Interview: QOTSA On Their Medieval ‘Times New Roman’ In The Days Of TikTok
We sat down with Troy and Dean for a quick chat.
Words by Harry Webber July 26, 2023

Image via Andreas Neumann //

QOTSA have never really been part of a scene…

They’ve always existed in a parallel stream to the cliques or fads of the music industry. Their self-titled 1998 debut was about as close as they would come, expanding on the desert sound that frontman Josh Homme had helped mould as guitarist of Kyuss. After that, with the release of the acid-infused Rated R and speed-laced Songs For The Deaf, they established themselves in a different sonic realm, gatekeepers of a true sound; the impossible feat that has seen Queens Of The Stone Age become the greatest rock band of our time.

Fast forward four more albums and they’re straddling the mainstream while still maintaining kings of the underground status. Their latest album In Times New Roman not only offers more punned-up song titles than any previous LP, such as ‘Paper Machete’ and ‘Emotion Sickness’, but also homage to earlier work while pushing deeper and darker.

Times New Roman is another chapter in the (hopefully) never-ending book of QOTSA, with Homme and co staring into the sun of modern life through a mediaeval lens. We caught up with longtime guitarists Troy Van Leeuwen and Fertita a couple of weeks ago and spoke about the state of Queens, the state of the world, and life as one of the world’s last rock groups. Dive in below:

With the promo vid you guys released there are themes of 17thC opulence and indulgence, mixed with needles and fast food. How do you see this rags AND riches theme spread throughout the album?

Troy: Rags and riches. That’s an interesting sort of juxtaposition. I think the music on our new record, it’s kind of hard to put in a box as far as what our concept is. I mean, we’re the Queens of the Stone Age and I think this sounds like our… kind of back to basics, rock and roll record.

I’ve seen on the internet someone string the last three album titles together: “In Times New Roman Villains Like Clockwork”. It made me wonder if this is part of a trilogy…

Dean: I know Josh likes to think of things in groups of three like that. And there are songs, even on this record, I know ‘Straight Jacket’ would be one of them, where it’s almost broken into three parts as well. So there is that sort of theme. It feels like we’re sort of tying up some loose ends and getting ready to move on to something else now. And yeah, it feels like a logical conclusion I think, to those other two.

Troy: A decade of music for us. I think that’s a good sort of cap on the end of, because even a song like Straight Jacket fitting is, it’s a song that was started a long time ago and it didn’t finish itself until now. And so songs like that time and place have been around for a while and they seemed to fit together all this collection of songs over three records in a way. It’s a loose sort of trilogy. There’s no real giant concept behind it other than the music seems to fit this time and place that, especially with this lineup of this band, it seems to be what’s been the best of the last decade.

How much discussion within the group is there when it comes to selecting songs? Is it a democratic process leading up to cutting it down to 15 or 20 songs?

Troy: I think we all have a say in what it is, because we’re trying to make our favourite sort of music all the time. We always have lists of all the song titles as they’re being recorded, and we’re always looking at a sequence of what the songs would be best as – if everyone’s happy with this group of songs, then let’s just do it. And some of that is, of course, it has to do with whether or not Josh is happy with the lyrics. Usually that’s the last bit of the puzzle when it comes to songwriting.

You guys carry a kind of torch of authenticity while also finding commercial success unlike anyone else. I’m wondering if that’s something that you’re conscious of, whether it be during the writing process or through to selling the record at the end?

Dean: I think the fact that we’ve worked so well together as a band and been consistent lining up for over 10 years now, it’s because we kind of share this outsider mentality. Nobody really cares about fitting in… Even more so now, I think we’re on the outside, and I would like to think, it doesn’t matter, none of us are trying to be in the biggest band on the planet. We just want to be in the best band that we can be. And we all try to take that, make that a responsibility. Even in the times when we’re not together, we’re always searching for something to bring back that’s going to be weird.

Troy: No, no, you’re totally right. I think what you were asking is if that is ever considered in the creative process, and the answer is no. We just want to make our favourite records that we want to listen to. And that’s also part of it. I mean, we’re hard on ourselves and we all want to be the best that we could be. And so that’s the challenge, is to make each record the next best one. And if people like it, that’s great. And then we’re lucky, if there’s record sales and all that stuff, or ticket sales. But as far as we’re concerned, we just make music with each other. And that’s the most important part.

It’s been six years since you last released a record. Now there’s stuff like TikTok and this generation of kids that are used to listening to 15 seconds of a track, social media has become a big part of promotion. Through that lens, what are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry?

Troy: Well, that’s sort of funny that, I mean, I’m not on TikTok. I’m not sure if anybody else, I doubt they are in our band, but you’re kind of forced to go, well, that’s something that I should probably pay attention to. So then we may make our videos, our teasers in the format of TikTok, which is vertical rather than horizontal. I like things to be wide angle, but we decided to make all these teasers in vertical form, and they’re 15 seconds, like you said.

So I mean, we’re going along with that. But I would say the content isn’t really TikTok friendly, but who gives a fuck? I mean, that’s our attempt at paying attention to social media. I mean, it’s a part of what we do, but it’s not a giant part of what we do. What we do is we play live and we walk along the edge and we’re a rock and roll band. We’re not perfect. We expose flaws. And so for us, it’s like you kind of have to ride that fine line of, well, how far do I want to go into this? And I think we’ve done enough. There’ll be more, of course, but we’re trying to have fun with it, I guess.

You guys will obviously embark on a huge, probably multi-year tour for this record. What is it that excites you? What makes it hard?

Dean: Going away now as being older, having kids and things like that [makes it harder].

Troy: Stuff that wasn’t in consideration for us when we were in our 20s, 30s…. As far as what we love, the fact that things got so disrupted for the last few years and there’s so much uncertainty about how we were going to do things and even if the world would want us back in the same way as when we left it.

You guys are still breaking new ground too, I don’t know if you remember, Newcastle Australia. That’s my hometown…

Troy: I think that is sort of an exciting prospect for us, because I mean, we’re looking for new places to play all over the world. There’s places in the UK that we’ve never played, even though that’s a big part of our touring. And we’re looking for interesting venues as well. Not only places like say for instance, Newcastle or Darwin.

I mean, we played Darwin last time and we always try to make it down to Tasmania. And so yeah, those kind of gigs, we look forward to them, because not only are we bringing something to a town we don’t normally get to go to and experience, but you find that, yeah, there are people like you that are from that town, that are big fans.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing you in Aus soon. Do you guys have any favourite places or things that you like to do while you’re here?

Troy: Every time you go to Perth, it really feels like it’s at the end of a tour and we’re at the farthest place possible from our homes. And it always ends up being this really fun experience to play there, because it’s usually at the end of a tour where you’re just like, you put the seal on it and you’re like, we’re done. We’re in Perth. We’re super far away. We’re just going to have a good time and just let it fly.

Dean: I think one of the best things, and I always look forward to coming to Australia, is that we actually get some time to enjoy it. The shows are, we’ll have a couple days off in between, because the distances are pretty far. So it’s one of the only times where we can actually settle in a little bit and go out and have experience and go to the beach or go up to when we were in Darwin and go see crocodiles or whatever that thing is when we’re in these towns. It’s something that I look forward to every touring cycle. I’m like, I want to know when we’re going to come to Australia.

Buy and stream everything Queens of the Stone Age right here.


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