Since the 2002 release of Songs For The Deaf, Queens of The Stone Age have had their ups and
downs. Multiple number ones and a world tour(which circled the globe more than once) followed and the band seemed invincible.
Invincible until February 2004 that is, when Josh Homme asked founding member, Nick Oliveri
to leave the band. One of rock's most dominant entities appeared to be brought to its knees. After months of silence, public
mud-slinging, and eventual apologies, it appeared the band were making a return to the rock scene.
The recent release of Lullabies To Paralyze signalled the return of one of the world's hardest
hitting bands. The sound embraced on the new album was completely unexpected, with an obvious sound progression, an altered
line-up (currently boasting Josh Homme, Joey Castillo, Alain Johannes, Troy van Leeuwen, Mark Lanegan and Natasha Schneider)
along with a new found maturity all making an appearance. Although providing a shock, and even alienating some fans, Lullabies
To Paralyze has helped the band reach a broader audience this time around, and they couldn't be happier. When I receive my
call from guitarist Troy van Leeuwen, he seems to be a little preoccupied, "I'm cooking my own meals at home," he explains,
"I'm barbequing, cooking pasta, anything I can't do on the road."
Talk later turns to the most recent release, and I can sense a shift in demeanour: suddenly
it's business mode. "Recording was short, about five weeks. It was a very positive experience actually. We went in with a
couple of ideas. We came out with 20 songs, and 14 ended up on the record. It was time well spent. You know? There wasn't
really any fucking around," he says seriously, "I think there's talk of releasing a vinyl version of the record, where all
the songs from the session are on there." Now that's a treat fans should be looking out for.
"I think if you were gonna compare it to Songs For The Deaf I think we've done, you know,
better, in this amount of time, you know? But you know, we have a long way to go, you know, we just have to take it in out
stride I think." van Leeuwen tells.
The departure of bassist Nick Oliveri took a large piece of the band's puzzle away leaving
mellower remains, but van Leeuwen only looks forward, "I would say that compared to the last record, which was a brutal record
for Queens, it is mellower. Where you take a record like Rated R, which had smashes of different kinds of dark pop stuff,
you know? This record expands in a different way, where there's more depth to what's going on. There's a lot more focus on
the vocals too, you know? I think Josh is singing really well, you know, where we're doing a song like I Never Came, which
you'd never hear on a Queens record, but to me it's a great song. It's a newer, lighter spectrum, I guess"
The aspect of the album which piqued my interest prior to release was track You've Got A Killer
Scene There Man, which had been devoured in hype. A Queens track featuring Shirley Manson and Brody Dalle? That's something
all rock fans could enjoy! So after the much talked about recording was actually heard, it seemed like an anti-climax. A mish-mash
of voices, certainly not obviously featuring Dalle and Manson, as NME had promised.
"Well I mean it wasn't us that went to the press and like 'guess who's on our record?' you
know what I mean?" van Leeuwen asks, "Well the idea behind it was a gang of individuals that were singing this chorus. There's
Chris Goss singing on there, Alain Johannes, myself, Brody, Mark Lanegan and Shirley. It's sort of like a, you know, the song
starts off almost like a dim smoky spotlight smoky club, one guy on stage, then by the end of the song, there's a group of
individuals singing along, going 'hey man, yeah I agree, totally, I get what you're saying'. So that's why, it wasn't supposed
to be like featuring Brody Dalle, or featuring Shirley Manson. They were just drinking wine in the studio with us. It was
like 'fuck it, why don't we just try this', you know?"
No strangers to Australian festivals, being chosen as a headliner for Big Day Out in 2003,
the band return to our shores in July to lead the pack at Splendour In The Grass festival, as well as a swag of side shows
around the country. With a band renowned for their spontaneity, I begin to wonder if I'd be stupid to formulate any sort of
expectations for the tour. When I ask Troy, he makes some big promised, "There's always something new that we do every night.
Queens fans that have been with us can look forward to a pretty free musical experience as far as being able to morph on stage
while we're playing.
"It's really a good you know musical experience right now because you know with Alain Johannes
with us and Natasha Snider and they're two of the best musicians I've ever played with, so they're really adding something
to the live show as far as the music really being paid allegiance to." Troy gushes, as I've obviously hit his passion.
What about setlists? Are we going to hear one setlist on the whole tour? "I just think that's
boring," Troy spits out, "You learn a bunch of songs, and you're supposed to play as many as you can, you know? And that way
if somebody goes to two shows, they don't see the same show. It's going to be you know something off of every record at least,
even some Desert Session stuff maybe. We're talking about doing some other stuff too. Maybe even when Mark comes back to join
us, we'll be doing one or two of his songs. You know, but you know we write a different set every night.
"We miss Australia," he states, "I'm just looking forward to coming down. I just like being
there. I like the people, I like to go out and get drunk with the people," So we should look for you at the bar? "You'll definitely
find me at the bar," he laughs. "I love going on tour, I like playing every night. That's something that I was born to do.
So playing every night in a different city is the best part of touring. You know, not knowing where you are when you wake
up is the worst part of the tour, but it's what I was born to do," van Leeuwen reasons, and I can just picture him shrugging
his shoulders in an almost resigned manner. Why not submit yourself to that life?
For a band whose tours single-handedly circulate rumours about crazy backstage antics, I'd
assume Australia should be a little wary of Hurricane QOTSA, but I'm told this worry is unwarranted. "Lately we've been pretty
laid back, because you know there's been a lot of illness and stuff. You know, we're trying to stay somewhat healthy because
we've got a long road ahead of us. Josh was sick for a little while, Mark was sick and we all, you know passed around what
we called the Bus-Aid. You know 'cause when you're on a bus together you all end up having the same sickness. So we've been
pretty mellow lately, you know?" van Leeuwen explains. See? I told you there was a new-found maturity.
At least we know the stage show will be crazy.