These stones tell no secrets

David George-Cosh, National Post  Published: Monday, May 05, 2008

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Instead of hitting old cross-border stalwarts Montreal and Toronto, Queens of the Stone Age are including cities like Halifax and St. John’s to their tour schedule for the first time.HandoutInstead of hitting old cross-border stalwarts Montreal and Toronto, Queens of the Stone Age are including cities like Halifax and St. John’s to their tour schedule for the first time.

The last time Joshua Homme took a vacation, he was a rough-and-tumble 18-year-old, fresh out of high school and armed with an Ovation Ultra GP jazz guitar.

More than a decade later, the towering front man for hard rockers Queens of the Stone Age continues to work at a pace that would make even an in-his-prime James Brown break a sweat.

"Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, do you have any hobbies, do you do anything outside of music?' and I always get a little embarrassed, because my answer's always no," Homme says as he takes a (short) smoke break during mixing sessions for the next album by Eagles of Death Metal, a side-project.

It's that work ethic that Homme (rhymes with "mommy") and his bandmates - guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, drummer Joey Castillo, bassist Michael Shuman and keyboardist Dean Fertita - are currently bringing to Canada on their coast-to-coast tour.

It's no accident that QOTSA have toured Canada twice since releasing last year's Era Vulgaris. Almost every city the band plays in Canada sells out and its latest single, Make It Wit Chu, is a radio hit here.

"It's hard to sort of, like, turn your back on something like that," Homme says. "I would much rather play in Vancouver or Toronto or Calgary than certain cities in the States. It just seems like it's so close to home."

The band, whose rise in popularity was helped in part by a cameo by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl behind the skins on QOTSA's 2002 album Songs for the Deaf, isn't just going through the motions. Instead of hitting old cross-border stalwarts Montreal and Toronto, cities including Halifax and St. John's have been added to the schedule for the first time.

"Especially in this time of being in a band, it's important to play your outposts wherever they are," Homme explains. "Our soundman Hutch is from Halifax and his mom lives up there. We're gonna go have a family dinner."

Homme admits that the constant touring and recording is a distraction from some larger issues. His name has frequently appeared on gossip pages, discussing his physical altercations and the high-profile split with the band's former bassist, Nick Oliveri. Homme ignores it as best he can.

"What I've always tried to do is just keep my eyes trained forward because the trappings of having people know who you are and what you do [are] pretty obvious," he said. "Certainly a lot of people who know who I am probably believe I am some kind of Adolf Hitler control freak or something like that. But it's not worth the time to try to correct someone like a control freak."

That said, there is one dispute to address. As it stands, QOTSA owes its label, Interscope, one more album, either another studio album or the release of the DVD that saw Homme and the band play deep within a German salt mine. However, in a time when iTunes is the world's largest music retailer and Trent Reznor, a close friend of Homme's, is rewriting the music industry rulebook one MP3 at a time, it looks to be a sure bet that QOTSA will turn to the web to survive.

"A small idea can have a real big impact," Homme says. "The luxury of being in a band like Nine Inch Nails or Queens where we have fans that we have a relationship with ... [is] that we can make art unobstructed. No one's censoring any painters anywhere, yet for music, quite often, it's always a war when you make a record."

Homme's keeping his cards very close to his chest, though "What I'd rather do is let them unfold," he says. "One of the main things I do miss about having to go buy an album is the element of surprise."

It's what you'd expect from the man who penned the band's first hit, The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret, and it's something Toronto fans should keep in mind for the secret show the band will play here this Friday.

"I guess it wouldn't be a secret if I said anything," whispers Homme. "Secrets aren't much of a secret anymore. A secret really gets all its power when people won't say anything."

• Queens of the Stone Age play a secret show in Toronto on Friday.


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