Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime – 25 years on
The casting of various non-musical participants was another headache. Actor Anthony Valentine, of Colditz and Callan fame, proved to be an inspired choice to play malevolent surgeon Dr X.
“We had to try to figure out in our heads what his voice would’ve been like,” Tate explains. “Guys would come in, and in their best Shakespearian delivery would say [adopts plummy, Donald Sinden-like tones]: ‘Kill her, that’s all you’ve got to do.’ It was just too over the top. Next!”
Pamela Moore, who had come to Chris DeGarmo’s attention via a local radio commercial, took on the Sister Mary role for the album and tour, and still sometimes makes the occasional appearance with the band. “Pamela had a very distinctive voice,” says Rockenfield. “She was quite a popular singer in Seattle.”
The initial recordings took place in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, then the operation was moved to Le Studio in Montreal. With producer Peter Collins and engineers James ‘Jimbo’ Barton and Paul Northfield, creativity abounded. Englishman Collins had collaborated with Gary Moore, Billy Squier and even Tom Jones, but it was his work on three Rush albums that endeared him to Queensrÿche. Once on board, Collins engaged himself with the minutiae of the sessions.
“A lot of time was spent thinking about things like the nurse walking across the room [in Remember Now],” Tate recalls – “‘How big would that room have been?’ ‘What would the reverb have been like?’ Paul Northfield was also incredibly important in those decisions, because you’d ask him what kind of shoes the nurse was wearing and he’d have an opinion. He’d also have an idea of how to recreate the sound.”
“The window of Dr X’s limousine rolling down at the start of Suite Sister Mary, that was another of Paul’s productions,” Rockenfield elaborates. “You can buy sounds like that on special-effects albums but we pulled a car upfront of the studio and stuck up a microphone. It was freezing cold in Montreal but it made all the difference to do it that way. Just like everything else with …Mindcrime, the moons seemed to be aligned to make it great.”
Another of the album’s delicious moments of detail comes when the aforementioned nurse injects Nikki with a sedative, saying: “Sweet dreams” then adding under her breath: “You bastard.”
“The ‘you bastard’ part was definitely inspired by The Young Ones,” Tate grins unexpectedly. “We used to watch that series all the time.”
“That line’s still popular with the fans,” Rockenfield adds. “To this day, whenever we roll into the beginning of …Mindcrime, the whole audience screams it back at us. It still makes me laugh.”
Michael Kamen (who would play an even more crucial role on the band’s subsequent album, Empire) displayed the arrangement skills later used by Metallica when he directed the choirs and atmospheric use of cellos that so effectively decorate Suite Sister Mary. “We’d first worked with Michael on The Warning and we knew we needed him again,” Tate says. “He really threw himself into creating the whole vibe of a Catholic church.”