March 20, 2003 - Hartford Advocate: The Return of Rock
by Thomas Pizzola
In the past year, there has been a supposed resurgence of rock music. Critics in mostly mainstream publications are declaring any young, raw, guitar-based band as the next savior of rock. In some cases, like the Hives, the praise is justified, while in other cases, like the Vines, it's all just hype. Either way, it's shown that people are getting fed up with the clownish antics of nu-metal bands and the prefabricated pop sounds of teeny-bopper rock. Real rock is back in a big way and it's about damn time.

Why now? Maybe people are just clamoring for something that's rawer, more real -- even though rock never really went away; it was just forced underground, waiting for the right time to resurface. Bands didn't stop playing loud guitar-based rock. It's just that the press stopped writing about it, save some really cool underground fanzines. It seems like the musical climate is changing. Nick Oliveri, bassist for Queens of the Stone Age, has a different opinion on the current rock explosion.

"Rock never died. Rock was always around, you know. The bands that kept playing it, you know, are still here. You know it's like, we're still doing it, we're over here, you know," said Oliveri.

Oliveri knows what he's talking about. His current band, QOTSA, is doing its best to make hard rock cool again. Some would say they've already succeeded. Their current record, Songs For The Deaf, released last year, has garnered a ton of critical accolades, often ending up on many critics' end-of-the-year "Best Of" lists. In addition, the CD is also having quite a bit of commercial success. Songs was recently certified gold, and the lead track "No One Knows" has been in heavy rotation on commercial rock radio for the past few months.

Oliveri said the band is pleased with the commercial success of Songs, but more importantly they are pleased with the fact that they were able to make the record they wanted to make. Commercial reception, which the band never had before, was a pleasant surprise, but to the band the record was already a success based on its artistic merits. They were proud of the final product.

And they should be. Songs For The Deaf is a powerful, tuneful record that manages to seamlessly merge a multitude of different musical ideas and styles into one cohesive whole. There are full-on raging rockers such as "Millionaire" and "Six Shooter," more pop-driven melodic songs such as "No One Knows" and "Gonna Leave You" and straight-out dirges like "Song For The Deaf." Each song is different, yet each bears the undeniable QOTSA stamp, in that they all rock with a fierce tenacity.

To use the term "band" when referring to QOTSA is somewhat of a misnomer. In effect, the band is really Oliveri and guitarist / vocalist / principal songwriter Josh Homme, longtime pals who have been playing music together since they were teenagers, and were both founding members of the influential stoner rock band Kyuss, form the core of the band. They bring in musicians to help them fulfill their vision. It would seem as if these two are on their own musical wavelength.

"Me and Josh have been playing together for some time now. I know exactly what he's going to do musically and he knows what I'm going to do musically as far as writing goes. So it's comfortable, you know what I mean it's ... like having ... I don't know ... a musical wife," said Oliveri. "Did I just say that out loud?"

The band's last record, Rated R, featured performances by metal screamer Rob Halford and former Screaming Trees' frontman Mark Lanegan. Songs For The Deaf features drumming by former Nirvana-member and current Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, which led to speculation that Grohl was going to ditch his current band for QOTSA. While that never happened, Grohl did turn in one of his best performances behind the kit. Oliveri says this approach served the band well, but it'll likely change in the future.

"It worked for us as far as making decisions and being able to move quick," said Oliveri. "Until we found three other people who wanted to work the way we wanted to work, we didn't hire them on as more than touring guys."

And it seems like they have found the right three guys. Lanegan, a veteran of the previous two QOTSA CDs, along with drummer Joey Castillo and second guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, will join Homme and Oliveri as full-time members of the band when it gets set to record the band's next CD. It will be the first time the band has operated in this manner. Oliveri said it's really cool to have a set band for the next CD. In fact, the songs are already written and once the band gets a break from touring they will decide on which songs fit best together. At any rate, Oliveri promises the new stuff will be intense.

Intensity is what the band's live show is all about. They want to make each show an event, make it a show people will remember. And that affects their choice of support acts. They want to bring someone on the road that will spur them on, light a fire under their ass and make them play well each night, said Oliveri. Plus, they don't want to let their fans down by bringing a mediocre band on the road with them. Rye Coalition offered support early in the tour, but when the band hits the Webster Theatre on March 26, Scandinavian death-punks Turbonegro will be on the bill. So that means Hartford will get full-on dose of the denim demons' action rock. Oliveri sees this as a perfect match for the Queens.

"They kick ass man. Turbonegro is one of my favorite bands, you know, out of the punk rock stuff, the real punk rock stuff. That's what I'm talking about here. I'm not talking about any emo stuff, man, because to me that isn't punk rock," said Oliveri.

And this energy from the opening act seems to spur on QOTSA. They feed off of the opening band's energy in order to deliver a high-energy set that people will remember. After all, their motivations when playing live are very simple, said Oliveri.

"We want to kick ass every night," Oliveri said without a trace of irony. "We're trying to give people an alternative to reality for the hour or hour-and-a-half they're at our show. We want to give them an escape from what's going on in the world."

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