Queens of the Stone Age return home

Have you heard of Seattle's latest rock success, Queens of the Stone Age?

Often referred to as a Southern California band, this fast-rising crew — the new "Songs for the Deaf" album just cracked the Billboard Top 50 list — actually was born in Seattle.

Queens of the Stone Age begin with the ending of Southern California's Kyuss, the sludgy, Sabbath-soaked, distortion-mad "stoner-rock" band started by Josh Homme in 1990. Calling from a tour stop in New Orleans last week, Homme explained the demise of Kyuss:

"I came from a scene that's very similar to Seattle, with a tremendous amount of punk-rock guilt — you can do well, but you can't do too well. I'd come home after touring, and someone would say, 'What's up, rock star.'

"But instead of saying, 'If you don't like it, (forget) it,' I'd sit down for like two hours trying to explain what we're doing to some (jerk) ... "

Tired of the guilt trips, Homme ditched Kyuss and moved far away from home — to Seattle.

"I knew the music scene was dead there, and I wanted to quit playing, go to school. ... It didn't work — I ended up playing with the Screaming Trees."

Homme went on a few tours with Mark Lanegan's old band and slowly got hooked into the scene here. Living on Capitol Hill, he was soon collaborating with the likes of Dinosaur Jr.'s Mike Johnson and Soundgarden's Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron. When the dreary skies and rain came, he would hole up in his apartment, playing guitar and writing songs.

And it was here that he formed the band that came to be known as Queens of the Stone Age, which, appropriately enough, had their 1998 debut album released by Loosegroove Records, the label started by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard.

"I stayed in my house a lot and played guitar when I was living in Seattle ... the first Queens record, 90 percent of it was written in (Seattle)."

Homme didn't stick around to record here, though: "I lived in Seattle two separate times ... I came from the land of sunshine, and it was always the winters that drove me out — by the end of winter, I would be like, 'I can't take it here anymore!' "

Even after moving back to Southern California, Homme (the "h" is silent) and QOTSA had some memorable moments in Seattle.

Playing at the Breakroom (now Chop Suey) two years ago, Homme had a post-show altercation with an unruly audience member.

Then, just a couple months ago, Queens of the Stone Age played Graceland; it was a much-anticipated night, with former Nirvana member Dave Grohl sitting in on drums — Grohl liked the last Queens record so much, he volunteered to play on "Songs of the Deaf," and then toured with the band.

But Homme remembers the Graceland gig as being one of his band's worst, marred by an exploding amp and sound problems.

Grohl has returned to the Foo Fighters, but Lanegan continues to return Homme's old favor by singing with him in this band.

Grohl, Lanegan, Gossard, the Soundgarden dudes ... Seattle grunge heroes keep popping up in the ongoing timeline of Queens of the Stone Age, but Homme dismisses the connection: "I also play with a speed freak who stays up all night worshipping Satan, but nobody writes about him!"

Queens of the Stone Age return to their birthplace, taking the throne at the Showbox on Wednesday (9 p.m., $20).

Other acts

There are several other big acts at the Showbox this week, with Swedish punk band (International) Noise Conspiracy headlining an all-ages concert Saturday evening (6 p.m., $15), followed by British rock bands Gomez on Monday (9 p.m., $15) and Clinic on Tuesday (9 p.m., $12).

"A sense of humor will get you through times of no drugs better than drugs will get you through times of no sense of humor ... " "Everyone has good taste ... " "I just rewrote this song!"

That was Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Crispin Glover-meets-Steven Wright-meets-Willie Nelson. In a rambling mood last weekend at Experience Music Project, on a few occasions he forgot lyrics to his marvelous songs ... but he settled down long enough to sing a few gems — with his son, Colin — of the old Roy Orbison/Everly Brothers tune "All I Have to Do is Dream."

Tom Scanlon: 206-464-3891 or tscanlon@seattletimes.com.