|Jan. 31, 2002 - KNAC: Rated "R" For ROCK: Queens Of The Stone Age Interview
by David Lee Wilson
Tripadelic mental head-bash with convulsing guitars and a vocal/lyric approach that Syd Barret only hinted at, that pretty much qualifies Queens Of The Stone Age for inclusion in their own category as far as rock sub-genre’s go. With all attempts at categorization aside it is probably better to just sit back and enjoy the ride that the Queens are on, which I am becoming convinced was Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri’s, (the core of the Queens), intention anyway.
The bastard child of Kyuss, a band that was only fully appreciated after its end and whose cast offs include Unida, Slo Burn, Mondo Generator, and the Desert Sessions discs, Queens Of The Stone Age travel down a similar stoner-rock road as Kyuss only here the world seems ready, even eager, to inhale more deeply. Proof of such came last year when “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and the album from which it came, Rated R, were both unqualified commercial successes and this despite the music industry’s penchant for pubescent teen puffery and the rock star homicide inducing annoyance of Jock Metal yo-dogs. Shit, maybe all the surrounding garbage is responsible for my deeper appreciation of the Queens, who knows but whatever the reason their radio presence was certainly a welcome respite from the mundane that radio was and has become again. Yes, it is time for another Queens record and as luck would have it, there is one on the way. Songs For the Deaf is due out later this year and features Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters on drums and vocal contributions from Dean Ween of Ween and Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan.
Recently bassist, sometime lead vocalist, and all around cool dude Nick Oliveri stumbled to the telephone and decided to call yours truly to talk about the new disc, his side-project Mondo Generator, and teaming up with former Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford.
KNAC.COM: Before we jump into the new stuff I want to ask you about the Heavy Metal 2000 soundtrack that you contributed a track to a while back. Were you much into that whole world of fantasy animation?
NICK: Yeah, “Infinity” was the track we did. Yeah, the original one with Black Sabbath and Cheap Trick and a lot of stuff on that one was killer and we were stoked to be on the second one but apparently the movie never really came out. It was a shame too but at least the soundtrack made it out! The soundtrack for the movie that never came out!
KNAC.COM: Yeah, it went straight to video I guess. What do you remember about the original, I mean, for a lot of people that was an incredible thing because it was before music video when hard rock wasn’t all that present in movies?
NICK: You know, when I was a kid it really fueled everything that I did and it kind of leads up to what is happening today, at least musically for me. A lot of that stuff changed my life for sure, I mean, I wouldn’t be playing right now if all that didn’t go down. A lot of the stuff that is going down now, I don’t know how I feel about a lot of the stuff but if it is cool and the kids are pissed and they need something really heavy to get it out then it is all good, I guess.
KNAC.COM: It is a different world now for sure especially when you look at all of these kids who want to emulate Vanilla Ice instead of somebody like Ozzy, fuck I must just be getting old!
NICK: Yeah, it is strange. I don’t know where that all comes from. . .
KNAC.COM: Bad parenting!
NICK: I guess! It is just not having good music around the house or something, I don’t know.
KNAC.COM: I know your time is dominated by QOTSA, especially with a new record coming out but will a band like your Mondo Generator project ever become a touring entity?
NICK: Well, we are doing some of the songs with Queens and if I ever get a good four or five weeks off from touring with the Queens I will do like a little tour but I don’t know if or when I would be able to do it to be honest because we are going to be busy touring this record for at least a year and then probably do another record after that so to actually set it up and to make it happen is kind of a long shot right now but you never know.
KNAC.COM: When asked to describe what the Mondo thing sounded like versus Kyuss or QOTSA I keep using the word “Live,” does that fit for you?
NICK: Oh yeah, it is a lot more raw. The last QOTSA disc actually had a version of a song that was on the Mondo disc or vice versa. . . No No, well, the first song on the Mondo disc, “13th Floor,” is “Tension Head” on the QOTSA disc but it is a different version. I recorded that song three different times with three different drummers, the first version is the one on Mondo, the second version is with Alfredo who was the last drummer in Kyuss and we never put that out and the last version with Gene on it is on the R disc.
KNAC.COM: Do you do the song live and if so which version do you follow?
NICK: Yeah we do it live and we stick to the Queens version.
KNAC.COM: When QOTSA play does it have to be a career retrospective kind of set to please the hangover fans from Kyuss and all the solo projects that you and Josh have?
NICK: We do Desert Sessions songs live, we do a bunch of Queens songs, we do some Mondo songs, we really try and mix it up live and it is always a different set. We don’t do the same set twice so whatever we need to add to the set to keep it new we do that.
KNAC.COM: So you are moving into Greatful Dead territory then?
NICK: (Laughing) No, I wouldn’t say that! We don’t play for like five hours with an intermission in the middle. Actually, one person followed us for about five shows once! But just one person!
KNAC.COM: Was he selling bootlegs and t-shirts in the parking lot for gas money?
NICK: Yeah, he had a fucking booth set up and all that! Naw, he just followed us for five days. (laughs)
KNAC.COM: Maybe he was really just too nervous to pop the question to one of you guys! I read somewhere that Queens Of The Stone Age are one of Rob Halford’s favorite new groups. Did this guy have a shaved head by any chance?
NICK: (Laughing) Oh shit! You know, when I was a kid I had no idea (about Halford’s homosexuality) and once I found out it was like, “Wow, it all makes sense now!” He was like one of those leather-daddy type dudes and if you think about some of the stuff that he is singing there are all of these references to it, like “Hell Bent for Leather” and Point of Entry and just all these things that make sense now. But you know, I don’t really care what he does when he is off the stage, you know what I mean? When he is on stage and if he is throwing down, cool, I don’t give a shit! His sexual preference, I could give a shit because it doesn’t affect me in any way. I am not with it so how is it going to affect me? That kind of shit never bothered me.
KNAC.COM: How did Rob Halford get involved with the last Queens record?
NICK: We recorded at Sound City in Van Nuys and we were in studio B and he was in studio A and there is only one lounge between the two so whomever is in studio A and studio B you are going to get to talking to each other. He was drum tracking for his new record and we were in B and our producer, Chris Goss, said, “Hey man, would you come in and sing on this?” and Rob was a really nice guy and said, “Yeah,” came in and did it. Josh wrote down what the lyrics were and he was like, “Oh, rock and roll cocktail, I think that I have had this.” (Laughs) It was so funny and he came in and did his stuff, a really nice guy, he is a very cool dude. Being a fan as a kid, I mean, I saw Priest as a kid in like ’83 and I never would have thought that in my whole life that Rob Halford would be singing on my music, never. It was actually a nice treat and it was like we were all in the control room watching him sing in the vocal booth with headphones on and we were all just going mental, “Oh shit! Rob Halford!” It was so cool.
KNAC.COM: Did you have to sit and think about how to write something that he could scream a bit on?
NICK: I said to him, he was doing some of the more sinister Rob stuff and then when it gets to the “Cocaine” part in the choruses I said, “Hey man, can you do your Rob Halford thing?” and on the original version every one is, (screams) “COCAINE!” But we didn’t want to overkill on that so we only ended up putting the very last one of the whole song on it and in the rest of the song he is just doing the sinister Rob thing but there are like eight different peoples voices on it so it was really tough to mix.
KNAC.COM: Since the last record was a hit you will probably be playing bigger halls on the next tour. Do you have a preference of hall size when playing? Bar/club versus theater versus arena?
NICK: The biggest kind of thing that I like is about the size of a theater, a small theater. I really believe anything over like 3000 starts to get a bit like, “I can’t see the band” and I am a music lover who likes to go and see bands play live and if I can’t see a band playing on the stage, if I am that far back, I won’t go. I will put the disc on my CD player and rock out at home. I can’t see doing that to your fans. I mean, we did Ozzfest but that wasn’t our thing, it was Ozzy’s, but I am more into smaller places. The more intimate the better really. I do prefer the 1500 sized clubs, they are awesome with some really good sound systems and they are just comfortable to see a band at.