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September 22, 2020

Queensryche and Peter Collins Look Back on Empire

By Brian Heaton

Fans may not have the long-awaited 30th Anniversary edition of Queensryche's Empire in their hands yet, but the band, along with producer Peter Collins, had plenty to say recently about the album's enduring legacy.

Interviewed by Billboard's Christa Titus, Collins called the members of Queensryche “super professional” during the Empire recording sessions. He said the band's songwriting on Empire helped create a “genre of rock music,” noting that the way Queensryche structured its guitar work on the album was uncomparable to any other group.

Released in 1990, Empire, which followed Queensryche's highly regarded concept album Operation: Mindcrime (1988), was an experiment in leaner song structures, something original guitarist and songwriter Chris DeGarmo explained was very much by design.

“I was definitely interested in kind of a deconstruction of, not necessarily complexity, but … trying to make sure that the songs stood tall on the fewest stilts,” DeGarmo told Billboard. “It was my opinion that great tunes do that.”

Lyrically, former Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate was inspired by events at the time, including homelessness, drug dependency, and climate change. Those topics are still prevalent today, giving Empire's words an eerie sense of relevancy. Of note, of course, is the smash-hit ballad “Silent Lucidity.” Written entirely by DeGarmo, the tune examines lucid dreams, a child experiencing them and how those dreams impact their waking life. Tate observed that the song continues to resonate with listeners.

“A lot of people hold it close to their heart, and it was definitely evident when I was out touring it,” Tate said, who was performing Empire in its entirety, along with Queensryche's 1986 effort, Rage for Order, as a solo artist before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

DeGarmo agreed.

“[Y]ou just kind of know when something unfolds in a way that you feel that there's going to be an ability for people to identify with it,” the guitarist said.

As an addendum to her published story in Billboard, Titus, herself a lifelong Queensryche fan, shared many great quotes that went unused in the article to a post on her Facebook page. Below are abridged versions of some of those additional quotes:

Peter Collins on recording “Jet City Woman”:

“I wanted to do a big 'Jet!' shout on 'Jet.' [Chris DeGarmo] wouldn't have it, which was the correct decision to make.”

Chris DeGarmo on Queensryche in 1990:

“We knew each other really, really well, and we, by that point, had enjoyed a success together that was just an amazing thing to experience together: to travel the world, to connect with so many people, to have a diversity of recordings up to that point that all have a thread that was definitely Queensr˙che but were kind of unique in their own way.”

Drummer Scott Rockenfield on Queensryche's chemistry at the time:

“Everybody had the perfect role. We all sat together well. It was just subconsciously, we just all knew what we did well together and we all knew what we were good at, and we all just fell into place.”

Geoff Tate on the praise Empire receives:

“About anything in life that you do well and something that affects people, you can really get caught up in the flattery of it all, which I try not to get involved with too much. But it does make me feel good when people appreciate what I've done or what the band has done at a certain time. I don't take that lightly.”

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