By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
|Photos by Gregory Bojorquez|
1. NO ONE KNOWS
During this past March's All Tomorrow's Parties music festival at UCLA, there was one night dedicated to the legendary Detroit rock & roll band the Stooges. With Stooges singer Iggy Pop absent and the original bassist deceased, the band's Ron and Scott Asheton assembled an ad hoc group composed of underground and overground superstars with the help of guitarist J Mascis and bassist Mike Watt. That night, the formidable task of vocal duties was shared by Watt (intense, perhaps demented), Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore (arty, modest) and Kim Gordon (tuff screech), and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder (whatever). ä
But there was one other singer. A tall redhead, kinda scared-looking, essaying a barely audible "1969" -- a ginger deer caught in the Stoogelights, covering a song about a year that happened before he was born, doing his best to bring out the despair, the feyness, the petulance of lyrics like "Last year I was 21/I didn't have a lot of fun/And now I'm gonna be 22/I say oh my and a boo hoo." Singing, where Iggy sneered.
And almost nobody present knew who he was.
A lot of this headscratchery has been surrounding that singer -- his name is Joshua Homme -- this year. It'd happened earlier in the year, too, when Foo Fighters leader and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl said he was putting all his other work on hold in order to become a full-time member of Homme's band, the L.A.-based Queens of the Stone Age. And it's happening with last week's release of the Queens' third album, Songs for the Deaf, a masterpiece of pure rock & roll imagination and power certain to attract deserved acclaim and shift serious units to an unfamiliar public. It's as if this record, this band, this singer, have come out of nowhere.
And, in a way, they have, "nowhere" being the Southern California desert: that wilderness, that desolation, that anti-human void two hours beyond the glitter and smog of Los Angeles . . . past the edge cities and suburban infill of the Inland Empire . . . beyond even the lands of corporate housing.
Yet when we look closely at almost any so-called wilderness, we often find it's more alive than we first suspected -- perhaps even richer, in the most important things, than the city itself. But we need a guide to help us find the shamanic dudes, to hear about the shifting alliances and labyrinthine confederacies, the high elders and the boy apprentices, the record producers and the devil worshippers, the teenage boredom and the midnight musharitas, the violent brawls and nationally televised public male nudity.
One guide isn't gonna be enough.
A GUIDE TO OUR GUIDES
JOSHUA HOMME:QOTSA, Kyuss, Desert Sessions organizer, Mondo Generator, etc.
BRANT BJORK: Kyuss, Fu Manchu, solo artist, QOTSA, Mondo Generator, etc.
NICK OLIVERI:QOTSA, Kyuss, Mondo Generator, Dwarves, etc.
ALFREDO HERNANDEZ: Across the River, Yawning Man, Sort of Quartet, Kyuss, QOTSA, etc.
MARIO "BOOMER" LALLI:Across the River, Yawning Man, Sort of Quartet, Fatso Jetson, etc.
JOHN GARCIA: Kyuss, Unida, Hermano, etc.
CHRIS GOSS: Masters of Reality; Kyuss and QOTSA producer, etc.
2. THE LEY OF THE LAND
Joshua Homme:There's a bunch of small towns in the desert that are connected. At the start is Palm Springs, where retirees and Hollywood types like to have nice places. And then it ends at the Salton Sea, where it's speed freaks and ranches and farms and Social Security folks and RV campsites. It's like an onion: There's that rich retiree layer, and then the people that work for them, and then the people that steal from them. And then there's the people that grow food and then the people that do tweak. And they're all locked together.
Brant Bjork:The high desert is probably closer to what people imagine the desert to be like. It's less populated. Less mountains. It's more vast. Little houses. Real, real small towns.
Homme:You don't want to run out of gas out in the high desert. The people that live out there? You go to breakfast at the Country Kitchen, you'll hear [in hick accent], "Well, Clara was supposed to baby-sit little Timmy, but all she did was stay up and do speed and never even saw the kid, and he was eatin' paste in the back." You know the places Manson said if he ever got out of prison he would move to? That's Desert Hot Springs. It's very much like getting caught in a David Lynch movie.
But wherever you are, whether it's the low or the high, you'll be driving through the desert, and it's hot as shit, and you'll see a guy just walking on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. That's Walking Guy. There's one in every desert town.
3. BENEVOLENT GODFATHERS
Bjork:Josh and I grew up together. My dad is a judge in Indio, my mom is a teacher. Josh came from a real well-to-do family. He's one of the funniest guys I've ever known. He was a tall guy, and he had red hair, so he stood out, and he kinda had to live up to that. Clever dude, great musician, had his shit together.