|September 2003 - Thrasher Magazine Interview
by Ryan Kutner
PAWNED FROM THE SAME seedy gene pool as The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, Palm Desert, California's Queens of the Stone Age are making rack and roil feel dangerous and dirty again with their infectious brand of ominous desert rock. Singer! guitar player Josh Homme prefers the term 'Robot Rock,' a formula he stumbled upon after his former outfit, early '90s stoner rock gods Kyuss, called it quits. QOTSA fuse the minimalist, repetitive grooves of Kraut-rockers Can with the fringe-flying licks of classic biker rock like Steppenwolf; add Homme's cool-headed vocal delivery with his set-on-stun guitar and you've got trance-inducing tunes that get stuck on your brain like flies stuck on dog shit.
Homme's partner in crime, wildman bassist Nick Oliveri, also did time in Kyuss, as well as a brief stint in The Dwarves, and his possessed bark: conjures up visions of a coked-up Captain Caveman. On Songs for The Deaf, the group's third and latest release, ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanagan lends his dark hypnotic vocals as he did on 2000's Rated R, while Perfect Circle guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and new drummer Joey Castillo round out the line up.
But who knows how long this particular line up will last, considering that Homme and Oliveri's creative spark draws from the spontaneity created by a revolving-door policy of band members, only time will tell. After shootin' the breeze with Josh and Joey, I came to realize that while success has finally found Queens of the Stone Age, these maverick rockers would be doing what they do with or without it.
So Josh, Joey was telling me he skates regularly. How about you?
Josh: I used to 'til I was about 15, then I got into playing music. I was actually sponsored in my hometown by Sports Fever. I used to skate the Nude Bowl and lots of street, oillieing benches and slut. But I'd always break my decks cause I was 6'5" even back then when I was 14. There was. definitely some pre-Jack Ass ingenuity going there with the guys I skated with. It was like, "How can we push ourselves to actually get hurt on purpose?"
Joey, when did you join the band and what other bands were you in?
Joey: I was in Wasted Youth. That was my first band.
Josh: LA's Wasted Youth!
Joey: I was also in a band called Sugar Tooth, as well as Danzing, and Goatsnake. That's when I really got to know the guys in Queens, when Goatsnake and Queens toured England together.
When you recorded Songs For The Deaf, did you consciously go out of your way to make it less adventurous than Rated R?
Josh: Well, I think about this way. It's a three-record plan to be able to play whatever you want. The first record needed to step away from Kyuss and announce a new sound, which was repetition trance, and simplicity. Then the second record needed to fan the music out so we could display it and play whatever we wanted. So, the third record--to get it right--should combine the first two and go even further with tunes like Mosquito Song" and...
Girls Gone Wild Ultimate Spring Break I' m just gonna keep that right now and not show anyone else.
So I guess there's a steady, diet of porn on tour?
Josh: Actually no. We're just up for fuckin' instead of porn.
Why wouldn't ya, given the choice?
Josh: Taking pills is a lot like porno; if you take pills to go to sleep you take the smallest amount possible to make it actually work so that you're never taking too much. I don't want to have to watch cow anal sex to get off. I'm already a dirty fucker," I don't need to get to that point.
Speaking of dirty fuckers, you have Turbonegro opening up for you. The singer has that King Diamond look going for him, which is nice.
Joey: Alice Cooper...Clockwork Orange.
Josh: And the ability to have a belly and be totally sexual
So how's the fame thing at this point?
Josh: I like it when I don't have to wait in line to get into a bar. I don't want be noticed on the street, personally: I'd like to make more records, and if I can make dough without selling my balls, I'll do that. I've been playing for years now and this is what I know; for it to do well is a surprise and like, "Well no shit man, come on!" Ya know? Like "What, took you so long, stupid flicker?"
The deaf have finally started to listen, eh?
Josh: The title of the record was named that because of, our expectation. But if the record hadn't done anything I'd be OK with that cause I really like the record. We haven't made any records we don't like and that seems to be the way to hold it together.
What then do you attribute your success to?
Josh: When the Stooges and the Cramps came out, everyone hated them. That stuff didn't get really popular til years later. I think, peoples ears are more in tune to hear good music. It's also partially luck, and partially the way the pendulum swings. And it's swinging back to "Can you actually play and write songs?" "Can you play it live and pull it off or not?" I think when a movement's foundation is just built on teen anger like "I'm mad at you, Mom!", That won't last cause those kidds will grow up, like with some of the rap-rock stuff. And if all the song says is "I want to run away," then do it! It's the type of shit that makes me want to spend five hundred dollars anti buy all these bands journals so they can write it down and stop telling me about it. People are ready to hear something that's a little more raw, like the White Stripes.
Your lyrics lean toward the seedier side. Is this a conscious thing?
Josh: You write about what you know. I can't just say "I'm pissed off at you and I want to run away." I desire to have a lyrical bent, and I write with Mark and Nick who have that same desire. So it's not so much that our lyrics are about the seedier side, it's the way in which they're spoken and the twists they take. To get lyrics like that you have to write about something you know, something that's real. And for lack of a better excuse, we go looking for stuff like that. Ya know, I'm not sick on accident.
But you guys seem to keep it together and aren't a mess like Iggy in his prime or that idiot from Stone Temple Pilots. What's your secret?
Josh: The idea is not to let it drift into stupidity. The idea is to party a lot, and deserve to; which means you have to work more. Never do drugs that require a job application.
Joey: Everybody knows what time to be on stage.
What's in the CD player these days?
Josh: Let's see; what do we got here? Turbonegro, Tomahawk, Johnny 'Cash, The Distiliers, and The Eagles of Death Metal.
Isn't The Eagles of Death Metal your side project?
Do any Eagles' covers?
Josh: No, it's hard and it's about the devil. It's Kentucky bluegrass mixed with stripper music.