Mark Ronson is synonymous with the dance and pop goliaths of the music industry. But while churning up some seriously propulsive, rockabilly stylings on new album Villains, Queens of the Stone Age decided the British producer was just the ticket. “He’s got anger issues,” Dean Fertita chuckles.
“No, he’s a sweetheart, he’s very easy to work with. We’ve kind of brushed paths over the years, and I’ve always liked him, so to have an opportunity to work with him was really cool. And going into it, I think from an outside perspective, we both had something to lose, or risk. We knew there was a little gamble there for both of us. But it made for a really exciting work environment, it really did.”
Across its no-space-wasted nine tracks, Villains includes jousting melodic guitar lines, a Cake-like cheekiness in some of Michael Schuman’s agile basswork, a voodoo blues feel to frontman Josh Homme’s vocals (finishing a phrase by flinging his voice up to a high, vibrating “ooh”) and a special approach to time signatures. Stand-out Domesticated Animals constantly (and randomly) rotates between three or four beats per bar – just when you think you’ve got it, they’ll pound into a chorus a beat early. “There’s a lot of that – Josh calls it ‘orbital’ song arrangements, where it’s always turning and changing just a little bit as the song goes on,” Fertita explains. “We didn’t sit down and say ‘Let’s do a weird time signature’, we just played and thought ‘That sounds interesting, what if it does this here?’” And do they chart it? No, they do not. “We don’t write stuff down, we kind of just yell it out,” Fertita smiles. “A lot of eye communication, you know?”
There are some unexpected and subtle crumbs of brass, auxiliary percussion and other atmospheric knickknacks (see: the rapid in-and-out breathing on Head Like A Haunted House, recalling the awesome Speaking In Tongues by Homme’s secondary band Eagles Of Death Metal) and without drawing aside the curtain, Fertita says it’s important to the band to set the scene with those elements. “It’s another thing Mark’s great at – the devil’s in the details, right?” he asks. “So you can go and listen back to a lot of this, and pick up new things. For me, that was always my favourite part about listening to records – discovering stuff.”
Villains is out August 25 via Remote Control.
Pre-order on either vinyl or CD for your chance to win an official QOTSA tour jacket and a signed, framed QOTSA poster.