On Beats 1 Zane Lowe spoke to Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age about working with Mark Ronson, their new 7th record, working with Lady Gaga, the bands new music and more.
On the first song on the album:
Josh: It’s called ‘The Way You Used To Do.’
[Zane: Thank you because I was definitely going to f**k that up.]
Josh: I guess I never thought about how confusing that is. But it’s kind of exciting now.
[Zane: Are you sure?]
Josh: I have no interest in manipulating any - no okay, let’s just go.
On feelings leading up to releasing the album:
Josh: I have a great sense of relief because it’s a bit like going like, ‘Will you hold this?’ And then someone - they hold it, and you walk away, and go, ‘It’s yours.’ It’s a relief because I don't have to hold it anymore and it’s none of my business now. You know? Cause you can’t guarantee that it will do - that’s to iffy for me to get involved in.
[Zane: Sure but you have to make a decision about what song people are going to hear, right?Oh yeah, after you put out the album out in its whole entirety.]
Josh: But I, don’t get me wrong, I always thought it should be this song [‘The Way You Used To Do]. I just thought - and because it just sort of claimed to be the one that was like, ‘I’ll do it.’ Cause there is a sort of amount of like, ‘who’s going to run this gauntlet?’ And that song *starts clapping the drum part* - and I think that a song that jumps right up and says, ‘I’ll dance that gauntlet’ is really - I’m thankful for that. Because no matter what it does, I’m like, ‘Look at this. They jumped right up. You wanted to do it.’ Yeah because I think it’s much different for me than it is for somebody else on the other side of that, you know? I’m glad that that one jumped up and wanted to dance its way through the gauntlets so I’m like, ‘No, let the boy go. Let him go.’
On The Way You Used To Do:
Josh: Yeah, single. Number two. Yeah, it was gonna be [track] number one.
[Zane: That’s a good time. And really, the central component of that song is the most simple thing you’ve ever done *starts clapping in time.* And when you clap right - now I think when you clap in tempo, this is where I’m going to geek out, some people hear that like four on the floor. But when that clap comes in, even before you hear anything else around it, it’s clearly swinging.]
Josh: Yeah, it all stems from what you love.You know, in the morning - mornings can be tough. Are you a morning person too?
Josh: I, also, am not a morning person. Unless we stayed up and then I’m like, ‘it’s the morning,’ I feel a sense of pride. But I’m looking for ways to avoid grumpiness in the morning cause that’s not the way to start the day.
[Zane: So this is it?]
Josh: Cab Calloway. Dean Martin. You know? If you listen to ‘Minnie the Moocher’ and like all the swinging stuff -or there’s this cat C.W. Stoneking that’s from Australia that’s great too. That plays in an old manner, you know that almost 20s jazz. Or, you know, this ‘bum bum be bu bum’ this big band rhythm, yeah man. It’s just wonderful and that sort of swing, just after morning after morning after morning for like a few years of going there. You know, you start to go *starts clapping rhytmically.*
[Zane: What would it sound like if we did that?]
Josh: Yeah, like where do we belong in all of this? And I think that’s where influence is one of the greatest things ever. It’s like, you know, influence shouldn’t be like, ‘We should copy that’ cause that’s gross. But it should be like, ‘Where do I belong in this too? It resonates with me already when I listen to it, so if I were gonna be that, where would I be in all that?’
[Zane: It’s like one of those really great moments where I listen to you and I go ‘Wow.’ And it also feels to me like, and I also said this when I heard this the first time in the other room awhile ago, I said it feels like ‘No One Knows’ has a sister. Or like a really good - like a best friend.]
Josh: Well you said that too and you were like, ‘I think you finally got to something that can take on that song too.’ Because I think sometimes you have a - if you’re lucky enough to have a successful moment, you’re sort of like - that’s on one side of the scale always. And something’s waiting to like - you put something to level it off.
[Zane: Well just mean’s you don’t have to end with that song now. You probably -]
Josh: Start with it. Well also, you know, I love that song and I love playing that too. So I don’t get sick of stuff like that because I’m thankful for that song. And it came from a good place and so what's there to get mad at? You know when people are like, ‘we’re not going to play our hit song.’ It’s like, ‘Well yeah, cause you’re going to spend all your time getting out of your own ass.’ Like you know what I mean? ‘Let the cheeks go loose so the stick will drop out.’
On playing that song with the band for the first time:
Josh: Well ‘The Way You Used To Do’ was the first song I had. And we were actually on tour at the end of the last record. And I had this - I was setting up a home studio and I thought, ‘well I should test it. Make sure it works.’ Cause I don’t make demos cause I just don’t believe in them. But I said, well I’ll test it and I just wrote that thing and came up with the song. And I liked it so much I was like, ‘I can’t listen to this cause I don’t want to get sick of it.’ So I didn’t listen to it for a year and a half but knew it was there. And I would sometimes go ‘dat de du duh’ You know, and I thought ‘oh, I can’t even - I won’t sing it.’ And I played it for the guys once and I think that immediate reaction is a great litmus test for if something’s good or not. And everyone - I just put it on in the room and didn’t do anything. And within a few seconds, everyone was like, ‘what’s this?’ And I was like, ‘Great. Okay great. So I’m not going to listen to this for the next year and that’s great.’ And so it was the first song for this record. And it was the only song that we knew. But it was like this is the direction, you know? I think one song becomes sort of the talisman for where you’re going.
[Zane: Who’s the first person you played the finished version of ‘The Way You Used To Do’ to?]
Josh: To Brody.
[Zane: What did she say?]
Josh: You know, Brody’s such an honest person. And our relationship is like you have to be honest about the music. And she was very complimentary and I was really relieved. That’s about her anyways so.
On meeting Mark Ronson while working with Lady Gaga:
Josh: I did. I’d met him a couple of late nights before that. Within an hour of working with him on this Lady Gaga stuff, the references - that glossary you use to talk about stuff and what was important to him, I realized there’s this grand overlap. Of interest and fascination and elation in making music.
On why he chose to work with Mark on the latest album:
[Zane: You’re a producer Josh. You produced [Them Crooked] Vultures, you produced [Arctic] Monkeys, you produced Queens of the Stone Age. You know what you need to know to make your records sound big. So why a producer at all? And in particular, beyond the glossary, why him because you know how you want your band to sound?
Josh: Yeah and well, to a certain extent, I know that it can also - also, I think - it’s our 7th record and we have the luxury of having found a sound that is ours. But by the 7th record if you’re not careful, that’s a parody. And you end up cartoon character on the wall. And I think there’s a need to sort of identify who you are now. The most dangerous game is to retain that sense of self and take the risk to be something new. And I realize that’s really where I wanted to go with this especially. Because that would be exciting too. If you could unlock that code of re-orientating your sound. Then your newest record needs to be the very best one that’s made off of the experience and failures of the last one. I mean that could make you a better person. You could leave baggage behind. There’s so much that could happen if you make a great record and you really mean it.
[Zane: Was it exciting? Was it fun to make?]
Josh: You know, what’s interesting is that we always have fun because we get along, and we are honest and we talk about things. But they get more difficult to make somehow. You think you’re making something that wasn’t there but somehow it feels like a mining. Taking something out and then it’s gone. You were asking why Ronson too and I think one of the reasons was to act like a talisman as a reminder of listening to ‘Uptown Funk.’ It’s very tight and vacuous. It sounds f**king great. I knew I wanted to make something that sounded very tight, and with the air sucked out of it and very clear. So he was just a great reminder just as an opening and then his desires are so beat-centric. And so are mine that we had this tremendous amount of overlap. And then that sort of giggling over the gold - the excitement of creating something, he has that. During the making of this, I kept calling this - we’re going to crescendo camp, where things take over for a second. Because it was like why can’t something take over the mix? And bury it? And when the tablecloth is pulled, you reveal this next thing. And he was very into that idea and so was Mark Rankin, who we worked with on the last record as well. So you get these phslosophyphies that you start working on and they sort of take over.
On the music video:
Josh: We are. Yeah, can’t give away too much of it yet. But it’s going to be nuts.
[Zane: What’s the worst treatment for a video that you’ve ever received, to memory?]
Josh: I think it’s the video I did for ‘In My Head.’We were making this video and I looked at the thing back and I was like, ‘this is terrifyingly awful.’ And then I just split. Just split and it’s like, ‘Where did Josh go?’ And I was like, ‘He went home.’
[Zane: Did you really?]
Josh: Yeah, I was like, ‘My name’s Paul, f**k y’all.’ And I was like in a particular state of mind.
[Zane: Did you say goodbye or did you just LAX it?]
Josh: No, you gotta French X it that - where you’re just like, ‘When the phone’s not ringing, that’s me.’