Nick Oliveri is on a good run. Almost ten years after his leave from Queens of the Stone Age, he was featured on the band’s fantastic 2013 LP …Like Clockwork, and had former bandmate Josh Homme sing on a track from Nick’s band Mondo Generator. Furthering the idea that amends have certainly been made, he even joined QOTSA onstage to sing a track earlier this year. On October 28th, his new project titled Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable will release its debut LP, Leave Me Alone – a remarkably solid punch to the face, which you can check out yourself below. Adding to that, the band will perform at QOTSA’s special Halloween bash on October 31st, and Nick will join the band onstage once again.
We recently got together with Nick to speak about all those current projects (and some more), his time with the various incarnations of Kyuss, and nudity:
How’s it going, man? Are you on a break from touring now?
Yeah, I’m on a short break, gonna get started again with a couple of bands soon. I’m going on tour with BL’AST, playing with [former QOTSA drummer] Joey Castillo, we’re gonna tour with Down; and I also have my new band, the Uncontrollable, the first record is coming out this month and we’re gonna do some shows. Hoping to do an in-store gig at Amoeba when the record comes out in the US, and we’re playing with Queens of the Stone Age at the Forum, on Halloween, which is gonna be super interesting and fun.
Besides those two you mentioned, and Mondo Generator, how many bands are you in right now?
There’s the Dwarves, we just did a new record called The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll, and it’s a really good one. But they’re in Australia right now, I couldn’t do the live stuff with them at the same time as everything else. And there’s [Dean Ween’s] Moistboyz as well, we’re supposed to make a new record soon, they want to do a full band thing this time around. I got a call from Mickey saying, “hey, we’ve got like 30 new songs, and 12 of them are really, really good”, so we’re gonna start on Moistboyz VI hopefully by December.
I listened to Leave Me Alone, and I was surprised by it. I was expecting something more similar to Mondo Generator, but it’s a bit more out there, more diverse, it’s cool.
Thanks, man. I worked on it pretty hard. I never played drums on a record before, so it was my first time doing that. I kinda wrote the songs on drums, humming parts from my head, then added guitar parts to them. That way, every song in it is exactly how I heard it in my head. I think it turned out pretty good. It’s short and sweet, but I like records like that, it gets to the point, moves around a bit, and then it’s over.
Why did you choose not to go with another Mondo Generator record this time?
I was going to call it Mondo Generator, but I have a really good band with Mondo, people like the members of the band, and I want to stay loyal to those guys. One member just had a kid, and to do the record without him would be kinda disrespectful, and at the same time I wanted to stay busy and make music. So I called it something different and got a different band for the live shows. We’ll do another Mondo Generator record soon, and it’ll have more of a Mondo feel. I’m also playing a few Mondo tracks with the Uncontrollable, because the last Mondo record [Hell Comes To Your Heart] kinda fell through the cracks. I put it out myself, and I’m not the best businessman, so I kinda feel like most of those songs haven’t even been heard by people. I want to go out there and play those songs, so more people can go out and get it.
A friend of mine was asking about the first two Mondo records. They’re out of print, right? Is there any chance those will be re-released?
Well, there’s been some talk in Europe about doing a box set. Most of that stuff is really hard to find, especially Dead Planet, which was put out for like a month, then I had a falling out with this label, and the record never saw the light of day as much as it should have, I think. Cocaine Rodeo and A Drug Problem That Never Existed have been out of print for a long time too; I have some of the old vinyl records, which I’ll probably put up on my store. I would like to have those records reach people, so I think the box set idea might be kinda cool. But I would also like to tie it with a new record, to go along with the box set, and be able to tour it. That’d be an interesting thing, even though I never thought of Mondo as a box set kind of band, but somebody mentioned the possibility to me, and I’m flattered. I’d love to have something cool like that.
If you look for those records on eBay, or the old Kyuss ones, they tend to go for a high price.
Yeah, I’ve looked up a couple of things, and wow, man, it’s cool but it’s not. I mean, I’ll buy records for a bit large numbers sometimes, but I never thought of Mondo Generator music as something that anybody should have to pay $100 for, you know. It’s a cool collectible thing, but I’d rather have it available at a decent, affordable value. But at the same time, I’m a collector, so I like it and I don’t like it, it’s hard to say.
There’s this hilarious song on the record called Robot Man. It’s about your incident with the police a few years ago, right?
Yeah, I’m actually going to give that song to the Hollywood Police Station. I think it’s needed. I wrote that song for them and I want them to hear it. They were all very nice to me, in that situation, actually worried about my well-being, and they didn’t have to be. I had a robot break down my door, so I wrote Robot Man. Phil Campbell [from Motörhead] plays lead on it, which really makes the song something else. I liked it at first, but it was kinda weird, so Phil really made it something that jumps out, especially when the solo comes up.
Did your opinion on the police change after that incident?
Not necessarily. I still feel like I don’t need the police in my home, it’s not a place for them. I’ve had run-ins where you get pulled over, and sometimes the police are dicks to you, sometimes not, so I can’t say shit like “all policemen are assholes” or whatever. I am against things they stand for, but I can’t say they’re bad people. I won’t go out for coffee and donuts with them if that’s what you’re asking [laughs].
Since I’m Brazilian, I think it’s mandatory for me to say something about that time you played naked in Brazil and got arrested afterwards.
Yeah, I thought Brazil would be the one place in the world where they would be welcoming to that. I mean, I wasn’t doing a sexual thing, it was more of a celebration, being free. When it happened, I was obviously pretty scared. I don’t want to learn Portuguese from some guy behind me in jail, you know? [laughs] I remember thinking, “I’m so screwed”, but when I had the chance to talk to this judge that was there, who was quite nice, he was more offended because his teenage daughter was watching the festival. I didn’t even think about it at the time. QOTSA was kind of a good-time band where people can do what they want, aside from hurting each other. In America, nudity can be such a huge taboo; but in Brazil, we had a handler tell us, “yeah, you can play nude, it’ll be fine”, but it sure as hell wasn’t [laughs]. But it was quite an interesting show. The crowd didn’t want QOTSA on that stage, it was a metal day [at Rock In Rio]. We were playing the same stage as Rob Halford, Sepultura and Iron Maiden – which, don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing show to be on, I wouldn’t change a thing about it – but the kids up front just wanted to kill us. It was an interesting time, we spent a week in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most amazing things I ever did in my life, a great experience.
My favorite video of you with Queens is from 2001, the Hurricane Festival in Germany. When you played Tension Head, there was a certain amount of nudity going on, so that video never stays on YouTube for too long. [Watch said performance above]
Oh yeah? Well, I’m sorry [laughs]. When I was younger, I used to get away with doing that stuff, but now I don’t do it anymore, because I might just look like a weird old man pulling out his… tools, or whatever. In your 20s or 30s, yeah, let’s go play nude, but in your 40s, I just wanna rock and have a good time. But I’m sure there will be a time when I’m stupid enough to do it again, but I don’t plan on it ever again, that’s for sure.
What was it like singing on If I Had a Tail, from the last QOTSA record, …Like Clockwork?
That was kinda strange. I went there to sing on it, and I thought I was going to have a part, on a bridge or something, like a featured part, and you’d know it was me. I’m proud to be on it, and I was happy to go work with Josh, but he was very hands-on with it, without outside influences. It’s different from when he sang The Last Train on the Mondo record – he heard a part in his head, and I invited him to do it. I like other people’s inputs on songs, so it makes the songs better because people are throwing in what their interpretation should be on top of it, they’re adding to it. I like having parts where you can really tell who’s singing. Josh has really grown as a producer though. and I’m not above being produced, I guess. [laughs] It’s his record after all, and I’m happy to be on it.
So, have you listened to the last three Queens records?
I own them all. The first one, Lullabies to Paralyze, I bought and listened to it, but I haven’t really done that again, because I was kinda bitter at first. You don’t want a band that you were in to do bad, but it also hurts to see them doing stuff without you [laughs]. I mean, I don’t listen to old Queens stuff that I’m on either, it kinda brings up good and bad feelings. I haven’t given the last three records enough time, I could just put on all three of them at some point.
Recently, you sang You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire with QOTSA, in Portland. Was that something that you rehearsed, or just a thing of the moment?
We just went and did it, there was no rehearsal. Josh wanted the Moistboyz to open for them, and so we did, and he asked me to come up and sing Millionaire. And it was great, it was fantastic, I was so excited to do it. I think we’ll do a rehearsal before the Halloween gig at the Forum, but that one in Portland was just one song.
For the Halloween thing, are you playing more than one song with QOTSA, then?
Uh… I can’t say. [laughs] I got a… I can’t say.
You mentioned elsewhere that you might be playing a few songs with them. If I were to guess what’s happening, I’d say you’re singing Millionaire, obviously, then Auto Pílot and, hopefully, Tension Head. Maybe a fourth song.
[laughs] Well, you know, I imagine if I was going up there, we’d probably play some of those songs, I’ll just say that. I don’t know how much I’m supposed to say. Whatever we do, it’ll be fun.
Yeah, that was a horrible situation. The thing about lawsuits is that, most of the time, they make sure a band never mend their problems, or even play again. I think it’s a damn shame because it cuts Kyuss, this legendary cool thing, to something that you can hear on a record and that’s it. Which is still great, I love those records and I’m proud to be a part of them, but I think it’s the fans’ band now, and if they wanted us to be out there playing, we should’ve been out there playing. But then again, I see both sides, because I’m friends with both sides. Somehow I got out of that unscathed, from either side. I made a choice to bow out, I don’t play music for lawsuits. I do understand Josh’s point, I asked him before every tour we did, “hey we’re gonna do more than just the one tour with Kyuss Lives!, is that cool?” And he was always supportive, while John Garcia was managing it. Then things changed a bit with management and who was making decisions, and Josh put a stop to it.
So you’re still on good terms with the members of Kyuss Lives! / Vista Chino?
And are you definitely out of the band, or would you be willing to tour with them again?
Well, I went back to play on their record Peace in 2012. [Guitarist] Bruno Fevery, who is a great fucking person by the way, asked me to play bass on it. He told me everything else was recorded at that point, and I was like, “what?” So I listened to it, and it sounded cool, so I started writing bass lines and recording them as we went. I never did any live shows with Vista Chino. And as far as I know, John left the band, the band broke up.
Yeah, Vista Chino is over. John quit, he’s doing his solo thing. He’s got a record out and he’s touring it.
I knew John’s solo album was out, but I assumed Vista Chino were just on a break.
Yeah, what I heard is they had some sort of falling out, I don’t know about what.
That’s a pretty messed up situation overall, the way everything turned out.
Yeah, it sucks. Everything sucks about the whole situation, and it’s a shame. I think the band was good, then it got taken over, and now it’s gone to hell. I wish it was out there, whether I was playing or not. They had Mike [Dean, from Corrosion of Conformity], and he’s one of my all-time favorite bass players, and I thought it was cool that they were out there playing. But again, I can’t help but think things could’ve turned out differently. And at the same time, I don’t know why Josh was never asked to do it, he should’ve been asked even if just out of respect. You can’t do a reunion without the main songwriter, especially if you’re going to use the same name, and Josh was definitely the main songwriter.
It’s weird to think about their legacy now, after all this.
Yeah. Maybe Kyuss wouldn’t have been as important if the band had done eight records. Maybe people wouldn’t be stoked about it, or even care about it anymore fifteen years later. Also, if Kyuss had never broken up, think of the bands that wouldn’t have happened.
And when you look at their last record with Josh, …And the Circus Leaves Town, it already showed signs that they weren’t quite that good anymore.
I never gave that record too much of a chance until I played in Kyuss Lives!, and I dissected those songs to learn the bass lines. And dissecting each song, each part, you find little things that are quite interesting and cool, and I started to get what they were trying to do there. My favorite albums are probably Welcome to Sky Valley or Blues For the Red Sun, though.
They had a situation comparable to what Jimi Hendrix did, where he had just the three records. He never got a chance to suck.
[laughs] That’s a good way of putting it, “he never had a chance to suck”. It’s true. The stuff he left, though, at the age of 27, how much work he actually did in the studio, holy shit. That’s a lifetime of material before you’re 30. It’s amazing, but it pisses me off too, how young some musicians were when they were making stuff in the 60’s.
One last question about the Queens: there’s a lot of fans who kinda dropped out of following the band when they found out you weren’t in it anymore. You can still see people like that now, saying, ‘I’ll listen to a new record when Nick rejoins’. What would you say to this kind of fan?
I get that quite a bit sometimes, on tour, and I don’t really know if I should smile or not. I’m flattered that they would say or think that, but it’s just opinions. I think what we had was a great thing, with the three different singers, everybody was a frontman and bringing different styles. Maybe some people miss those ingredients, where you wouldn’t have too much of one thing in the band, and one element would complement the other. Maybe that’s why people say stuff like that, but I could be wrong.
I think people like to bitch a lot, that’s it.
That’s exactly what it is, bro [laughs]. People feel the need to complain, they have to be pissed off about something, they need some sort of drama or feud in their lives. Their comfort zone gets taken away when there’s no feud.
Now there’s several different projects rather than one. You, Mark Lanegan and Josh Homme are doing your own, separate things with their own identities, and that’s pretty cool.
I can’t say I don’t agree, that’s a great way of looking at it.