|Oct. 19, 2001 - KindaMuzik: Queens of the Stone Age
by Martijn ter Haar
"Did you see us in Amsterdam? That was the best show of the tour." "Great concert. At first I was afraid it was going to suck, because you looked like shit when you came on stage." "We looked like shit? Oh man, we felt like shit too. But what a great show!" KindaMuzik met with Queens of the Stone Age bass player Nick Oliveri. The answers offered by this disciple of the true rock'n'roll style didn't always turn out to be equally coherent when listening back to the interview tapes, but the man's a nice guy who is genuinely hyped about music and a great musician to boot.
So did Dave Grohl stop stalking you now that you've recorded some songs with him?
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. He wanted to work on 'Rated R', but that didn't work out with our schedules. So he didn't play on that album, but he played three songs on the new one. He's been a huge supporter of ours, I believe he's just as big a fan of us as we are of him. It's a mutual respect thing."
What is it anyway with the scene on the West Coast? It seems like everybody is in at least five bands at the same time.
"There's a very big family of bands like Fatso Jetson, The Dwarves, and Masters Of Reality, bands like that. Quite a family of bands that everybody plays with. Incest is best, so keep it in the family!"
"I knock on your door
I tiptoe on the floor
I hope your daddy ain't home right now
He warned me once before"
('Ode To Clarissa')
Are Clarissa and her daddy from 'Ode To Clarissa' real people?
"It's about a girl named Michelle, not about a girl named Clarissa. We needed a title, and I said 'Ode To Clarissa', because there is a movie with the name Clarissa in it. If ever there was a name that deserved to be in a movie or a song, it's Clarissa. But it's actually about somebody else."
And her daddy was real as well?
"Oh yeah! A big man."
"Heard what you said and
You're laughing baby
Slashed and I cut
And I do it for you
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
Wherever you are"
('You Can't Quit Me Baby')
"The blue pill opens your eyes
Is there a better way
A new religion prescribed
To those without the faith
The hero holding a knife
And blood is not enough"
('Better Living Through Chemistry')
You have a reputation as a party band, but your lyrics are often about themes like abuse and murder. Can you explain the contrast?
"Abuse and murder? That's what we sing about? You know, we'd still play music if we couldn't do anything else anymore. If I was told tomorrow I couldn't do anything anymore, I could still play music. I don't think drugs take much of, eh... They're not that big of, eh..."
I'm not necessarily talking about drugs.
"Yeah, we party and definitely have a good time."
Still, your lyrics are often dark.
"You sing about what you know, whether it's good or bad. It's what comes out. Sometimes with lyrics it is really hard to get your point across. If you get too clever, it sometimes doesn't flow as well. Boneheaded is good, and sometimes you get witty or whatever. I'm not that guy."
And now Mark Lanegan's joined again. Also know as a very cheerful guy. So we can expect more happiness?
"More happiness in the lyrics? Yeah! More sorrow and murder. Basically Mark joined until he doesn't want to play with us anymore. He's a great guy, and he's funny."
I saw on your website that you're going to sell bootlegs like Pearl Jam.
"We've always allowed people to record and video our shows. They're not worth anything if there are so many of them. Everybody already has them anyway, so they're not worth a penny. They would only have value if we didn't let people bootleg and somebody would get in a recorder. Then they could actually press it and sell it. Now, we have just kind of started doing this ourselves. We travel with a DAT machine, record tapes, and also video every show. So now if somebody doesn't have it, they can get it from our website soon. At the moment, it is shambles, but we're trying to get it together for the next record cycle. We've been touring for 16 months on the same record, so we're ready to go home and do the new one."
The new album 'Songs for the Deaf' will be produced by Eric Valentine, whose previous work includes Joe Satriani and that band of the 'Allstar' song. Why did you choose him and did decide not to work with your usual producer Chris Goss or to produce the album yourselves?
"He worked on two albums for The Dwarves [one of Oliveri's other bands - Ed.], so he's sort of a familiar face and somebody cool to work with. He understands where we are coming from, and he isn't going to try to clean us up or anything. One of the main reasons is also that it is kind of hard to convince your record company to spend money on an album when all the money is going in your pockets."
What kind of record will 'Songs for the Deaf' be?
"It will be very different from 'Rated R'. It has a lot of elements from that diversity-wise, but it has a lot of elements from the first album too, in that it is more guitar-heavy. There are some art pieces on it, and there is going to be a more 50s-feel type of rock on it, an AM-radio kind of sound. And there are going to be really, really hard screamers as well. It's going to move all over the place. And there will be three lead singers, aside from everything else as well. I think it's going to surprise a lot of people. They are not going to expect some of it."
I understand you keep changing the line-up to keep things fun.
"Yes, it adds new life to some songs. You get a new drummer, you get a new... whatever. It keeps it fresh for the the band. When you're out touring, playing the same songs over and over, when you play with somebody new, it adds life. You think: "Wow, this is cool, this is fun; a new face to look at.""
I read you and Josh Homme did a few tracks with a guy from Rage Against The Machine for a film.
"Brad Wilk. It's a film called 'The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys'. Jodie Foster plays a one-legged nun, and the altar boys want to kill her. We did a song called 'All the Same' and the score, pieces, and bits for the movie."
Did you see anything of the movie?
"We saw the whole thing. We had to watch the pieces the music had to be written for."
Is it better than 'Blair Witch Project II'?
"Marilyn Manson put together the soundtrack for that, and he asked for 'Feel Good Hit of the Summer'."
Which is about the best part of the movie.
"We did it because Manson's cool, and we like money."
Are you going to do more scores in the future?
"It was a lot of fun. I'd love to do more of those."
With 'Feel Good Hit of the Summer' you've sort of profiled yourselves as drug experts. So could we have your expert opinion on the current rise of cocaine as the party drug of choice at the expense of Ecstasy?
"The Rise and Fall of Cocaine. It's funny, you know. I did that Mondo Generator album called 'Cocaine Rodeo' because everybody was talking about the stoner rock movement and the weed thing, and everybody was pro-weed. So I was like: "I'm just gonna do a cocaine record." That's not saying yes or no, not telling somebody to do it. I don't know why cocaine has made a big comeback. I don't think it really left. It was always there, people were just more secretive about it."
Will there be a new Mondo Generator album?
"Yes. With a completely different line-up. Josh Freese [A Perfect Circle, The Vandals. - Ed.] on drums and maybe Brendon [McNichol, QotSA's touring guitarist. - Ed.] on guitar or something. And I am going to do another Dwarves record as well, or a different band with their singer Blag. So I am going to get three records out for 2002."
Old-fashioned. Usually you have to wait for four years now in between records.
"Queens are going to make one after every release/touring cycle. We are not going to take tons of time off. We're not in any situation were we can take four years off, and I think it would be bad if we did. We keep on going until it breaks up, until one of us gets tired of it."
It seems you are still getting bigger.
"It's been growing slowly, which is good. We didn't want a record that was big with 'Rated R'. We wanted it to grow. To climb one rung of the ladder at a time is a good thing. Credibility, integrity, you know. I think it's made its mark, and the new one, 'Songs for the Deaf', will show what the band has become. Did we really look like shit?"
"Ah, man what a fucking great show that was!"