Queens Of The Stone Age: Bluffer’s Guide To Their Other Sides

Clash unpicks QOTSA’s seams to reveal to the returning rockers’ myriad offshoots…
Josh Homme

The announcement of Queens Of The Stone Age’s new studio album, ‘…Like Clockwork’ (news), preceded by the stonking single ‘My God Is The Sun’, has rightly got tinnitus-loving listeners in a lather. After all, few of today’s rock-chops-wearing sorts can match the power of the Josh Homme-fronted and -founded outfit at its very best.

But the gap between this set, the Californians’ sixth, and their last, 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’, posits a question: just what the hell have these guys been up to since the other side of Beliebers being an in-real-life irritation?

They’ve been busy, that’s what. Homme alone has been producing – he was at the desk for Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Humbug’ set of 2009 – collaborating – with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones as Them Crooked Vultures – and generally being a cool dude at festivals and the like. He became a dad for the second time in 2011, too – so the man’s been keeping those hands of his well away from being the Devil’s playthings.

But now they’re back: just where does the newcomer to the QOTSA brand of rock’n’roll begin?

To coincide with BBC 6 Music’s most-recent Now Playing episode – which focused on all things QOTSA and can be heard here until Sunday April 21st  – Clash here presents a bluffer’s guide to the band’s various side projects, associations and collaborations.

This isn’t a complete documenting of every tangent the band’s members have found themselves on – merely a surface-scraping snapshot offering absolute beginners some vital foundations. BBC 6 Music DJ Nemone, who presented Now Playing’s QOTSA special, introduces proceedings…

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“When the new Queens Of The Stone Age single dropped last week I was once again reminded why I love the Californian rockers so much.

“What a tenacious bunch of individuals. They've come back again and again, wowing us every time. They come across as totally authentic.

“Then there's that enviable list of collaborators including PJ Harvey, Mark Lanegan, Alex Turner, Dave Grohl and now bloomin' Elton John. (Yes, readers – Elton John features on the new QOTSA album.)

“I love that they've waited six years and returned with material worth that wait. So those are just a few of the reasons why I loved immersing us in QOTSA last weekend on BBC 6 Music.” - Nemone

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Kyuss

No Kyuss, no Queens Of The Stone Age, it’s as simple as that. When these desert-dwelling dudes came crawling into the public consciousness in the late 1980s, their sludgy, stoner sound stood out amongst a spread of leaner, more lightweight propositions. Alongside acts like Sleep and Monster Magnet, the founder foursome of Josh Homme, Brant Bjork, Chris Cockrell and John Garcia – bassist Nick Oliveri was to join the ranks, too – would carry languid basslines into a welcoming mainstream. An act with a rotating cast of contributors, much like QOTSA have been, Kyuss delivered their catalogue high with 1992’s ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ (featuring the single ‘Green Machine’), today regarded as one of the greatest metal albums of all time. Two of ‘…Red Sun’’s cast, Homme and Oliveri, would go on to craft QOTSA’s commercial breakthrough, 2000’s ‘Rated R’.  

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Mondo Generator

Oliveri and Homme were best buddies for a while. But when the wheels came off, the bassist reported to have physically abused Homme’s at-the-time girlfriend, separation became inevitable. He was fired in 2004. (But was this month welcomed back into the QOSTA fold.) Yet Oliveri has always had Mondo Generator to fall back upon, a project he founded back in 1997. Their debut, ‘Cocaine Rodeo’, featured former Kyuss members, but as time has passed so the line-up of Mondo Generator has changed. The breathless yet tender-at-times ‘A Drug Problem That Never Existed’ is probably this outfit’s go-to long-player, featuring as it does contributions from the likes of Mark Lanegan – who appears on ‘Four Corners’, below – and The Vandals’ Josh Freese. 

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Eagles Of Death Metal

Formed in 1998 by Homme (appearing under a smorgasbord of pseudonyms) and South Carolina-born, Little Richard-loving, livewire frontman Jesse Hughes, Eagles Of Death Metal is an ongoing act that’s released the grand total of… oh, just three albums. Their latest, ‘Heart On’ arrived between QOTSA LPs, attracting relatively positive reviews in October 2008. Hughes released a solo album in 2011, so whether or not a fourth EODM record will see the light of day remains to be seen. 2006’s ‘I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)’ is one of EODM’s best-known numbers, its video featuring cameos from Dave Grohl and Jack Black.

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Masters Of Reality

Chris Goss’s Masters Of Reality laid its roots way back in 1981, and has been producing records of consistent quality, mining stoner-rock veins and dredging voluminous rock reservoirs, ever since. Goss has long been associated with the same Palm Desert rock scene that QOTSA have been aligned with, and even served as producer on a clutch of Homme-and-company’s recordings – ‘Rated R’ amongst them. He’s also contributed as a musician, appearing on QOTSA’s eponymous debut LP of 1998. Masters Of Reality’s second studio set, 1992’s ‘Sunrise On The Sufferbus’, featured none other than Cream’s Ginger Baker on drums, and the British sticksman co-wrote album standout ‘Gimme Water’. Far out, man.

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The Desert Sessions

A series of 10 releases running from 1997’s ‘Instrumental Driving Music For Felons’ to 2003’s ‘I Heart Disco’, these platters saw their creative lynchpin Homme joined by an impressive cast of cohorts. Ex-Kyuss man Bjork was in the fold, so too the aforementioned Chris Goss and Screaming Trees lungs Mark Lanegan. Ben Shepherd of Soundgarden and our own double-Mercury-winner PJ Harvey also chimed in with essential contributions. Songs from these sets would occasionally transfer to QOTSA’s own long-players – ‘In My Head (…Or Something)’, which featured on 2005’s ‘Lullabies To Paralyze’ album, was originally featured on ‘I Heart Disco’. In 2007, Homme told Blabbermouth that the series was ongoing – but there’s been no new Desert Session release for 10 years now.

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Sweethead

With just the single album to their name, Sweethead are hardly the most productive of QOTSA-related acts. But the four-piece, featuring QOTSA guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, are nevertheless worth checking out. Named after a David Bowie number, the group delivers a clean-edged post-grunge sound – immediate on the ear, albeit slightly less lasting of intoxication than QOTSA’s typical tumult.

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The Dead Weather and Them Crooked Vultures

It’s probably safe to say that these acts are familiar to readers of Clash – The Dead Weather are former cover stars (http://www.clashmusic.com/feature/the-dead-weather-back-in-black), and Them Crooked Vultures were the supergroup success of 2009. What connects the dots back to QOTSA? Homme is a member of the latter, obviously – we mentioned it a little way up there; while the former found room in their ranks for QOTSA keyboardist Dean Fertita. That he managed to stand out beside the twin titans of Jack White and Alison Mosshart, not to mention The Greenhornes’ Jack Lawrence, is some testament to his talents.

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Fififf Teeners

Fififf Teeners – also written as the 5:15ers – is Homme and Chris Goss, the name used as a production alias on two QOTSA albums: ‘Era Vulgaris’ and ‘Rated R’. They have performed under the moniker once, too (footage from which is below) – after which Goss said there would be a record. But so far, nothing’s surfaced.

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Foo Fighters

Now this lot we’re sure you know all about. The QOSTA link? Homme and Grohl are quite clearly pals, so there’s that. But the QOTSA frontman performed on the Foos’ 2005 double-disc set, ‘In Your Honor’, providing guitar on the track ‘Razor’. And for this little list, that’ll do nicely.

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And that’s all we’ve got for you. Of course, the QOTSA-related pool stretches far wider than what’s presented above – so why not tell us about your favourite tracks and acts via Twitter? We’re on @clash_music, come say hello…

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