Queens of the Stone Age is an American rock band from Palm Desert, California, United States, formed in 1996. The band's line-up includes founder Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar, piano), alongside longtime members Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, lap steel, keyboard, percussion, backing vocals), Michael Shuman (bass guitar, keyboard, backing vocals), Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar, percussion, backing vocals), and recent addition Jon Theodore (drums, percussion).
Formed after the dissolution of Homme's previous band, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age developed a style of riff-oriented, heavy rock music. Their sound has since evolved to incorporate a variety of different styles and influences, including working with ZZ Top member Billy Gibbons and steady contributor Mark Lanegan.
Formation, early career and Queens of the Stone Age (1996–1999)
Queens of the Stone Age began with Josh Homme in 1996. After the breakup of Kyuss in 1995, Homme had briefly joined 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, who have been around since 1989, was threatening to sue:
On why the band chose the name 'Queens of the Stone Age' rather than 'Kings of the Stone Age':
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, featured Joshua Homme (Kyuss), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden and Pearl Jam), Van Conner (Screaming Trees) with Victor Indrizzo providing additional percussion. The band's first live appearance was on November 20, 1997, at OK Hotel in Seattle, Washington, with Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr. on bass and John McBain of Monster Magnet on second guitar. 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 following a last minute decision to fire several members, 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 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, Foo Fighters, Hole, and a place at Ozzfest 2000. It was during this time that Homme stated:
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. Oliveri apologized to officials, saying that he did not know it was a crime in Brazil.
Following his work on Rated R, former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan joined the band as a full-time member, a position he held until early 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". As Oliveri explained:
Songs for the Deaf, mainstream exposure and Oliveri's departure (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 as well as the most recent addition to the Rock Band Series, Rock Band 3.
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, 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. Oliveri later contributed to a Queens of the Stone Age for the first time in nine years, contributing backing vocals to the band's sixth album, ...Like Clockwork. Homme confirmed in 2009 that he considered breaking up the band after firing Oliveri, but eventually found a new determination to continue.
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its "Hottest 100" poll, Australian radio station Triple J ran a "Hottest 100 of the last 20 years" poll in June 2013. Songs that were released between 1994 and 2000 were eligible for the poll and "No One Knows" was voted into eleventh position.
Lullabies to Paralyze (2004–2006)
In late 2004, 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 as his health permitted. It had been rumored that Homme fired Lanegan; however, this was subsequently refuted:
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 US, 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 and death of Natasha Shneider (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:
Era Vulgaris was completed in early April 2007 and released June 12, 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:
Bassist Michael Shuman (Wires On Fire, Jubilee and Mini Mansions) and keyboardist Dean Fertita (Hello=Fire, 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 later reported that the EP would not be released due to the record label's unwillingness to put out another QOTSA release at that time.
The band began a North American Tour in 2007, which they named the "Duluth Tour" because they were going to many small towns and cities they had never played before, such as Duluth, Minnesota. The tour was 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.
On July 2, 2008, Queens of the Stone Age's former keyboardist Natasha Shneider died of lung cancer at the age of 52. The news broke with a message posted on the MySpace page of the band Sweethead, of which Natasha's close friend and former band-mate Troy Van Leeuwen is a member. qotsa.com was updated with a memorial message by Homme replacing the normal front page. The band performed a concert in celebration of Natasha Shneider's life at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on August 16, 2008, . They were joined on stage by Shneider's husband 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, including covers of songs from bands such as Cream and The Doors. Tenacious D and PJ Harvey also performed acoustic sets at the show. 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 the 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.
Hiatus, Homme's near death experience, and self-titled reissue tour (2009–2011)
During 2009 and 2010, band members worked on side projects during the down time. Troy Van Leeuwen started up a new band, Sweethead. Joey Castillo played for Eagles of Death Metal on their Heart On tour. Bassist Michael Shuman became the new drummer and singer in the band Mini Mansions, while Dean Fertita became the guitarist/keyboardist for Jack White's newest group, The Dead Weather. Josh Homme formed supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones. After Them Crooked Vultures finished touring in June, the band toured and released a two CD deluxe edition of Rated R 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.
In autumn 2010, Homme suffered from a botched knee operation during which his heart stopped for a short time due to asphyxiation. Following this, he was bedridden for three months and plunged into a deep depression, during which he considered giving up his music career altogether. He elaborated on this experience further in an interview with Marc Maron. He told Maron he contracted a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection which his immune system could not fight due to stress. Doctors eventually had to use a defibrillator to revive him following the asphyxiation. Homme has since said that the experience contributed greatly to the writing and recording of ...Like Clockwork.
After Homme recovered from the botched operation, Queens of the Stone Age released a remastered version of their self-titled debut album in early 2011, and toured the record, performing it in its entirety. They have also played at the Australian festival Soundwave in 2011. The band performed on Conan on April 14. Throughout the summer of 2011 they appeared at various European festivals, including the Glastonbury Festival, in Somerset, UK. They also played at Pearl Jam's 20th Anniversary Festival at Alpine Valley in East Troy, WI on September 3 and 4, 2011, which would be their last with drummer Joey Castillo.
...Like Clockwork (2011–present)
Plans of recording a follow-up to Era Vulgaris had been mentioned since 2008, but recording would not begin until August 2012. In March 2011, Homme stated, "Doing the rehearsals for the first record is really defining the new one. It's been turning the new record into something else. What we were doing was kind of bluesy, and now it's turned into this trancey, broken thing. The robots are back!" According to Homme, the album would be finished by the end of 2012. He explained to BBC Radio 1, "We're going to take our one last break that we would get for a month, come back and do Glastonbury, then immediately jump in the studio. Our record will be done by the end of the year. We have enough songs."
In November 2011, frequent collaborator Alain Johannes stated in regard to his studio work with the band: "We had a late night with Queens again. [...] Just putting in days, super top secret, but it’s going to be amazing. I’m really excited about it. [...] Once we start the process, it goes to completion. So I can’t say exactly when, but it’s a really good start."
On August 20, 2012, the band stated via a Facebook status update that they were "recording" their new album.
In September 2012, it was revealed that Homme and producer Dave Sardy co-wrote and recorded a song entitled "Nobody To Love", which is featured during the end credits of the film End of Watch.
In November 2012, Homme informed BBC's Zane Lowe that Joey Castillo had left the band and that drums on the new album would be performed by Dave Grohl, who also performed on Songs for the Deaf. Homme also confirmed with Lowe that the album would be released prior to their performance at the Download Festival in June 2013. In addition to Grohl, other former members contributing to the album include former bassists Nick Oliveri and Johannes, and vocalist Mark Lanegan.
A number of collaborations from different musicians have been announced for the new album, including Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, Brody Dalle and Elton John.
In early 2013, Homme and fellow Queens contributors including Alain Johannes and Chris Goss recorded to the soundtrack of Dave Grohl's Sound City: Real to Reel. Goss, Johannes and Homme were on three tracks each. Josh's notably included a collaboration with Grohl and Trent Reznor called Mantra, and he was also featured in the film in an interview segment. Goss and Johannes were both featured members in the Sound City Players, playing Masters of Reality, Eleven, and Desert Sessions songs, as well as their penned tunes from the soundtrack. Former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder also contributed to the soundtrack.
In March 2013, Queens of the Stone Age announced that the new album, entitled ...Like Clockwork, would be released in June 2013 on Matador Records. A press release, issued by Matador at 9:00am EST on March 26, 2013, revealed further details of the album, including further guest appearances: Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys and UNKLE's James Lavelle. In addition to Grohl's contribution, the record also features performances by former drummer Castillo, as well as tracks by new drummer Jon Theodore (ex-The Mars Volta, One Day as a Lion). Queens Of The Stone Age premiered a new song "My God Is The Sun" at Lollapollooza Brasil on March 30, 2013, a performance in which Theodore made his live debut. The studio version of the song premiered on Lowe's BBC Radio 1 program on April 8, 2013.
...Like Clockwork was released on June 3, 2013 on Matador Records in the UK and on June 4 in the United States. Self-produced by the band, it is the first Queens of the Stone Age album to feature full contributions from bassist Michael Shuman and keyboardist and guitarist Dean Fertita. The album debuted in the number 1 position in the US and is the first QOTSA album to achieve this ranking.
Following a performance by QOTSA at the Jay Z-owned Made In America Festival in the summer of 2013, Homme made comments about the rap star during a radio interview with CBC Radio 2 ’s “Strombo Show.” Homme explained that his band was frisked by the event's security team prior to the performance and referred to Jay Z's personal interaction with the band as a marketing stunt. Homme stated:
In January 2014, Homme revealed in Rolling Stone magazine that the band will start recording a new album when they have finished their tour for ...Like Clockwork, expected to end in September, with Homme stating that they already have "more than enough songs."
Throughout its career the band has been described as alternative rock, stoner rock, and alternative metal, among several other genres. Homme has described the band's self-titled debut album as driving music, angular and recorded dry, with the album featuring solid and repetitive riffs in its song structure. Rolling Stone magazine also noted a "connection between American meat-and-potatoes macho rock of the early 1970s, like Blue Cheer and Grand Funk Railroad, and the precision-timing drones in German rock of the same period". The band's following album - Rated R - contained a wider variety of instruments, several recording guests and lead vocals shared by Homme, Oliveri and Lanegan. Homme has also commented that "Our first record announced our sound. This one added that we’re different and weird." The band continued to experiment on their third album Songs for the Deaf, which also featured a line-up including three lead vocalists, many guest appearances and wide range of instrumentation including horn and string sections. Homme has described Lullabies to Paralyze as a "dark" album, which includes imagery inspired by The Brothers Grimm folk and fairy tales. In 2005 Homme explained, "Where the poetry seems to be is when you start in the dark and reach for the light — that's what makes it not depressing to me..." The album changed gears from the band's previous distinct "driving" sound, much due to the departure of longtime member Nick Oliveri. The band almost exclusively used semi hollow body guitars during the making of the record. With Era Vulgaris the band continued to develop their signature sound with more dance-oriented elements and electronic influences, while Homme has currently gone back to being the only lead vocalist in the band and uses more distinct vocal melodies.
- Current members
- Josh Homme – vocals, guitars, bass, piano, keyboards, drums, percussion (1996–present)
- Troy Van Leeuwen – guitars, backing vocals, keyboards, bass, percussion (2002–present)
- Dean Fertita – keyboards, guitars, backing vocals, piano (2007–present)
- Michael Shuman – bass, backing vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion (2007–present)
- Jon Theodore – drums, percussion, sampler (2013–present)
- Studio albums
- Queens of the Stone Age (1998)
- Rated R (2000)
- Songs for the Deaf (2002)
- Lullabies to Paralyze (2005)
- Era Vulgaris (2007)
- ...Like Clockwork (2013)
- Grammy Awards
- Palm Desert Scene
- Mondo Generator
- Eagles of Death Metal
- Them Crooked Vultures
- The Dead Weather
- Official website
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