Interview – Nick Oliveri
“So if you ask me about the desert, the place I come from and all of my musical friends and what makes us so special, I say: nothing. But I’m glad you dig us!”
This interview was done way back. When the summer was settling and a lot of bad things in the world hadn’t happened yet. At that time it wasn’t even certain the Man and his band would return to Europe in the fall and play the Speedfest festival in Eindhoven tomorrow. But there was talk it would happen and he hoped it would…
We’re at De Pul in Uden. A lovely venue in the heart of one of the southern regions of that little country called the Netherlands. A lot of stoner and desert bands have found their way here, to De Pul in Uden. And today we find Mr. Nick Oliveri hanging at the bar with a beer in front of him. He was a bit late for the soundcheck. The shows he did before got out of hand perhaps? Or was it the tattoo he got earlier that day that messed up his schedule? Although we reckon a schedule never bothered, the bass player for the most important albums of Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age. He’s tired. Dog tired. And it takes some maneuvering to jog him awake and talk a bit about his latest album Uncontrollable and everything else that Nick Oliveri stands for…
A few minutes in. The man yawns. The man gives answers he’s give multiple times during all the interviews the past months and gives answers to questions that weren’t even asked. He sips his beer and is probably thinking about the acoustic show later on or about what happened last night. So instead of continuing on with this line of question; we halt. And start with silly questions about bunnies, his baldness, the SWAT team and what the best gift for him would be… Right now… “Right now? Shit man… A gram of speed? Sorry man, need to get my head on straight. Dog tired and foggy as hell!”
So why have you stopped performing naked most of the time?
Oliveri: “Actually. I finished a tour with The Dwarves recently and I played naked a couple of shows. But to be honest. It’s not very fun to watch anymore. You know. It’s like an old man in a sleeping back. Sagging. Old. Hairy. But I could also give you a corny answer and say that tonight on stage, I’ll be wearing my clothes but will be performing absolutely naked. It’s just me, my guitar and my stories. No band to hide behind. Nothing to hide behind. It’s just me. And it’s gonna be awesome. Or I’m gonna tank it. But it’s me.”
Why are you doing it solo? Isn’t it much more fun to tour as a band? Or is it because of financial stuff?
Oliveri: “Yeah man. Do you know what its costs to tour Europe for a month with a complete band? Besides that, the songs demand this kind of performance. And I like doing this man. Have always done this and will continue to do it this way. You know. Ofcourse it’s more fun to tour with friends. But it’s also much more hassle. This is much easier in a way but also much more demanding. Cause it’s just you. You have to do everything and you will be graded. But don’t worry, we’re coming back. In fact at the end of the year Mondo is coming to Europe. Full band. And we’ll play Speedfest in Eindhoven, which sounds like a righteous party. Psyched to play there! And after that we might have time to record something new… You know, back during the Songs For The Deaf tour when we had nights off, I would be walking into local bars asking if I could play acoustic there that night. For a couple of beers. Never asked for any money. It was just me. Sometimes Mark Lanegan would accompany me. But that’s where it’s at for me. Music is my life, my love and my drug. I gotta have it.” (The European Mondo Generator tour starts at Speedfest, tomorrow, 21-11-15, after which they will be joined by Komatsu; who toured with John Garcia last year. And who are about to release their new album.)
You never asked for any money to play? It seems you’re also the cat from the Kyuss line-up that made the least amount of dough at all?
Oliveri: “Yeah, I fucked up a lot of things and a lot of times. But I was never in it for the money. Still ain’t. It’s my 'endless vacation' man. The Ramones sang it right. Haha. But seriously, I made some dough with Kyuss and Qotsa, but not that much. Never went back to ask for any money neither. When the boys couldn’t get the bass right for Vista Chino, they were working with some other guy before me, they called me in. I came in, did all the lines and at the end they handed me some money. I was just, thanks guys. Cool to have a couple of bucks. How was I supposed to know the dudes got a damn good amount for it? That’s what’s fucked up about the business man. As soon as business becomes involved, as soon as money becomes involved, it stops being about the music. Not sure if there will ever be another Vista Chino record, but I doubt they will invite me or Fevery to play on it. Although, if they do call, I’ll be ready.”
The Dutch magazine I write for did a poll about the most influential albums of the past 50 years. There were only three albums from the nineties that made the list. And the only record from the two-thousands that made it on the list was Songs For The Deaf. So you’re telling me you never made much money with a record that is equal to Dark Side Of The Moon, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Tommy, Led Zeppelin IV, Pet Sounds and all those other greats?
Oliveri: “Wow. Wow. Really? That’s so great. Wow. I’m really awed now man. (Silence) You know, that was really the best time of my life. When we recorded Songs For The Deaf, I was playing with a Josh Homme who was at the top of his game and the best drummer ever Dave Grohl. And then there was Mark Lanegan who came in and we had three different vocalists. And everything on that record just came together. We knew we made something good. We all knew it. And I was in my thirties. We couldn’t fuck anything up. We tried. We did all sorts of weird stuff. But everything we did was accepted or even awed and seen as something great and original. Wow man. It’s amazing to hear that the album is getting so much recognition. Like I said before, I wasn’t in it for the money, neither one of us were when we recorded it. We just went in and did what we wanted to do at the best of our capabilities.”
So how would you rate your Mondo Generator and solo albums compared to that one?
Oliveri: “As useless crap! Haha. Well, no. It doesn’t hold a candle to that record or to what we did with Kyuss. But there as some good songs on it man. You know. It’s like a diary for me.”
Well, the new Uncontrollable album is already recognized as being pretty personal. But how personal were Cocaine Rodeo or A Drug Problem That Never Existed?
Oliveri: “They all are in a way. I come in and sing. I got some taglines or chorus or sentences I always go back to. And then I enter what’s been going on in my life or head at that time. You know. I had a book of lyrics stolen from me once by an ex-girlfriend. And since then I never write shit down.”
That also happened to Alex Turner. O’ and ofcourse the new album by Kurt Cobain soon to be released could be seen as a similar kind of action.
Oliveri: “Yeah man. That pisses me of to no end. That fucking vindictive bitch. I bet Courtney is behind it all. Like all the documentaries. Fuck man. Don’t mess with the guy. He had issues. Problems. So do all of us. And now we need to read his journals? His journals man! His private thoughts. For all we know he wrote pages full about soup or how he wanted to dress up as Hitler. He might come across as a total idiot then. But have you never had silly or weird thoughts? Private thoughts! The same goes for his songs. Those were unfinished for a reason. Sure, there might be one or two that were done but never got recorded. But most of them were sketches. They were deemed not good enough. Keep your hands of them. Fuck. So I need to get rid of all my unfinished music quick. Cause if I don’t and I die some asshole will find them and release them as the Oliveri Recordings and make a ton of money because I died in a fucked up way. Not that I’m comparing myself to Cobain here! I’m just saying. My private thoughts are mine. And so is my music. The music I want you guys to hear is the music I send out into the world. Fuck man. It can really piss me off.”
I can see that. It really affects you. Are you that easily riled up and can you use that for your music?
Oliveri: “Yeah. Well. I have had a bit of anger problem. But for the most part I have everything under control. Now. And yes, it’s an emotion I can use. Both on stage and during the recording. I’ve been screaming my lungs out for the better part of my life. If I didn’t have that side, I would have given up already.”
Does it also work against you when it comes to music?
Oliveri: “Yeah, good idea to add ‘when it comes to music’ cause I sure as hell fucked up many things I my life. Haha. And well. When the final mixes come in than I usually go berserk. Cause normally it never sounds like I really wanted it to sound. But in the case of Uncontrollable, I was there every step of the way and ofcourse played most of everything myself. With a little help here and there from my friends. You know. Dean Ween, Stephen Haas, my man Bruno Fevery. But I debated everything Harper (Hug) and Trevor (Whatever) decided during the recoding at Thunder Underground. So when the final mixes came back, I was immediately, yeah I’m done. This is how I wanted it. That’s a great feeling man.”
So can you always record or can you sometimes come in like a Little Richard and shout: “The Lord doesn’t want to sing today!” And leave again?
Oliveri: “Haha. No man. I can’t afford to do it like that. I got two days, five days or two weeks in a studio and during that time, shit has to be done. And I don’t like wasting anyone’s time. So if I really feel like I am not hitting it, then I just say that. And try to do something else. But when something is going great, then we just keep at it. And sometimes you can slug out entire albums in one sitting. That’s fucking rad man. When that happens you got this crazy grin on your face for a week.”
So what recording, not counting your very own work or Kyuss or Qotsa are you most proud of?
Oliveri: “Fuck. That’s impossible to answer. I really dig the song I did with Slash. It’s on my phone. Will let you hear in a minute. It’s pretty badass. But don’t think it will be released any time soon. Cause there’s swearing on it and Slash doesn’t want any bad language on his records anymore because of his kids. (Rolls eyes) I always scream my lyrics, I like how I sound that way. But this producer really pushed me with my singing, I dig how it turned out. Sounds a bit foreign or something. Really cool.” (Chains & Shackles appeared on the Australian version of the 2010 Slash album only. And was re-recorded with the Avenged Sevenfold singer M.Shadows as Nothing To Say. And apparently Oliveri never got any notification of this.)
I had thought you would come out with something recorded in the Rancho De La Luna studios. And something I always ask every artist that ever set foot in that place: what do you think the magical thing is about the Rancho?
Oliveri: “You can make everything magical man. You just have to believe in it. It’s just a studio and just a cool place. But if you want to build a legend around it or put more value on something that’s plain normal. Go right ahead. It just makes things easier for me. The same goes for the desert man. I’ve been to all kinds of deserts all across the world. They’re all shitty fucked up places. But if people want to drive into the desert, see a bunch of cactuses and think that’s magical. Be my guest. You know. But that’s the case with every fucked up place. Go to Norway. It’s fucking cold. It’s shitty that it’s that cold. But you can see a lot of snow and a bunch of stars and that’s magical. So if you ask me about the desert, the place I come from or all of my musical friends and what makes us so special, I say: nothing. But I’m glad you dig us!”
(Written by JK)