|Sept. 2002 - HMV: Killer Queens
by Barry Walsh
The oddly-named Queens Of The Stone Age are not so much a band as they are
an experiment - throw some like-minded musicians in a room, allow them to
play whatever they want and to follow whatever musical flights of fancy they
can fathom, and stick it all on one disc. And seeing as the experiment
worked brilliantly on their second album, Rated R (featuring the modern rock
staple 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer'), why not try it again?
For the newly-released Songs For The Deaf the nucleus of singer/ guitarist
Josh Homme and bassist/ singer Nick Oliveri has been joined by a sterling
cast, including Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, Ween's Dean Ween, and
perhaps most notably, the multi-talented Dave Grohl (former Nirvana drummer,
current Foo Fighter), who lays down the guitar to return to the instrument
the Good Lord meant him to play, the drums. Grohl is a documented QOTSA
fanatic, and when the opportunity arose to play on the group's new album, he
was literally in the studio hours after getting the phone call.
"He wanted to play on 'Rated R,' but it finally came about for this one,"
says Oliveri, doing press while having a late (3 pm) breakfast in a Toronto
eatery (for those who need to know, he likes his eggs over medium). "We
tried to pay him and he wouldn't accept any money. So we were like 'Okay,
whatever, dude.' But he's had me taking my bass home and s**t. I haven't
done that in, like, eight years."
But while Grohl hasn't joined the band on the road for the current leg of
their tour, his contribution to the recording is staggering, as are the
efforts of the other honorary Queens. But even with such a revolving-door
policy in effect for their albums, a strange consistency exists throughout
the band's catalogue. Maybe it's the heavier than hell guitar sludge dealt
by Homme, maybe it's in the weird pairing of pop hooks with said sludge -
whatever it is, it works.
"We've told everyone involved they can stay as long as they like," Oliveri
says about the ever-evolving cast of characters. "So it's pretty much up to
them - if they want to stay, write songs, hang out, I don't know - whatever
they want to do. As long as you're kickin' a**, you can stay as long as you
want. And we'll play anybody's song - if the song is good, we'll play it. As
long as everybody's still smilin' I guess we'll be rockin' for a while."
But smiles weren't always in such ample supply for Oliveri and Homme - in
their days with grunge-metal heroes Kyuss things were a bit different, with
the band often opting to circumvent success in whatever way possible, rather
than appearing to 'sell out.' The band predictably imploded as a result.
"Yeah, if the label wanted one thing we'd kind of do the exact opposite,"
says Oliveri. "Kyuss had a self-sabotage thing goin' on, which was really
bad. I don't know what the hell we were thinking.
"We're still doin' the same thing we always did, which is play music that we
wanna hear but we can't buy it in the stores so we have to make it. We're
not trying to cater to anybody - I wouldn't know how to do that because I've
never sold records, you know what I mean? 'Let's write a single!' I don't
know what that is - I've never had one. But if sellin' out means we've sold
some records, then bring it!"
Of course, in order to effectively 'sell out,' QOTSA would have to fit into
a nice little niche that could then be passed on to the necessary marketing
teams, focus groups, etc. that turn records into hits these days. And the
odds of that happening are mighty slim. Even now, the press has a hard time
tagging the band - the new album has its share of 21st Century Sabbath
riffage (as on the killer first single 'Millionaire'), but there are also
the moments that Oliveri refers to as "dark pop" - psychedelic flourishes
liberally splashed across the sonic canvas. It all adds up to an album that
truly deserves the tag "modern rock" - much more so than the one-dimensional
offerings of most of the nu-metal brigade. But whatever you do, just don't
call QOTSA 'stoner rock.'
"I'd call us a rock and roll band, 'cause that allows us to move in any
direction we want. Rock 'n' roll is everywhere - it's big. Whereas a term
like 'stoner rock' - that puts you in a room in a house. We're not in the
house - we're not even in the yard, dude. We left the building a long
f***in' time ago."