The surprise call-up of super-producer Mark Ronson for the new Queens of the Stone Age record Villains was a bit of a shock, even considering he and frontman Josh Homme had recently worked together on Lady Gaga’s latest album. Ronson is, of course, the producer behind pop stars like Bruno Mars, rather than a band like QOTSA.
While the first songs to come off the production line make it seem that the album hasn’t quite leapt off the deep end into pop, there are definitely some elements of Ronson-esque danceability on latest single ‘The Way You Used To Do’, and Josh Homme has revealed in a new interview with Rolling Stone that the album will in fact see a significant overlap with Ronson’s work on mega-hits like ‘Uptown Funk’: “Frankly, that’s just because I like to dance.”
“I think maybe music people might not understand the vast overlap of the curves between Ronson and Queens,” Homme tells the mag. “If you listen to ‘Uptown Funk,’ you hear that tight, kind of vacuous dry sound, and that’s where I wanted to take this new Queens record. I wanted it to be like our record Songs for the Deaf, but looking at it with goggles on underwater – that kind of clarity. Also, he’s as obsessed with drum beats as I am.”
Some of the more uptempo nods on the record have also come from some throwback influences intended to coax the occasionally grumpy Homme into a good mood each day.
“I love to listen to music in the morning,” he says. “It sets the mood for the day. I’ve been listening to a lot of Cab Calloway and Dean Martin, because it’s impossible to be grumpy while you listen to ‘Minnie the Moocher’ or ‘Mambo Italiano.’ I defy anyone’s hate for cereal during that moment.”
“There’s a swing to it,” guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen adds, comparing the oldies to the new single ‘The Way You Used To Do’. “It’s like Calloway on speed.”
Van Leeuwen also weighed in on Ronson’s inclusion, and was happy to have a fresh outside perspective in the studio as they approached their seventh album.
“I thought it was cool that we worked with him, because he’s just an outsider to us,” he says. “It turns out we have a lot of the same tastes and sense of humor. He’s like an encyclopedia of music. If you name a record, he can tell you who played what keyboard on a song. He’s spent a lot of time reading liner notes.”
While there’s definitely more of a shift towards more upbeat sounds than their brooding 2013 release …Like Clockwork, van Leeuwen says there’ll still be plenty of traditional QOTSA on offer.
“There’s a lot of depth and midtempo songs on the last record, and we are a rock & roll band,” he says. “Peppering this record with some upbeat stuff was good for balance. That’s a result of self-awareness.
“When you have a song like ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’, you listen to it like, ‘Holy shit, why are you so depressed? You have the best job in the world and you’re surrounded by people who love you and you get to do this so shut the fuck up.'”
There’s further insight into the new record in the full interview, as well as chats about working with Iggy Pop, politics, Eagles of Death Metal and more.