“Everyone’s got music that they bring to the table,” says Van Leeuwen. “And that’s great, because if somebody hits a roadblock with something, you can jump in and help make that thing work.”
“Starlight” has such beautifully rendered atmospherics—soaring and psychedelic. Were you laying those sounds down live, or did you and Mike manipulate the effects post-performance?
The guitars, especially, on that are live. It’s really effected stuff, guitar-wise, and I know Mike is playing a fifth part on top of that, but, yeah, those sounds came out of what we were jamming. I have a pretty expensive pedalboard that I try to keep around, and I’m always changing stuff on it. That one was definitely an intentionally effected sound.
If you can remember, what are we hearing effects-wise there?
There’s definitely some compression on the verses and a little bit of delay. I think I was using a [Eventide] ModFactor, which is not a reverb or a delay, but it sounds like both. It’s a great effect. It sounds cool and huge.
“This Chapter” has a huge wall of ferocious distortion that sits inside a cavernous soundscape. How do you guys achieve that balance, where the two sounds are just perfect together?
In the chorus, where you really hear that, I let the bass do most of the distortion, and then, with the Jazzmaster, I’m actually plucking single notes behind the bridge. It’s a lot of the same under-layer/echo/reverb thing. You’re letting the bass carry everything, and then the guitar is mixed on top of that. It’s got that big reverby sound, so, in the mix, it’s perfect.
You guys have done some shows. Any plan for a proper tour?
I know we want to, and scheduling is definitely our biggest consideration. We’re trying to sort that out. That’s one of the challenges with this band: We wanted to take it out of that realm where you put out a record, go on tour, and play a bunch of festivals, and then, after a year, you do it again. We’re looking for other routes, other ways to make it special, because I don’t think we’ll ever be able to actually do tours. We do want to do one-offs, but we want to make them special.
If it’s something you can pinpoint, what do you take from a side project such as this that you can bring back to Queens of the Stone Age?
I think the goal is simply to learn something and to share with your friends. I love playing with different people, because you always get something different. Josh, Dean, and I just went on the road with Iggy Pop, and we learned so much by playing with him and doing something that’s a little different from what we normally do. I don’t like playing by myself. I always enjoy working with someone, working with someone new, learning something new, and then showing your friends what you learned.
You had a period where you were doing studio sessions. Did you ever entertain making a career of it?
No, because I like both aspects of what I do musically. I really enjoy playing live, and I like bringing that into the studio. They both feed each other for me. John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page used to be session guys, but that was back in the day when you could actually make a living being a session player. It’s hard making a living from recorded music nowadays. You’ve got to play live.
Troy Van Leeuwen says don’t call them a supergroup, but Gone Is Gone sound pretty super on their first performance at L.A.’s the Dragonfly last year, powering through the riff-driven “Violescent.” The live version is less textural and more raw than the album take, but, just before the three-minute mark, Van Leeuwen displays his signature “hummingbird” trilling on his Fender Jazzmaster.
Check out our Rig Rundown with Troy who covers all the gear he takes on the road to cover QOTSA tones and colors.