|July 24, 2003 - X-Press: Nick Olivieri, Mondo Generator - Hard Bald
by Mike Wafer
Character roles are a funny thing, and the thing about them is that most people only get one, and it is either their claim to fame, or the millstone of shame chained around their neck.
Henry Winkler will dig being the Fonz for the rest of his life, whereas Alex Guiness really wasn't keen on the fact that he was Obi Wan Kenobi up until the day he went tits-up. The really difficult one, and hence the most rare, is the multiple character role that some actors have achieved in their careers, of which the most outstanding is the Indiana Jones / Han Solo / Jack Ryan combo that our man Harrison Ford has under his belt. Like harlequin masks, these characters almost replace the actor that delivers them in popular culture, and it is for these defining personas that said thespians are and will be forever known.
In musical circles the same thing occurs, but with an equation that sees the (actor name) who plays (character name) formula replaced with the (musician name) from (band name) one. Same rules apply as before; there are the claims to fame; ("hey, aren't you Adam Ant?"), the crosses of overbearing humiliation; ("hey, aren't you that guy from Ugly Kid Joe?"), and there are the very rare cases where a musician has been in multiple bands of popularity, or at the very least respect.
Our subject in question, Nick Olivieri, has himself a resume that most musicians would kill for. . . three highly regarded and revered bands already etched into musical history, and a lesser-known band of the same (if not higher) caliber that is finally being given some serious attention. Olivieri's prominence is at its highest in his role in Queens of the Stone Age to be sure, but his involvement in both Kyuss, and The Dwarves is plainly significant for the fact that for some fans, these bands, and not QOTSA, are their favourites. Olivieri's once-solo project, now solidified band, Mondo Generator are a bookie's guarantee of similar promise, and are the stuff cult status is made of . . . honest to the point of eccentricity, eccentric to the point of rawness, and raw to the point of honesty.
Housed and nurtured by surrogate mother to all of contemporary music's most label orphans - Greg Werckman / Mike Patton's Ipecac Recordings - Mondo Generator have transcended from the realm of the dusty bedroom shelf to the all-important oracle of the digital compact disc, from where their attack is choreographed, timed, and imminent. Much like a dictatorial war machine, Mondo Generator has been, as far back from its initial inception, the master plan of one particular mind, and is thus a far truer representation of that mind than the results that have spawned from its collaboration with other differently working cerebrums. Though now an entity comprised of more than just Olivieri, Mondo Generator is still, at its very core, the workings of one man who has created art purely for release, for uninhibited, uncensored self-expressions, and the music that has been created is a voyeuristic insight into an artist known so well by name and association, though, as yet, personally unknown.
When you write for Mondo Generator you seem to have a knack for making music that is really dark, but also really good fun. Is this the intentional direction of the band, or just the natural result of your writing and production?
That's just the way it comes out I guess. It's not a thought out thing . . . with Mondo it's just what's coming out, and it's an uncensored version of what I would do. It's just what's worn out, and I leave it alone. Producing is a blast, and it's another avenue for music, and it's really good that Ipecac's putting it out 'cause they're my favourite label right now . . . they're putting out the best stuff right now, and I'm pretty psyched about it because it's great to find a label that just lets you put out your art, and I really need to express myself on that level.
Who is the most hand-on person at Ipecac as far as Mondo Generator is concerned?
Mike's pretty hand-on, and he's a really busy fellow and isn't afraid to get things done, and it's been very fortunate that there are all these great people that are totally getting stuff done. The showcase tours are amazing too, and we got to play with the Melvins Fantomas Big Band, which was like the fastest drummer, and the slowest, heaviest drummer on the same stage together and it was like 'what!'. . . it was pretty incredible, it was pretty wild and very intense, and a really amazing experience.
Obviously QOTSA have toured more than Mondo Generator have, are there any bands that you have seen on the road that have switched you on to them, or has it all become a bit of a blur now?
We normally take bands out with us, like Turbonegro, or with Mondo we opened for Tomahawk and Melvins, and these are the best bands that I've been able to play with, and there's a really fun band from Minneapolis called Like Hell who are kinda cool, and there's a few different ones, but it really does get blurry after a while. We played with Bjork last night at Roskilde, and man, she's something else, and so dynamic live, especially in front of a big crowd.
Are the crowd QOTSA are attracting a new crowd, or do you thing they are aware of the history behind it all, specifically your stuff, like The Dwarves and Mondo?
Fortunately we've kept a lot of Kyuss fans, but of course there are a lot of people who don't like that it got big and stuff, but you can't please everyone, so it's one of those things where you can actually just step back and totally concentrate more on making music you like than trying to please everyone else with it.
Does it piss you off when people have that kind of attitude about it, where they stop liking a band solely because they got big? Because there is a high chance of that same thing happening to Mondo. . .
It does and it doesn't, you've got to be able to set yourself back from some of it and say that it is what it is, and some people are gonna dig it still, and other people are gonna stop buying it, but we don't want everybody to like us anyway (laughs). Backstreet Boys fans can stay Backstreet Boys fans as far as I'm concerned (laughs). I prefer doing Mondo in that sense because it is like I said, an uncensored version of what I do, and it makes me appreciate the Queens thing more, being able to do it, and it being really positive.
Do you still not sit back sometimes and wonder whether or not you really want to let some stuff out into the public domain totally raw and uncensored?
I have before, definitely. But like I said, it's better not to censor yourself, because you don't wanna do that because it's lame. At some point you think, "well they're talking shit about me, so I'm gonna talk shit about me as well" (laughs). I have nit-picked over Mondo stuff before, but really it is like a snapshot in time, a picture that you take, and can take another one later. I'm more concerned about taking the next picture, wondering what the next one is gonna be like. . . thinking about what I can do next. With writing I know straight away that, yes this is a Queens song, or not it's not, so it is easy to write songs and know which band they are gonna be for, because they are so different in approach. The Queens thing will touch on the Mondo thing occasionally, like Six Shooter was a Mondo song I thought, but Josh ended up digging it, so we put it on the Queens record.
Has that strong friendship with Josh allowed you to take time out from Queens to work on Mondo for a while, or did you have to pressure the point a little?
Well, he's heard the record and he's really into it, so that's pretty positive too, but I think because we've known each other for so long we don't judge each other. That's really hard to find, because most people have that judgemental bullshit going on, and I know there are things about me he doesn't dig, but he doesn't sit and stress on those things, so it is what it is. We are different and also very similar, which is why we came together to make music in the first place. For the most part I have just picked up Mondo whenever I had time, just here and there, and in November and December we're gonna tour, and hopefully come down to Australia when Tomahawk, Fatomas and The Melvins tour down there. Mondo is overshadowed by Queens obviously, but I'm just happy to be making my music on any level, to be getting it out, so it's really all good. I don't ever trip out about some of it getting bigger, I'm more like, "cool, Queens is getting bigger," because it is possible that if Queens hadn't gotten bigger I might not even be able to make a Mondo record at all.
Is that why Cocaine Rodeo was shelved for so long, yet this new record has followed a relatively normal and smooth time frame?
In part, yeah. What happened with Cocaine Rodeo was that I did it and sent out a bunch of tapes and for about a year I had a band together but it just never came about. . . nobody wanted to touch it in '97. I ended up putting it on a shelf and not even thinking about it. Then I joined Queens and kinda forgot about it for a few years, I didn't even pull it down or think about it or anything until my friend Greg Anderson from Southern Lord approached me and asked if he could put it out, and I said, "yeah", so it came about after sitting on a shelf for three years. The new one took some time because I didn't always have the time to put into it. All up it took about five days if you actually count all the hours I put into it, and I actually took a couple of months time in between tours to do it, and my friend who helped me record it, Brad Cook, was working on other people's projects, and he had to fill his time as well, so it was mainly a problem of scheduling. Mondo is a good break from Queens sometimes, and it's very good for the mind. Producing it myself is the same kind of thing, and to be honest I think bands who don't want to produce themselves are a bit weird, because like I said it's a snapshot. . . and you don't want anyone else taking it.
Thanks to Katie for typing this up!