QUEENSRŸCHE frontman Geoff Tate has spoken to Billboard magazine about the departure of guitarist Kelly Gray and the persistent rumors of an imminent return to the group's ranks of the man Gray replaced, Chris DeGarmo (a report which was refuted by QUEENSRŸCHE drummer Scott Rockenfield via his official web site).According to Tate, Gray came into the band with the understanding that he was not a permanent member, and that he actually departed last November. "Working with Kelly was really fun at the time," Tate told Billboard. "I think we sort of came to a place where having him stay in the band would kind of limit him and limit us, so we decided to part ways and do different things." QUEENSRŸCHE have apparently yet to find a replacement for Gray and will most likely record the group's forthcoming CD as a four-piece while collaborating with different songwriters when the need arises. "We've decided to work with outside writers and different people that we admire," Geoff said, adding that QUEENSRŸCHE guitarist Michael Wilton will play all the guitar parts on the upcoming CD, which may feature appearances by other "guest players." When asked about the rumors that DeGarmo was working with QUEENSRŸCHE on the band's next studio album, Tate stated that this is not true, but refused to rule out the possibility of a future collaboration with Chris. "I don't want to say 'yes' and I don't want to say 'no,' because [Chris] might call up one day and say, 'Hey, I've got some songs and I'm really interested in recording with you guys. You wanna do it?' and then I'd have to eat my words. So I'll say there are no plans at the moment, but the door is open." QUEENSRŸCHE have thus far finished writing about half of the group's next studio album and are hoping to complete the rest before Tate heads out on the road this summer to support his self-titled Sanctuary solo debut, according to the singer. Meanwhile, Wilton is working on material with his side band SOULBENDER, and drummer Scott Rockenfield recently released an album with the group SLAVE TO THE SYSTEM, whose line-up includes Gray.