|March 23 2005 - Aquarian Online Interview
by JJ Koczan
Troy Van Leeuwen, who first brought his signature dusky guitar sound to criminally undernoticed post-grunge alternative upstarts Failure and later added the intelligent ambience that would pull A Perfect Circle away from being just a rock band with a well-known singer, has now found a new home with Josh Homme in Queens Of The Stone Age.
Although too few now remember desert rock originators Kyuss, it was this seminal early-í90s act which gave Homme his start. After the bandís breakup, Homme formed Queens with Kyuss drummer Alfredo Hernandez, eventually adding former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, with whom Homme formed a core musical bond that would become staple to both their careers.
After working with a number of musicians on QOTSA albums, among them Masters Of Reality mastermind Chris Goss and Dave Grohl, Homme and Oliveri parted ways shortly before it was announced that Lullabies To Paralyze, released March 22, was set for recording.
Van Leeuwen, who had joined the band during the touring cycle for 2003ís highly successful Songs For The Deaf, recently took some time out to reflect on his past, the past of the band, and where both are headed in the time to come.
A lot of the focus on the new record has been about how Nick Oliveri isnít around anymore. For someone relatively new to the band, how has it been for you?
Well, I recorded on Nickís record. I think every record is treated differently. The Queens started off as this idea, and it started without Nick, and people donít realize it.
For me, I couldnít really tell the difference between the making of Songs For The Deaf and this one. I know that there was no shortage of ideas and stuff that everybody wanted to do and excitement.
I love Nick to death. How could you not? Heís such a personality. But yeah, we just put our best foot forward to make the music we want to make.
So, for me it was easy. I mean, I make lots of records with lots of different people, so I try to keep it as fresh as possible and not trip.
You took part in the Desert Sessions, is that how you got to know Josh?
Actually, I met Josh a while back. A sound guy that we use, his name is Hutch and he used to do sound in Failure, like back in í97. And Hutch had done Kyuss forever, so I met him through Hutch, just briefly back then and then we always ran into each other on the road.
Itís sort of a circular thing, I guess. You always end up working with people you run into and you appreciate what they do and you dig it. I was a big fan before I joined the band, so it was exciting for me.
The album has kind of a moody vibe to it, what were the sessions like?
Well, the only thing dark about it is that it was nighttime. Of course, thereís moments always where youíre trying to work through something and youíre trying to figure it outÖwe have this saying where Ďyouíre going in,í and itís kind of a no fear situation where itís sort of unknown what youíre doing but you have a vague idea.
We all put this pressure on each other to perform. It can be playful and it can also be like, ĎWhat the fuck?í We know how to keep up with each other, so in the moment that youíre really trying to get something badass, thatís where you go, ĎFuck, I gotta do this.í
Other than that, I think the darkness or the mystery on the record comes from just the way life rolls. Itís not always fun. Shit happens. Things get fucked up, then itís fun again for a moment. Itís just a series of moments that are reflective of the past few years.
How involved were you in the writing?
Weíre always writing stuff. Iím always trying to write stuff, Josh is too. Iíd say this was a pretty collaborative effort for a Queens record. Usually it would revolve around either Josh or Josh and Nick or thereís a couple of Desert Sessions songs here and there.We all were excited to do this and Iíd like to think that I contributed a lot. I think Josh would say the same thing.
Going into Queens, what did you take away from doing Failure and A Perfect Circle?
Well, you know, both of those situations were really different, Failure being something that was touring in a van and spending money to be on the road. Youíre completely doing it for the love of the music and youíre appreciating every second that you can do it.
I think thatís still kind of ingrained in me as a player and working with A Perfect Circle, youíve got guys like Maynard taking care of business and being a badass artist and proving you can express yourself and you donít have to give a shit about all this other stuff that goes along with the making of your living.
So, I would say those are two opposite ends of the spectrum that I could see both being reflected in what weíre doing now.
How about even just the styles of the bands? Whatís it like for you as a player to do each?
Well, I think that sort of that moody darkness thing that youíre talking about, thatís always sort of been what I kind of lean towards. I like to do ambient things. I like to rip solos and all that stuff too, but for me I like to serve the song with whatever color or shade that it needs.
I guess thatís the one thing that I pride myself on, just trying to serve the song. That might even be not playing anything, or playing bass, or playing lap steel, or piano and no guitar. Trying to be flexible.
Thereís nothing more boring than two guys playing guitar all the time like dueling banjos. Even though we tend to do it some of the time, we donít do it all the time.
How is the bassist slot being handled for the tour?
Today is the first show that weíre doing with Alain Johannes who did the record with us. And then what weíre gonna do is weíre each gonna play bass on the songs that we did on the record. Iím gonna play bass on the songs like ĎLittle Sister.í Weíre all switching off and Josh is probably going to play bass on some stuff too.
Kind of changes the situation rather than replacing someone like Nick whoís impossible to replace, weíre trying to make the band flexible and expand. That also includes Natasha Sneider playing some keyboards and stuff like that too.
Queens Of The Stone Age are known for having an ever-changing line-up. You seem to be sticking around, is it something youíd want to keep doing?
I would say that as long as everybody thatís involved pays allegiance to the philosophy that this is something youíre lucky to do, that you get to make your favorite music and play around the world and thatís your job.
Sometimes when people get more popular and fame and all that shit, Iíve seen people take it for granted and forget about the whole music side of it.
I think being able to communicate that, and not being a baby and all that shit, I think everybody tries to keep an eye on themselves and then check your friends if they need to be checked. Itís a really good chemistry of people trying to make this thing happen.
How would you balance that time with A Perfect Circle?
Truth is, Iím not working with A Perfect Circle in a full capacity anymore. I had to make a decision to do one or the other at a point. Itís just too much, I couldnít do both. I wouldnít be serving them each well enough. Thatís not to say that I wouldnít work with them again if I had the chance.
What are your plans after this tour?
Weíre going to be on the road for a while. This is the first show in the States for us, so weíre just getting revved up and you know, while weíre out here doing this, thereíll be more opportunities to work on Mark Laneganís stuff, thereís a new Eagles Of Death Metal record, thereís even a new Mondo Generator record thatís going to be made, and who knows? Maybe Iíll be involved with that again, it just depends on scheduling and all that stuff. I think Iím going to do some more Enemy stuff too. Thatís my band.
Any chance I get to make music while Iím out on the road, I always seize it. I always try to make something happen.