Formed from the ashes of stoner rock icons Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age reunited the group's singer/guitarist Josh Homme, drummer Alfredo Hernandez, and bassist Nick Oliveri along with new guitarist/keyboardist Dave Catching.
Queens of the Stone Age, also known by the acronym QOTSA, is an American hard rock band from Palm Desert, California, United States, formed in 1997. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included founding member Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar), with its current line-up including longtime members Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, pedal steel) and Joey Castillo (drums, percussion), alongside Michael Shuman (bass guitar) and Dean Fertita (keyboards, backing vocals).
Formed after the demise of Homme's previous band, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age developed a style of riff-oriented, heavy music. Their sound has since evolved to incorporate a variety of different styles and influences. History
Early career (1996–1999)
Queens of the Stone Age began with Josh Homme in 1996. After the breakup of Kyuss in 1995, Homme had briefly joined The Screaming Trees as a touring guitarist, before deciding to form a new band of his own. Originally naming his new project 'Gamma Ray', Homme was forced to change the name in 1997, as German power metal band Gamma Ray was threatening to sue:
“ When we were making a record in 1992, under the band Kyuss, our producer Chris Goss, he would joke and say "You guys are like the Queens of the Stone Age." The band was originally called Gamma Ray, but we got threatened with a lawsuit because someone else had it. So we were Queens of the Stone Age. ” —Oliveri, (2000)
On why the band chose the name 'Queens of the Stone Age' rather than 'Kings of the Stone Age':
“ Kings would be too macho. The Kings of the Stone Age wear armor and have axes and wrestle. The Queens of the Stone Age hang out with the Kings of the Stone Age's girlfriends when they wrestle, and also it was a name given to us by Chris Goss. He gave us the name Queens of the Stone Age. Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls. That way everyone's happy and it's more of a party. Kings of the Stone Age is too lopsided. ” —Homme, (2000)
The band's first release was Gamma Ray, a two-track EP featuring the songs "Born to Hula" and "If Only Everything" (which would later appear on their self titled debut as 'If Only'), released in January 1996, featuring Joshua Homme (Kyuss), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden and Pearl Jam), Van Conner (Screaming Trees) and John McBain (Monster Magnet). The band's first live appearance was probably November 20, 1997, at OK Hotel in Seattle, Washington. In December of the same year, the band released a split EP, Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, which was the first official release by the band under the name Queens of the Stone Age, and featured three tracks from the Gamma Ray sessions as well as three Kyuss tracks recorded in 1995 just prior to their break-up.
The band released their self-titled debut, Queens of the Stone Age (1998) on Loose Groove records (the album was also released on vinyl by Man's Ruin Records), which was recorded with Homme handling both guitar- and bass guitar-playing duties (though basswork is credited to Homme's alter-ego, Carlo Von Sexron), Alfredo Hernández on the drums, and included several other instrumental and vocal contributions by Chris Goss and Hutch. Homme reportedly asked Screaming Trees' vocalist Mark Lanegan to appear on the record, but he was unable to due to other commitments. Soon after the recording sessions were finished for the album, former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri joined and touring commenced. Consisting entirely of ex-Kyuss members, this is widely regarded as QOTSA's original lineup. Guitarist Dave Catching joined shortly after. A recording of a phone message which plays the voice of Oliveri stating his decision to join the band can be heard at the end of the album's final song, "I Was a Teenage Hand Model". From this point forward, the band's line-up would change frequently. By the time their second album was being recorded, Hernández was no longer in the band.
Rated R (1999–2001)
2000's Rated R featured a myriad of musicians familiar with Homme and Oliveri's work and "crew" of sorts: among others, drummers Nick Lucero and Gene Trautmann, guitarists Dave Catching, Brendon McNichol, and Chris Goss contributed, and even Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, recording next door, stepped in for a guest spot on "Feel Good Hit of the Summer". The album garnered positive reviews and received a lot more attention than their debut, despite the fact that the lyrics to "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" were deemed by mega-retailer Wal-Mart to promote drug use, almost causing the record to get pulled from store shelves. The success of the record also earned the band notable opening slots with The Smashing Pumpkins, the Foo Fighters, Hole, and a place at Ozzfest 2000. It was during this time that Homme stated: “ There's a robotic element to our albums, like the repetition of riffs. We also wanted to do a record that had a lot of dynamic range. We wanted to set it up in this band so we could play anything. We don't want to get roped in by our own music. If anyone has a good song (regardless of style) we should be able to play it. ” —Homme, Interview with thefade.net
During the 2001 Rock in Rio show, bassist Nick Oliveri was famously arrested after performing on stage naked, with only his bass guitar covering his dangling genitals. In an interview he later said: "Whoa, people in Carnival here dance naked why can't I do the same?" Following his work on the album, former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan joined the band as a full-time member, a position he'd hold until late-2005. Towards the end of the Rated R tour, the band's performance at the 2001 Rock am Ring festival in Germany was, according to Homme, "the worst show we've ever played and it was in front of 40,000 people." The band decided to tattoo themselves with the starting time of the performance, "Freitag 4.15": “ Me, Mark [Lanegan], Josh [Homme] and Hutch, our soundman, have the same tattoo, it's from Rock am Ring festival. The time we had to play was 4.15 in the afternoon and it was just a terrible show. It sucked, it was horrible. That's why I tattooed it on my ribs, where it would hurt, so I'd never forget. ” —Oliveri, interview with Daredevil Magazine (2005)
Songs for the Deaf (2001–2004)
Frequent touring for Rated R generated support for the band which grew when Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl joined in late 2001/early 2002 to record their third album. Songs for the Deaf was released in August, again featuring Mark Lanegan, as well as adding former A Perfect Circle guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen to the touring line-up following the album's release. Although Songs for the Deaf gained major attention, Grohl returned to his other projects and was replaced on the European leg of the album's supporting tour by former Danzig drummer Joey Castillo, who joined the band full time. Also featured on Songs for the Deaf for the final track Mosquito Song were former A Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin (on viola and piano) and Dean Ween on guitar.
Songs for the Deaf was a critical and commercial success and its popularity peaked when the album reached gold status in 2003, with sales peaking at over 900,000 copies. The singles "No One Knows" and "Go with the Flow" became hits on radio and MTV, with the former voted Triple J radio's number 1 song and peaking just outside of the Billboard Top 40. Both "No One Knows" and "Go with the Flow" were also featured on the first iterations of the popular video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band (respectively). "No One Knows" also re-appeared in the compilation title Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.
“ This record was supposed to sound bizarre—like lightning in a bottle. We also were extremely fucked up. It even sounds that way to me, like a crazy person. The radio interludes are supposed to be like the drive from L.A. to Joshua Tree, a drive that makes you feel like you’re letting go—more David Lynch with every mile. ” —Homme, interview with jr.com,
Constant touring continued, culminating in a string of headline dates in Australia in January 2004, after which Oliveri was fired from the band by Homme for what was said to be disrespect of the group's fans and excessive partying. In July 2005 however, Homme claimed in a BBC Radio 1 interview that Oliveri was fired when Homme had become convinced that he had been physically abusive to his (Oliveri's) girlfriend. Homme said, "A couple years ago, I spoke to Nick about a rumor I heard. I said, 'If I ever find out that this is true, I can't know you, man.'" Oliveri countered in the press that the band had been "poisoned by hunger for power" and that the band without him was "Queens Lite"; later Oliveri softened his opinion and said, "My relationship with Josh is good. The new Queens record kicks ass." Josh and Nick reportedly are still friends and as of October 2006, Oliveri remains interested in rejoining the band.
Lullabies to Paralyze (2004–2006)
In 2005, Homme, along with Eleven multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes and remaining band members Van Leeuwen and Castillo recorded the Queens' fourth studio album, Lullabies to Paralyze, a title taken from a lyric in "Mosquito Song" from their previous album.
The release featured the appearance of several guests, most notably ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. Despite Lanegan reportedly turning down an invitation to remain with the band, he recorded vocals on new tracks (notably the solo vocalist on the opening track This Lullaby) and appeared with the band on the supporting tour as scheduling and his health permitted. It had been rumored that Homme fired Lanegan; however, this was subsequently refuted: “ Basically, if there was a negative rumor that someone brought up to me I would just encourage it... like when someone was saying: Well, Mark got fired, Lanegan, you know. And I was like: Yeah, Mark is fired, too, yeah. But he was just touring his own solo record, you know. ” —Homme, (2005)
Lullabies to Paralyze was leaked onto the internet in February 2005 and was aired by Triple J radio in Australia on March 3, 2005 as an unsubstantiated 'World Premiere'. Lullabies was then officially released on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 in the USA, debuting in the number 5 slot on the Billboard Music Chart, the greatest initial success of any Queens record to date. On May 14, 2005, the group was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, hosted by Will Ferrell. One of Ferrell's popular Saturday Night Live characters, fictional Blue Öyster Cult cowbellist Gene Frenkle, made a re-appearance on the show, playing with the Queens on their first song of the night, "Little Sister". Frenkle played the song's wood block part using a cowbell along with the band, drawing much applause, and creating a bit of pop culture as a result of the skit.
On November 22, 2005, the band released a live album/DVD set called Over the Years and Through the Woods, featuring a live concert filmed in London, England, and bonus features which included rare videos of songs from 1998 to 2005. In fall of 2005, the group supported Nine Inch Nails on their North American tour of With Teeth along with Autolux (for the first half of the tour) and Death from Above 1979 (for the second). NIN's guitarist Aaron North appeared as an onstage guest with the Queens for the songs "Born to Hula", "Regular John", "Avon", "Monsters in the Parasol" and "Long, Slow Goodbye" at the Wiltern LG in Los Angeles on December 19 and 20 2005. Another onstage guest for the December 20 performance was Homme's former Kyuss bandmate John Garcia, the first time that Homme and Garcia had played together since 1997. As a special encore they performed three Kyuss songs: "Thumb", "Hurricane" and "Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop".
Homme has stated that the band's lowest point was during the Lullabies era, but that the record "took the lead jacket off" the band following the firing of Oliveri in 2004.
Era Vulgaris (2006–2008)
On Valentine's Day 2007, the band's official website announced the new album would be titled Era Vulgaris, and would be released in June. Later in February, teaser videos surfaced showing Homme, Castillo, Van Leeuwen and Johannes in studio. Several sites reported that the album would include many guest vocalists, including Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, Mark Lanegan, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and deceased humorist Erma Bombeck. Former Death from Above 1979 bassist Jesse F. Keeler had been expected to play bass on the studio recording of the album, but not to tour; however, due to schedule conflicts he stated he would not be appearing on the album. When questioned in an interview with Ultimate Guitar Archive about the band settling down with one line-up, Homme replied with the following: “ Does it seem like there will be? I don't know. Long ago I lost the opportunity to be in U2 -- where it's the same four guys. I respect that, but at the same time this is the search to try to take advantage of playing with certain people, even if they can't stay, and then there's other times that you need to humble yourself at the altar of music, and if you don't (makes a throat cutting motion). ” — Josh Homme, Ultimate Guitar Archive in March 2007
Era Vulgaris was completed in early April 2007 and released June 12th, 2007 in the U.S. The tracks "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "3's & 7's" were released as singles in early June. Homme has described the record as "dark, hard, and electrical, sort of like a construction worker". When asked about the vocals on the record, specifically the different style of singing that Homme used, he replied: “ I wanted to try some shit that was downright embarrassing at first. This record is a grower, not about what isn’t there, but what is. ” —Josh Homme , Interview with Homme, 2007
Former bassist Michael Shuman (Wires On Fire, Jubilee and Mini Mansions) and keyboardist Dean Fertita (The Waxwings, The Dead Weather) took over touring duties from Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider respectively. In July 2007, Van Leeuwen stated the band had written new material, "still in its infancy" which Homme later suggested might be released as an EP. Following a subsequent interview with Homme, The Globe and Mail reported that the EP "could contain as many as 10 B-sides recorded during the Era Vulgaris sessions." It was since reported however that the EP would not be released due to the record label's unwillingness to put out another QOTSA release at this time. The band began a North American Tour in 2007 which they named the "Duluth Tour" due to the fact that the band are going to many small towns and cities they've never played before, such as Duluth, Minnesota. The tour has since been extended to other areas, such as the United Kingdom, where the band played more shows than on any of their previous UK tours. The band toured in Australia in late March to early April 2008, on the V festival tour including a string of side shows. Throughout the beginning of May 2008, the band completed the Canadian leg of its touring. Following Natasha Shneider's death from cancer on July 2, 2008, qotsa.com was updated with a memorial message by Homme replacing the normal front page.
On August 16, 2008, Queens of the Stone Age performed a concert in celebration of Natasha Shneider's life at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. They were joined on stage by Alain Johannes, Jack Black and Kyle Gass, Matt Cameron, Brody Dalle, Jesse Hughes, Chris Goss and PJ Harvey, playing a variety of QOTSA and non-QOTSA songs. Proceeds from the concert went to defray the costs associated with Natasha’s illness.
On August 22 and 23 2008, Queens of the Stone Age performed their last shows of their Era Vulgaris tour at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK, and Josh Homme announced in an interview with the BBC and during the show that he would be returning to the studio to work on the next album.
In a September issue of NME, Josh Homme stated that he was going back to make the new Queens of the Stone Age and Desert Sessions records, along with remastering the 1998 self-titled album, for an early-2009 release. However, such plans have been delayed indefinitely. Homme also stated Queens' new album is going to sound like "a desert orgy in the dark."
All of the band members have been working on side projects during the down time. Troy Van Leeuwen plays guitar in his new band, Sweethead. Joey Castillo played for Eagles of Death Metal on their Heart On tour. Former bassist Michael Shuman is now bassist and singer in the band Mini Mansions, while Dean Fertita has become the guitarist/keyboardist for Jack White's side project, The Dead Weather. Josh Homme helped form the new supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. They released their debut self-titled album on November 17, 2009. On February 6, 2010, the band performed as musical guests on Saturday Night Live.
According to guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, the band has tentative plans to reconvene in the summer of 2010. In a 2010 interview, Josh Homme revealed that the band would re-release their self-titled first album, and that they would do a tour in support of this, only playing songs from their first release. On March 12, 2010, the official website was updated to add two German tour dates in late August, the band's first since touring for the Era Vulgaris album finished in 2008. Most recently, a two CD deluxe edition of Rated R was released on August 3, 2010. This edition featured the original CD along with six B-sides and live recordings from the band's Reading performance in 2000. The band have also stated that they will be playing the Australian music based festival Soundwave in 2011.
Queens of the Stone Age (1998) Rated R (2000) Songs for the Deaf (2002) Lullabies to Paralyze (2005) Era Vulgaris (2007