June 14, 1963 |
Wenatchee, Washington, United States
|Instruments||Guitar, keyboards, piano, vocals|
|Associated acts||Queensrÿche, Spys4Darwin, Jerry Cantrell, The Rue|
Christopher Lee "Chris" DeGarmo (born June 14, 1963) is an American heavy metal and hard rock guitarist and songwriter, best known for being a lead guitarist and primary songwriter in the progressive metal band Queensrÿche from their formation in 1980 until 1998, and with whom he played during their most commercially successful period. Since departing from the band, DeGarmo has made his living as a professional charter pilot. In recent years, he has been making music with his daughter Rylie DeGarmo under the name The Rue. He was nominated for three Grammy Awards as a songwriter.
DeGarmo was born in Wenatchee, Washington. The family he grew up in was struggling as his father had abandoned them. DeGarmo thinks his father could not handle the pressure of being a provider to his family, which he would later write about in the song "Best I Can".
In sixth grade, he was in the same class as his future bandmate Scott Rockenfield. DeGarmo joined Interlake High School as a sophomore in 1979, and joined his school-mates in garage bands such as Joker, which included guitarist Michael Wilton. After he was kicked out of Joker to be replaced with a guitarist who could afford more expensive equipment, DeGarmo formed the band Tempest with singer and bass player Mark Hovland and drummer Kevin Hodges on drums, who left and was replaced by Mark Welling, after which the band was renamed to D-H-W (DeGarmo-Hovland-Welling).
Beginnings and major success (1980–1997)
In 1980, Wilton and Rockenfield, who was a drummer, had founded a band called Cross+Fire, and DeGarmo and Hovland joined shortly thereafter. They played covers of popular heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Hovland left because he had to commute quite far and wasn't really into Iron Maiden. In his place came bassist Eddie Jackson, a high school friend of Rockenfield. The band name was changed to The Mob. In 1982, they switched from playing cover songs to writing original material, and recruited Geoff Tate as their vocalist. After recording what was to become the group's debut EP at Triad studios in Redmond, WA, the band settled on the name Queensrÿche (derived from the DeGarmo composition, and opening EP track "Queen of the Reich").
Sample of the power ballad "Silent Lucidity" from the album Empire, written solely by DeGarmo. It is the most successful song in Queensrÿche's career, garnering the band two Grammy nominations, five MTV VMA nominations, and one VMA award.
Sample of "Bridge", demonstrating DeGarmo's signature acoustic guitar sound. The song was written solely by DeGarmo, and discusses his father's attempts to reconcile with him after being absent throughout his youth.
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As their primary songwriter, DeGarmo was largely responsible for writing the band’s intricate compositions together with Wilton and Tate. In 1990, "I Don't Believe in Love" by DeGarmo and Tate, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. DeGarmo was the sole writer for the band's 1991 hit "Silent Lucidity", which reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was Grammy nominated in two categories (Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal) at the 1992 awards, as well as five VMA nominations and one win, and which earned the guitarist a BMI songwriter's award.
Departure from the band (1997)
DeGarmo left Queensrÿche for undisclosed reasons in late 1997 following the band's tour in support of the band's sixth studio album, Hear in the Now Frontier. His departure was not made public until January 28, 1998. Reflecting on Queensryche's Promised Land era, DeGarmo revealed that he had already considered leaving the band:
"I was questioning the long term stability of the group by that point. The level of internal and external dysfunction was unacceptable to me. Apparently, no one else was paying attention, or bothered to compare the successful elements and priorities of our past to our current trajectory.”
His remarks appear to be in line with later statements from other band members that burnout and a desire to pursue interests outside of Queensrÿche were the reasons for his departure. For example, Rockenfield has said: "He wanted to pursue other things. He felt like he had done what he wanted musically in his life, and wanted to move on." However, Dan Birchall of the fan magazine Screaming in Digital paints a more complex picture of three factors culminating in DeGarmo's decision to quit the band:
- The success of Empire and the resulting touring life in the 90s had imposed a major strain on the band members' marriages, while DeGarmo's marriage was the only one that survived, and this resulted in the motive to spend more time with his wife and children.
- Some band members battled with alcohol following the "Building Empires" tour, causing the band to lose focus, and in this light, DeGarmo is seen as the one who kept the Tri-Ryche Corporation (the business side of the band) running in his role as president, as the driving force behind motivating the band to get back together and record Promised Land, and as the one to ultimately go into negotiations with Virgin Records alone after the bankruptcy of EMI-America, because of a lack of interest or participation by the other members.
- The families of all band members were very close, forming an "extended Queensrÿche family", but after the divorces these interpersonal dynamics changed when new girlfriends came into the extended family, who didn't always get along well with the existing band members, which in turn affected some of the close bonds among the band members.
The Tribe sessions (2003)
With an impending deadline to deliver their next album, and the band's strained internal relationships leaving them short on material, a call was placed to DeGarmo to see if he would be interested in contributing songs to the project. After a meeting with Tate, he agreed and took part in the sessions for Tribe, contributing the music to the songs "Falling Behind", "Doin' Fine" and "Art of Life", and co-writing the music to "Desert Dance" and "Open". DeGarmo had also written both the music and lyrics to the song "Justified", but it was not included on the album since he prematurely left the recording sessions. The song would later be included on the collector's edition of their 2007 greatest hits album, Sign of the Times. It is generally assumed that similar interpersonal problems as in 1997 are the cause for his second departure.
After his departure from the band, DeGarmo rarely makes public appearances, but he has always remained friends with Queensrÿche, and especially his high-school friend Wilton. Because he remains highly regarded in the eyes of Queensrÿche's fan base, both he and the other band members are frequently asked if he is ever to rejoin Queensrÿche. Wilton answered that question in June 2013 as follows: "if there is a chance of collaboration, well, we'll just keep that a secret." In 2011, DeGarmo commented:
"Well, I'll never say never. I don't know how likely it is though. I'm still on good terms with everyone. We're still connected and communicating. We have the chemistry, that's not an issue."
The most profound line-up change for Queensrÿche since DeGarmo's departure in 1997, was when remaining founding members Rockenfield, Wilton and Jackson fired Tate in June 2012, leading to a court case that has temporarily allowed both parties to use the band's name and has caused a division among the fans. Although DeGarmo has refrained from publicly commenting on any of this, both sides have talked with restraint about DeGarmo's opinion regarding the current band situation, and they suggest that he has remained friends with both parties. Tate said about his relationship with DeGarmo: "We’re friends. We see each other probably once a month—play golf, have lunch." Wilton commented:
"Chris and I have always been good friends. I mean, we grew up together, we were high school buddies and we’re still friends. I golf with him all the time. Our families are friends. And, yes, he’s aware of what’s going on. I’m not going to speak for him, but I can say that he supports everything that we’re doing and it’s great that Chris and I have a connection. You know, he’s got a lot of things in the fire that he wants to do and he’s a true connoisseur of great songwriting. That’s basically all I can really tell you. Definitely, he’s around, we talk a lot, but I really can’t say anything."
After leaving Queensrÿche, DeGarmo began a full-time career as a professional business jet pilot. He holds an Airline Transport Pilot Licence, which he acquired during Queensrÿche's most commercially successful years. as well as CL-30 (Challenger 300), LR-JET (Learjet), IA-Jet (Westwind) and LR-45 (Learjet 45) type ratings from the FAA. In 2013, Rockenfield said that "he [DeGarmo] is very successful at it".
DeGarmo's post-Queensrÿche musical career includes collaborations with guitarist Jerry Cantrell (as a touring guitarist in 1998 and an appearance on the 2002 Degradation Trip studio album) and with bassist Mike Inez, drummer Sean Kinney, and singer Vinnie Dombroski in the open project Spys4Darwin. The group released one EP, Microfish, in 2001. On February 18, 2005, DeGarmo joined the remaining members of the popular rock band Alice in Chains and other Seattle area artists for the Tsunami Continued Care Relief Concert. He assisted the rock band Dredg with the production and arrangement of their 2005 studio album Catch Without Arms, and he has written a few film score songs with Dredg's frontman Gavin Hayes.
DeGarmo lives in the Seattle area with his wife and children. He has been working on a project called The Rue with his daughter Rylie DeGarmo since 2009. In 2013, Rockenfield said: "His daughter is a singer and he helps her a little bit on the songs. Otherwise, he mostly does music on the side. Chris recently told me, that he is absolutely happy with his life the way it is." In 2015, The Rue released their six-song debut.
- Queensrÿche (1983)
- The Warning (1984)
- Rage for Order (1986)
- Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
- Empire (1990)
- Operation: Livecrime (1991)
- Promised Land (1994)
- Hear in the Now Frontier (1997)
- Greatest Hits (2000)
- Classic Masters (2003)
- Tribe (2003)
- Sign of the Times (2007)
- microfish (2001)
- Degradation Trip (2002)
- The Rue (2015)
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