Interview: Nick Oliveri


Nick Oliveri played bass and co-wrote songs for some of the most acclaimed hard rock / stoner metal of the last few decades, including Kyuss’ 1992 album Blues for the Red Sun, and Queens of the Stone Age’s 2000 album Rated R and 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. Under the name Rex Everything, he has also played bass off and on for punk rockers/shockers The Dwarves. Oliveri has done a number of guest spots, including with the Eagles of Death Metal, and hd leads the band Mondo Generator whose releases include 2000’s Cocaine Rodeo and 2012’s Hell Comes To Your Heart.

This interview was for a preview article for the 1/30/16 concert by The Dwarves at The Garage in Ventura, CA. It was done by phone on 1/8/16. (Ester Segarra photo)

Jeff Moehlis: I saw The Dwarves play in Santa Barbara a couple of years ago. The Dwarves don’t disappoint, right?

Nick Oliveri: Yeah. I love playing with The Dwarves. It’s a great band – it’s one of my favorite bands. I’m fortunate enough to play in Blag’s band [laughs]. It’s a good time.

JM: What can people look forward to at the upcoming show?

NO: There’s a lot of new stuff in the set. Of course, we’re doing Blood Guts, the first Sub Pop record. It’s pretty amazing to go out and do those songs. They’re short, but that’s kind of what got the band started, that album, as far as breaking through to more people. It’s fun to play those tunes. It’s over before it starts, almost [laughs]. With all the B-sides, too, it’s like 14 minutes or something [laughs]. We’re playing pretty quick. We add some other tunes in there. It’s a pretty good set. It’s a lot of fun.

JM: Will HeWhoCannotBeNamed be there?

NO: He’s supposed to be there. I hope he’s there! He’s been there since I’ve been doing the live shows again. I always play on the records and stuff – we figured out that I’ve been in the band 22 years or something, with playing on the records. I haven’t done all the live shows because I’m doing other stuff, you know? But rejoining to do the live stuff’s been a gas. We’ve had HeWho in there as well, too. To me, that’s the real Dwarves, if Blag [Dahlia] and HeWho are there.

JM: I interviewed Blag before the Santa Barbara show, and for that one it turned out that both The Dwarves and The Beach Boys were performing the night in the same area. This time, it turns out that The Dwarves are in Ventura, and The Beach Boys are in Santa Barbara on the same night. What would you say to someone who’s trying to decide if they should go to The Dwarves or The Beach Boys that night?

NO: I’d say The Dwarves. We’re younger and better looking [laughs].

JM: You mentioned that you’ve been recording with The Dwarves for 22 years. What led you to join up with them in the first place?

NO: The Dwarves took my first band, Kyuss, on our first tour. When nobody really liked Kyuss so much, Blag took us out and helped us get our feet wet in the touring world. It was great. So I kind of already knew him. I was leaning towards playing faster music at the time, and I think the band I was in was leaning towards longer, slower jam songs. Which was cool – I enjoyed doing that as well. But I was leaning toward shorter, faster songs in my own writing. So after the tour, I was already leaning towards a Dwarves kind of band anyway, and fortunately for me, HeWho died for the first time and I took his place [laughs]. He came back to life – he’s like a superhero, you know.

[Short chat about similarity between Lord Voldemort and HeWhoCannotBeNamed – NO claims not to know anything about that.]

I don’t know if they got the name [HeWhoCannotBeNamed] from the Samhain song. I’m not too sure where they got the name from. I don’t know if that was something they meant to do, or if it was just the mask thing or something.

JM: You mentioned the band Kyuss, and you played on their album Blues for the Red Sun. What are your reflections on that album?

NO: That album was just a great time. We went in and recorded it, and just kind of did it live in the studio. That was back when bands recorded to tape. It really captured the essence of the band. There were mistakes on that record that problem nobody else hears, but we know they’re there. The energy of the song and the take was so good, we just used it. I kind of miss that in music. Something about that record is important to me. A lot of the records you do as you get older, and you don’t have a recording budget from a label, you do it in as short of a time as you can do it. We kind of banged that out pretty fast, but at the same time we had a label that put us in a real studio and recorded it to 2-inch tape, and did takes. Which you still do with ProTools, but it’s different recording in analog. It was a great time, too. I was pretty young, and learning everything at the same time. Everything was new. It was a great time.

We did a reunion a few years back [as Kyuss Lives!]. It was really great to dissect the albums that I didn’t play on, as well. I was learning the bass lines, teaching myself the lines, and I was sort of like, “Wow!” I didn’t listen to the last one at all, ever. I was kind of bitter about being out of the band, as most people do when they see their band going on without them, you know? So it was one of those things where I never really gave it a chance, and when I got to dissect the songs and started teaching myself the bass lines, I was like, “Whoa, man, this song is pretty cool.” There’s little things inside the writing that are important. They’re little tiny things, they’re simple things but they’re so important to the part. I really understand how the guys play, so I understand how it works. I found some good records out of redoing the band again [laughs].

Same with The Dwarves, though. I’ve always done The Dwarves stuff, but some of the songs I haven’t played in 22 years with the band. The B-sides of Blood Guts & Pussy. Some of the songs I don’t even think they’ve played live for years. Dissecting those songs and the bass lines that Pete put down – Salt Peter is an amazing bass player, he’s been one of my favorites. So it’s always a pleasure to play that – it opens up your playing. It makes me a better player. I have the style that I play in, and then I interject his style in there, too, when I’m doing Dwarves stuff. It makes me a better player, I think.

JM: Mixed in with the time that you were playing with The Dwarves, you were with Queens of the Stone Age. What was the good, the bad, and the ugly about your time with that band?

NO: I’m proud of that stuff. I’m proud of all the stuff I played on, whether it’s The Dwarves or Kyuss or Queens or whatever. I’ve played on quite a bit of stuff, like with friend’s bands, and got to be on guest spots here or there. The bands that I was actually part of, like those bands, I’m very proud of those bands in the past.

The best part about it – it’s the same thing. Everything was new as we were doing it, like reaching for a new height. We didn’t change anything to do it. We were still doing music that we wanted to do at the time, and so it was a great time.

My 30’s were an amazing time. I got laid a lot, you know? [laughs] It was great. We had a lot of fun on tour. We really did everything that I think a rock band is supposed to do on tour. You’re supposed to have a danger element in rock and roll. There’s sex, there has to be some getting your head right kind of thing. I honestly believe that kind of thing’s gone in rock. It’s a shame. You go to shows now, and everything’s real safe and lame. That’s what people want right now. They want safe and ready for the radio kind of thing. I don’t understand why. I don’t get it. It kind of takes the fun out of music. But anyway, we kind of had no limits on that kind of stuff. We actually had a really good time doing what we did. Having three different singers was a good thing, too, I think, to make it have more variety. I think that’s important as well. Yeah, that was a good time. A lot of touring, a lot of making records, and staying busy and doing what what we were digging.

JM: I do have to ask the following. I know you played with these guys, and I’m sure you’re friends with them – The Eagles of Death Metal, who just were part of that tragedy in Paris. What are your thoughts on that? How do you think they’re coping with that?

NO: I think it’s a crazy thing that happened. I like danger at a rock show, but I don’t like getting shot in my back, or somebody else getting shot in their back. Unarmed people being shot.

To me, the Eagles of Death Metal are a band that girls love to go see, so they can go dance and sing along. And they do, and they have a great time. And guys go because they like it, too. It’s like they’re going into a place to shoot girls dancing and singing along. What? I don’t get it. I don’t get why people should go, “Oh, we can’t go out anymore. Everything has to be on the internet now. You have to do everything online. You have to watch on YouTube.” Which is fine, but it isn’t fine. The record stores are gone, and now they’re going to take away live music, or they’re going to try to take that away by making people scared to leave their house. It’s a shame.

I think those guys are holding up pretty well. I don’t know for a fact, but when I’ve talked with them they’re like anybody would be, you know, feeling responsible for a minute. Maybe they don’t anymore. It’s not their fault. It could’ve been anybody playing. It was just a packed house and they wanted to take people out for whatever they were doing it for.

It’s a tricky thing, you know. Like, wow. You think if it would’ve been like a Slayer show or something, people would’ve turned on them [laughs]. Some of them were going to die, but some of them were going to die anyway. They go into an Eagles of Death Metal show, it’s going to be girls dancing. The first people get shot, and they’re all going to lay down on the ground, and then they’re going to go up behind them and shoot them in the back. It’s insane what happened. I can’t even fathom the idea. People were laying on the ground so they wouldn’t get hit, but then they’re going up behind them with AK-47’s and shooting them in the back. That’s just coward shit. I can’t back that in any way. It’s just wrong. I don’t know what to do about it, or if there’s anything you can do about it. I’m not going to live life scared of it. If it happens… It could happen anywhere, in a movie theater or something. It’s just a screwed up thing, it’s a screwed up deal.

I don’t know how I feel about them playing with U2. I’m not a U2 fan [laughs]. Just kidding.

I hope those guys are doing alright. I wish them them the best, and especially the people in Paris that were actually part of it, and were there. I met a kid who got shot twice. After a show of mine in London, he came up after the show. I went, “Right on, man! I’m glad you came out to this gig.” He said, “I have to keep going. I have to go out and see things, otherwise I’m going to get scared and stay inside forever.” Just forced himself to go out to these shows, just to feel better about it. I’m sure he was pretty on edge. Talking to some people who got shot and were pretending they were dead on the ground. The guy got shot twice. “Don’t move, dude!” I can’t even imagine what they were going through. It’s a horrible, horrible thing, you know? It sucks.

JM: Back to The Dwarves. Do you have a favorite from the pop culture world? The Hobbit movies had all the dwarves, there’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

NO: My favorite one was Bobby Faust, may he rest in peace, the one who was on the cover of Blood Guts and Come Clean and Must Die. The one who’s used on The Dwarves album covers.

JM: I didn’t know he passed away. Sorry to hear.

NO: Yeah.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

NO: We’re going to do some new Dwarves stuff. We have some touring coming up this year. At the end of this month we’re doing a couple of shows, then we do some stuff in February, then we start up in March touring with The Queers. It should be a great tour – it should be a lot of fun.

And on my off time I always do Mondo Generator, my band. I have a label in Italy that might do a Best Of thing. I don’t know if there is a Best Of. The Best of The Worst of Mondo Generator [laughs]. So I’m compiling songs to send out to them. I’m pretty excited that somebody would do that, to put out something like that. I’m looking forward to that project. We’re going to do a couple of new songs, maybe four songs, kind of like Motorhead did the No Remorse thing with four new songs on their retrospective. I’m thinking of putting four new tunes on there. So I’m looking forward to doing that as well.

That’s the main stuff I have going on right now. I was playing with a band called Bl’ast. We were going to do a new record. That’s coming out at the end of this month, I think – we did a split with EyeHateGod. We did a recording with Joey C [Castillo] on drums and Mike [Nieder] and Clifford [Dinsmore], and it turned out really cool. So that was exciting. I don’t know if I’m going to do the whole record with them, but I did a tune with them and it was a lot of fun, and I do a lot of live shows with them, which is cool.

All the bands I get to play in, it’s fun for me because it’s always different. The bands are different from each other, different styles of songs but still rock, you know? So that’s why I play with different bands if I can. They’re different from each other, so I get something different out of it. It’s a good thing.

JM: Is there anything you want to set the record straight on about your career or stuff that happened to you? Or do you prefer to keep the mystery?

NO: You know, I do know one thing for sure. The Dwarves are the best band I’ve ever played in. How about that? [laughs] They’re the greatest rock and roll band on the planet. [laughs] I love The Dwarves. It makes me feel good.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

NO: Wow. [pause] Don’t stop, you know? If you’ve got it in you, keep doing it. I don’t know what else to say, except that if somebody’s really into music they’ll keep going no matter what obstacles are in the way. Which I imagine is an easier thing and a harder thing these days without a record business behind it. Anybody can have a band and put it out on the internet. It’s just getting people to your dot-com – that’s the hard part. Getting people steered to your thing to hear your music is where the hard part comes in.

It was easier when I was a kid, I’d go look at records and I could tell by the cover, like, I’m probably going to like this band. There was this genre of music I like. You could tell by the cover it was something you wanted to hear. Now you’ve got to search it out online. I don’t know how to do that. It’s a good and a bad thing.

But I’d say you just have to stay at it. Maybe it’s easier for kids coming up doing it, because that’s all they know. They don’t know the old way of how we used to do it, how it used to be done, to have to change to it, to try to get with the times. It’s difficult as hell. But it is what it is. It’s a digital world now, you know? It’s a trippy place, man! [laughs] The world wide web is freaking me out, man!

[JM: Here is the answer that Nick Oliveri gave to the same question by email on 6/10/13]

NO: I would say, find a stripper that can pay for everything while you (live the rock n’ roll dream). And keep at playing, writing, and playing shows. There are more downs than ups in the music biz. It is more of a cost to do what you love. Making money playing music is very hard, so don’t think that you will make a million and you won’t be let down later. I’m drinking a beer for all you, up and coming bands now! GOOD LUCK! and always remember, “Don’t let your Meatloaf”.


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