Grammy and cool have been mutually exclusive terms for years. Who can forget when the flute-tastic Jethro Tull somehow beat out thrash pioneers Metallica for the first Hard Rock/Metal award in 1988? And then there were the oversights. How did Marvin Gaye not receive a Grammy until 1983? The legendary soul singer was snubbed on many occasions.
But perhaps the Grammys are turning the corner in terms of cool quotient. Queens of the Stone Age, the consistently strong stoner-rockers, closed the Grammys on Sunday night, though the performance was cut short because the show ran long. The academy made a daring choice as Queens of the Stone Age jammed with Dave Grohl, who often tours and records with the band. Grohl plays drums on the Queens latest album, “... Like Clockwork.” Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor, who also played on the album, was part of that Grammys performance too.
“This is crazy” multi-instrumentalist Troy Van Leeuwen said during a phone call from his Los Angeles home prior to the Grammys. “It's a coup for us. I've had a big smile across my face since I heard the news. I can't speak for the Grammys, but I think with Arcade Fire winning (Album of the Year, in 2011) it over those other acts (established stars Katy Perry, Eminem and Lady Gaga) was awesome. Playing the Grammys is amazing.”
The band, which also features, vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Josh Homme, keyboardist Dean Fertita, bassist Michael Shuman and drummer Jon Theodore, was up for Best Rock Performance for “My God is the Sun” and Best Rock Album for “... Like Clockwork.” They lost to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons.
Queens of the Stone Age, which will perform Tuesday at the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg, has been one of the most consistent rock bands since releasing its eponymous debut album in 1998. Homme has a knack for penning visceral but stylish songs that have nothing to do with the outside rock world.
“We don't pay attention to anything but what we're doing,” Van Leeuwen said. “We do what we want. But this album wasn't so easy. We wanted this one to be as open as possible. We didn't want tons of loud guitars. The lyrics couldn't be superfluous. We cut the fat with this album. We only went with prime cuts. We wanted to make something classic like David Bowie's 'Diamond Dogs.' ”
A “Diamond Dogs” era star, Elton John, was one of the many guests on “Clockwork.”
“We had some incredibly talented players come in, but it blew us away when Elton arrived,” Van Leeuwen said. “He comes in with his fancy suit on, surrounded by his entourage, but he remains a badass player. He practices every day, and his voice is gruff and awesome. He learned the song we were working on for a week in 20 minutes. He just doesn't still have it, he flaunts it.”
Homme's protogee, Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, his wife, Brody Dalle, and Mark Lanegan also lent their skills to the project. “That's a lot of great singers right there,” Van Leeuwen says. “They helped shape this project.”
But the freelancer who had the most impact on the disc is the aforementioned Grohl. The leader of the Foo Fighters is a more than capable vocalist-guitarist, but he's a monster behind the drum kit.
“I think Dave is most natural behind the drum kit, but that's why I think he plays guitar, writes and sings,” Van Leeuwen said. “He's great at playing guitar and singing, too. He loves to challenge himself. Every time he makes a record it's a challenge.”
The same can be said for the Queens of the Stone Age. “We try to just make the best music we can every time,” Van Leeuwen said. “We really do the best we can.”
And the group was rewarded with a prime time spot Sunday night. “It's unreal,” Van Leeuwen said. “None of us could have guessed this would happen. It's going to be something we'll never forget.”