Queens of the Stone Age is an American hard rock band from Palm Desert, California, United States, formed in 1997. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included founding member Josh Homme (lead vocals, guitar), with its current line-up including longtime members Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, lap steel, backing vocals) and Joey Castillo (drums, percussion), alongside Michael Shuman (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Dean Fertita (keyboards, guitar).
Formed after the demise of Homme's previous band, Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age developed a style of riff-oriented, heavy music. Their sound has since evolved to incorporate a variety of different styles and influences, including working with ZZ Top member Billy Gibbons and steady contributor Mark Lanegan, both of whom have contributed influences from genres such as blues and grunge.
Queens of the Stone Age began with Josh Homme in 1996. After the breakup of Kyuss in 1995, Homme had briefly joined The Screaming Trees as a touring guitarist, before deciding to form a new band of his own. Originally naming his new project 'Gamma Ray', Homme was forced to change the name in 1997, as German power metal band Gamma Ray was threatening to sue:
"When we were making a record in 1992, under the band Kyuss, our producer Chris Goss, he would joke and say "You guys are like the Queens of the Stone Age." The band was originally called Gamma Ray, but we got threatened with a lawsuit because someone else had it. So we were Queens of the Stone Age."
On why the band chose the name 'Queens of the Stone Age' rather than 'Kings of the Stone Age':
"Kings would be too macho. The Kings of the Stone Age wear armor and have axes and wrestle. The Queens of the Stone Age hang out with the Kings of the Stone Age's girlfriends when they wrestle, and also it was a name given to us by Chris Goss. He gave us the name Queens of the Stone Age. Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls. That way everyone's happy and it's more of a party. Kings of the Stone Age is too lopsided."
The band's first release was Gamma Ray, a two-track EP featuring the songs "Born to Hula" and "If Only Everything" (which would later appear on their self titled debut as 'If Only'), released in January 1996, featuring Joshua Homme (Kyuss), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden and Pearl Jam), Van Conner (Screaming Trees) and John McBain (Monster Magnet). The band's first live appearance was probably November 20, 1997, at OK Hotel in Seattle, Washington. In December of the same year, the band released a split EP, Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, which was the first official release by the band under the name Queens of the Stone Age, and featured three tracks from the Gamma Ray sessions as well as three Kyuss tracks recorded in 1995 just prior to their break-up.
Throughout its career the band has been described as hard rock, alternative rock, art rock, heavy metal, and several other genres. Queens of the Stone Age have also been labeled as Stoner Rock, but Homme himself rejects the term, saying, "If I had a choice, I would take that away. Stoner rock, to me, is like saying the crucial element is drugs. And I don't believe that that's the case. I'm not an AA guy or anything, but at the same time I don't need any of that to make music." He also often describes the band style as "robot rock" referring to the band's solid and repetitive riffs in the band's song structures. Homme has described the band's self-titled debut album as driving music, angular and recorded dry. Rolling Stone magazine also noted a "connection between American meat-and-potatoes macho rock of the early 1970s, like Blue Cheer and Grand Funk Railroad, and the precision-timing drones in German rock of the same period". The band's following album - Rated R - contained a wider variety of instruments, several recording guests and lead vocals shared by Homme, Oliveri and Lanegan. Homme has also commented that "Our first record announced our sound. This one added that we're different and weird." The band continued to experiment on their third album Songs for the Deaf, which also featured a line-up including three lead vocalists, many guest appearances and wide range of instrumentation including horn and string sections. Lullabies to Paralyze was in comparison to the band's previous releases a darker record, lacking the band's distinct "driving" sound, much due to the departure of long time member Nick Oliveri, with lyrics inspired by The Brothers Grimm folk and fairy tales. The band also almost exclusively used semi hollow body guitars during the recording of the record. With Era Vulgaris the band continued to evolve their signature sound with more dance-oriented elements and electronic influences, while Homme has gone back to being the only vocalist in the band and uses more distinct vocal melodies.