Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Album: Lullabies to Paralyze

Random thoughts: Here's one of the many times I've "flipped" an interview to more than one magazine. The key here is deciding on a slightly different angle and not overlapping the quotes. The first piece was for Chord, the second for Caustic Truths, a horrible rag of a glossy that seems to have called it quits, thankfully. Notice the second article delves more into the whole Nick Oliveri fiasco. As for Josh Homme, well, he was actually a real hoot to interview. I've heard countless stories about him being a big dick, but he was humble, funny, and charming to yours truly. Unless he was just putting me on...

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Queens of the Stone Age
Lullabies for the deaf, from the desert

By Jason Schreurs

If it was up to Josh Homme, leader of Queens of the Stone Age, he’d probably never leave the desert.
“I’ve actually been at home for the longest I’ve been in 14 years. I’ve been at home for a year or so,” says Homme from his home-base in Joshua Tree, CA.
Homme has been working hard on a new Queens album, Lullabies to Paralyze, in the legendary Rancho de la Luna studio. He’s also been trying to relax since coming off a whirlwind of touring, the firing of longtime bassist Nick Oliveri, and going into a self-imposed cultural vacuum.
As the touring machine rumbles back to life to promote an album sans-Oliveri, Homme may not be happy about leaving his comfortable surroundings, but is content he’s made the music he wanted to make.
“You’re supposed to make your favorite music,” he insists. “It seems like people are running from their music and they are making it for someone else, and I just didn’t learn it that way.”
Homme grew up in Palm Desert, CA, forming stoner rock purveyors Kyuss with Oliveri in the early ‘90s when they were teenagers. Homme speaks affectionately for what has become know as the “desert scene,” one he’s nurtured with the popular Desert Sessions series. It’s a scene that has always preached individuality.
“The whole desert scene is like that,” says Homme. “Man, when we were kids, if you didn’t play your favorite music and, on top of that, if it sounded like anyone else, you were fucked. I mean, you’d basically get ostracized.”
After the runaway success of their last album, Songs for the Deaf, and the subsequent ejection of Oliveri, high pressure surrounded the release of the new Queens album. Homme, however, doesn’t seem phased with the lofty anticipation of Lullabies to Paralyze.
“Well, I want people to like it, but how many people like it, those are the things I just don’t have any control over,” states Homme calmly. “I’m also okay with people that don’t dig it. I know that I love this record and so it’s already a success for me; and the rest is not shit that I should be worried about.”
Queens are currently a three-piece -– Homme, drummer Joey Castillo (ex-Danzig), and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (ex-A Perfect Circle) -- with Desert Sessions member Alain Johannes playing bass on the new album and guitar tech “Dan Druff” handling bass on their current tour. There’s been no rush to find a permanent bassist to replace Oliveri.
A loose cannon on and off stage, Oliveri frustrated and angered the mellower Homme with his violent and erratic behavior. According to Homme, recording the calmer Lullabies without the presence of Oliveri became a liberating experience.
“There was a part of me that felt free,” he confides, “but, at the same time, we never really talked about Nick. And not because it was a taboo subject, it wasn’t that big of a deal when we were making the record.”
It seems unlikely, but rumors have Oliveri returning to the band. Either way, the two have patched things up, Homme recently contributing to Oliveri’s longtime project Mondo Generator. But when Oliveri was turfed, a media circus ensued when all Homme wanted to do was focus on recording new songs. It was at this point Homme decided to hole the band away and get down to business.
“Too much attention was put on the fact Nick and I weren’t understanding each other,” he explains. “So I said a few times, ‘We’re not going to make a record for a couple of months,’ but we were already in the studio. It just felt like we needed to do this without being under the watchful eye of anybody.”
The result is the most listenable Queens album yet, Homme’s smooth voice commanding attention for 14 lengthy but varied songs. It’s a departure from previous efforts, especially Songs for the Deaf, but Homme is all about moving forward. “The first three records were learning certain things, and this is almost the exorcizing of everything that got learned.”
In a defining moment, guitar legend Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) showed up at the studio to play guitar on one song from Lullabies to Paralyze. Now that must have been a thrill.
“Man, as we would say down here, ‘It was tits!’ I learned more shit in one day than I have in years,” beams Homme.
But the days of hanging out in the desert with the likes of Gibbons have been put on hold until the touring machine settles back down and the road-dogs in Queens decide it’s time for another break. Before leaving for a US tour, Homme is having trouble getting psyched up, settled in to a comfortable life in the desert.
“I’m hoping I’ll be excited once it starts,” he grasps. “I think I learned a subtle, different way to live down here and I’m totally digging it.”

Originally published in: Caustic Truths
(Defunct? God, I hope so.)

Queens of the Stone Age
Finding solace in the desert

By Jason Schreurs

The first thing Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme needed to do in order to focus on the band’s latest album, Lullabies to Paralyze, was to hole himself up in his desert ranch recording studio, and just get away from the rest of the world. So who was he trying to distance himself from?
Was it eager fans urgently awaiting the first Queens album after the parting of longtime bassist Nick Oliveri, record labels rubbing their hands together for the next “No One Knows” to slog to rock radio, or the watchful eyes of Oliveri himself?
“Just anybody else, you know,” shrugs Homme, deflecting the question. “We’ve made records for ourselves for a long time and now’s the wrong time to change that. It just doesn’t make sense to now do it for another reason.”
Despite having a mission to produce the record he wanted to make without any outside influence, recording in the infamous Rancho de la Luna studio, home to Homme’s popular Desert Session series, must have been a bit strange without the overbearing presence of notorious wildman Oliveri. So, was it weird not having Nick there during the recording process?
“I’ve made records without Nick before,” states Homme. “So, if the question is: Was it weird? Not really. If the question is: Was it hard? The answer is no.”
Despite a nasty break-up of the two Queens mainstays, Homme and Oliveri (who also played together in stoner rock purveyors Kyuss) have since patched things up. In fact, rumors have been swirling about a possible return of Oliveri to the Queens fold. For now though, Homme isn’t letting on, although he does confirm the two are again on a friendly basis. In fact, he’s gonna record four tracks on the new album by Oliveri’s longtime Mondo Generator project.
“I was at his house four days ago,” quips Homme, “so I think it’s more about what other people don’t understand, than it is about what Nick and I understand.”
One thing that is clear is the latest album by Queens of the Stone Age is not an attempt to recreate the elements left behind when Oliveri exited the band. This album is very much Homme; stacked with his falsetto vocals, mellow meanderings, and some of the most pleasing riffs from the band to date. And, sorry Oliveri fans, not a shred of screaming.
When all is said and done, Lullabies to Paralyze hasn’t rewritten the book on rock, but it’s got amazing subtleties to add to the rock and roll formula. According to Homme, his goal wasn’t to make revolutionary rock, but to find a way to add his magic touch to an already established sound.
“I think people are always like, ‘I’m a snowflake,’” he says, “and, well, not really, you know? You have to articulate the very few things about you that are different.”
Since the previous Queens album, Songs for the Deaf, got so damn huge, it’s interesting to hear Homme’s perspective on the runaway success of the album, and the strange turn of events that had “No One Knows” cranking out of every monster truck and muscle car in North America. So, did he have an inkling that song would break as big as it did?
“I thought that song was special,” he says, “but I think I got accustomed to thinking, ‘This song is special, but people aren’t going to realize that, because they never have before.’ You get a sort of weird, squishy comfort in failure, especially when failure is determined by a record label.”
And was it strange for a dude who built his career on self-indulgence and music for art’s sake to be pulled into the swirling hype machine that had his band pandered to the mainstream?
“I let go of my punk rock guilt when I started Queens,” he insists. “Because that shit… is not up to me, man. I’m not necessarily playing this game under those rules, if shit’s gotta blow up, it’s gotta blow up, but my goal isn’t to be in U2.”
While the new album doesn’t have an immediate hit single like “No One Knows” on it (radio has grabbed the simplistic “Little Sister” as its choice), it is chock full of songs that Homme holds near and dear to his heart. Out of the 14 tracks, album closer “Long Slow Goodbye” gives him the same special feeling as “No One Knows” from the last record, despite being a
completely different kind of song.
“’Long Slow Goodbye’ is a song that I’m probably most proud of out of all the songs I’ve written,” he claims. “It’s honest and for real, and just a tight little song. I don’t know if the kids are going to buy, buy, buy, but it means a lot to me and I’m proud of it.”
Now that Queens of the Stone Age have entered a new chapter without Oliveri, Homme is not focusing on the past. But, you gotta wonder, does he ever miss his formative musical years, like when he was finding his path through the groundbreaking sounds of Kyuss?
“I appreciate the days of being in that band, but I don’t sit at home and go, ‘God, I wish, man…’” says Homme. “Because I loved every minute of those days while it was going on, so it doesn’t make me have any regrets or think the past is better than the present. I’m much more about now than I am about future and past.”
Rock on, Mr. Homme.

For more info, go to www.qotsa.com

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