You've been playing music – in one form or another – since 1987. That's 30 years. Is it a mind-blowing statement for you to process?
Yes and no, yeah it is haha. Means I’m fucking old, dude. Nah, I’m not that old but getting up there. First time I had a musical conversation with somebody it was with Brant Bjork on drums, I was playing guitar. We jammed some Ramones, Misfits, The Damned. That was awesome and was in 1987.
We played our first gig, a party at Chris Baker’s house, as Katzenjammer, which later became Kyuss, in Palm Beach California in 1987. I still have a flyer for it. Lots of highs and lows during that time.
How do you look back at your career and everything that has happened?
I’m very proud of the things I’ve done musically. I feel like I should be proud of it and I know there’s more to come. You know, it’s never ending for me. Music is forever and will always be a part of me. It’s my job you know, so I’m going to continue to play.
I play in bands because I love it and I play in a lot of different bands to boot. I love doing it, but it’s my job you know. I make the rent with my acoustic gigs. It’s quite a fun job but there’s no retirement plan! I’m a lifer and I’m going in.
Kyuss is wildly regarded as the originators of the stoner, desert-rock sound/ genre. You must be proud to be associated with that?
Absolutely. Kyuss was a great band and there’s some great stuff left behind as kids. We were kids you know. Pretty awesome. I thought we were kind of ripping off Black Sabbath hahaha. But I was wrong. Kyuss was heavily influenced by the riffs of Tony Iommi.
What everybody bought to the table was very original though, tuning down to B on 'Wretch' and C on 'Blues For The Red Sun' in 1991... was a long time ago to be tuning down. Now I’m told bands go down to A. I think that’s too low but whatever. Yeah, I’m very proud of that.
The QOSTA years; to enjoy that amount of success, was it hard to adjust to a new lifestyle? Or did things remain pretty much the same?
No, things changed quite a bit looking back. It would happen to anybody. You go from even the big things to the small things. Like, you’re in the store and saying: ‘How much does that cost?' It goes from that to like: 'I want that, I want that kind of beer...', you just grab what you want and get it, you don’t look at the price and do the math; you just get it... and on big things as well.
People start giving you stuff and treating you differently, so it’s inevitable. Maybe in your mind you’re trying to stay humble or whatever, but all these people are doing these things for you. You mention you want to have a party on your birthday and all of a sudden someone’s arranged a party on your birthday and you’ve forgotten you’ve even said it.
Everything just seems to fall into place and happens so fast you know. We had been playing in bands for ten years you know, it’s not as though we came out as kids with our first record and went 'Here we are!'. More power to you if you’ve accomplished it like that, but I think there’s more longevity in your career if it hasn’t happened to you that way and it builds and does happen.
We were in Australia when we went #1 with ‘No One Knows’, playing the Big Day Out Festival with Triple J announcing it over the Foo Fighters. I was like 'What!?'. Dave [Grohl] had just gotten done playing that record with us and he was part of it too, but yeah we beat out the ol’ Foo Fighters on a radio thing... only in Australia would that happen and that’s a great thing.
We were super psyched to be there and had an awesome slot. It was a great time you know, a great time to be alive. My 30s were a great time, any troubles I had in the past just kind of disappeared, no one really cared about those any more you know what I mean?
Some troubles are real, some are blown up, but whatever, people didn’t really care about anything personal at that time. They were just like: ‘I like your band, I like your stuff, you’re awesome.’ Things do change though, it goes from that to people saying: 'No you did this, this and this... I think... I don’t like you' whether they know anything about you or not. Heresy this heresy that... whatever.
After you appeared on stage with them for one song '...Millionaire', when touring with Mositboyz in 2014, could the future present a scenario where Nick Oliveri re-joins QOSTA?
Well here’s the thing, I own 47 per cent of the band name. Josh will never probably have me back and I don’t necessarily want to be back in QOTSA.
I’m not saying that if he rang me for a 25-year reunion tour where you do the Cheap Trick thing with a different record a night, and we could play 'Rated R' one night and 'Songs For The Deaf' another night. I wouldn’t do it, I’d say 'yeah let’s go', long as I had nothing else on with another band on tour of course. I’m not going to cancel anything; they’d just have to wait until I was done for me to do it.
Yes, of course I’d say yes but I don’t want to necessarily have to go and play their new stuff, it’s not really my cup of tea and so be it... I don’t dislike it. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable being told what to play and not doing what I know I can do.
It’s been 13 years... my last show was in 2004 in Perth with QOTSA, so yeah... I read I was out on the internet, I’ve been out of the band for a long time now. I’m glad it still means a lot to people, I’m very proud of the stuff we did, I really am, I feel I can hold my head up high about the Queens records.
No, knowing that I own 47 per cent of Queens, I don’t think I’ll be back in that band, I’d have to be like a hired gun or something. I signed my rights over, so I don’t have a vote in that thing any more. So no, I don’t think it would happen.
In general, what does the future look like for you? Is Mondo Generator the full-time occupation?
Mondo Generator is always there. I kind of always set it to the side, which is a bit of a shame. I never really gave it the full attention, probably could have given it more, but it is what it is. My full-time occupation is The Dwarves and the acoustic shows, those are my main jobs.
I also play in a band called Bl’ast! and Bloodclots are a new thing I’m doing with John Joseph and Joey Castillo from QOTSA on drums; he plays in a kick-ass band called Trash Talk and Mr Todd Youth on guitar, so it’s kick-ass real, coming from the heart, '80s punk sound.
New album drops in July on Metal Blade Records, so check it out. Also have a new Dwarves album called ‘Make The Dwarves Great Again’; not sure what label that will be on, and a new record due from The Svetlanas; I play bass, arrange and write on that new record. Very cool, great band.
Also singing compilations on the N.O Hits series. Kind of like a Desert Sessions vibe but old stuff that I’ve been compiling.
Your solo work; plans to release any more material?
Like I said, I have a six song 12” EP due, 45s. There will be six volumes in the series of N.O Hits At All, my initials. It’s cool you know, it’s fun, quite a lot of musicians involved from The Dwarves, Queens, Groundhogs, Svetlanas, World Demons, which is another band I had with Wino and Joey Castillo which will be on volume 2.
We did a Rose Tattoo cover on that one, ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw’ which we thought was fitting to do. Lot’s of cool stuff there with some new acoustic stuff. Want to definitely make a new Mondo record too. I drove out to the desert Monday just gone to practice. I’ve been a bit sick at the moment so it all takes its toll. Playing a lot at the moment... taxed!
The bad boy of rock image you have... do you still enjoy it or is it something you wish wasn't there?
Well it’s fun in the press... not fun when you’re trying to get a visa know what I mean? I mean we’re rock & rollers, there’s meant to be a bit of a past. The element of good rock & roll to me are bands like Rose Tattoo and AC/DC.
I mean if you talk shit to Angus Young he’s going to jump in the crowd and punch you, like he’s not going to take it... he’s short and small but he ain’t taking any shit. I’m just saying haha, that’s one of your own back there in Australia.
That’s what rock & roll’s about, not taking any shit from people. You’re not meant to give it to people either, but if someone gives it you have to give it back. I mean, I’m not a bad guy at the end of the day but if I get involved with someone who starts shit and throws punches... if you throw punches back they’ll call the police on you.
That seems kind of messed up to me and if that’s a bad boy image then I guess I’m a bad boy but I’m a bad boy for love... know what I’m saying. That’s right... haha. Wish it wasn’t there though you know. I’ve got nothing to prove. I’ve taken some falls and I’ve knocked some people down... big deal.
I haven’t started a fight since I was 21. I’ve been in ones I didn’t want to be in, you try and walk away but can’t. You always feel bad at the end. The bad boy image doesn’t make me feel good. Makes it hard to travel. I have to travel to play music. Don’t play music, I don’t live. I’m fucked haha.
You're headed to Australia in March for some solo dates (first shows since 2009/2010), including headlining the blues-stoner rock event Mojo Burning in Brisbane... looking forward to the trip?
Absolutely. I am going to work my ass off to be there, ‘coz that’s what I do. Being asked by the fine people at Beats Cartel, by Christian [Tryhorn], was a blast, was a great thing for him to think of me as a person that would be good to do this gig.
It’s flattering and I want to play my best for it, so I’ve been practising and getting it together. I want to play good and have a good time you know? I want people to come up and sing with me, I like to have a lot of fun crowd interaction.
I’ve toured Europe, the States, have done 28 dates in a row in Australia before, have played everywhere, Hobart, Perth. It’s awesome dude. Playing down in Australia is a great thing, definitely looking forward to the trip.
What can fans expect from you on this visit?
Lots of crowd interaction, lots of fun. I’m going to bring some vinyls, you probably don’t have that product down there. I’ll sell it cheap, so you don’t have to pay the postage and shit haha. Will be playing a lot of old stuff to get people up and singing along... I’ll bring everybody up to sing if they want to haha, the shows are always a heap of fun.
You’ll expect a very happy Nick Oliveri, long as I get in the country haha; a smile from ear to ear, happy motherfucker.
Anything you want to say about Trump being POTUS?
Ahhhh god. Ah man, he’s a... what a piece of shit, I hate the guy. I don’t want anything to do with him. I mean, he’s not my president. It sucks and reflects on America, and effects so many things. We don’t have a real say here you know, everyone is blind, it’s all USA, FDA and CIA. It’s messed up here.
Everyone in America wants to believe that we’re this strong country that can’t be penetrated at all, but we’re destroying everything in our path and we’re so ‘great’. I want to believe that we’re free... the idea of freedom is such a cool idea. Unfortunately, it’s not that.
Trump’s trying to build a wall... like what are we East Germany? He’s a fascist and a dick. He’s the guy at the bar who I’d let me buy a shot and listen to his jokes about how he’d sleep with his daughter coz’ she’s hot, if she wasn’t his daughter of course. You’d listen and say just give me the shot... I have to go haha. One more for the road then you’d listen to another shitty story.
But I don’t want him running my country you know, I don’t know how he got in, well I know how he got in... I live in California man and we’re definitely not for Trump. If my neighbours had like Trump signs out on their lawn and shit I’d be like ‘fuck you man’ you’re not the neighbours I’d ever say hi to.
He makes me furious, I don’t understand, our country’s so fucked up... yeah... so... fuck Trump, that’s my message. Why is this guy in power of any country? It’s scary. Nothing I can do to really change it.
What's your favourite app, why?
App! I don’t know... haha you’ve stumped me. Do I use any apps... I don’t know. I use iTunes I guess! Need to figure out how to use talk text haha. (Ed: as we type out Nick’s responses via audio)
Best moment you've had on stage?
Yo check this out, one of my best moments on stage was in Sydney, Australia. We had just beat Foo Fighters as I said before on the Triple J thing. We were playing Big Day Out on a slot in the afternoon where everyone was still alive you know.
The beer hadn’t kicked in where they were like tired and watching Jane's Addiction later on saying 'yeah I’m tired but I’m going to cheers and enjoy it but not really go off like I did when the Queens were out there'.
So we had the greatest slot. I remember one of the barriers getting pummelled just like charging with an electricity in the air. We were playing this music and people were going off and I thought to myself this is horrible but amazing at the same time, the hairs on my neck were growing, first time I’d had that, I was like woah!
It was so electric and trippy dude: no drugs, alcohol or even sex ever gave me that energy man it was like woah haha. Nobody got hurt so it was great... it was kick-ass. I like when music moves people and if you’re at the hand of the music being played that is moving people, it’s one of the best feelings and that moment was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
Also, Reading Festival 2000 or 2001, that was great, the last day of our Rated R tour. We set out and accomplished everything we wanted to do on that tour. We took a break off recording the next album to play that show.
Yeah, you know I miss it sometimes very much. There were some great times and some great shows and some firsts for me in my career that we had happen to us. I remember pulling in the back of a Tarago to a gig in Melbourne in 2004 at the end of the Songs Of The Deaf tour.
We got picked up by our tour manager Curly and driven to this gate that went up (Nick makes sound effects) and we were pulling into the back of this arena behind the stage. We could see that the lights were on and people talking.
As soon as we pulled up the lights went out and the cheer went up. I lit a cigarette and my bass tech handed me my bass straight away and I went like ‘What!’ haha. That was pretty awesome and surreal. I got to do all this once man, I’ve got no regrets. That was fucking rad, that was some Led Zeppelin shit right there man and I got to do it once. Badass.
It was at the end of the record industry... it was real back then you know... felt like you had really made it. We were one of the last rock & roll bands to have made it through record stores on the back of the record industry. Some of the best moments.
Tour DatesThu 23 Mar - Frankie's Pizza By the Slice (Sydney)
Fri 24 Mar - Transit Bar (Canberra)
Sat 25 Mar - Mojo Burning @ Hamilton Hotel (Brisbane)
Sun 26 Mar - Pier on Clarence (Port Macquarie)
Wed 29 Mar - Cherry Bar (Melbourne)
Thu 30 Mar - Pelly Bar at Pier (Melbourne)
Sat 1 Apr - The Producers Bar (Adelaide)
Sun 2 Apr - Rosemount Hotel (Perth)