In Times New Roman was one of the most highly anticipated albums coming out this year. It was the band’s first release in over five years and a welcome return to form with a sound harking back to frontman Josh Homme’s earlier material and different lineups.
Since its unveiling, the album has garnered an abundance of acclaim and Queens of the Stone Age is embarking on “The End Is Nero” tour in support of it.
As part of this run of shows, the band will be performing at the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater in Bridgeport on Monday, Aug. 7. Electro-rockers Phantogram and Detroit hardcore punk collective The Armed are opening at 7 p.m.
I talked with drummer Jon Theodore ahead of the festivities about the making of the new album, his stacked resume, being involved with the soundtrack for a video game and focusing 100% on what Queens of The Stone Age has going on these days.
RD: In Times New Roman… concludes a trilogy of albums Queens of The Stone Age released through Matador Records over a 10 year period with 2013’s …Like Clockwork and 2017’s Villains being the prior two releases. Being part of all three of these records, what made the experience making In Times New Roman… different for you versus the other two?
JT: It was an entirely different experience. I came in at the very end of the making of …Like Clockwork, it was pretty much already finished and part of us getting to know each other musically was having me play on the title track. That was the first experience and with the second one, Villains had Mark Ronson in the mix and it was pretty much an away game for us when we went to the Ocean Way United Studio. We kind of explored every possible aspect of it and we really drilled that one into the ground while making sure that it was air tight. This last one with In Times New Roman… was a way different experience, all the takes are live with us all playing together and most of them were done within the first three times of trying so it’s got this fresh and immediate feeling to it.
It feels free and loose. I think it’s the best representation of the five of us doing what we do and reacting to each other instinctually in the moment while the tape is running. It felt like a culmination of all the time we spent playing together and all the hours we’ve logged musically. We could each rely on our instincts and come together to make what I feel is the best version of our band at this point over the course of 10 years.
RD: Going along with what you just said about the album being free and loose, do you feel that you guys handling the production by yourselves without an outside party having their input contributed to this or do you think that there was another catalyst for it?
JT: Yeah, I think that definitely had something to do with it. It was just us, we were in our familiar home at Pink Duck Studios in Burbank, California and I think we knew at that time as the inspiration began to hit all we needed to do was press record, get it done and get it down. It really felt like we were just in there alone relying on each other, so the energy was focused inward. We weren’t sharing anything with anyone and we weren’t even really overthinking or considering on a hyper-focused level, we were just trying to stay out of the way of the inspiration as it appeared because it’s not always there. It did feel really special and it was definitely because we were all together alone.
RD: Along with currently being part of Queens of The Stone Age, you have quite a diverse resume under your belt through your time collaborating with Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine for the hip hop project One Day as a Lion along with Bright Eyes, The Mars Volta and earlier in your career when you were involved with Golden and Royal Trux. What makes being the drummer for Queens of The Stone Age stand out for you as a musician versus the other acts that you’ve been in?
JT: When I joined the band, I think they already had seven records out, some of which I would put on my Top 10 list so I was already a huge fan. The fact that there were so many drummers before me who played so many different styles and so many different sounds made it a real challenge to inhabit the space that had already been created musically. It wasn’t just me doing the thing and then us doing it all together, it was more of a situation where I had to study, really try to get inside of what was going on and do my best to honor the paths that had already been laid down before I joined. That was a unique situation for me, just having to learn a massive catalog and then represent it in its truest form. Being in the band long enough to go from that into the place where it is now, I’m coming at it in a way where muscle memory is second nature for me and it’s my musical identity now so that’s what I think sets this band apart for me.
RD: Outside of performing live and being involved in studio recordings, you also played drums on certain sections for the score of the 2018 video game Red Dead Redemption 2 along with Queens of The Stone Age bandmates Josh Homme and Michael Shuman. What was it like being in this setting where you were crafting sounds for a video game? Did this creative medium feel any different for you?
JT: It was an awesome experience. I’d done some soundtrack stuff before, but I’m old so for me video games are like Space Invaders where you beat a level and then there are harder levels that you play until you die. Video games now happen in a virtual world where you’re playing as an inhabitant within it and you can do whatever you want, there isn’t a clear objective. Consequently, there’s an infinite amount of gameplay available so you have to make tons and tons and tons of music that’s not just songs. You have to capture a vibe and let it run, it’s almost kind of like you’re jamming, so it was really, really cool because we were just trying to find referential points musically.
It could be for whatever the scene is, it could be inside a saloon in the Wild West so you’re figuring out what the vibe is like at night versus during the day. There could be a horse ride through a land of table mesas and cattle with a railroad robbery happening, so we just put on our Western hats and imagined what John Williams or Ennio Morricone would do in this situation. Then we’d be off to the races to explore, which was really cool. There’s so much music on it, hundreds of ours worth, so it was a pretty cool experience.
RD: Sounds like it, it’s cool that you drew inspiration from Western film scores for the video game as well. After “The End Is Nero” Tour with Queens of The Stone Age, what are your plans afterwards? Do you have any other projects going on that you’d like to mention or are you just sticking with what the band is doing for now?
JT: At this point, all our focus is 100% on the band because it’s such an exciting time. We just got the record out and we’ve just started this tour after over five years since our last record, the break that we took, the pandemic, thinking that everyone was going to die and wondering if we were ever going to make a new album or even play any shows again. As a band, we went through the worst of what the last several years have had to offer. It was also one of the best things we could have been involved in to make a beautiful context and way to survive through this thing, so here we are at the back end of that and we’ve come through it. Our hopes and dreams have come to fruition, the record is finished and it’s out, we just did our first tour in Europe and it was really successful so we’re all super excited and focused on this.
None of us are thinking about other stuff at this point. We’re still enjoying this initial ignition and rocket launch of this whole new era with In Times New Roman…, so we’re going to bring the rocket ship to Connecticut and we’re going to get busy.