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Mister Enemy - A Troy Van Leeuwen Fan Site

Heathen Angel Interview

From (2005)
(Transcribed by Emma)

Out of the blue, HeathenAngel was offered an interview with Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens Of The Stone Age. Obviously, we jumped at the chance to talk to one of the biggest rock bands around and sent along resident writer, Yousif Nur, along to chat with Troy …

Yousif: First off the bat – how are you today?

Troy: 'I'm excellent thank you.'

Yousif: How much pressure was there to make an album as good as 'Songs For The Deaf'?

Troy: 'Well we try to be our worst critics before anything, so we put the pressure on ourselves to do, even when it comes to playing live we try to be the best musicians that we can. That means allowing yourself to take chances, make mistakes and wreck them as you go. So for us writing songs is something that we do all the time and we'll continue to do all the time. Making this record for us, in the midst of all the stuff that was going on was like throwing themselves in the oven and saying 'bake'. That's pressure and that's just life. So there is pressure involved but it's self-induced and it's good. It makes you wanna be all you can be.'

Yousif: What would you say are the musical differences between 'Lullabies To Paralyze' and 'Songs For The Deaf'? Or any of the previous albums?

Troy: 'I would say it's a natural progression for the band because I've been following the band before I was in it, and I would say there were elements of beginning stages and there's elements of something new. Which I think is the point – when you're a musician or an artist or whatever you're supposed to have a unique sound and also grow. So I see the growth in the record.'

Yousif: What would you say is your primary role in Queens Of The Stone Age?

Troy: 'I would say I'm there to play whatever. Guitar mostly, but I play keyboards too, electric piano, I've been playing a lot of lap steel lately, which is completely different from guitar, it's a different feeling that you get when you hear it. My role is to colour stuff and to create certain depths, form shadows, light, or space even. Knowing how to lay it out is something that's important as a musician - somebody who contributes to a song.

Yousif: How much creative freedom do you have within the band?

Troy: 'Within the band the only real rule that we have is that there is no rule. There's no right or wrong way about going about it, you're supposed to express yourself and that's creative freedom. That's something that we all exercise as the way the band is right now. If somebody doesn't like it, just one person, then we don't do it. It's not like majority rules or anything like that, it's like if everybody's not on board then there's no point. Everybody's gotta be fully focused on the same goal and I think there's enough communication between us that we know how to achieve these goals.

Yousif: How much pressure did you put on yourselves to make this record? Do you guys thrive upon it?

Troy: 'I like to face the unknown yeah. I like to jump into a situation and that's how I got into this band. They gave me a week to learn thirty songs and go on the road and perform. That's what performance is – it's a pressure situation. It's do or die, it's sink or swim and glory or demise and both.

Yousif: Seeing as there's pretty much a revolving door line-up nowadays, and though you're amongst best friends as well – do you feel that right now this feels like a solid, permanent band built to last?

Troy: 'I would say that that only solidity that there is that as long as the communication's there, then there'll be no reason to leave or (long pause) I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't take it for granted, if I'm not on the page with something, I don't wanna be there. This is a great opportunity to be able to play music, travel and have a good time. And we're lucky so we're trying to hold the philosophy that we're lucky to do this and that's it. We have to serve the music.'

Yousif: Nick Oliveri has been quoted as saying that he would have brought what is missing from 'Lullabies To Paralyze' - what would you say to that?

Troy: 'I would say that that it's obvious that Nick's presence isn't there, and maybe I'm biased because I love Nick's art, I really do. I played shows with Mondo Generator with him in his band. I would say this is a collection of musicians that is growing and with his absence there are also things that we can express that are different. And that's the whole point that we are all different, we are all human beings that do and have different points of view and we're just trying to share the moment and revel in it.'

Yousif: What was your reaction to being asked to join QOTSA back then?

Troy: 'I was obviously really into it, at the time I was playing in another band that was on a hiatus and it was a good challenge for me to learn thirty songs in a week on three different instruments and go on the road. I love that kinda shit, It's just the best test for yourself ya know?

Yousif: Your personal resume is quite impressive with being involved in the biggest metal bands there is. Which are you most proud of being involved in?

Troy: 'Well I would say that there are three. This being one. There are two other situations, that I'm really proud of – there was my involvement in a band called Failure, A Perfect Circle and I'm also still working on a band of mine called Enemy, that is a never-ending process. But those are situations that not only was the music great and personal to me, I learned a lot in the situations as well.'

Yousif: What goals or mission did you set yourself in the process of making the album and do you put it to practice on other projects?

Troy: 'I think what I said before about serving music, a song really finishes themselves. You can't force stuff y'know what I mean? Things have to be a natural flow and I have been involved in making some records with people that it's not like that. I've seen both and I prefer it to be natural. I prefer that the compromises be that sonically it's not great but the intent and motion behind the music exceeds it.'

Yousif: What are you listening to at the moment? Do you ever listen back to your own material?

Troy: 'I do listen to some of my own stuff occasionally for the time and place or memories. But right now I've been listening to a lot of funkadelics and Bauhaus. There's some new stuff from Death From Above 1979, Division Of Laura Lee, Chet Bakers I've been listening to a lot... stuff like that. Checking out stuff I haven't listened to in a long time like this Stevie Wonder stuff right now. I remember I had songs like 'The Key Of Life' when I was a kid. I've been reminiscing a lot.

Yousif: Who are your recommendations for 2005?

Troy: 'Like I said, Death From Above 1979 for a British audience, I just starting listening to it. I think we might take them on tour. I would recommend the new Mars Volta album that's just coming out. Those guys are really pushing something. If you have the capacity there's a lot if information in their music. I hate to use the word progressive but in a punk rock way they can do lots of stuff y'know. They're able to move different ways and that's what I love about bands that are able to step out of what they're expected to do or whatever and sound like themselves. That's what we're trying to do and they're a good example. Unfortunately I wish I could have more time to listen to more music and I just haven't at the moment with new stuff.

Yousif: About the Mars Volta, both what you and what they do is take risks musically. It's on a borderline between people liking or hating it.

Troy: 'That's what art is all about y'know. If you're expressing yourself you're expressing the possibility of failing. It's just nature. You're expressing the possibility of people not liking you because you change other people, people in the general sense like the repetition, which is something even we experiment with. The idea of repetition – but its one element.'

Yousif: QOTSA are rumoured to be playing a number of UK festivals this year. Is there any particular UK festival you'd especially like to play?

Troy: Well I've never done Reading before myself with the band, I know that they did it once before I was in the band – I'd like to check that one out. I'm not sure at the moment I haven't seen the schedule yet so I don't know what else we're doing. But I know that we're going to make up these shows that we missed here and I'm actually looking forward to that because the band is really well received here before anybody else, the States included. So there's a great fan base here and we owe allegiance to the UK especially.

Yousif: Any final thoughts?'

Troy: 'I just can't wait to see everybody in different towns and am looking forward to travelling and playing music.

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