That was Kyuss in 1992.
While the world cast their eyes northwestward towards Seattle, the wastelands around Palm Desert. CA were breeding their own fuzzed out and sun-baked brand of so-called ‘stoner rock’.
Lables and sub-genres are often trite and can miss the point completely, but if one is intimately familiar with their lineage, they can sensibly ‘catagorize’ a band, if for no other reason than to have a reference point to describe a shared sound within a genre.
Case in point: ‘stoner rock’ is often interchangeable with ‘desert rock’, a sub-genre of metal that combines elements of heavy metal, acid rock, blues metal and doom metal. With that much metal, you know this rock comes with some weight.
And here is why that is relevant… Kyuss is credited as one of the main pioneers who invented this sub-genre.
Let that sink in for a moment. As a band, they did something so unique at the time, critics had to invent a WHOLE NEW CATEGORY just to try to define and separate what they were doing from the rest of the world.
Part of the reason Seattle had such a unique sound was its isolation.
In 1987, the Palm Desert scene shared the same disconnect from ‘what was cool’ everywhere else. And as a reward, they developed upon their own sound, rather than mimicking current trends.
A band called Katzenjammer (German slang for ‘hangover’) began making noise in the desolate void that is Palm Desert, CA. The group would soon take too many drugs, stumble across an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, and decide, ‘Sons of Kyuss’ would make a much better name.
One self-released EP and new bassplayer later, the band shorted their moniker to just Kyuss.
Alongside groups like Fu Manchu, Nebula, Hermano, Karma to Burn, Yawning Man, Throw Rag, Masters of Reality, and a grip of others… the desert scene and sound cascaded into a full blown orgy of distorted, spaced out, deep groove rock.
Tales of out-door, generator powered, out-of-control-rock-n-roll shows held in the middle of the desert became mythos for these bands with stories of illicit drug use and manic jam sessions lasting hours into the night. Plus notorious, sometimes violent encounters with bands from the LA scene provided a backdrop of an almost territorial rivalry.
Guitarist Josh Homme comments how it was, “the shaping factor for the band” noting that “there’s no clubs here, so you can only play for free. If people don’t like you, they’ll tell you. You can’t suck.”
Through their career, Kyuss released four full length albums full of blown out, over-fuzzed, greasy rock and roll.
A good deal of the Kyuss sound and spirit emanated from guitarist Josh Homme. His penchant for using down-tuned guitars ran through bass amps gave his tone a unique, if not over-driven sound.
After Kyuss, Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age. That band has earned multiple Grammy nods (but no wins, because the Grammy committee thinks Tenacious D is more metal than Anthrax, Motorhead and Slipknot. That would almost be funny if it weren’t true).
There is lots to be said about Queens of the Stone Age and Homme’s numerous other projects and bands, like… Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures (with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin), and most recently, recording on Iggy Pop’s new album.
But this is about Kyuss.
Witness the birth of a sub-genre.
“Green Machine” from the Blues for the Red Sun album.
“One Inch Man” from the …And the Circus Leaves Town album.
“Demon Cleaner” from the Welcome to Sky Valley album.
People seem to be moved to inspiration by some of the more spacey Kyuss jams as YouTube is littered with fan videos syncing breathtaking footage along side Kyuss tracks. Much better than staring at an album cover…
“Catamaran” from …And the Circus Leaves Town album.
“El Rodeo” from …And the Circus Leaves Town album.
“50 Million Years Trip” from the Blues for the Red Sun album.
“Space Cadet” from the Welcome to Sky Valley album.