo (b. Chrisopher Lee DeGarmo, 14 June 1963, Wenatchee, Washington, USA; guitar), Michael Wilton (b. 23 February 1962, San Francisco, California, USA; lead guitar), Eddie Jackson (b. 29 January 1961, Robstown, Texas, USA; bass), and Scott Rockenfield (b. 15 June 1963, Seattle, Washington, USA; drums), from the ashes of club circuit band the Mob and, in Tate’s case, the Myth. Immediately, Tate offered them a distinctive vocal edge, having studied opera - he had turned to hard rock because of the lyrical freedom it offered.

A four-track demo tape recorded in the basement of Rockenfield’s parents’ house in June 1982 led to record store owners Kim and Diana Harris offering to manage the band. The tape itself took on a life of its own, circulating throughout the north-west of America, and in May 1983 the band launched their own 206 Records label to house the songs on a self-titled 12-inch EP (lead track, ‘Queen Of The Reich’, had long since given them their name). The EP caused quite a stir in rock circles and led to EMI Records offering them a seven-album contract. The record was quickly re-released and grazed the UK Top 75, although the band’s sound was still embryonic and closer to Britain’s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal than the progressive rock flavour that would become their hallmark.

Their first full album for EMI, The Warning, was comparatively disappointing, failing to live up to the promise shown on the EP, particularly in the poor mix, which was the subject of some concern for both the record company and band. Only ‘Roads To Madness’ and ‘Take Hold Of The Flame’, two perennial live favourites, met expectations. Rage For Order followed in 1986 and saw the band creating a more distinctive style, making full use of modern technology, yet somehow the production (this time from Neil Kernon) seemed to have over-compensated. Although a dramatic improvement, and the first genuine showcase for Tate’s incredible vocal range and the twin guitar sound of DeGarmo and Wilton, the songs emerged as clinical and neutered. 1988 saw the Peter Collins-produced Operation: Mindcrime, a George Orwell-inspired concept album that was greeted with enthusiastic critical acclaim on its release. With some of the grandiose futurism of earlier releases dispelled, and additional orchestration from Michael Kamen, worldwide sales of over one million confirmed this as the album to lift the band into rock’s first division.

In the wake of its forerunner, there was something positively minimal about Empire, which boasted a stripped-down but still dreamlike rock aesthetic best sampled on the single ‘Silent Lucidity’, a Top 10 US hit in November 1991, which was also nominated for a Grammy. The album itself earned a Top 10 placing in America. Only single releases broke a four-year recording gap between Empire and 1994’s Promised Land, the most notable of which was 1993’s ‘Real World’, included on the soundtrack to the Arnold Schwarzenegger flopLast Action Hero. Although a more personal and reflective set, Promised Land continued the band’s tradition of dramatic song structures, this time without Kamen’s arranging skills.

Well over a decade into a career that at first seemed of limited appeal, Queensrÿche’s popularity continued to grow. However, they stumbled with 1997’s Hear In The Now Frontier, which experimented with a less grandiose style that confused both critics and record buyers. DeGarmo left the band the following year and was replaced by Kelly Gray. The new line-up made a short-lived move to Atlantic Records, resulting in 1999’s studio set Q2K. Gray left following the release of 2001’s Live Evolution, the band’s first release for established metal label Sanctuary Records. DeGarmo played on four tracks on the subsequent Tribe but was not regarded as an official member of the band. Mike Stone (b. 30 November 1969, USA) joined the line-up on the tour to promote the album and was thereafter accepted as the band’s new rhythm guitarist.

Queensrÿche’s short-lived stay with Sanctuary came to an end following the release of a desultory live album. They switched to Rhino Entertainment and began work on a follow-up to the celebrated Operation: Mindcrime. Released in 2006, the album featured Ronnie James Dio and Pamela Moore as guest vocalists. The warm critical and commercial reception prompted the band to embark on an ambitious tour during which they performed both Mindcrime albums in their entirety.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.