|August 2002 - Songs for the Deaf Promotional Story
by Dirk Deafman
The Lincoln Continental pulled up to the curb and a driver with eyes like two flying saucers told me to get in. I didn’t wait to be asked twice. The name’s Dirk Deafman. I’m a private dick, a shamus, and I cover the dirty pink underbelly of Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s a world where the young and the clueless run the show and Dick Clark signs checks in a penthouse somewhere; a world where jukebox heroes become legends in their own minds and sometimes yours, too. It’s a lurid, nasty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Which brings me to the Queens of the Stone Age.
Ever since Rated R had exploded across every critics Top Ten, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri have been hailed as everything from visionary geniuses to dope fiends, Jurassic mystics to high-desert hessiers. The grapevine had it that the Queens lived like Turkish pashas out among the cacti and Joshua Tree of the California hinterlands, corrupting unsuspecting music fans with their decadent lifestyle and trance-inducing music.
When I’d first met these brothers in rock they were with a little outfit called Kyuss, pushing a psychedelic low-end growl that resembled nothing so much as Moby Dick with amplifiers. After a decade of drama, the Queens of the Stone Age were poised to take over an undeserving world. They had spent 1999 and 2000 crossing the globe, wowing crowds on every continent. Now they had returned to make the ultimate “Robot Rock” record of the 21st Century- Songs for the Deaf.
Month after month the sessions continued, sometimes ending so late in the evening that the dazed players actually met themselves coming in through the out door. And what had started as the Dynamic Duo of Josh and Nick began expanding as fast as the universe, if a little less predictably. Legendary Foo Fighter and Nirvana skin-pounder Dave Grohl was behind the drum kit. Moody crooner and Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan added his Lee Hazelwood-on-glue vocal stylings. And the list of celebrity luminaries didn’t end there.
Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider from Eleven supplied keyboards, ebo and international flavor; Paz and Anna from the Perfect Circle camp supplied strings and even Dean Ween and Blag from the Dwarves were on hand to add insanity to the mix. Chris Goss from Masters of Reality also made an appearance, teaming with the QOTSA live posse (Brendon McNichol, Gene Trautmann, Dave Catching and the mysterious “Hutch”) to add to the pin-eyed meandering that marks the Queens at their best.
Now at long last Songs for the Deaf, the feel good hit of the millennium, was done and I’d been invited to hear it for myself. I settled into the plush interior of the limousine, turned the volume up to 10 and a half and just zoned as the city gave way to the ominous terrain due east of Los Angeles. Security surrounding these recordings had been so tight I couldn’t get an operative anywhere near the Queens’ Palm Springs Compound to get a listen before the disc was finished, but the long draught had been worth it.
From the edgy flamenco-stylings of “First It Giveth” to the infectious Gary Glitter on acid beat of “Do It Again”; from Lanegan’s channeling of ZZ Top to find “God Is In The Radio” to the Devo _esque trance of “Go With the Flow” -- the record never stops challenging the listener to move beyond the narrow confines of metal (both NU and HEAVY) to the pus pumping heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll itself.
“Six Shooter” plumbs the depths of lyrical depravity, while “Just Another Love Song” explores the romantic side of insanity. As always, the manic energy of Oliveri’s songs lifts the Queens of the Stone Age above their Stoner Rock peers to a realm where fire-breathing punk profanity commingles with the sacred sludge of Sabbath.
With more twists and turns than Mulholland Drive and a plot almost as confusing, the eponymous Songs for the Deaf arrives like a neo-Bohemian Rhapsody boasting three lead vocalists and more low-end than Nell Carter at a wet thong contest. My mind, such as it is, was now officially blown.
The whole CD plays like a prelude to the Apocalypse of Pop Music as we know it, a world of sonic textures and structural absurdity that turns the very notion of commercial Rock on it’s coifed and bloated head. To say that Songs For the Deaf will inspire worship from Queens of the Stone Age devotees is also to say that this record will inflame many a puberty stricken urchin desperately craving something new. The Queens wouldn’t have it any other way.
As the final haunting strains signal the close of the record it dawns on me that the driver is laughing like a crazed lunatic and heading straight for the chain-link fence that separates the runway at Ontario airport from the highway. Before my brain can process this information, we crash the gate doing 98 miles-per-hour and cleave it like a warm knife through a metal detector.
Ahead looms the QOTSA Lear Jet, just one of the perks of a reported ten-figure record deal with music behemoth Interscope. When the driver takes off his cap to reveal a gleaming bald dome and impossibly long beard I realize that Oliveri himself has been behind the wheel the whole time. My life flashes before my eyes, but it’s all intermission.
"Mr. Deafman, so good of you to come."
I’m shaking hands with a man wearing a blue uniform and Ray-Ban sunglasses so shiny they threaten to set the cockpit on fire. With his hulking six-foot-whatever frame and wholesome red locks, he looks like the bastard son of Ozzie and Harriet crossed with legendary axeman Paul Bunyon. Not only will he be piloting the plane this afternoon, but as vocalist and guitar player of QOTSA he’s also supplying the in-flight entertainment. It turns out that the industrious Mr. Homme has been learning to fly in his off-hours, which are few and far between now that his label Rekords Rekords is finally off the ground.
"I wanted to spend a lot of time at the airport during the making of this album, to access my own inner deaf child. Can you hear the difference?"
I see his lips moving, but I can’t hear a thing as co-pilot Oliveri guns the engines and Homme returns to the cockpit. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Queens of the Stone Age flight without two well-built stewardesses imported from Scandinavia. Approached by one of these buxom vixens I’m expecting to be offered coffee, tea or milk, but those aren’t on the menu. There’s only Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol.
When we reach ten thousand feet Homme’s voice comes booming over the loudspeaker:
"Our flight today is a humanitarian air drop. In three minutes we’ll be over the Warped Tour, dropping promotional copies of Songs for the Deaf onto the musically undernourished. Forgive them, for they know not what they’re listening to."
As the desert sun bubbles outside my window I can hear Homme and Oliveri roaring with laughter. Songs for the Deaf rains down on the crowd below. Five minutes later a sliding glass door opens to reveal a mink-lined hot tub. As the steam rises I see the shadows of a half dozen naked women of every race, creed, color and bust size, a veritable United Nations of sleaze, engaging in acts that can’t be described in a G-Rated band bio.
Homme sits under a tanning lamp reading the Wall Street Journal. A Danish exchange student feeds him fresh grapes as her little sister fans his freckled form with a giant palm leaf. Off in the corner, a eunuch recites poetry while psychic Sister Cleo reads a set of tarot cards and pulls at a joint the size of a baby’s arm. The inventor of Robot Rock is at one with his muses.
Oliveri, meanwhile has positioned one of the stewardesses like a human coffee table and begins snorting what looks like dirty talcum powder off of her ample flanks. It’s going to be a long flight. His eyes turn to blue gelatin and roll back in his head and I can almost hear the hair start to grow on his pasty white chest. As Shaun Cassidy once observed- “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
And this is the dawning of the Age of AQOTSAIUS. With the release of Songs for the Deaf maybe now the blind will see, the dumb will speak and even the deaf will finally hear the Queens of the Stone Age.