In 2002 Queens Of The Stone Age released their brilliant third album Songs For The Deaf and
were transformed seemingly overnight from a critically acclaimed cult act into a mainstream force to be reckoned with.
The band's two mainstays, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, formed QOTSA from the ashes of stoner
legends Kyuss when the band disintergrated in
the mid-90s. Along with an ever-revolving cast of bandmates, they've finally
found themselves enjoying the fame and adulation they deserve.
Touring QOTSA guitarist/keyboardist Troy Van Leeuwen - better known until now for his day
job as a member of A Perfect Circle - explains what it's like to suddely be a member of the most notoriously hedonistic band
in rock 'n' roll.
"Being in Queens Of The Stone Age is definitely a lot different than anything else I've ever
done. There's a lot more chaos which ends up being of interesting story-telling benefit. A lot of really crazy stuff goes
on around this band. It's super-charged, it's a lot of work, a lot of great music and just a general good time".
Van Leeuwen's induction into the touring Queens line-up was an interesting time, especially
given that he joined the band only a week before a run of shows.
"It wasn't too tough because I sort of knew a lot of the material going into it, so I had
a good head start," he says casually. "But learning 30 songs in a week to go on tour tended to test my abilities - it was
definately a challenge. The first couple of shows were a little shaky but I was told they were good enough!"
With the fluid nature of the band's line-up, there has been a lot of conjecture about who
will actually take to the stage when they arrive in Australia for their run of Big Day Out shows later this month.
"The touring line-up will be Josh, Nick, Mark Lanegan [former Screaming Trees frontman], myself
and Joey Castillo on drums," Van Leeuwen says, effectively squashing the rumours that Foo Fighter Dave Grohl would double-up
and drum for QOTSA as he did on Songs For The Deaf and the initial tours to promote the album.
"The revolving line-up is definately most difficult for the drummer,"he continues. "After
Dave Grohl we had to get somebody to come in and the drumming is such a key point - the drummer has to be extremely specific
and extremely good - so it took a lot of effort to do the changeover from Dave to Joey. Joey pretty much rocks it, he's a
stellar player. He hits hard and luckily he fits right in stylistically.
"He sort of got the same challenge as I did; he got called in a week before tour and had a
couple of rehersals then we went out and went for it.
"That's the way it goes with these guys, there is no plan. Anything can happen. You can't
really depend on a certain plan, you just have to go with the flow.
"A band like A Perfect Circle is a very well-planned idea that has a completely different
flow to Queens. You can hear the difference between A Perfect Circle and Queens Of The Stone Age in the music; the differences
in personality are obvious. Everything about A Perfect Circle is in the way it flows through the music and it's the same with
Queens - it's a little chaotic and very gasoline-driven.
"It's like comparing a Lamborghini or a Bentley to a little Chevy pick-up for street-racing...
if that translates at all. Queens would be like a quarter-mile racer."
Being in two of the world's most better-known proponents of loud music - albeit at different
ends of the heavy music spectrum - gives Van Leeuwen a unique insight into the hard rock scene.
"Heavy music is changing in terms of what's popular now and whats always been there," he proffers.
"It's hard to put Queens into the heavy music category for me because I think its a lot deeper than that. It's more intelligent,
it's simpler and it's just played with ferocity - that's the only thing that makes it heavy for me, the intensity of the people
Queens Of The Stone Age are rapidly becoming seasoned pros on the festival circuit, with the
Big Day Out run the latest in a long line of festival slots.
"I think its a sort of necessity, you've got to do the festival thing to broaden your audience.
I think part of the challenge of doing festivals is not having a soundcheck and just getting up there and proving it on the
spot, as opposed to smaller venues where you're closer to the audience and there's more of a connection and the dynamics tend
to be greater.
"With festivals you just get out there and you slam the hits. That's our philosophy anyway.
Luckily we always manage to come up with the goods, regardless of where we're at."