From his time in Nirvana through to rubbing shoulders with John Paul Jones in Them Crooked Vultures and even collaborating with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney and Trent Reznor in the Sound City Players, Dave Grohl knows a thing or two about confronting great musicianship in the flesh. This makes his take on live acts all the more noteworthy.
In fact, when he was asked what advice he’d give to up and coming bands, he simply answered, “Go play live. Just play live.” He continued: “I don’t understand the industry. I don’t understand where music is headed. I don’t really understand technology. I just know when you walk into a club and you see a band that blows you away, you are going to follow that band.”
In short, his three main points might not be poignant, but they were certainly pointed in the right way: You’ve got to be good, you’ve got to be badass, you’ve got to play live. And according to Grohl, “nothing else matters”. One act that seemed to embody this ethos was Josh Homme’s first outing with Kyuss.
Kyuss literally had to change their recorded sound to mimic the mountains of the Palm Desert that had where the surroundings had influenced their sound. Kyuss were part band, part experience. The very name of their pioneering genre ‘generator rock’ derived from the fact that they would play parties out in the Palm Desert of California where the only source of electricity was petrol-powered generators.
At these raucous events, small hardy groups would gather and as guitarist Josh Homme remarks: “That was the shaping factor for the band. There’s no clubs here, so you can only play for free. If people don’t like you, they’ll tell you. You can’t suck.” Homme learnt this early and continued the tradition onwards to his later band, Queens of the Stone Age.
“When they hit the stage,” Grohl opined in a recent interview, “they’re the best rock band in the world, like nobody even gets close. There’s amazing live bands who write powerful songs like Rage Against the Machine. There’s amazing live bands that can make an audience go like this [makes mildly spasmodic hand gestures] like The Prodigy, but for musicality and as a musician, you sit and watch Queens of the Stone Age and you’re like, ‘That’s not fair, what the fuck?’ like everybody in the band is a fucking badass and they know it.”
As anyone fortunate to have seen the desert rock champions play live can attest, he’s not wrong. He may well have collaborated with them on countless occasions, but this hasn’t coloured his judgement. They’re a band who could prise open an oyster from a few hundred miles as they rattle the rafters like a hurricane and they’re just as atmospheric too.