Queens of the Stone Age

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Queens of the Stone Age emerged from the stoner rock underground of the 1990s to become one of the leading heavy rock bands of the 21st century, a transition sparked by the release of their major-label debut, Rated R, in 2000. A murky immersion in chemical excess, the album showcased QOTSA’s skill in wedding thick, grimy guitars with shape-shifting psychedelia, a blend suited for the desert leader Josh Homme called home. Over the years, Homme remained the constant in QOTSA’s mercurial lineup, anchoring the group as members and guests cycled through the studio and stage. Dave Grohl’s presence on the drumkit on 2022′s Songs for the Deaf helped break the band to a wider audience in America, placing them at the vanguard of hard rock music. QOTSA’s membership stabilized around the release of …Like Clockwork, the 2013 record that returned them to indie status while giving them their first number one album on the Billboard charts. Homme maintained the same quintet through the Mark Ronson-produced Villains and In Times New Roman…, a 2023 album that found them discovering new shades and textures within their palette. Queens of the Stone Age has its roots in Kyuss, the stoner rock band Josh Homme led during the early ’90s. After Kyuss split in 1995, Homme served as a supporting guitarist on a Screaming Trees tour, then decided to launch a new band called Gamma Ray. An eponymous EP appeared in 1996 before a German metal band named Gamma Ray threatened legal action over the appellation. Taking a cue from a nickname bestowed on the group by producer Chris Goss, Homme decided to rename his fledgling unit Queens of the Stone Age, unveiling this moniker on the Roadrunner various-artists compilation Burn One Up! Music for Stoners in 1997. Later that year, the split EP Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age — comprised of old tunes from the latter and new material from the former — confirmed the transition between Homme’s two groups. Homme co-produced Queens of the Stone Age’s eponymous 1998 debut with Joe Barresi, which was released on Loosegroove, the indie imprint from Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Regan Hagar. With Alfredo Hernandez on drums, Homme played all the guitars and most of the bass and keyboards on the record, but he soon expanded QOTSA into a touring outfit featuring former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri along with guitarist Dave Catching; the latter played on the first volume of Homme’s shape-shifting collaborative project the Desert Sessions, which appeared in 1997. This group was by no means secure. By the time QOTSA entered the studio to record their major-label debut Rated R, Hernandez was no longer with the band; Nick Lucero and Gene Trautmann split drumming duties on the record. Co-produced by Homme and Goss and released on Interscope, Rated R built QOTSA’s audience exponentially. “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” gave the band a Top 40 hit in the U.K. Live spots at Ozzfest and with Foo Fighters and Hole helped broaden their following, while events like Oliveri getting arrested after performing nude at the 2001 Rock in Rio Festival helped generate headlines. All this buzz culminated in Foo Fighters leader — and former Nirvana drummer — Dave Grohl becoming a temporary member of QOTSA for 2002’s Songs for the Deaf and its 2022 supporting tour, which featured Homme, Oliveri, Grohl, ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, and A Perfect Circle guitarist/keyboardist Troy Van Leeuwen. With its singles “No One Knows” and “Go with the Flow,” Songs for the Deaf elevated Queens of the Stone Age into the upper ranks of modern rock acts, acting as a heavy, trippy counterpart to the prevailing neo-garage rock of the early 2000s. Grohl decamped at the conclusion of the Songs for the Deaf tour, returning to his regular gig in Foo Fighters; he was replaced by Joey Castillo, who previously drummed with Danzig. In the wake of QOTSA’s success, Homme embraced a variety of outside gigs, including playing on a pair of Mark Lanegan albums and collaborating with Jesse Hughes on Peace, Love, Death Metal, the first album by their band Eagles of Death Metal. When it came time to reconvene QOTSA for a sequel to Songs for the Deaf, the band no longer featured Nick Oliveri; Homme fired him due to issues in the bassist’s personal life. With Alain Johannes taking over for Oliveri, the group finished recording Lullabies to Paralyze, making space for guest appearances by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Shirley Manson. Preceded by the single “Little Sister,” Lullabies to Paralyze appeared in March 2005, followed by a supporting tour that occasionally featured Lanegan in his last live outings with the band. Chris Goss returned to co-produce 2007′s Era Vulgaris alongside Homme. Featuring fewer guests than usual — Julian Casablancas of the Strokes appeared on the single “Sick, Sick Sick,” Lanegan provided vocals on one track — Era Vulgaris appeared in June 2007, wrapping up the band’s contract with Interscope. After a supporting tour featuring bassist Michael Shuman and keyboardist Dean Fertita — the pair would become steady members of QOTSA from this point forward — the band went into a period of inactivity as Homme pursued other projects over the next few years. Chief among these was Them Crooked Vultures, a power trio also featuring Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who released an eponymous album in 2009. The next year saw a deluxe reissue of Rated R and in 2011, the band reissued their hard-to-find debut and did a small supporting tour behind this deluxe edition. Queens of the Stone Age began recording a new album in 2012, transitioning from drummer Joey Castillo to his replacement Jon Theodore during the sessions. The record found QOTSA bringing Grohl back into the fold while also finding spots for Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor, Alex Turner, Jake Shears, and Elton John, as well as Nick Oliveri for his first spot on a QOTSA album in a decade. With the finished album in hand, Queens of the Stone Age signed with Matador in 2013 and the ensuing …Like Clockwork album was released in June of that year. Supported by the singles “My God Is the Sun” and “I Sat by the Ocean,” …Like Clockwork topped the Billboard 200, as well as the Alternative, Digital, Hard Rock, Independent, and Top Rock charts. Following the success of …Like Clockwork, Homme and various Queens’ members participated in the Sound City documentary project and Iggy Pop’s 2016 Post Pop Depression album and tour. For Villains, the band’s seventh album, QOTSA worked with Mark Ronson and invited Nikka Costa and Matt Sweeney into the studio as guests. Featuring the singles “The Way You Used to Do” and “The Evil Has Landed,” Villains debuted at three on the Billboard charts upon its August 2017 release. After the Villains tour, Queens of the Stone Age took an extended hiatus, reemerging in June 2023 with In Times New Roman…, their third album for Matador. It was the first QOTSA album to be produced by the band and to not feature any guests. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine