Hard-rockers Queens of the Stone Age will kick off the next leg of their headlining tour in support of Rated R on Sept. 16 in New Orleans.
Rated R, released June 6, diversifies their crunchy rock riffs with the unlikely touches of horns, vibes and steel drums. The added instrumentation expands upon their "stoner rock" sound, characterized by heavy guitars, long solos, feedback and lyrics riddled with drug references. "We didn't want to have any boundaries and wanted each song to be diverse," bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri said.
Oliveri, along with guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme, formed Queens of the Stone Age out of the ashes of the now-defunct, hard-rocking Southern California desert band Kyuss. The two released their self-titled debut in 1998 on Seattle indie label Loosegroove. The single "If Only" bombarded rock radio, and the band toured tirelessly behind the album.
For Rated R, Homme and Oliveri retreated to the desert for five days to write new material. "We went to Joshua Tree [Calif.] with the idea of making a different record," Oliveri said.
The album offers a range of sounds, from punk ranters such as "Quick and to the Pointless" and "Tension Headache," to dissonant robotic rockers such as "Leg of Lamb" and "Monsters in the Parasol," to the beautiful instrumental "Lightning Song." "The songs move around in different directions," Oliveri said. "Some are spacey with a lot of air, others are really tight and focused, some are just angry."
"People always want to put labels on slightly different genres of rock music, but the Queens refuse to be the cliché of the moment," said Chris Goss, who produced three Kyuss albums and co-produced Rated R with Homme. Oliveri and Goss prefer the term "desert rock" to describe the expansive sound of the Queens' music.
"Desert music has this strange, isolated feeling to it," Goss said. "The Queens' music is very intriguing, making it more than just stupid metal. There's a kind of black humor underlying a lot of their music."
"Better Living Through Chemistry" (RealAudio excerpt), for example, is a desert-rock epic; bongos create a hypnotic introduction that segues into a guitar riff that wafts and wanes like a heat-induced illusion. "That was about day four of sitting in a room writing songs," Oliveri said. "It was trippy at the time we wrote it. By the time we got in the studio and added texturing and different instruments, it really took on a life of its own."
Guitarist and keyboardist Dave Catching and drummer Gene Troutman are the other members of Queens of the Stone Age. The band also recruited a host of friends to contribute their talents to the recording of Rated R.
"Josh and I wanted to bring in as many friends as possible," Oliveri said. "To make it a party, to make it fun. Sure, it's our work, but it's also good time." Guests include Pete Stahl and Wendy Rae Moan of the earthlings?, Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees and Tuatara, and Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, who steps up to the microphone for lead vocals on the affecting "Into the Fade."
On the frenetic "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," co-producer Goss enlisted ex-Judas Priest singer Rob Halford who happened to be recording next door. "He is a really cool, charming guy," Goss said. "I was really impressed that he wasn't some isolated dinosaur still living in the past. He was really aware of the Queens and the music that has been coming out of the desert for the last 10 years."
One-man rock project VAST will open shows on the Queens' tour. VAST's second album, Music for the People, will be released Sept. 19.
Queens of the Stone Age tour dates:
Sept. 16; New Orleans, La.; House of Blues
Sept. 18; Memphis, Tenn.; Last Place on Earth
Sept. 20; Atlanta, Ga.; Cotton Club
Sept. 21; Carrboro, N.C.; Cat's Cradle
Sept. 22; Spartanburg, S.C.; Ground Zero
Sept. 23; Norfolk, Va.; Boathouse
Sept. 25; Washington, D.C.; 9:30 club
Sept. 27; New York, N.Y.; Irving Plaza
Sept. 28; Philadelphia, Pa.; TLA
Sept. 29; Boston, Mass.; Axis
Sept. 30; Syracuse, N.Y.; Lost Horizons
Oct. 3; Detroit, Mich.; St. Andrews Hall
Oct. 4; Columbus, Ohio; Newport Music Hall
Oct. 5; Chicago, Ill.; Metro-Smart Bar
Oct. 6; Milwaukee, Wis.; TBA
Oct. 7; St. Louis, Mo.; TBA
Oct. 8; Lawrence, Kan.; TBA