Former QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Chris DeGarmo stopped by ESPN2‘s “Sportsnation” on Thursday, December 1 to take questions about ESPN.com‘s Alice In Chains Friends Fantasy Football Charity League, his music career, and more. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Q: Surely you’ve heard of God-given talent and how we’re expected to share that gift with the world. Your fantasy football success not withstanding, are you ever haunted by a feeling of obligation to resume creating music for the masses, either with QUEENSRŸCHE or as a solo artist?
Chris: Kind words. Well, I don’t know that even in the beginning I felt an obligation, other than to myself, to love music and write music. I still do both of those. I love music and listen to music all the time. I still write as well. As far as it being shared, that is more complex. I’ve continued to write a bunch of music and I have a personal obligation to my creative self that hasn’t changed. Whether it will ever see the light of day in a listenable form for others … that remains a question mark. I’d like it to happen, though. I’m sure someone would appreciate a listen. It’s not out of the question.
Q: Are you still flying, and who do I talk to about chartering a flight?
Chris: Hahaha! I am. That’s my full-time gig these days. I fly a Learjet. I’d be happy to fly you! I’ve been to Salinas a couple times. I’m in that neck of the woods a lot.
Q: I think many fans know you’re a private pilot. Any further aspirations to get some higher ratings and fly airliners, ala Bruce Dickinson?
Chris: Yeah, I’m interested in the latest in aerospace. There are some really interesting high performance and technologically advanced aircrafts in the design and development stages right now. I’ll take as new and as large as they can make them. Flying on that level has some parallels to performance. It’s similar to being in a group, which sounds weird, I know. Writing, recording, playing live… we set a high personal standard of perfomance for ourselves .. not meaning it had to be perfect but we prided ourselves on the effort and the technical production involved. That transfers into what I do now. There is a certain performance aspect everytime and a standard of excellence expected. It’s a fulfilling experience in that sense. I get that from it. They are very polar opposite in many ways, but there is a performance aspect I always enjoy.
Q: Well you ever rejoin QUEENSRŸCHE? They need and us the fans of heavy metal need you back BAD.
Chris: Well, I’ll never say never. I don’t know how likely it is, though. I’m still on good terms with anyone. I didn’t leave on any bad terms. We’re still connected and communicating. I don’t know. If we could figure it out together how to create a really great album, maybe. I wouldn’t do it just to be doing it. We’ve gotten together a few times, so I know we have the chemistry. That’s not an issue. We all know we work well togethter.
Q: I’d love to know what your philosophy is that came through so many of your lyrics… how would you describe your beliefs?
Chris: I think there is a cynicism in some of my music and I mean that in a good way. Trying to find a personal path of success and not allowing your destiny to be defined by others. You have to stay close to your personal compass when trying to write music. A broad answer, I know. I wanted to challenge convention as well. We live in times where everyone is trying to be herded into one way of thinking. In QUEENSRŸCHE we were always trying to get people to challenge an advertised mode of thought. Challenge the systemic mode of thought to try and find that personal path. That’s a hard thing to convey in tunes and I’m not sure we were successful or not, but that was the goal.
Q: Honestly, how do you feel about the direction QUEENSRŸCHE has taken since your departure? What do they need to do to re-establish themselves as one of rock’s innovators?
Chris: I would answer that by saying, if they are doing what they want to do, then that is great. I wouldn’t agree with some of the decision-making, but I don’t have to make those decisions or participate.
Q: Out of all the songs you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
Chris: I really don’t have a favorite. There are high points, for sure. But there are many. I can find something on every release we did that was what I felt a step forward. It’s hard to pick a favorite. I know people don’t always believe that, but it is true. Songs connect with people on a broader scale, but some of that is the exposure and personal connection to the song. But I really think the full color is everything you have done. I can like a song that is 2/3 of the way done, but I can’t seem to finish sometimes even more than a song that worked out perfectly. From the creative side of things, it is a great thing to be that excited about something that is so elusive. “Bridge” took a lifetime to create … but then all of a sudden came together quickly. It was a hard song to write because I had to live the life first to get to the song. “Lucidity” was like that. It didn’t take long to actually write down on paper but it took a long time to get to that point. “Jet City Woman” was a song that took a little more time. It went through a couple forms before landing at its final spot. I’m trying to thing of the song that just didn’t want to be written and was a total pain in the ass, but I really don’t remember any like that. As an aside to that … You have to have conflict in a creative group to have success … I truly believe that. If everyone gets along too well and don’t challenge each other, you don’t get the same results. The conflict is really what creates the magic.
Q: I assume you have kids. Do they like your music from back in the day or do they say, “Sure, dad, that’s really great. Can I go to my room now?”
Chris: They do like it! My kids are a bit older now. We have a huge music collection so they have a lot to choose from. My daughter listens to Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday. My son also listens to a wide range of music. My daughter was old enough to see some shows when I was still in the group. She was young but old enough to understand it.
Q: How did you become interested in aviation?
Chris: I got interested in it originally from my grandfather. He flew me around in small Cessnas as a kid. But later when the band was doing lots of international travel and flying all the time, that’s when I really got into it. Back in the days whe you could go in the cockpit and talk to the pilots. Can’t do that now after 9-11. But it helped me to relax if I knew how these massive machines could fly. The fact I didn’t understand it made it hard for me to travel that much without some stress. Some of it was just wanting to understand it all. At the time, walking into the cockpit of a 747 it looked like a recording studio! It looked so cool. I was really impressed. It reminded me of a high-tech studio just in a different way. I always really liked the high performance nature of it and just flying in general is Peter Pan-type stuff.
Check out the entire question-and-answer session at this location.