Queens of the Stone Age: Interview with Troy Van Leeuwen

Queens Of The Stone AgeTroy Van Leeuwen, who first brought his signature dusky guitar sound to criminally undernoticed post-grunge alternative upstarts Failure and later added the intelligent ambience that would pull A Perfect Circle away from being just a rock band with a well-known singer, has now found a new home with Josh Homme in Queens Of The Stone Age.

Although too few now remember desert rock originators Kyuss, it was this seminal early-’90s act which gave Homme his start. After the band’s breakup, Homme formed Queens with Kyuss drummer Alfredo Hernandez, eventually adding former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, with whom Homme formed a core musical bond that would become staple to both their careers.

After working with a number of musicians on QOTSA albums, among them Masters Of Reality mastermind Chris Goss and Dave Grohl, Homme and Oliveri parted ways shortly before it was announced that Lullabies To Paralyze, released March 22, was set for recording.

Van Leeuwen, who had joined the band during the touring cycle for 2003’s highly successful Songs For The Deaf, recently took some time out to reflect on his past, the past of the band, and where both are headed in the time to come.

A lot of the focus on the new record has been about how Nick Oliveri isn’t around anymore. For someone relatively new to the band, how has it been for you?

Well, I recorded on Nick’s record. I think every record is treated differently. The Queens started off as this idea, and it started without Nick, and people don’t realize it.

For me, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the making of Songs For The Deaf and this one. I know that there was no shortage of ideas and stuff that everybody wanted to do and excitement.

I love Nick to death. How could you not? He’s such a personality. But yeah, we just put our best foot forward to make the music we want to make.

So, for me it was easy. I mean, I make lots of records with lots of different people, so I try to keep it as fresh as possible and not trip.

You took part in the Desert Sessions, is that how you got to know Josh?

Actually, I met Josh a while back. A sound guy that we use, his name is Hutch and he used to do sound in Failure, like back in ’97. And Hutch had done Kyuss forever, so I met him through Hutch, just briefly back then and then we always ran into each other on the road.

It’s sort of a circular thing, I guess. You always end up working with people you run into and you appreciate what they do and you dig it. I was a big fan before I joined the band, so it was exciting for me.

The album has kind of a moody vibe to it, what were the sessions like?

Well, the only thing dark about it is that it was nighttime. Of course, there’s moments always where you’re trying to work through something and you’re trying to figure it out…we have this saying where ‘you’re going in,’ and it’s kind of a no fear situation where it’s sort of unknown what you’re doing but you have a vague idea.

We all put this pressure on each other to perform. It can be playful and it can also be like, ‘What the fuck?’ We know how to keep up with each other, so in the moment that you’re really trying to get something badass, that’s where you go, ‘Fuck, I gotta do this.’

Other than that, I think the darkness or the mystery on the record comes from just the way life rolls. It’s not always fun. Shit happens. Things get fucked up, then it’s fun again for a moment. It’s just a series of moments that are reflective of the past few years.