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Members include Dave Catching, guitars, keyboards; Alfredo Hernandez, drums; Joshua Homme, guitars, vocals; Mark Lanegan (left group, 2004), vocals; Nick Lucero, drums; Nick Oliveri (left group, 2004), bass; Gene Trautmann, drums. Addresses: Record company--Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Website--Queens of the Stone Age Official Website: http://www.qotsa.com.

Southern California's Queens of the Stone Age were hailed as one of the best new bands of 2000. But their Interscope release that year, Rated R, was actually their second album, and its founders had already won a devoted cult following among alternative-metal diehards and fans of their previous band, the early-1990s stoner-rock legends Kyuss. "Their sound--hard to pinpoint, because it changes from song to song, but most often is an expansive, distortion-heavy trippiness falling somewhere between grunge and psychedelia, a sound very clearly born of the desert--hits you hard," asserted Mark Binelli of Rolling Stone magazine.

Queens of the Stone Age is fronted by Josh Homme, who formed Kyuss as a teenager in 1986. "I'm a slave to the music," Homme told Malcolm Dome of Metal Hammer magazine. "I've tried to quit a few times, but it's too late for me now. I don't want a normal life." Kyuss, which took its name from the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, first gained cult status around the southern California community called Palm Desert. Nick Oliveri, Homme's friend since the sixth grade, and Alfredo Hernandez were also Kyuss members, as were singer John Garcia and bass player Scott Reeder. Kyuss earned infamy for staging outlaw concerts in the desert powered with the help of electrical generators, because Palm Springs had a restrictive ordinance against live music. "Their big, blissed-out waves of sound were shattered by Josh Homme's stun-gun riffs and John Garcia's post-Ozzy wail," wrote Rolling Stone's Greg Kot.

Oliveri left Kyuss in 1992 to play with a punk act called the Dwarves. Over the course of several releases--none of which achieved any level of mainstream recognition--Kyuss won a cult following for their guitar-heavy rock odysseys, which often earned the band comparisons to Black Sabbath. Signed to Elektra, the band gained the appreciation of some more mainstream alternative and metal rock acts, and were invited to tour with Metallica, White Zombie, Danzig, and Faith No More. Jon Wiederhorn, writing in Rolling Stone in 1994 about the surprising sales of their third album, Sky Valley, declared that Kyuss "blends the leaden insurgency of '60s heavyweights like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath with the meandering explorations of Cream and Deep Purple, then infuses it all with a dry, scorched and gritty texture born of the California desert." Homme told the writer that "If you could possibly put all the sand and dirt and lizards and rocks and canyons and isolated, open space on a tape, it would definitely sound like us."

Queens Came Together

Kyuss disbanded in 1995, and Homme moved to Seattle and enrolled in college. Finding it difficult to leave the music business behind altogether, Homme played with the Screaming Trees for a time as a tour guitarist, and formed his new band in early 1998 with former Kyuss drummer Hernandez. The pair attended the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, where they met up with Oliveri, who was then with a band called Mondo Generator; he soon joined his former Kyuss bandmates as bassist for Queens of the Stone Age, a name Homme devised in order to upset some of the more homophobic metal fans. Early shows were sold-out affairs. A review of one by Boston Phoenix reporter Matt Ashare compared Queens of the Stone Age' new style of metal with the genre's '80s predecessors who had fallen from favor with the advent of grunge, and found it "an emphasis on substance over style, or, in some cases, substance as the absence of style." Ashare termed Homme's new band "a figurative regression to the sort of primal musical ore the cavemen might have mined if they'd had Marshall amps, fuzzboxes, and wah-wahs."

Comparison with Homme's previous band were inevitable, but some critics felt that Homme and his new crew had pushed the legendary Kyuss sound to a new level. "Like Kyuss, Queens are experts at laying down the kind of head-bobbing, knee-flexing groove," declared Mike Rubin in a Spin magazine review of a sold-out New York City gig that took place in January of 1999. Rubin further asserted that Queens of the Stone Age "observe the Sabbath less devoutly, leavening the bludgeoning Kyuss attack with melodic hooks, hummable choruses, and even harmonic backing vocals." Rolling Stone writer James Hunter asserted that the new lineup seemed to have "found a vital place between art-metal seriousness and pop pleasure." Hunter compared them to My Bloody Valentine, Soundgarden and, because of a sound "so rich and alive," felt there were even similarities between Queens of the Stone Age and "of all people, late-'70s art-punk band Wire."

Queens of the Stone Age also found a receptive audience in the United Kingdom. "The guitars are still flint-hard, the tunes still load-bearing," declared Kitty Empire of the British music paper New Musical Express, but she called the sound of Queens of the Stone Age "far sleeker and more hypnotic" than those who succeeded Kyuss in the stoner-rock genre. The band's self-titled debut was released on Loose Groove in 1998. A review from Village Voice writer Milo Miles lauded Homme's songwriting talents, such as "the spaced-but-unstoppable momentum of 'I Was a Teenage Hand Model' that refuses to waver even as howling feedback blurts overwhelm everything."

Hernandez eventually left the band and was replaced by Gene Trautmann, brief member of Kyuss at one time; steel guitarist and keyboard player Dave Catching also joined. "When we put this together we wanted a band where everyone knew their role and was comfortable within it," Homme told Dome. "Nick and I both write a lot of music and we chose which songs to record and play without any egos. We love the music, and we just wanna put out our best stuff, wherever it comes from. We want a band that's organic enough to survive. And make up the rules as we go along."

The sales figures for Queens of the Stone Age, combined with their cult following, soon won the band a deal with the Interscope label, which gave their 2000 release Rated R a large marketing push. The first track was brazenly titled "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," and featured Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford on backing vocals. Halford sang just one word of a song whose lyrics, in their entirety, consisted of a litany of abused substances, which rendered it unfit for mainstream radio. Halford had been working in a studio next to one in which Queens of the Stone Age were recording Rated R, and was happy to help out. Hunter, writing in Rolling Stone, liked the sound of this song's "burly guitar bites into a more sharply toned Ramonesy rhythmic drive." The first single from the record, "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret," was far more palatable and became a radio staple over the summer.

Rated R earned positive reviews. "Songs drift from a flat-out punk anthem ('Quick and to the Pointless') to some hallucinatory percussion ('Better Living Through Chemistry') to a gentle vocal turn from former Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan ('In the Fade')," wrote Binelli in Rolling Stone. Reviewing it for the Village Voice, Hunter asserted that "Like the debut but with added authority R shows off a gift for sonic arrest and formal rare any time, any place. It indicates that Homme may well end up a high legend beyond stoner rock."

Toured with Ozzfest

Queens of the Stone Age have toured with a number of acts, ranging from Ween to Hole, though they never even met Courtney Love during that job. "Some people are shocked, but we wanna go out with bands where the tours are skewed and there's the challenge of playing to a different and bigger audience," Homme told Dome. "We're not out to get everyone on our side, just those who can join our scene, which is made up of people from all over: metalheads, rave fans ... just people who get into what we're all The about." In a rather daring decision, Queens of the Stone Age even toured with Ozzfest in the summer of 2000, the annual all-metal showdown headlined by Ozzy Osbourne. Often harassed by the audience, they spent nearly all of their free time hiding out in their tour bus. Homme didn't mind the hecklers, however. "For every one boy that doesn't like us, there's two girls sitting behind them digging it," Homme told Binelli in Rolling Stone. "You don't want every boy. You want their girlfriends, though."

The bands' left-field inclusion on the Ozzfest, however, would prove to be their introduction to the mainstream. After Rated R received rave reviews, the band's cult blossomed into full-fledged mania, when Homme and the Queens delivered Songs for the Deaf for Interscope in 2002. Packing full-on hits like "No One Knows" and a new lineup that included ex-Screaming Trees vocalist and guitarist Mark Lanagen (who was in the midst of a stellar solo career) on guitar andbacking vocals, ex-A Perfect Circle member Troy Van Leeuwen, and Foo Fighters and former Nirvana member Dave Grohl on drums. E! Online.com said, "The hard-rock ranks would be wise to brush up on their Wayne's World impressions--because, no, you are not worthy of this massive Deaf jam. Tied together with hilariously inane deejay banter and powered by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl's assertive drumming, Deaf's heady, shape-shifting bombast is a sonic, butt-rockin' epiphany. Marrying shuddering power chords, trippy workouts and curiously catchy melodies, then going off on tangents that embrace everything from Nirvana-esque punk ("No One Knows") to psychedelic pop ("Another Love Song"), QOTSA flushes conventionality away like old bong water. Say hello to your new metal gods. The band toured extensively for the record, even after losing Grohl to his duties as a Foo Fighter. The success, however, may have been too much for Oliveri, who left the band due to infighting with Homme.

Once the group's touring and press obligations for Songs for the Deaf subsided, the members split in different directions. Bassist Oliveri and vocalist Lanegan left the group due to conflicts with Homme in February of 2004. Oliveri rejoined the Dwarves, and continued to work on solo material, as Lanegan returned to his own solo work as well. It was then that Homme immersed himself in various projects, including his continued work on the Desert Sessions series he had been cultivating since the late '90s, forming a band called Headband with members of Marilyn Mason and Amen, and working with Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk on the asoundtrack to The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys. Perhaps his most high-profile sideproject, however, was his drumming in the Eagles of Deathmetal, a group he shared with Jesse Hughes. They released Peace, Love and Deathmetal in 2004.

Released Lullabies to Paralyze

By 2005, however, there was high demand for another Queens of the Stone Age album. In March 2005, Homme answered his fans' prayers, and released Lullabies to Paralyze, featuring Lanegan, Van Leeuwen, Joey Castillo and Alain Johannes. Theage.com said, "Homme is the obvious talent and general here, driving the songs with his repetitious buzzing desert riffs and staccato rhythms but he's happy for gravel-voiced Mark Lanegan to sing the opening song - the Leonard Cohen-esque ballad 'This Lullaby.' From there, it's a hell of a ride, full of strange turns and majestic surprises, as Homme, multi-instrumentalist Troy Van Leeuwen, new bassist Alain Johannes and man-mountain drummer Joey Castillo combine with some special guests. Homme, his girlfriend--Geelong-raised singer of the Distillers, Brody Dalle--Lanegan and Garbage's Shirley Manson whisper and flirt over handclaps and slinky guitars on 'You Got a Killer Scene There Man.' ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons contributes 'Fandango!'-esque lead guitar and husky vocals on the stomping 'Burn the Witch.' Closing song 'Long Slow Goodbye' climaxes with a baroque brass outro and on the bonus track, the Tex-Mex waltz Like a Drug, Homme gives as good a crooning Roy Orbison impression as Chris Isaak ever managed." Charleston's the Post and Courier said, "Lullabies to Paralyze is another original release from a band that continues to surprise as it matures."

by Carol Brennan and Ryan Allen

Queens of the Stone Age's Career

Homme, Oliveri, and Hernandez were members of Kyuss; group formed in Palm Springs, CA, 1997; signed to the Loose Groove label and released self-titled debut, 1998; signed to Interscope, 1999; released Songs for the Deaf, Interscope, 2002; released Lullabies to Paralyze, Interscope, 2005.

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