Nick Oliveri is a man who needs no introduction. But for the uninitiated, he’s played in Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator, The Dwarves and Bl’ast. He’s also coming back down under to play shows across Australia, hitting WA this Saturday, July 6 at Lucy’s Love Shack and Sunday, July 7 at Mojos. KAREN LOWE had a chat with him about Kyuss, touring and his favourite memories of Australia.
You’ve just been touring the US with Mondo Generator, about to head out on tour to Europe with the Dwarves and then coming down under with special guest Svetlanas in tow. How have the shows been going so far?
The shows have been going good. I finished the acoustic tour first and then I was home for one day before we drove out to Detroit which is 2200 miles away. I’m pretty tired. I’m going home for about a week and a half before heading out on tour to Australia so I’ll be revived and ready to go.
What are some of your favourite memories of Australia?
I did an acoustic tour some time ago where I played 28 shows in 28 days. That was a pretty memorable time. Also, I played with Queens of the Stone Age. My last show ever playing with Queens of the Stone Age was in Perth, January 2004. That was pretty memorable. They dared me to go swimming in the ocean which I did and then I had blisters on my ears from the sun being so dammed hot. I was a lobster by the end of it.
Being on tour can be tough on mental health and general well-being. How do you go with touring and do you have any strategies to keep your spirits up?
You’ve got that right (laughs). Well, today I’m kinda tired but I drink some spirits to keep my spirits up (laughs). No it’s like any other job really except this job’s the best job in the world so it’s not a bad thing and I’m pretty lucky to be able to do it so that’s what keeps my spirits up. Realising that this is the greatest job ever.
Kyuss finished back in 1996 and yet fans still eat up anything Kyuss related. Did you ever expect to still be playing Kyuss songs all these years later?
I never knew that Kyuss was going to be a thing 20 years after the fact. I’m excited and very happy that it is. When I was in the band in 1991-92, nobody liked us. I remember the people that came to see us play as it wasn’t a whole lot of people but we liked what we were doing so that was all that mattered. Super happy that we can play these songs all these years later.
Do you find it easier writing songs these days? And how do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t have writer’s block right now so that’s a good thing. I’ve had slumps before where I just wasn’t inspired to write. I have always written riffs but it’s lyrics where I can fall down on because you don’t want to write the same songs over and over again.
You are no stranger to controversy – it seems to love to follow you but what have been the greatest lessons that you have learned from it all?
Controversy’s a good thing in music – not sure it’s a good thing in life but it’s great in music because you want people to be a little bit upset or a little bit moved in any sort of way whether it’s a good level, happy level, party level or a bad level. In music, any press is good press because as long as you’re being written about… not necessarily saying well… some of the things that I have been in trouble for aren’t good things but I’ve had more press for my troublesome times than I’ve had for the best things I’ve ever done in music so go figure.
I’m being asked about it right now, that’s my point. The media eats up the bad stuff more than they do the good stuff. I hate to say it but sometimes the bad stuff is a good thing – not in life but in music.
As a fan, it’s often quite hard to go up to your idols and say hello for fear of being turned away or fear of seizing up and sounding like an idiot. As a musician, how do you go at meeting your idols? Have you ever gone to speak to someone and just seized up?
Well, I’m an idiot and I seize up sometimes. I don’t ever want to meet an idol and have them be weird to me. I mean, it would break my heart. That would really be a bummer. I’ve never really seized up to anyone though. I’ve heard some people can be weird but they turned out to be really great when I’ve met them so I’ve always followed the ‘you’re lucky enough that people are asking you questions’ and when I do acoustic shows I normally put my time and myself out there and I talk to every, single person in the room if they want to talk to me.
I’m a very approachable person. I’m not going to put myself on any pedestal or think I’m higher than anybody else because I’m not on that level. I like to have my beers at the bar just like everyone else and I like to hang out and talk to people. It’s what it’s about. I’m not real good with the interweb and social media. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m more of a social, get together kind of guy – how we used to do it in the old days.
You would have seen a lot of things over the years. What are some of the good things you have seen that may have restored your faith in humanity?
I don’t know that I’ve seen anything that has done that (laughs). I try to be the good guy. My parents raised me to respect the little things – hold the door open for somebody, be a gentleman and if someone’s being nice to you, you’ve no reason to ever be a dick. Be nice, say hi.
Random question, but if you could plan the ‘ultimate’ punk line up (dead or alive) who would make the list?
Ok how about this – the ultimate punk line up would be The Ramones (original line up) Tommy, Joey, Johnny and Deedee – end of story.
What was the best advice that you were given when you first started out? And what advice would you give to someone who was starting out now?
Stop! Don’t continue! The music business will eat you up (laughs). There is no business any more really in music. Do it because you love it. That’s my advice. Don’t expect to make a million bucks because the days of big record deals within a band are gone. You can do it yourself – it is doable. Don’t wait on somebody to sign you or do it for you because you’re not going to find that these days. There are no record labels left that are giving big, giant bonuses out.