When California desert ro... 


When California desert rockers Kyuss called in quits 1995, that's when people finally started paying attention. Gone and now legendary, Kyuss developed a cult following, over four major-label albums, for its heavy, Black Sabbath-meets-Iggy and the Stooges grooves.

Three years later, as Kyuss'"Blues For The Red Sun" achieved immortal status and pressure mounted for a Kyuss reunion, founding guitarist and songwriter, John Homme, reconvened with original bassplayer Nick Oliveri and the Queens of the Stone Age emerged from the sweltering, sand-blown climes of Palm Desert, Calif. At times as bottom-heavy as Kyuss, the Queens (taking its name from a musing by producer Chris Goss: "You guys are like the queens of the stone age") are more varied in style.

On the self-titled debut released last October on Seattle indie label Loose Groove, "Regular John" and "Avon" still bruise the bass with a Kyuss-like pile-driver assaults. "Hispanic Impression" opens with a Hendrix riff that mutates into a locked groove and farty, space-age synth-ripples dance between the speakers on " I Was A Teenage Hand Model."

The album, about to see national release through Interscope, was recorded between Goss' Monkey Studios in Palm Springs, in a converted porno factory, and sideman Dave Catching's (piano and steel) Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree. Meanwhile the band is on tour opening for Ween with new drummer Gene Troutman replacing Alfredo Hernandez.

Reached by phone as he rose one recent morning, Oliveri, who played on the first two Kyuss records before leaving, amicably, to join the Dwarves explains the new direction. "With Kyuss it was always spacey and jamy. Now we want to try some other things," says Oliveri already at work on songs for the next album. "The new songs are going all over the place. Some are real heavy, some are drivin' rock and some are gonna trip people out." Often mistaken for a WWF Wrestler because of his shaved head and large frame, Oliveri joined the Queens after Homme (Oliveri's pal and music collaborator since the seventh grade) had written the music. The next album will be more of a 50/50 venture with songs and vocals from Homme who only began singing on the Queens debut, and Oliveri . And while his material for the Dwarves album "Young And Good Looking" and the imminent followup includes such purposefuly offensive ditties as "I Want You To Die," Oliveri says the Queens offers him a different kind of outlet. "There really is no message on the new tunes. Writing songs for me is pretty much just about blowing off steam. 'Tension' is heavy and hard drivin'; 'Cocaine Jetplane' is mellow and weird and then there is 'Simple Exploding Man' which again is really heavy. It's personal stuff...what i'm feeling at the time," Oliveri says. One message that Homme and Oliveri would like to distribute is their desire for a mellower crowed and less agro activity in the mosh pit. "With the Dwarves the crowd does whatever they want to do. They usually go crazy and beat each other up. Drums get kicked over, guitars get smashed and after 15 minutes we'd just walk away. With the Queens we kind of want women to come and shake their booty, too. I realize that we play hard-hitting, masculine rock but it gets old pretty fast when the whole audience is guys," says Oliveri. "That is another reason why we chose the name Queens of the Stone Age. It kind of weeds out the hard jock crowd that would be afraid to wear a t-shirt with the word queen on it." While Oliveri was off with the Dwarves, Homme put out two split Queens CD singles on Man's Ruin, one with the Dutch band Beaver. The other split, with Kyuss, was first pressed as a 45 under the name Gamma Ray. But Homme was threatened with a lawsuit when the band formerly known as Helloween laid claim to the name Gamma Ray. And while The Queens is now the main focus of energies, Homme and Oliveri have a couple of side projects: the on going series of spontaneities "Desert Sessions" (for Man's Ruin) with a shifting cast and Oliveri disguised as Pierre Pressure. And the pair will have the co-composition "Infinity" on the upcoming soundtrack to the animated "Heavy Metal 2." Oliveri says to look for a blend of all these elements in the Orlando show with the exception of Kyuss material. "Everybody wants Kyuss now but it's not going to happen," say Oliveri, "People really didn't care about that band until it was gone and now we've moved on to what I think is a good mixture. With the Queens you can still get lost in the dark at our shows."

More by Randy Matin

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