Oct. 3, 2000 - Play Louder: 'R' Friends. Electric.
by John Williamson
Nick Oliveri, the erstwhile bassist of Queens of the Stone Age is a man whose contribution to quality, underground rock music throughout the past decade should not be underestimated.

While QOTSA represent by far his most successful venture to date, he also formed Kyuss with QOTSA's Josh Homme, and had a stint in Dwarves where he masqueraded as Rex Everything. More tellingly, he proudly proclaims in his band's press releases to be a certified lunatic, while he earlier this year was arrested in Milton Keynes after becoming involved in a brawl with Terrorvision.

As the latter's publicist offered cheap jibes about Queens of the Stone Age, they have subsequently gathered much momentum in their quest to become one of the biggest rock bands in the world (a recent booking for January's Rock in Rio festival bears this out), while Terrorvision remain, well, Terrorvision.

However, Oliveri seems far from lunatic while speaking from a Detroit hotel in the middle of an intensive touring schedule, which has seen his band supporting Foo Fighters in a string of American enormodomes. The connection with Nirvana is also significant, as QOTSA are being hailed in some quarters as "the new Nirvana," though this seems to have more to do with their transition from underground stalwarts to rockstars than musical similarity. Where Nirvana trawled punk and heavy metal, QOTSA come to rock from a lineage that mixes Captain Beefheart with Monster Magnet, John Coltrane with the 13th Floor Elevators.

"We've been friends of Dave Grohl for years," says Oliveri, "and he has always been pretty supportive. One of the good things about Foo Fighters is that they always take bands that they like out on tour, and it has been good for us playing to their audience. Quite a lot of them seem to be aware of us and know a few of the songs, which is encouraging."

Strangely though, Queens of the Stone Age, for all their mammoth touring schedules, have made more of a breakthrough in Europe than in their home country.

"We like to keep busy," affirms Oliveri, "so this year has been good. We toured for fifteen months on the first album, and we don't like to be sitting about at home, there are at least another eight months of touring to do with 'Rated R'.

"Things have gone much better in Europe audiences just seem to react better to what we do, and word of mouth about the band works much faster. Each time we go back to a city there seems to be double the number of people that were there the last time. In the States, it has been a much slower climb up the ladder. Here you need to be flavour of the month, rather than it being about the music, and we haven't reached that stage yet."

It is not for want of work : Kyuss seem to have built a huge critical reputation with the benefit of hindsight which they never seemed to enjoy at the time, while 'Rated R' should be a platform for the ever evolving QOTSA. Written by Oliveri and Homme in the Palm Desert (near Joshua Tree), they prefer the label "desert rock" to the "stoner rock" tag with which they have been cast, yet are continually looking to the future.

"'Rated R' was written in the desert, because we wanted to get out of the way. We didn't tell anyone that we were going or where we were going, so there were no phone calls, no distraction and very little sleep. We left with a few unfinished ideas for songs, finished them off and then wrote some new ones in five days, the album was written."

Using guest vocalists that ranged from metal gods like Rob Halford to Mark Lanegan provided a point of entry for many to the album, but it is not a trick they are likely to repeat on subsequent efforts.

"We have not really given too much thought to the next record," he says, "we have done a new EP for release in Britain with some extra songs and cover versions, but we only have one or two half written songs, we are still pretty focused on the current album. I have no idea how it will sound, just that it won't be the same as anything we have done in the past : that way it stays interesting for us, and hopefully, the audience."

After their current European tour, it is back home for Christmas, South America in January and Australia to follow. Oliveri is excited :

"We are really psyched about playing in Rio," he says. "We have never been to South America before, and obviously, it is somewhere we have always wanted to go. Apparently there are lots of girls and lots of drugs... Then we are hoping to spend some time on the beach when we are in Australia... "

While QOTSA are musically pioneering for a rock band, it is reassuring/depressing (delete according to preference) that their extra curricular interests are the same as their manifold, less illustrious predecessors.

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