The case can be made that Queens of the Stone Age in their pomp were among the last great monsters of rock. In their mid 2000s prime the California mega-group could call on an all-star roster of players — Dave Grohl on drums, latter day bluesman Mark Lanegan on vocals.
Yet it’s arguable that nobody was more essential to their primordial stomp and the take-no-prisoners face they presented than bassist Nick Oliveri. With his Satanic beard and wild stare he looked as if he’d beamed in straight from occultist Aleister Crowley’s dungeon — making him the perfect fire-and brimstone wingman to QOTSA leader Josh Homme. But the story did not have a happy ending. In 2004, at the peak of the band’s popularity, Homme and Oliveri had a falling out.
The sundering of the bromance led to the latter’s departure from QOTSA whilst they were still surfing the wave of mainstream acclaim flowing from their 2002 masterpiece Songs for the Deaf.
Fifteen years later, Oliveri, now 47, is philosophical as he looks ahead to an acoustic Irish tour that will include a Cork date at Cyprus Avenue next Tuesday.
“I’m super proud of all that stuff,’ he says of his QOTSA days. “Some of that time was a blur. I wish I was more together for a lot of it The whole band was a little blurry — we were all a little out of focus. But we were having a great time being out of focus.”
He has particularly warm memories of recording Songs for the Deaf, with Grohl on drums and Lanegan in the studio as auxiliary vocalist to Homme.
I knew we were going to trip people out. And we did. It was undeniably brilliant. Grohl on drums, Mark coming in to sing. I was super-excited to be part of that. I would be part of a band like that right now if I could.
Oliveri cut an intense figure during Queens of the Stone Age — one rumoured reason for his eventual falling-out with the no-less highly strung Homme. But, now living in the blissful high desert community of Joshua Tree, California, he feels he has chilled out to a conspicuous degree.
“It’s all mellow,” he laughs. “I’ve certainly mellowed. I still enjoy a good hardcore show. I’m not old. I’m 47. As a musician I haven’t mellowed. But in my personal life yeah… quite a bit. But we’re still the loudest people up here. I can play music really loudly and nobody complains. It’s fantastic.”
He says he can’t wait to visit Ireland and is particularly looking forward to getting out of Dublin (the Irish-born clerk at his local music store recommended he visit the Aran Islands when he’s in Galway).
The new tour will see Oliveri performing QOTSA material, as well as songs from his time with cult punk outfit Dwarves, QOTSA’s predecessors Kyuss, the punk metal crossover act Mondo Generator and his own solo compositions.
“It’s harder to play acoustically than with a band. If you’re acoustic and you’re not singing halfway decent, people can tell. Also, with a band, once you’re done you can leave. When it’s just you, if someone requests a song and you know it, then you really have to play it.”
More than a decade since QOTSA does he look back on that time nostalgically?
“I go through different emotions,” he says. “Often I laugh. Sometimes it might bum me out a little. That’s all good — music is supposed to do that to you. Your past should definitely make you feel things. Because when you’re feeling stuff, I can come out in your own playing. Plus when you’re performing acoustically you can’t go through the motions. When it’s just you up on the stage there’s no hiding.”