"We reach out for the sky and we're never coming down." "The old world order is over." "Is the art of life discipline?"
Chapter IX: 2002-2003: Tribe Era
By Brian Heaton
In 2002, Queensryche was at a crossroads. The band was writing music as a four-piece for its next album while Tate was on the road supporting his self-titled solo effort. But there was disagreement about what direction the recordings should take.
This came to a head when Tate spoke to WMMS 100.7 FM in Cleveland on June 30, 2002. In an on-air interview promoting his solo record and tour, Tate said the members of Queensryche only speak to one another through "business managers and lawyers," and called the group a "dysfunctional group of guys with a lot of hostility toward each other."
The interview caused a firestorm on the Internet, with fans clamoring for further details. Eventually, the band issued a "thank you" to WMMS for forcing them to communicate again, but some – including this writer – were skeptical. In an exclusive Q&A with this author just a couple of months later, Wilton revealed that the band and Tate were at odds over the direction for Queensryche's new album.
"Queensryche has always been about reinventing itself -- It makes it interesting as a musician," Wilton said. "But we need to be reminded that this is a business, and with doing a 180-degree shift in style, there is an inherent risk that is involved. It's a 'don't bite the hand that feeds' kind of thing."
The guitarist expressed a desire to return to Queensryche's heavier and more aggressive guitar-driven roots. Tate, however, felt differently, according to Wilton. Tate spearheaded an idea to bring in outside writers to write music for the band to tweak and change, rather than collaborate and compromise with the members of Queensryche. The tension between the band members was high and Wilton wasn't onboard with Tate's creative power play.
"I believe this album should be hard and intense," Wilton said. "What I have heard so far is not that. I have no desire to change Queensryche into an adult contemporary band. This should be a Queensryche album and not a Geoff Tate solo album."
Lyrically, however, it appeared Tate and his bandmates were on the same page. Tate told various media outlets during promotional interviews that his lyrics for the new Queensryche album would be based off a journal of observations on how society had changed in a post-9/11 world, in reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
When Queensryche was in the studio demoing songs, word of the album's theme got back to Chris DeGarmo -- possibly through Scott Olson who was engineering the sessions and a friend of the former Queensryche guitarist. DeGarmo reached out to his former bandmates offering to collaborate. The invitation was accepted and the original lineup of Queensryche reunited to work on what would become Tribe.
DeGarmo contributed three songs he had written the music for: "Falling Behind," "Doin' Fine" and "Art of Life" and ended up co-writing two other songs with the band: "Desert Dance" and "Open." A sixth song, "Justified" was entirely written (music and lyrics) by Chris and was intended for the album, but wasn't completed until 2007. More on that later. Musically, the six songs DeGarmo was a part of during the Tribe sessions sound like a natural evolution from where Queensryche left off with Hear in the Now Frontier, albeit with a more layered and dynamic mix and with some chunkier metal riffs courtesy of the DeGarmo/Wilton guitar tandem.
Unfortunately, the reunion was short-lived. Amid a flurry of speculation, it was announced that DeGarmo had decided to once again leave the band. It should be noted that it had never been formally announced Chris had rejoined the group, only that he was working with his bandmates in the studio and was going to perform on Queensryche's European tour in support of Tribe. It stands to reason, however, that because Chris participated in a lengthy photo session for the album and he left with one song partially recorded, there could have been a more long-term, permanent reunion in the works. Rumors persist to the current day that some of the same factors that led Chris to leave in 1997 came back again, preventing his return to the band full time.
Sworn statements by band members obtained by AnybodyListening.net as a part of Geoff Tate's 2012 lawsuit against Jackson, Rockenfield and Wilton, also indicate that Tate's personality and unwillingness to work with DeGarmo regarding vocals for the record could have contributed to DeGarmo's second departure. Tate, however, filed his own sworn statement that contested the claims of his former bandmates. Either way, both accounts illustrate the dysfunction that was present in Queensryche during 2002.
DeGarmo did reconnect with Queensryche briefly in 2007 to finish the recording of "Justified," which was left unfinished during the Tribe recording sessions. The lyrics are an interesting story about a relationship with a person attempting to reconcile with someone. Many fans have speculated that the lyrics are DeGarmo's public ode to unify Queensryche and settle the differences that drove Chris away from the band. But that speculation has never been confirmed by DeGarmo or the other members of Queensryche.
"Justified" can be heard on the deluxe edition of the Sign of the Times: The Best of Queensryche compilation. As of September 2014, the song stands as the final recorded work of the original lineup of Queensryche.
Open -- (DeGarmo/Tate/Wilton)
Key Tracks: The Art of Life, Desert Dance
* -- Because the entirety of Tribe did not feature the complete original lineup of Queensryche, we've spotlighted only the tracks from the record that had all five original members of the band involved. Completists can look up the entire CD online (there are some good songs), but for those only interested in checking out tracks by the full original lineup, simply download the above cuts from your digital source of choice.
** -- "Justified" was written and partially recorded during the Tribe sessions before Chris re-departed the band. It wasn't finished being recorded until 2007, and it appears on the deluxe edition of a multi-lineup greatest hits packaged titled Sign of the Times – The Best of Queensryche. "Justified" was mixed by Terry Date.
Notes: As you can imagine, particularly given the details above, Tribe wasn't an easy record to make. Initially, Jackson, Rockenfield and Wilton began writing the music themselves. As they fleshed out songs, Tate allegedly disapproved of the overall direction and started seeking input from outside writers, including his members of his solo band and journeyman guitarist Mike Stone. As a result, Jackson, Rockenfield and Wilton became frustrated with Tate, leading to a public blow-up in summer 2002. A public reconciliation was made and as mentioned earlier, at some point Chris DeGarmo became aware of the music his former bandmates were writing and reached out to be a part of the process.
The music on Tribe adopts some of the trademark of the "nu-metal" style guitar riffs that were popular at the time, with some TOOL-esqe rhythms as well, particularly the lead single, "Open." Fans were critical of the distinct lack of traditional guitar solos on the songs, however, which was also a trend many bands followed during the early 2000s. Overall, the original lineup songs found on Tribe sound like a natural progression from 1997's Hear in the Now Frontier (the original band's last album together), with bigger production and darker, edgier guitars.
Lyrically, Tribe was Tate's observations of U.S. society in a post-911 world. While on his 2002 solo tour, Tate allegedly kept a journal that he turned into lyrical ideas for the record. Songs such as "Desert Dance," convey Tate's motorcycle rides through the wastelands, while "Falling Behind" questions why people of different faiths continue to clash. The only song lyrics not penned by Tate were the ones of "Justified," which were written by DeGarmo.
Interesting facts: "Under My Skin" was initially listed on promotional copies of Tribe instead of "The Art of Life." It is unknown whether they are different songs, or if "Under My Skin" was renamed "The Art of Life." In addition, pirated copies of Tribe had bonus tracks listed, including a cover of "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas. For the record, Queensryche is not the performer on that track, and has never covered the song.
Tribe Recording Session Photos