In nearly every bit of press on the Queens of the Stone Age, some music sage slaps the label of “lo-fi metal” on the band. But the Queens’ newest member has a problem with that. “I wouldn’t even consider Queens a metal band, first of all,” says drummer Joey Castillo. “I know for a fact that all the guys in the band have drawn from punk rock more than anything. As far as the label thing goes, metal is one of the furtherest things the band is about.”
He should know. Before taking on the QOTSA gig, Castillo spent nearly a decade with satanic metal gods Danzig. But Satan isn’t always easy to get along with. “Glenn can be very narrow minded at times,” Castillo says of Danzig founder/leader Glenn Danzig. “I don’t want to sit here and sound like I’m bashing the guy. It became something to where it was his way and only his way, and he wouldn’t listen to anything anybody else had to say. That’s not being creative, I don’t think.” Castillo says he had wanted to leave before, but when the Queens opportunity came up, “I wasn’t even gonna think twice about it. It was a band that I had always been a fan of since the first record, the Kyuss stuff.”
Kyuss was the that band current Queens Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri started in 1991 in Palm Desert, Calif. It’s been described as “stoner rock”–Blue Cheer meets Black Sabbath. But Homme felt that Kyuss had run its course by 1997, so he shut it down. “We painted this beautiful room, but by the time it started to end, we were all standing in the corner in the white spot,” the guitarist told Rolling Stone. “I’m proud of it. I quit so that it would stay cool.” But Kyuss fans can still be Queens fans. Homme told Rolling Stone that the Queens had just taken Kyuss songs and made them more finite, but the band was still driving in the same direction.
To Castillo, the lack of apparent direction in whatever outfit Homme and Oliveri are in is what he admires. “The thing that has always been appealing to me is their belief in playing whatever it is. They just don’t do something because somebody’s going to go ‘oh, they shouldn’t do a poppy song, because their first record was so heavy.’ They do whatever it is. There are no rules, there are no boundaries musically.”
The no-rules-no-boundaries method applies to personnel as well. The Queens have had at least four drummers. They wound up competing with their last drummer’s current group when they were nominated alongside Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters for a 2003 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. (The Foos won.) “No disrespect to Dave, it wasn’t like me going into it like, ‘wow, how am I gonna fill Dave’s Shoes,’” Castillo says. “My whole thing was to make Nick and Josh as happy and as secure as they needed to be.”
If Castillo has his way, the revolving door policy stops with him, at least as far as the percussion department goes. “All of the lineups have had something about ’em that’s been great as far as I’ve been concerned, but I think now there’s just a really good chemistry on stage with everybody. As far as playing, as far as personalities, and as far as when we get up there, it’s almost magic. We’re all just in that same zone, and it all kinda happens.”