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Mister Enemy - A Troy Van Leeuwen Fan Site

The Aquarian Interview

Queens of the Stone Age - Troy Van Leeuwen
By JJ Koczan Mar. 23, 2005
(Transcribed by Emma)

Troy Van Leeuwen, who first brought his signature dusky guitar sound to criminally undernoticed post-grunge alternative upstarts Failure and later added the intelligent ambience that would pull A Perfect Circle away from being just a rock band with a well-known singer, has now found a new home with Josh Homme in Queens Of The Stone Age.

Although too few now remember desert rock originators Kyuss, it was this seminal early-'90s act which gave Homme his start. After the band's breakup, Homme formed Queens with Kyuss drummer Alfredo Hernandez, eventually adding former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, with whom Homme formed a core musical bond that would become staple to both their careers.

After working with a number of musicians on QOTSA albums, among them Masters Of Reality mastermind Chris Goss and Dave Grohl, Homme and Oliveri parted ways shortly before it was announced that Lullabies To Paralyze, released March 22, was set for recording.

Van Leeuwen, who had joined the band during the touring cycle for 2003's highly successful Songs For The Deaf, recently took some time out to reflect on his past, the past of the band, and where both are headed in the time to come.

A lot of the focus on the new record has been about how Nick Oliveri isn't around anymore. For someone relatively new to the band, how has it been for you?

Well, I recorded on Nick's record. I think every record is treated differently. The Queens started off as this idea, and it started without Nick, and people don't realize it.

For me, I couldn't really tell the difference between the making of Songs For The Deaf and this one. I know that there was no shortage of ideas and stuff that everybody wanted to do and excitement.

I love Nick to death. How could you not? He's such a personality. But yeah, we just put our best foot forward to make the music we want to make.

So, for me it was easy. I mean, I make lots of records with lots of different people, so I try to keep it as fresh as possible and not trip.

You took part in the Desert Sessions, is that how you got to know Josh?

Actually, I met Josh a while back. A sound guy that we use, his name is Hutch and he used to do sound in Failure, like back in '97. And Hutch had done Kyuss forever, so I met him through Hutch, just briefly back then and then we always ran into each other on the road.

It's sort of a circular thing, I guess. You always end up working with people you run into and you appreciate what they do and you dig it. I was a big fan before I joined the band, so it was exciting for me.

The album has kind of a moody vibe to it, what were the sessions like?

Well, the only thing dark about it is that it was nighttime. Of course, there's moments always where you're trying to work through something and you're trying to figure it out…we have this saying where 'you're going in,' and it's kind of a no fear situation where it's sort of unknown what you're doing but you have a vague idea.

We all put this pressure on each other to perform. It can be playful and it can also be like, 'What the fuck?' We know how to keep up with each other, so in the moment that you're really trying to get something badass, that's where you go, 'Fuck, I gotta do this.' Other than that, I think the darkness or the mystery on the record comes from just the way life rolls. It's not always fun. Shit happens. Things get fucked up, then it's fun again for a moment. It's just a series of moments that are reflective of the past few years.

How involved were you in the writing?

We're always writing stuff. I'm always trying to write stuff, Josh is too. I'd say this was a pretty collaborative effort for a Queens record. Usually it would revolve around either Josh or Josh and Nick or there's a couple of Desert Sessions songs here and there.We all were excited to do this and I'd like to think that I contributed a lot. I think Josh would say the same thing.

Going into Queens, what did you take away from doing Failure and A Perfect Circle?

Well, you know, both of those situations were really different, Failure being something that was touring in a van and spending money to be on the road. You're completely doing it for the love of the music and you're appreciating every second that you can do it.

I think that's still kind of ingrained in me as a player and working with A Perfect Circle, you've got guys like Maynard taking care of business and being a badass artist and proving you can express yourself and you don't have to give a shit about all this other stuff that goes along with the making of your living.

So, I would say those are two opposite ends of the spectrum that I could see both being reflected in what we're doing now.

How about even just the styles of the bands? What's it like for you as a player to do each?

Well, I think that sort of that moody darkness thing that you're talking about, that's always sort of been what I kind of lean towards. I like to do ambient things. I like to rip solos and all that stuff too, but for me I like to serve the song with whatever color or shade that it needs.

I guess that's the one thing that I pride myself on, just trying to serve the song. That might even be not playing anything, or playing bass, or playing lap steel, or piano and no guitar. Trying to be flexible.

There's nothing more boring than two guys playing guitar all the time like dueling banjos. Even though we tend to do it some of the time, we don't do it all the time.

How is the bassist slot being handled for the tour?

Today is the first show that we're doing with Alain Johannes who did the record with us. And then what we're gonna do is we're each gonna play bass on the songs that we did on the record. I'm gonna play bass on the songs like 'Little Sister.' We're all switching off and Josh is probably going to play bass on some stuff too.

Kind of changes the situation rather than replacing someone like Nick who's impossible to replace, we're trying to make the band flexible and expand. That also includes Natasha Sneider playing some keyboards and stuff like that too.

Queens Of The Stone Age are known for having an ever-changing line-up. You seem to be sticking around, is it something you'd want to keep doing?

I would say that as long as everybody that's involved pays allegiance to the philosophy that this is something you're lucky to do, that you get to make your favorite music and play around the world and that's your job.

Sometimes when people get more popular and fame and all that shit, I've seen people take it for granted and forget about the whole music side of it.

I think being able to communicate that, and not being a baby and all that shit, I think everybody tries to keep an eye on themselves and then check your friends if they need to be checked. It's a really good chemistry of people trying to make this thing happen.

How would you balance that time with A Perfect Circle?

Truth is, I'm not working with A Perfect Circle in a full capacity anymore. I had to make a decision to do one or the other at a point. It's just too much, I couldn't do both. I wouldn't be serving them each well enough. That's not to say that I wouldn't work with them
again if I had the chance.

What are your plans after this tour?

We're going to be on the road for a while. This is the first show in the States for us, so we're just getting revved up and you know, while we're out here doing this, there'll be more opportunities to work on Mark Lanegan's stuff, there's a new Eagles Of Death Metal record, there's even a new Mondo Generator record that's going to be made, and who knows? Maybe I'll be involved with that again, it just depends on scheduling and all that stuff. I think I'm going to do some more Enemy stuff too. That's my band. Any chance I get to make music while I'm out on the road, I always seize it. I always try to make something happen.


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