Troy Van Leeuwen
Troy Van Leeuwen is an American musician and producer. He is best known as the guitarist for the rock band, Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA), for which he has served since 2002. He is also known for his work with the seminal rock band Failure, and with alternative rock supergroup A Perfect Circle, as well as recordings with QOTSA members' side projects such as the Desert Sessions, Mondo Generator, Eagles of Death Metal and the Gutter Twins. Van Leeuwen created his first side-project, Enemy, in 2005, Sweethead, in 2008, Gone Is Gone, in 2016, and toured with Iggy Pop supporting his album Post Pop Depression made with QOTSA bandmates Josh Homme and Dean Fertita.
Early life and career
Van Leeuwen has a Dutch surname (he has ancestors from the Netherlands and has described himself as a third-generation American). He became interested in music at an early age and his dad would play early rock and roll records such as Chuck Berry. His first big influence in learning how to play rock came through listening to Led Zeppelin records. Playing drums initially, Van Leeuwen sought to imitate Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham, but later switched to guitar and discovered that he had an aptitude for it. He cites Jimmy Page as a big influence:
I would have to say that Jimmy Page was the first influence I had as a guitar player. There were so many textures and different sounds that he got. The riffs that he made were undeniably great. Every one of them. Even the mistakes he made were great. So to me, that was a great first influence.
In the late 1980s, Van Leeuwen played in Jester, a successful southern California band fronted by vocalist Eric Book. Jester released an EP, which is the earliest and most rare recording of a 16-year-old Van Leeuwen. He then played in a small band called Little Boots, with which he recorded a number of demos and played a few shows before the band's breakup. His next band was 60 Cycle, which released their debut "Pretender" in 1995, and their self-titled album the following year. It was during his time in 60 Cycle that Van Leeuwen met Kellii Scott, and the two started working on a project (later to be known as Enemy). Van Leeuwen went on to play in Failure. The band released three records and didn't enjoy any commercial success, but was praised by critics as a talented and almost revolutionary group. It was during a tour with Failure when Van Leeuwen met former Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme, who was presently playing rhythm guitar with The Screaming Trees. After the breakup of Failure, Van Leeuwen became a session musician and recording engineer, working with groups such as Orgy, Crazy Town, Coal Chamber and KoRn.
A Perfect Circle
It was during his time as a session musician that Van Leeuwen met Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, who offered him a spot in his and Billy Howerdel's new band, A Perfect Circle. Due to the band's lineup of talented musicians and good chemistry, Van Leeuwen accepted the invitation. The band played their first show at LA's Viper Club Reception on August 15, 1999. After playing shows in Los Angeles, the band entered the studio to begin work on their debut album. Soon, drummer Tim Alexander was replaced with session drummer Josh Freese; however, Alexander's performance can still be heard on the album version of the song "The Hollow". After completing the recording of the band's debut album, Mer de Noms, the band began touring, initially as the opening act for Nine Inch Nails in 2000. Later, the band embarked on a number of headlining tours around the world, including the Canadian festival, Summersault. Mer de Noms was released on May 23, 2000, while the band was on tour. The album marks the highest ever debut for a new rock band, selling over 188,000 copies in its first week, and appearing at number four on the Billboard 200.
Queens of the Stone Age
Van Leeuwen recorded guitar parts on only three tracks of A Perfect Circle's second album, Thirteenth Step, before successfully auditioning for a spot in Josh Homme's Queens of the Stone Age. After outperforming Jeordie White and others in the audition, Van Leeuwen was welcomed as the band's second guitarist for their Songs for the Deaf tour. Besides playing guitar, Van Leeuwen also performed on lap steel guitar, keyboards, backing vocals and occasionally bass guitar. Due to the band's schedule, Van Leeuwen had only one week to learn 30 songs before the tour began. For the European leg of the album's supporting tour, Dave Grohl left to return to his main band Foo Fighters. He was replaced with former Danzig drummer Joey Castillo. Songs for the Deaf was a critical and commercial success, and the singles "No One Knows" and "Go with the Flow" became hits on both radio and MTV. The tour culminated in a number of headline dates in Australia in January 2004.
Van Leeuwen's first recording with QOTSA was Lullabies to Paralyze. The band entered the studio with long-time collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes, who replaced Nick Oliveri on the album. Van Leeuwen aimed to fill in some of the gaps in the music where he felt the sound could be expanded through atmospheric and ambient textures made by guitar, lap steel and piano. The album (the title of which is taken from a lyric in Mosquito Song from Songs for the Deaf) featured several guest appearances, most notably ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, who performed backing vocals and lead guitar on "Burn the Witch" and the ZZ Top cover, Precious and Grace. Despite reportedly turning down an invitation to remain with the band, Mark Lanegan recorded vocals on new tracks, and appeared with the band on the supporting tour when scheduling and his health permitted. The album was leaked onto the internet in February 2005, and was aired by Australian radio on March 3, 2005 as an unsubstantiated 'World Premiere'. The album was then officially released on March 22, 2005 in the USA, and debuted as number 5 on the Billboard Music Chart: the greatest initial success of any QOTSA record to date. On November 22, 2005, the band released a live album/DVD set called Over the Years and Through the Woods, which featured a live concert filmed in London, and bonus features (including rare videos dating from 1998 to 2005).
After touring to support the album, the band headed back into the studio in July 2006. A year later, Van Leeuwen reported that the band had written new material that was "still in its infancy", which Homme later suggested might be released as an EP. This matured into their 2007 release Era Vulgaris, to which Van Leeuwen contributed a significant amount of material.
Several sites reported that the album would include many guest vocalists, including Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, Mark Lanegan, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and wittingly, deceased humorist Erma Bombeck. Josh Homme described the record as "dark, hard, and electrical, sort of like a construction worker". Era Vulgaris was completed in early April 2007 and released in June 2007 in the US The tracks "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "3's & 7's" were released as singles in early June. Bassist Michael Shuman (Wires on Fire, Jubilee) and keyboardist Dean Fertita (The Waxwings, The Raconteurs) took over touring duties from Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider respectively.
Following a subsequent interview with Homme, The Globe and Mail reported that the EP "could contain as many as 10 B-sides recorded during the Era Vulgaris sessions." It was since reported however that the EP would not be released due to the record label's unwillingness to put out another QOTSA release at this time. In a September issue of NME Magazine, Homme stated that he was going back to make the new QOTSA and Desert Sessions records, along with remastering the 1998 (QOTSA) self-titled album for an early 2009 release. Homme also stated Queens' new album is going to be a "desert orgy in the dark".
In 2013, QOTSA released ...Like Clockwork, Van Leeuwen's third full album with the band. On the album, Van Leeuwen plays guitar, percussion, twelve-string guitar, twelve-string slide guitar, lap steel, synthesizers, acoustic guitar and provides vocals. The album was the first QOTSA album to reach number one on the Billboard 200. It also reached number two on the UK Albums Chart and was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album.
Other musical work
In 2005, Van Leeuwen released Hooray For Dark Matter with his sideproject Enemy. The album features bassist Eddie Nappi from the Mark Lanegan Band, and his former bandmate from Failure Kelli Scott on drums (who had replaced Quicksand's Alan Cage). Van Leeuwen describes Enemy as his "big, dumb rock trio", and "a vehicle driven by pure and utter disgust of mediocrity and general frustration with the human condition". During Van Leeuwen's time with A Perfect Circle, Enemy recorded a five track demo in what he called "Guerilla-style recording" at various studios. The band (unusually) offered to be signed by a record label by advertising for the princely sum of $250,000 on eBay. Enemy was ultimately signed by Control Group/TCG, who released their debut album. After joining the Queens of the Stone Age, Van Leeuwen has also contributed music to band members' various side projects: such as The Desert Sessions, Mondo Generator, Eagles of Death Metal, The Gutter Twins and Mark Lanegan's solo album Bubblegum. After the Era Vulgaris tour's end, Van Leeuwen began touring with his current side project, Sweethead.
In 2016, Van Leeuwen toured with Iggy Pop and Josh Homme in support of their album Post Pop Depression. He also formed Gone Is Gone, a supergroup also consisting of Troy Sanders, the singer and bass player from Mastodon, Tony Hajjar, the drummer for At the Drive-In, and Mike Zarin, a multi-instrumentalist who appeared with Van Leeuwen on Sweethead's Descent To The Surface. An EP will be released in the summer of 2016, and the band is developing a studio album for release later in the year.
According to Van Leeuwen, Queens of the Stone Age (and Homme in particular) have a "veil of secrecy" regarding their exact setup, in order to maintain a unique guitar sound. However, over time Van Leeuwen eventually disclosed some information regarding his gear. When he first joined the band in 2002 for the Songs for the Deaf promotional tour, he leaned toward duplicating Josh Homme's setup, favoring Ampeg guitar combos and specific pedals. All of his guitars were fitted with a variety of Seymour Duncan pickups, most often Customs or JB. During the Lullabies to Paralyze period, both Homme and Van Leeuwen favored semi-hollow guitars with P-90 pickups due to their natural resonance. To prohibit "bad feedback", he stuffed pieces of foam into the F-holes of some. On Era Vulgaris he switched to Fender Telecasters and Jaguars, recorded through small, cheap amps. His guitars are tuned in standard 440, mostly E, and C, though one-off tunings have appeared on a few songs. He is a steady user of Mastery Bridges, utilizing their Offset and Tele models in addition to the Offset Vibrato. Troy has also said that his live rig is considerably different than what he uses during recording, due to the fact that he considers most of his vintage equipment too unreliable for touring. He uses custom gauge Dunlop 11's for standard tuning and 12's for lower tunings. Van Leeuwen uses Silver Hercos .75mm picks, the same picks Jimmy Page uses.
- Gibson Les Paul – Troy has used several different Les Pauls, including a 1995 Classic Premium Plus in Amber, a 1991 all gold Classic Goldtop, a 70s white Deluxe, and a black Standard. Tuned to C standard for QOTSA. The all gold Les Paul was formerly Josh's Homme's backup guitar in Kyuss.
- Fender Telecaster Custom – Has used a Mexican 72 reissue model from Era Vulgaris to ...Like Clockwork for songs in E. Replaced live by the Echo Park De Leon.
- Fender Jazzmaster – Used from Era Vulgaris and onwards. Has used a black AVRI 62, an Aztec Gold AVRI 65, a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special, and prototypes for his Fender signature model in "Candy Oxblood Red" and a matching headstock with a bound neck with block inlays.
- Fender Jaguar – Used from Era Vulgaris and onwards. One of Troy's personal favorites is his 1963 Jaguar: originally Candy Apple Red with a matching headstock, at one point it was refinished black only on the body, resulting in a unique mismatched body/neck. Also rarely uses a white AVRI 62, Fender Blacktop Jaguar HH, and a Johnny Marr model.
- Fender Custom Shop Double Neck – Made for the ...Like Clockwork tour, combining his signature Jazzmaster with a Fender Electric XII with a Fender Telecaster 12 string bridge.
- Fender Custom Shop Telecaster 12 – string – Replaced his Burns on the ...Like Clockwork tour, finished in "Copper Relic" with a matching headstock and tort pickguard.
- Yamaha SA503 TVL – Van Leeuwen's signature semihollow guitar, roughly based on a Harmony H78, fitted with three P-90 pickups, two three way switches and a Bigsby. Van Leeuwen used the two protypes on tour, his red model equipped with a bridge mini-humbucker and tuned to E standard, while his black prototype was used in D.
- Yamaha AES1500 – Hollowbody modeled off a Gibson ES-5, used a stock black model with two mini-humbuckers in D standard tuning in 2002 for "The Sky is Fallin'", later used by bandmate Dean Fertita, and a white model in Enemy, later given to Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal. Van Leeuwen favored a custom 3 pickup red model with a bridge humbucker and neck and middle P-90's and a trapeze tailpiece for songs in C standard from Lullabies to Paralyze on, but was accidentally destroyed out of frustration in 2011.
- Yamaha SG2000 – Used a sunburst model occasionally in studio or as backup to the Les Pauls.
- Gibson ES-135 – One of Troy's main guitars from A Perfect Circle to Era Vulgaris. Owns both a red model with humbuckers and a black model with P-90s. Tuned to E when used.
- Epiphone Supernova – Noel Gallagher signature guitar in Manchester City blue finish. Tuned EGDGBE for "The Fun Machine Took a Shit & Died" and "Someone's in the Wolf".
- Echopark Guitars De Leon – A limited edition run of guitars based on their "Clarence" model, a prototype larger Tele style body built by Leo Fender, but with Troy's personal custom specs, a tele-custom style configuration. Built for the ... Like Clockwork tour.
- Echopark Guitars Clarence J – A Clarence model with a Jazzmaster bridge pickup and Arcane Gold Coil neck pickup and "offset" style Jaguar/Jazzmaster Mastery bridge and tailpiece in Lake Placid Blue finish with matching headstock. Replaced the De Leon on tour in E.
- Burns Double Six – Used throughout the ...Like Clockwork album and tour by Troy and Dean Fertita.
- Rickenbacker 360/12 – Used a black double bound v64 reissue model on the ...Like clockwork sessions.
- Fender Stratocaster – Heavily worn sunburst model used in Sweethead.
- Fender Pawn Shop Mustang – Equipped stock with coil split-able Wide Range Humbuckers used in studio.
- Fender Bass VI – Uses a reissue Pawn Shop series model in Candy Apple Red in Sweethead and Gone Is Gone.
- Hansen Custom – Hand made in Denmark, a black reliced Tele Deluxe style with Bigsby and reverse Strat headstock.
- Schecter PT Traditional – Schecter's version of a Telecaster, used a gold model with a maple neck in Failure.
- Maton MS503 – Used in D standard for "The Sky is Fallin'" during the Songs for the Deaf tour.
- Maton BB1200 – Used one of Josh Homme's models recording Lullabies to Paralyze.
- Gibson ES-225 TC – Used to record Lullabies, known for its single middle P-90 pickup.
- Gibson ES-125 3/4 – Also used during the Lullabies recording period.
- Gibson Marauder Custom – Homme's guitar used in the recording of Era Vulgaris.
- Hofner Verythin 4575 – Rare German guitar from the mid 60s. Used in the "Make It wit Chu" video.
- Ampeg Dan Armstrong – Used in the "Sick, Sick, Sick" video.
- Chandler Lap Steel – Mahogany body and palm tree fret markers, equipped with a Seymour Duncan Invader. Tuned to Open E tuning.
In addition to guitar and lap steel, Troy has also played a Clavia Nord Electro keyboard and later a Moog Little Phattie synthesizer during live performances and recordings. After Nick Oliveri's departure from the band, Troy also played an Epiphone Rivoli bass or a Custom Yamaha SA-bass during several Queens of the Stone Age recordings and the tour following Lullabies to Paralyze, sharing bass playing duties with Alain Johannes, as well as using a blue 1967 Mosrite Ventures bass in the "Little Sister" video. Following Era Vulgaris in which bassist Michael Shuman and keyboardist/guitarist Dean Fertita were hired, Troy went back to being primarily the lead guitarist live—although he also occasionally contributes with synths, lap steel, and back up vocals.
- Ampeg VT 22 Combo – Used on the Songs for the Deaf and Era Vulgaris tours, alongside Mesa, Marshall, and later Orange 4x12 cabinets.
- Ampeg VT 40 Combo – Used early on the Songs for the Deaf tour.
- Ampeg V4 Head – Same as the VT-22, 120 watts and all tube, but in head form.
- VOX AC-50 CPH Classic Plus – Used for lapsteel with a Vox CPH 2x12 cabinet, also uses an AC50 head for guitar in conjunction with a Vox CPH 4x12 cab.
- Vox AC30HH – Used on the 2011 tour with a Vox CPH 2x12 Cab.
- VOX Brian May Special – With treble boost.
- VOX AC-15 – Used for the salt mine concert.
- Echopark Amplifiers – Used a Vibromatic 23 head with 2x12 cab and Vibromatic 13 combo on tour with Iggy Pop.
- Bad Cat Black Cat – 30 watt combo used during live performances with an Ampeg 2x12 Cab. Also used with an Ampeg V4 live.
- Bad Cat Cub – 15 watt combo used during recordings.
- Peavey Amps – Has used Series 260 Standard and Musician Series 400 solid-state amps live from 2005 to 2008 and in studio.
- Marshall JCM 25/50
- Fender Bassman – 1963 Blackface model used heavily in the studio and occasionally live during the Lullabies period.
- Fender Excelsior – Pawn Shop series 13 Watt combo with 15" speaker.
- WEM Amplifiers – Used a refurbished Watkins Dominator on tour with Iggy Pop.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Troy Van Leeuwen.|
- Mister Enemy – Troy Van Leeuwen fansite
- Official Queens of the Stone Age Website
- Official Enemy MySpace
|Multi-instrumentalist for Queens of the Stone Age
|Rhythm guitarist for A Perfect Circle