Queens’ Homme Casts Emotional Eye On Bassist’s Firing

Frontman candidly describes tumultuous circumstances leading to split.

A few weeks after bassist Nick Oliveri was fired from Queens of
the Stone Age, frontman Josh Homme is still visibly pained about
ousting his musical sidekick of the past five years.

“It feels almost like my kid went to jail, or I got out of jail,” Homme
said, sounding choked up. “I can’t tell which one.”

In a press release issued last month, the band’s management stated that
“a number of incidents occurring over the last 18 months led to the
decision that the two can no longer maintain a working partnership in
the band” (see “Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan Leave Queens Of The Stone
Age”
). The vague statement fueled speculation that
rampant drug use was responsible for Oliveri’s removal, but Homme said
the problem wasn’t a direct result of partying, but rather the way
Oliveri behaved when he was wasted — and even when wasn’t.

“Our whole band is full of hard partiers,” Homme said. “We have put
more people in rehab than Mardi Gras. But when you get drunk, you
either get drunk with class, or you get drunk like a slobbering,
toothless f—. And that’s just an analogy. It’s not just drinking,
it’s how you live your life.”

Homme said there were dozens of times Oliveri got the band kicked out
of parties or banned from hotels. Homme added that he played a major
role in keeping Oliveri out of jail by “snowing his probation officer”
and smoothing out countless other tense, volatile situations. “He’s a
tornado, and a tornado just destroys and goes on to the next city,”
Homme said. “I’m in the tornado cleanup crew, and all I ever see is his
detritus and I’m sick of it.”

When Queens of the Stone Age released their third album, Songs for
the Deaf,
in 2002, the press categorized them as troublemaking
prodigies. Homme said that Oliveri tried hard to live up to his
reputation.

“We used to have a thing we called ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ where, whenever
Nick did something, we blamed Nick in the press, and whenever I did
something, we blamed Nick in the press,” Homme explained. “But I think
Nick started believing our press and thinking that he’s gotta be the
next Sid Vicious or something. And I think Sid Vicious is a badass, but
also I think Sid Vicious is a dumb drug addict who couldn’t play bass
and never wrote a song, and if he stayed alive most guys would have
went, ‘This guy’s a worthless piece of sh–.’ And so I don’t
think that’s something to aspire to.”

Homme said he was amused by Oliveri’s antics for a while, but when the
bassist became noticeably more mean-spirited, his amusement waned. When
it became apparent to Homme that Oliveri’s irresponsibility and cruelty
was more than an act for the media, he realized the relationship
couldn’t continue.

“He really doesn’t even know why I kicked him out,” Homme said (see “Fired Bassist Fires Back At Queens Of The Stone Age” ). “In the press, he admitted he threw bottles
into the audiences, but he’s saying, ‘I do it for the fans. Isn’t that
what they really want?’ But what Nick really did was come up to me
between the first and second song and say, ‘This audience isn’t good
enough — they’re sh–,’ and then he threw full bottles of Corona
at them, like a baseball pitcher. Is that for the fans? That’s not my
style. I get drunk with the fans, I don’t throw bottles at them.”

The final straw came after a show in Australia in which Oliveri trashed
all of his equipment, then later got the Queens banned from a hotel in
Perth. “You can just put that in a box with the other hotels we’ve been
banned from,” Homme said. “You know Nick’s been accused of a lot of
things, and basically all of them are true, and I can live with the
sh– I’ve done, but I can’t be tied to the sh– I haven’t done.”

After Homme decided to part ways with Oliveri, he drove to the
bassist’s house to confront him. Even though Oliveri had caused Homme
plenty of headaches, the two also shared lots of good times, and the
frontman felt he owed his “bro” an in-person explanation. “He was
bummed, man,” Homme recalled. “It was the only time that an irrational
guy was rational. He was going, ‘I don’t want this to happen.’ But when
you see a guy winging bottles at the audience, you eventually just say,
‘F— this!’ If you don’t, then you’re just somebody’s bitch.”

Homme admitted that the musical chemistry between he and Oliveri helped
drive the last two Queens of the Stone Age records, and he added that
he’ll miss touring with Oliveri and would be open to working him in the
future if he can change his behavior. “I still love the guy,
man. And Nick had a vital spot in the band,” Homme said with a hint of
regret. “Nick has great energy. He scares people, I guess.”

A few seconds of silence followed while Homme pondered the statement.
“You know what? I don’t want to scare people,” he finally said. “I want
to enrapture people with music. And I want them to get the goose bumps
when they hear our album. I don’t give a f— if they’re scared about
looking at us.”

This spring, Homme plans to return to the studio with Queens guitarist
Troy Van Leeuwen and drummer Joey Castillo to work on the band’s next
album. (Part-time vocalist Mark Lanegan quit the band to focus on his
solo career around the same time Oliveri was booted.) Homme will play
all of the bass parts on the disc, as he did for the group’s
self-titled debut in 1998. At the moment, he’s got 16 songs completed,
and he insists that it’s the best stuff he’s ever written. And for
those worried that the band will suffer without Oliveri’s
contributions, Homme insists they have nothing to fear since he has
always been the band’s main songwriter.

“I write 90 percent of the music. Which I never say, because I always
try to stay mellow about it,” he said. “I wrote most of the
music and took care of all of the business, and kept it so our bass
player could just play for an hour and a half a day and that’s all he
had to do. If you’re wondering if Queens has no balls, you don’t have
to wonder. If you want to see balls, go see Nick with the Dwarves,
because I understand he’s playing with them again.” Homme added that
when Oliveri played with the band in 1997, he would expose himself.

Oliveri could not be reached for comment, and spokespeople for both his former label, Interscope, and current label, Ipecac, said they don’t know where he is.