October 1998 - Rock 'n Roll Star Wars
by Jon Durbin
Typed with Juha with thanks to BigJim.

Josh Homme's Queens of the Stone Age Make Music for Space Cadets

Slide a glass of frosty-blue milk into the hands of Josh Homme and as soon as he's finished quaffing he might just play you the dirtiest, dirgiest rock this side of the Tattoine Cantina. "Can you imagine that?" asks the 25 year-old Star Wars fanatic. "At the beginning of Star Wars, Luke sits down at his aunt and uncle's table and drinks this glass of blue milk - mainly white with a touch of blue. Did you see that? I could drink that shit forever." Homme, a native of Palm Desert, California, would feel as comfortable smuggling contraband across outer space as a woman who's fallen in love with her gynecologist would with her feet planted firmly in the stirrups.

Queens of the Stone Age, Homme's new band's eponymous album, sounds less like a recording than something that simply fell to earth. Which, given his insane talent for high-speed quality production, provides a better explanation for the current Homme-glut than the theory he spends all his time recording. It's easier to believe that all these records dropped out of the sky.

After Kyuss broke up in 1995, Homme, founder of that band, joined The Screaming Trees as a touring guitarist. "It was relaxing", he says. "I could concentrate on playing rhythm and that's all. I had no intentions of ever playing seriously again." But a combination of events conspired to keep Homme in the game: an Elektra record deal fell through; Frank Kozik, graphic artist and chief caballero of Man's Ruin Records, became a close friend; and, after an evening of drinking and talking shit with Ben Shepherd and John McBain, he realized it was time to put up or shut up. "We got drunk and I started talking about how cool it would be to go to the desert and lay down some tracks. We got more drunk and I thought I sounded like an asshole. I hate guys who get wasted and say things they don't mean, so I booked studio time right there, in the bar, while I was still shit-faced."

Kozik was pleased to accept the project. The result of Homme's alcohol-soaked blathering is The Desert Sessions, the long-running series of music for felons on Man's Ruin. Hard Walls and Little Things, the fourth installment in the twelve album series, is out now. Man's Ruin has also just released a split single with the Queens and Beaver, a companion piece to last year's Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age 10". Amidst all this production, Homme logged bass time on ex-Dinosaur Jr. Mike Johnson's new album, I Feel Alright, recorded with the Wellwater Conspiracy, and continues to contribute his skills to Fatso Jetson and The Eagles of Death Metal. And - the peg, the almighty peg - the Queen's debut is out next month on Loosegroove Records. Holy fuck. Does the man do anything else?

This all began around the same time the first few Desert Sessions were being recorded, when Homme contributed a track to a Roadrunner compilation called Burn One Up: Music For Stoners. The song, "18 A.D.", was the first Queens of the Stone Age track. "Kyuss was so insular", he says. "We would refuse to jam with anyone. Queens of the Stone Age had much more casual beginnings." "18 A.D." features Desert Sessions mainstays Hutch and Dave Catching (Earthlings), and neither member of the current line-up: Alfredo Hernandez (ex-Kyuss, drums) and Nick Oliveri (ex-Kyuss, Dwarves, bass).

Oddly, for a band whose name evokes memories of high school, hot-boxing to Masters of Reality in your big brother's ATV, the Queens sound like a lost-in-space Iggy Pop, face mask fogged with blood and tears. But lumping the Queens together with Sabbath-revivalists, Fu Manchu and Sleep, doesn't bother Homme. "I'm done worrying about that. They [Fu Manchu] are close friends," he says. "People may look at us that way, but I'm not there anymore. Stoner rock," he sighs, "doesn't penetrate my force-field."

Homme's unrepentant love for the Star Wars trilogy (one track on the Queens/Beaver single is called "These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For") creates an atmospheric depth reminiscent of love lost and lust dissipated, lax fingers pressing useless buttons, needles falling back from redline to zero.

This album cures the mind the way novocaine numbs flesh for the needle.

Driving, felonious, illicit music is another way to describe it - like some melancholy eulogy to the Jawas that C-3PO throws to the burning sands of Tattooine. The words of music expert Heather Lyons piledrive a steel spike through the heart of the issue: "This is the rock of the new millennium... and holy shit will it blow you right fucking away."

The Queens of the Stone Age tour in October with Homme (guitar, vocals), Hernandez, Oliveri, and friends Pete Stahl (Earthlings, Wool) and Dave Catching (keyboards). The pirative, slick-as-owlshit album is due out October 6th on Loosegroove. The album art alone ("the filthiest picture I ever saw," Homme admits) is worth the buy.

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