QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, the myth goes, arose from the ashes of Kyuss, pioneers in the genre lazy critics named stoner-rock. That label seems oxymoronic to me--rock's been pretty much in a green cloud since Dylan smoked the Beatles out--but it has stuck. So it's appropriate that in a time when most rock bands have become safe cogs in the pop machine, some of pure rock's last torch-holders would fall into the stoner-rock category. Queens of the Stone Age's self-titled album sounds like a mixture of the heaviest rock of the '60s, '70s, and '90s: crunching, sludgy, slogging riffs for the last Sabbath, with a discreet amount of psychedelic thrown in to appease the children of the bong. Their blueprint doesn't stray too far, though, from Iggy Pop's original Metallic KO, and the discreet keyboards on Queens of the Stone Age fit like John Cale's viola did on The Stooges. The Stranger spoke with bassist Nick Oliveri in the lobby of the Showbox during the soundcheck for a recent show.

THE STRANGER: Do you believe in magic?

NICK: In a young girl's heart, yeah.

Coke or weed?

NICK: Coke. Everybody else would say weed, though. I don't smoke weed.

What music out there right now do you hate the most?

NICK: I don't know. There's a lot of bands I don't like, but I don't really pay attention to them. I don't really know off the top of my head. I don't know... uh, yeah... I don't really know. There's a lot of music I don't like, though. What's that band, they have that song on the radio, they're like a Christian kind of band--you know what I'm talking about?
ROAD MANAGER [muffled, from another room]: Yeah, I don't know.
NICK: What's the name of that, dude? They suck bad. I really hate 'em.
RM [still muffled]: Yeah--they're called Excalibur.
NICK: Excalibur. No, they're not Excalibur, they're, uh... I can't remember the name right now, but if you heard it, you'd be like, "This is terrible." Yeah, I can't really think of any off the top of my head. Funboy 3--there's a band I don't like.

Does being from the Northwest cripple or enhance your reputation?

NICK: I'd say we're from the Southwest. The band originally started up here: Josh [Homme, singer] was living up here with Alfredo [Hernandez, drummer], but we were all originally from Southern California, when we had Kyuss. I'm not sure how the Northwest comes into it, 'cause we're from the Southwest.
BROWN-NOSER: You guys rockin' the Northwest, that's what I'm talking 'bout! Yeah, I saw you guys last month at the OK Hotel.
NICK: Cool, man.
NICK: Cool, brother.

Are they playing you on the radio yet?

NICK: Hey, man, what's happenin'? How you doin'?
MAN: Josh in there?
NICK: Yeah, he's right up the stairs, bro. What was the question?

You have a single out now?

NICK: Um, yeah, I mean, yeah, it's cool, they're playing it and uh, yeah, it's getting played a lot up here, you know, I don't know how it's doing in a lot of other places, but yeah. It's actually pretty cool that they're playing it.

Why is rock still alive?

CASHIER: That'll be $10.
NICK: 'Cause it's good. A lot of it's like, a lot of it's real crap now, you know, but there are some bands that are really good that are still doing what I think rock is all about--well, you know, that's the best category to be, uh, labeled, to be called a rock and roll band. And there's a few good ones, and a lot of shit. That's the way it is.
CASHIER: Did that guy just bail? Weird. That guy just bought tickets for tonight's show, didn't even get his change.
GIRL: I'll take it.

What do you see as the future of rock?

JOSH: [loud guitar wails in the background]
NICK: Um, I don't know man, I know what we're gonna do... we're gonna keep goin', keep playin', stay busy, and tour a lot, make records, and... you know, hopefully bands that I like will do the same. You know, there's a lot of good bands. I don't really know what the future of it's gonna be. I know there'll always be good rock bands and there'll always be bad ones, 'cause it'll always be there, I think, definitely.

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