Queens Of The Stone Age: Deaf Mettle.

20 January 2003 | 1:00 am | Craig New
Originally Appeared In

Queen Of The Road.

More Queens Of The Stone Age More Queens Of The Stone Age

Queens Of The Stone Age play the Orange Stage at 5.45pm at the Big Day Out at the Gold Coast Parklands on Sunday.

Jack Kerouac sits back in his chair, hands laced behind his back, the final sweet words of On The Road ringing beautifully in his ears. He lights a cigarette, then reaches over and turns on the radio.

The sonic blast that bursts forth from the tiny speaker knocks Kerouac to the floor. Dazed, he grapples with the dial and escapes to a half-baked concoction of dialogue and static. He sighs, his head pounding with the brief yet intense explosion of guitar riffs and drums, a far cry from the far out horns he prefers.

“The thing I’ve noticed is that there haven’t always been a lot of people that have been into it, but the people who are into it are really into it,” drawls a deep and relaxed voice from directly behind him. Kerouac leaps to his feet and comes face to face with a six foot something giant of a man, red hair combed back in a neat part, a guitar clutched between his fists like dollar notes. “I think that’s because we’re so into it,” the intruder continues. “We’re in it over our heads. I love that shit, man! Now there’s more people and stuff, but I hope that they get into it like the people who have always been there.”

Despite his intimidating presence, the man holds out his hand and introduces himself as Josh Homme, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with Queens Of The Stone Age. He also mentions that Kerouac might remember him from legendary desert band Kyuss. Kerouac doesn’t. After all, he died around twenty years before they even formed.

Kerouac looks at the line up of QOTSA albums Josh has aligned on his writing table. Queens Of The Stone Age, Rated R and the latest, Songs For The Deaf. They all quiver with an internal energy of their own.

“When I start from the first one I see the linear path of the thought process of how it got here, and I also get the luxury of knowing there were bunches of things that I wanted to do on the first record that I knew I couldn’t do, because people who knew who I was at that time weren’t ready for what’s happening on Deaf now,” Josh explains. “But as you followed it through, you’d be ready for Deaf now. We wouldn’t have been able to play Mosquito Song or Another Love Song or in some ways even God Is In The Radio on the first record without making some of the people go, ‘what the fuck’? I think you have to grow slowly.”

Kerouac is still trying to get his head around the sheer volume of noise that he was just subjected to. It was unlike anything he had ever heard. He was digging it, man.

“I think if you’re lucky enough to do this, your first obligation is that you have to try to sound original and not mimic anyone,” Josh nods. “You can’t be aping everybody, including yourself. I think there’s a difference between having a sound and… when you hear something go (he bursts into a big sounding vocal rendition of a Queens riff) BO DO REOW - you know it’s coming from our direction. I think there are certain things you almost corner the market on riff-wise too, and I think this new record is more like the first record but strangely like none of them at the same time.”

Now showing a lot more interest, Kerouac peruses the liner notes and realises that the Queens do not begin and end with Josh and his maniacal sidekick Nick Oliveri.

“We’ve kind of become a band now,” agrees the BFG. “We’ve got Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) with us, Troy Van Leeuwen (A Perfect Circle) and Joey Castillo (Danzig) on drums (sorry kids, Dave Grohl is not part of the permanent line up). I feel lucky man, these guys are bad ass! It’s the same kind of thing, we all have the same goal, just different ways of getting there. That feeling of being in a band that’s different – I don’t want to sound like anyone else. I’d feel like I was just wasting everyone’s time if I was just aping somebody. It seems like you get five people that are on that same search and that are basically going, ‘when we play, we want to try and blow not just everyone else, we want to blow ourselves away’. We can do stuff now that we never could do before. In fact, we have so many songs we want to make a new record and make it with this band.”

Kerouac, being a little prone to over-exaggeration at times, claims what the NME will echo a few decades later, that Queens Of The Stone Age are the greatest living rock band. Josh just sighs a little disappointedly.

“I find it a bit dramatic. I don’t want someone to be like, ‘Queens Of The Stone Age, I’m sick of them. I’m not into them’. You’d be like, ‘why, have you heard them?’ And they’re, ‘no, but they’re everywhere!’ You know what I mean? That’s going to happen and whatever, fuck that guy. I just think it’s unnecessary to take it to that level. We’re a band trying to play our best music. And if you like it, you can stop by saying you like it. It’s the equivalent of someone saying I put in a thousand percent. You can’t put in a thousand percent, you dumb ass! It’s a hundred percent and that’s the whole deal. You say you put in a hundred percent, and by the way, it’s really tough to put in a hundred percent so say you gave it your all.”

Josh’s sense of humour is really starting to tickle Kerouac, who is wishing desperately for some paper to make notes. It’s something a lot of people don’t seem to pick up on from the music.

“I think what they don’t realise is that they’re on the top level of listening to this record, and as you go down the top level can sometimes become the butt of a joke,” grins Josh. “So they actually service the people that take it to a different level by finishing out some of our sense of humour. By being oblivious to the other layers, in a way that’s the deaf we’re playing to. If an interview’s going strange and someone’s like, ‘so Songs For The Deaf, who’s the deaf?’ You are. They go, ‘really? I am? Oh okay’. You just sit there shaking your head going ‘man, woah. I’m glad I woke up early for this one’.”