Andreas Neumann / With kind permission of the artist
It almost sounds like a twisted scientific experiment: Invite a dozen Rock & Roll warriors to spend a week on a ranch in the California desert, encouraging them to write songs and get together to play and then capture the results.
The Desert Sessions Vols. 11 & 12 is the result of an experiment by Josh Homme. The frontman of the Queens of the Stone Age organizes these retreats since 1997 and invites each other a different group of musicians. Earlier this year, he convened another, including Bilz Gibbons of ZZ Top, Les Claypool of Primus and Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint.
Homme has been making records for a long time, saying that his favorite method of maintaining a recording mood is to bring strangers together in the desert. The remote location encourages musicians to lose their professional armor and try things that they would not do under "normal" circumstances, d. Even a longtime arena professional like Billy Gibbons, who is approaching the age of 70, has made it.
The credits show what's going on at Rancho de la Luna. In addition to the drums of the album opener "Move Together" Carla Azar plays the "Hand Boop Boop Synth". Meanwhile, Stella Mozgawa plays floor and room service trays. In other words, the stakes are low. Nobody gets accused when a song burns out – they just go out, watch the sunset and then try something different.
Homme says he thinks of immaterial values such as chemistry when he assembles the crew of known and unknown musicians. He sees himself less as a conductor than as a mediator and describes the interaction as "borrowing friction from one another". You can hear that in his voice on a track like "Noses in Roses, Forever".
Earlier Desert Sessions worked intensively on prog rock jams, but these focus more on songs, changing the group's chemistry from track to track. Nothing feels overworked or overwhelmed – the musicians sound like they're discovering the songs as they move on. They are not trying too hard to get magic started. And that's exactly why magic happens.