‘Like cockroaches, we seem to outlast everybody’: Queens Of The Stone Age are evolving until the end

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‘Like cockroaches, we seem to outlast everybody’: Queens Of The Stone Age are evolving until the end

Credit: Andreas Neumann
Words by Alex Callan

“I think that's what's great about our band, we are slow and steady. Like cockroaches, we seem to outlast everybody. We're not going to be the biggest band in the world, but we'll be there at the end.”

When Michael Shuman claims that they will never, “be the biggest band in the world,” it might sound like a joke if you’ve been keeping an eye on the history of Queens of the Stone Age. A quick look through the band’s history and you’d immediately be under the assumption that the Seattle-founded rock ‘n’ roll group are, in fact, already the biggest band in the world. Multiple Grammy nominations: check. Headliners of the world’s largest festivals: check. Collaborations with legends like John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Dave Grohl: check. 

But, as QOSTA bassist Shuman puts it, they’re not resting on their laurels.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

“As an artist, I would never be like, ‘that’s it’. Because if I did, I’d want to fucking crawl up and die,” Shuman explains. “If you don’t think that you have anything more to give, then that’s a big issue and you should probably talk to your therapist. You need to keep evolving.”

“And I think the funniest thing about not just our band, but all kinds of bands, is that old fans are always like, ‘this new shit’s totally different’. And it’s like, ‘what did you fucking think we were gonna do’?” 

Speaking about the importance of artistic evolution, Shuman draws inspiration from David Bowie, who constantly reinvented himself in every aspect of his art. 

“Bowie is the best example, right? Every record is different – and not just musically, but the art, the way he looked, the way he dressed and his hair. Everything changed from record to record, and that’s what kept it so exciting. It always felt like Bowie. But taking that risk and evolving is everything to artistry… Even though I hate using that word,” he laughs.

“But I don’t think it’s so intentional that it’s like, ‘we have to do something different’. That’s not our intention going into any record. But I think if someone comes in with something that kind of sounds like a song that was on the fourth record, we don’t want to do that again; that’s kind of boring. So we tend to steer away from those kinds of ideas.”

This philosophy is evident in their recent albums. Villains from 2017 took a surprising turn towards pop-rock, while their latest release, In Times New Roman, veered heavily into a collection of eclectic influences such as Anatolian funk (‘Straight Jacket Fitting’), art-punk (‘Time & Place’) and funk-pop swagger (‘Negative Space’).

Talking about the diverse influences behind their eighth studio album, Shuman says, “We love all kinds of shit, right? And we’re finding out about new music all the time.

“So we started to listen to South African music and all kinds of different shit, and when you think of ‘world music’, it’s really opening up a can of worms because there’s so much shit to get inspired by. I think as long as you are open and vulnerable to be inspired by things, you will have a plethora of brand new ideas,” he says. 

“I think that’s the way we look at it. We’re not like, ‘Let’s go make a Gang of Four song’, [in reference to the art-punk stylings of ‘Time & Place’], but it just gets boring if you were doing the same thing over and over again. It really would.

“We have a wide range of influences, so we’re not just gonna make one kind of music.”

Although, as Shuman confirms, a lot of the time that’s easier said than done. With five strong opinions and creative minds in the band, alongside long hours, tight schedules and pressing deadlines, Shuman highlights the importance of having a clear leader of the group. 

“Because there’s five of us, there’s so many strong opinions and so much creativity that comes out of us when we record. And I think the one thing that you got to give Josh [Homme, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist] credit for is that he is our leader,” Shuman says. 

“Everyone has a role right in the band, but it’s not a democracy. Bands don’t work when it’s a democracy; you need a leader, or else you end up like Fleetwood Mac and fucking implode.”

“Yes, Fleetwood Mac made great records, but eventually it imploded. So having Josh as our leader and us knowing our roles is extremely important to how we work as a band and why we don’t fight.”

Acknowledging the role Josh Homme plays, Shuman adds, “I think a lot of people from the outside present Josh as this big guy who acts as a dictator or whatever. But what he’s built is a project that has given people freedom and allowed them the chance to succeed, both musically and in life. So I really give him so much credit for allowing Queens of the Stone Age to very much be a collaborative unit.

“And because of that, we have a lot of fun together, especially on tour because we get to vacation together.”

Queens Of The Stone Age headline Lookout Festival in Torquay for summer 2024

So when the immense hype that’s been surrounding the group’s recently announced Australian headliner “vacation” (aka tour) was mentioned, his face lit up. In February, the band will be bringing ‘The End Is Nero’ Summer tour to Australia and New Zealand, marking their triumphant return to Australasia since their last visit in 2018.

“Man, that’s awesome. That’s why we do it. We do it so that people are stoked.”

“We love Australia. It might even be my favourite place to tour, so I think this tour is gonna be a fucking awesome time.”

Locally, you’ll be able to catch them for the first time at the Torquay Common on Sunday 18 February, where they are headlining the inaugural Lookout Festival –  a live music concert event that celebrates the best of alternative rock with music that has stood the test of time, along with some fresh new sounds on the scene. They’ll perform alongside Spiderbait, The Chats, Gut Health, Pond and Lola Scott. 

For a comprehensive rundown of tour dates and ticket information, head here