Nov. 26, 2001 - Sonicnet: Queens of the Stone Age Front Man Gets Dizzy in the Desert
by Joe D'Angelo
If you thought Queens of the Stone Age were a little "out there," new music by frontman Josh Homme will make Queens sound as straightforward as "Chopsticks" by comparison.

To achieve the way-out sound on Desert Sessions 7+8, Homme and eight others traveled to the far-off reaches of a makeshift studio near Joshua Tree, in the California desert, with little more than some vague ideas to bring to the table.

"I ask that people come in with either a part or an idea," Homme said of the prerequisites for the latest installments of his free-form recording project. "An idea can be like, I've always wanted to do my own version of a Meat Loaf song. Like 'babies are burnin' butter is churnin' ' — like 'Anything for Love'-type bullsh--. It's BYOM — bring your own music.

"And what's cool is that once people see that, they go, 'OK, I get it.' That first day and that first tune are just like breaking the ice, and within a couple hours, there's f---in' ice everywhere."

Desert Sessions 7+8, released November 20 on Homme's own Rekords Rekords label, is the fourth double album in the series that began in 1998. Much like its predecessors, the rules to recording are simple: there are none.

"It's a musical experiment that borders on arrogance," Homme said. "It's just getting people together that do and don't know each other to bring in a few ideas and kind of improvise on the spot. And ideally it asks the question, 'Do you remember why you started playing [music]?' And I think [having] musicians who are signed play with people who do crystal meth and play lap steels all day in the middle of nowhere is good for both parties."

While not divulging who the speed-addled cow punks were in the bunch, Homme assembled a diverse troupe to jam with this time out, including fellow QOTSA member/former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider (Eleven, Chris Cornell) and members of Earthlings?, Like Hell and Masters of Reality, among others. The members all switch instruments throughout the recording, and the contributions from Samantha Maloney of Hole and Mötley Crüe fame, whom Homme met when QOTSA played shows with Hole, just might surprise some people.

"She's a really good drummer, and she blows that chick thing — you know, when people are like, 'She's good ... for a girl' — she makes that whole thing bullsh--. It's like either you're good or you're not. ... She played her ass off, and she didn't just want to play drums. She sings, plays bass, some guitar, some keyboards."

Homme said the latest Desert Sessions don't fit neatly into any category, but he was willing to break it down: "There's a '70s booty-rock song ('Nenada') that has Natasha Shneider singing Russian vocals over it. And then there's 'Polly Wants a Crack Rock,' which is just kind of a weird, punk, drug song. So I think if you look at the titles — and the titles get bizarre — gypsy marches ('Up in Hell'), Russian '70s booty-rock and drug punk music. You have to start making up your own genres if you need 'em."

While the Desert Sessions 7+8 is hitting store shelves, Homme is putting the finishing touches on a new Queens of the Stone Age album, Songs for the Deaf, which is being mixed in Los Angeles. Foo Fighters singer/guitarist Dave Grohl played drums on all but one track on QOTSA's third album, while Dean Ween of Ween appears on "Six Shooter," "Gonna Leave You" and "The Mosquito Song." Other songs slated to surface on the LP include "Songs for the Dead," "Go With the Flow" and the title track.

"The Queens take a step from the Desert Sessions in that musically it's all over the place," Homme said. "If I was going to sum it up, I'd say that the Queens are like a focused version of the Desert Sessions. The Desert Sessions are a bit more wild and all over the map, and the Queens are an experiment and a slice of the spectrum that the Desert Sessions are."

Homme went on to say that Songs for the Deaf, which he expects to hit stores between April and June, sonically falls someplace in the middle of the QOTSA discography.

"It's kind of like the sound and the empty space of the first record (1998's Queens of the Stone Age) mixed with the diverse songs of the second one (last year's R)."

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