|Jan. 30, 2003 - XPress: Homme Away from Home
The news that Queens of the Stone Age topped Triple J's Hottest 100 on the weekend with No One Knows is no surprise in a year when they have not only dominated, but offered a new description of the art that is rock.
One half of the Queens persona, Josh Homme, is a happy man. More than a decade into his career and, not only is he one of the most name checked men in popular music, but his record label, the mighty Interscope empire, foots his beer bill.
Sitting in a Japanese hotel room, just days before flying into Australia for the band's second round of Big Day Out appearances, Homme is still grappling with the Queens phenomenon.
It wasn't too long ago that Homme had pulled the plug on the band everyone thought was going to make it. Kyuss had spent years crafting their 'fuck off' punk attitude to the point where an army of followers and a legacy of credible releases enticed Elektra to desire a piece of the action.
While contemporaries Alice in Chains and Soundgarden had seen their indie status translate to maintstream success with relative ease, Kyuss had released two albums on Elektra before giving up. Indeed, Homme had given up.
For a year he avoided his guitar and pondred his existence, eventually rejoining with fellow e-Kyuss member Nick Oliveri, christening their new project Queens of the Stone age. More than a decade after Homme decided his was going to be a life dedicated to the six string, he is, for the first time in his life and after the band's first Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance, seeing it all work.
Songs for the deaf, unlike many of its market place competitors, has been the album it was always supposed to be; bold, loud rock that never shied from emotion or melody. And with that oh-so-cool total disregard for just that . . . cool.
As Homme prepares for another year of endless tours, hotel rooms and free beer, he believes the answer to the band's success is simple: they stopped caring about the win/lose divide and just recorded the music they felt so passionately about.
Already getting excited about the prospects for Songs for the Deaf's follow up, Homme is adament we ain't see nothing yet. And you can't help but believe him.
After the attention the album has been recieving worldwide, news has come through that the band has been nominated for a Grammy - it must be a great time to be a member of Queens?
. . . And I'm glad I just joined. 12 years hey; I'm glad I joined 12 years ago. It's strange, you want people to like your music and you want them to like it for the right reasons and . . . yeah, it's bizarre because we've been playing for a long time, doing this for a long time.
Is it strange to get a Grammy nomination so far into your career?
It's more strange just to get one regardless of what time frame it is, and the amount of time we've been playing becuase I don't think we ever think about things like . . .you know? In fact, I know we don't think about things like that. So it feels like being recognised by someone that you almost never think about . . . and, it' cool. It's kind of hard to descirbe because it's never in my ind; like "Boy, I wonder if we'll get Grammy nomination" - you know what I'm saying, you never sit there and think about it.
Well, the most important question: has all the attention the album has been getting translated into mansions and Porche?
(laughs) Yeah, we each bought a model of a house and a little Hot Wheels Porche. You know, it hasn't really translated into that just yet or anything, I don't know . . . that's the thing, I don't know man, all that stuff seems like really out of my realm. I mean when it comes to just playinh and showing up somewhere and having a drink with somebody, that's something I know about and this other stuff is more new to me.
At the moment being out on the road with the band you've now known for so long, is is a great environment? Are the Queens at their best?
Man, we're playing the best we've ever played ever as a band and so I think anyone who's seen us before will be like "Wow, this is even more", you know? Which is part of the reason we've always had a revolving lineup, so that each time you see it it's like you've never ever seen it before, and for the first time people I think that we're going to knock them on their arse.
You and Nick have obviously been musical partners for a long time. Is there a real sense of mateship between you two?
Now we have our assistants call each other and we tell eachother we're going to do lunch . . . nah, I'm just kidding (laughs) The only problem is that Nick is my assistent and I'm his assistant (laughs) so really we end up talking to each other anyway.
And a handsome assistant at that.
Oh my God, he looks like a dog and I shaved his arse and taught him to walk backwards (laughs)
Playing live, Songs for the Deaf is such a rockin' record. Is it the perfect album to deliver live?
Well, I think what we've kind of done over the years is you don't write anything you can't really manhandle live, and so we've kind of taken these songs and they're almost bigger now than they are on the album, and so that lesson has helped us over the years. You know, you go see some people play and you're like "Wow, that dosen't sound very good, or it doesn't sound anything close to the record."I think what we do is try and make it different from the record and bigger, and sort of better.
Do you think if you had have been younger and been afforded the kinds of opportunities Queens have, with a major label, more access to money and production, would it have turned out so raw and live?
No becuse I think, clearly the album is the album and live is live and they should be a little different, but you shold be able to deliver the key points of your record, you know I mean, Kyuss never eveb wanted to do well. We wanted people not to like it, so think this is really the first time we've ever, well in a mainstream way . . . Rated R was really the first record where we're like "Well we don't really care who likes it", this is our favourite music, we love it, and we're not in the music police. We just make our favourite music, and I already think our music is pretty adventurous and our song arranements and instruments that are used on albums - the last song on Rated R has a steel drum on it and it doesn't sound lame, and I think that's pretty adventurous. So I think we're searching to make the most original stuff that we can think of and try not to sound like anyone else, and I think that's what we're doing.
The change in attitude between Kyuss and Queens, was that the point when your sound was really trnaslated correctly for the first time, because you didn't have the restrictions of cool?
I think that's the first time our dark pop sensibility came out, becuase before anything that used to sound like a chorus I'd just censor it out, and now I don't censor myself - I think we lost our punk rock guilt, which was 'do well but don't do too well". Now we're like, Kyuss used to have what we call the 'they theory': "Will they say we sold out, what will they say, what will they do?" And now we're like "Fuck them, you probably wouldn't like them if you met them anyway." And they will never be happy you know, it's about making yourself happy with your own music. Like when we left the studio with this record it was already a success to us, and it's sort of like now we give it to you and that part of it is beyond our control. It's great to get this Grammy nomination and all these nods from magazines and stuff but really that's beyond our control - we can't make music explicitly for that reason, because music isn't really for that, that's almost like a peripheral thing that happens when you play, or what doesn't happen (laughs).
That grasp you have now on both the rock and the melody, is that more just a coming of age or is it something that was always there, but you were scared to use it in the past?
I think we've always been kind of a little bit shy with it. I that what was more important is to feel like we were doing this for the right reason and for real, you know? I mean that's why it's called Songs for the Deaf, we've made a lot of records that have fallen on deaf ears and we know tons and tons of great bands that no one's ever heard that are some of our favourite music.
What seems to stand out however is the experimental elements of the bands that are still at the fore; you haven't conceded or compromised anything.
Yeah, that's what makes us proud of it, it's like saying "Wow, this is actually working while doing it in our style," and instead of changing it to fit, instead of being like water and taking the shape of whatever glass we're poured inm we're like a glass, you know, and it's like everything else is the water. We're doing it all right now and I wouldn't want to do well in any other way, becuase ultimately we have to feel good about it or else this band will break itself apart on purpose.
Do you ever wonder how or why a band with such obscure fundementals as Queens have been grouped on tours such as Ozzfest?
We felt really out of place there and we knew we were there almost to be like ginger on the palate, and that's why we probably won't do something like Ozzfest again, because we don't want to get used to put a buffer between another band that screams in your face; that's just not our style. I think we want to do things that are eclectic, that's why the Big Day Out is our favourite festival tour in the world - it's like eclectic, it's PJ Harvey and the Deftones and 2 Many DJs and Kraftwerk and Foo Fighters and all that stuff, it's not 40 punk bands or 40 metal bands you know what I mean? It has no respect for genre, much like we have no respect for genre. And it's in Australia, and I mean I know you live there so for you it's normal, but my country's saying 'love it or leave it' yours is 'no worries' (laughs) . . . it's a bit different.
The family tree of this band reads like a maze, with so many twists and turns, and uncertainties, to get to this point and yet here you are as one of the most celebrated rock acts of the day. Is is a situation you give much thought to?
I think what's bizarre is that it's worked, because I think we were always into the ride anyway, and so we never felt like "Well, this is it, this I our last shot." It was never deliberate in that way, it was always like "This is what we do no matter what" and to have some success around is such a bonus of "Oh, now we can continue to do it in this way". It was just "Ah shit, how are we going to fund this next thing?" Now we'll just do it with someone else's dough, that just makes is easier (laughs). "Thanks Interscope . . .goodbye".
Between Kyuss and Queens is it try that you honestly thought about never coming back to rock'n'roll?
Yeah I did, I quit for a year. It was me basically trying to . . . I needed to have a reason to put myself back in the fire. I felt like there were so many bans and, you know, in the days of like Hendrix and stuff that I grew up listening to there wasn't that many bans really and I just felt like "Here, now there's thousands of bands and what does it matter what I have to say and who cares?" But then I realised after a year, like "I do - it doesn't metter if anyone else does, I do, I like it,"that it was necessary for me and it didn't matter if it was necessary for anyone else. It wasn't about that, and it just took a while to figure that out - I mean, shit I was only like 21 years old.
The spirit of a young punk rock band is always an impressive one. Do you still feel the same passion and energy is fuelling you in Queens?
Absolutely, and now I know how to manipulate it harder and now I can stay up longer and get free drinks easier (laughs). The skill has been honed at how to sneak in and infiltrate.
So the hard part, Songs for the Deaf, has been a phenomenal success in all respects; how do you better this one?
No problem man, we've already got songs that are better than this record; we don't feel pressure like that because we're always writing all the time. I mean, right now our focus is this record, it's just we have enough sons to blow away this record to do another one - we're always onto the next thing all the time. For lack of a better example, it's like if you vomit you don't stop and look at it you keep on going (laughs). It's better (than Songs for the Deaf); it's way better. I think we're onto a new phase that's more . . . I don't know how to explain it.
if anyone wants a copy for their site email me firstname.lastname@example.org -katie
Big thanks to Katie for typing this one up!