Queens of the Stone Age Biography and Profile

queens of the stone age
Queens of the Stone Age. Photo: Nora Lezano.

Queens of the Stone Age Overview:

Queens of the Stone Age have been one of the 21st century’s most engaging and ambitious hard rock groups, combining stoner-rock, metal and garage-rock into a mixture that’s both challenging and accessible. Led by frontman (and only permanent member) Josh Homme, QOTSA have pursued an agenda of moody, sexy, high-energy rock that flaunts its danger and oddness, winning over fans and critics in the process.

Queens of the Stone Age's Origins:

Queens of the Stone Age began in the late ‘90s in Palm Desert, California, in the wake of Homme’s previous band, Kyuss, splitting up. Homme brought Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri along with him for a new project, which was called Queens of the Stone Age after learning that another group had already taken Homme’s first choice for a band name, Gamma Ray. In subsequent years, other band members would come and go – supplemented by guest-star cameos like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top – but Homme and Oliveri remained QOTSA’s principal participants for quite some time.

A Gnarly Debut:

After putting out a couple of EPs, Queens of the Stone Age released their self-titled debut in 1998. Queens of the Stone Age boasted a stripped-down approach to hard rock and metal that valued gnarly riffs over head-banging theatrics. In keeping with the band’s desert origins, the songs had a sun-baked, slightly eerie quality to them, and as the album’s sexually suggestive cover indicated, QOTSA had a cocky, libidinous streak to them.

At the time of its release, Queens of the Stone Age wasn’t a huge seller, but it firmly established the band’s musical template that they would refine on later records.

Getting Bigger and Bolder on Follow-Up:

Queens of the Stone Age grabbed more attention with their propulsive 2000 follow-up. Known as R or Rated R, the album was a bigger, bolder effort, and it showed that Homme could be weirder and more melodic than his stoner-rock peers.

Bringing in guest vocalists like Judas Priest’s Rob Halford only boosted R’s all-for-one spirit – indeed, this may be one of the strangest party records a hard-rock group has ever produced. Encompassing extended jams (“I Think I Lost My Headache”) and furious rockers (“Feel Good Hit of the Summer”), R was a critical hit. Commercial success would come with QOTSA’s next effort.

Conquering Radio:

Two years later, Queens of the Stone Age broke through with Songs for the Deaf. Aided by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, who sat in on drums, QOTSA delivered a sort-of concept album about the idiocy of mainstream radio – the album’s songs were linked together by imaginary snippets of banter from FM disc jockeys. Ironically, “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow” were both big radio hits, and Songs for the Deaf ended up becoming QOTSA’s first gold album.

A Personnel Change and Some 'Lullabies':

Before Queens of the Stone Age released their next album, the band went through a major personnel change. Oliveri was dismissed from the group, leaving Homme as QOTSA’s only permanent member. Soon after, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze was released, which moved away from the mainstream tendencies of Songs for the Deaf.

Still, “Little Sister” was the sort of straight-ahead, expert hard rock that had become QOTSA’s staple – it sounded great on the radio, too. Nevertheless, Lullabies to Paralyze was deemed a bit of a disappointment after the commercial and critical promise of their previous record.

Queens of the Stone Age Enter an 'Era Vulgaris':

Queens of the Stone Age’s next album, 2007’s Era Vulgaris, wasn’t quite a return to the accessibility of Songs for the Deaf, but it did represent a consolidation of the band’s strengths from previous records. Era Vulgaris was a loud, menacing record, and it seemed that Homme was happier following his own musical interests than trying to regain the band’s commercial clout. That strategy probably hurt him on the charts, but the mean streak running through Era Vulgaris makes its one of QOTSA’s most underrated efforts.

It’s an album for hardcore fans who love the group’s snarling, occasionally loony depravity.

Everything Runs 'Like Clockwork' for QOTSA's Sixth Album:

In 2011 Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme went to the hospital for routine knee surgery but almost died when major complications arose. Homme was hospitalized for thirteen days, and then bedridden for four months. Homme fell into a deep depression which eventually resulted in QOTSA's haunting and seductive album 2013 album ...Like Clockwork, which became their most acclaimed record since Songs for the Deaf. During recording longtime drummer Joey Castillo was fired and frequent Homme collaborator Dave Grohl was brought in to play drums on half the album. Band members since 2007, bassist Michael Shuman and keyboardist/guitarist Dean Fertita, appeared on their first QOTSA record. Guest vocalists on the album include: Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears, Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner, Mark Lanegan, ex-bassist Nick Oliveri, and Elton John who plays piano on a song. The guest appearances only enhance this strong, visceral album, which was nominated for three Grammy Awards and was QOTSA's first album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.  

Essential Queens of the Stone Age Songs:

“The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” (Purchase/Download)
“No One Knows” (Purchase/Download)
“Go With the Flow” (Purchase/Download)
“Little Sister” (Purchase/Download)
“Sick, Sick, Sick” (Purchase/Download)                                                                                                   
"My God Is The Sun" (Purchase/Download

Current Queens of the Stone Age Lineup:

Josh Homme - lead vocals, guitar
Troy Van Leeuwen - guitar, lap steel, vocals
Dean Fertita - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Michael Schuman - bass guitar, vocals
Jon Theodore - drums

Essential Queens of the Stone Age Album:


Part horror movie, part drug-binge freak-out, R is a hard rock record that runs the gamut from rock to pop to metal to psychedelic.

Queens of the Stone Age have always prided themselves on being a thinking-man’s rock group without coming across as pretentious eggheads – they turn up the volume and shake the walls, but they don’t go in for the misogynistic macho posturing of their peers. R is the finest distillation of their talents – plus, it’s funny and scary in equal measure.

Queens of the Stone Age Discography:

Queens of the Stone Age (1998)
R (2000)
Songs for the Deaf (2002)
Lullabies to Paralyze (2005)
Over the Years and Through the Woods (live DVD) (2005)
Era Vulgaris (2007)
...Like Clockwork (2013)

(Edited by Bob Schallau)