Interview:10 Questions with Troy Van Leeuwen
By John Ferrante
Whether you're familiar with his name or not, more than likely you've heard his exceptional guitar talents on any one of dozen or so major releases over the last five years. His resume boasts Deadsy, Orgy, Korn, Limp Bizkit and more, plus a host of tours with A Perfect Circle, Failure and of course, Queens of the Stone Age.
2004 takes QOTSA down under for a number of dates. As Troy prepares for the next leg of the tour, he takes a few minutes to chat with us about his influences, his gear, his guitars and why his is wider than Josh's.
Guitar.com: How old were you when you first started playing guitar?
Troy Van Leeuwen: 13
Guitar.com: Did you take guitar lessons?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I took about six months of lessons then decided I could learn more by listening to records.
Guitar.com: What records did you play along with?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Any Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, David Bowie, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Stevie Wonder, Cheap Trick, Bauhaus, Sisters Of Mercy, Jimi Hendrix, T-Rex, Stones or Beatles Record... Pretenders "I" & "II", Fear "The Record", Iron Maiden "Killers" & "The Number Of The Beast," The Jesus Lizard "Liar" & "Goat"...
Guitar.com: Who are/were your musical influences?
Troy Van Leeuwen: ... Tom Waits, Funkadelic/Parlament, Johnny Cash, Cars, Brian Eno, Elvis Costello And The Attractions, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Johnny Thunders, Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Japan... I could go on and on.
Guitar.com: Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I will attempt to play any string or percussion instrument.
Guitar.com: Do you have a daily practice routine?
Troy Van Leeuwen: No. I will play a little bit before a performance, but nothing routine.
Guitar.com: Do you read music?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I can, but I prefer to learn by ear.
Guitar.com: What are some recordings you have performed on?
Troy Van Leeuwen: A Perfect Circle's Mer De Nom (Thinking of You ?Sleeping Beauty ?The Hollow), Failure's For the Masses (Enjoy the Silence), Orgy's Candyass (Social Enemies), Deadsy's Commencment (Mansion World).
Guitar.com: Tell us a bit about your background, how did you end up a member of QOTSA?
Troy Van Leeuwen: While touring with Failure, I meet Josh Homme who was playing for Screaming Trees at the time. I was a fan of Kyuss as well, so when I heard the first Q.O.T.S.A. record I instantly loved it. I would go see their shows and they would come see A Perfect Circle so it was in the back my mind that we would end up playing together. Sure enough, I got the call, and in typical Q.O.T.S.A. fashion, I was given one week, three instruments, thirty songs, and twenty months on the road. This was my kind of challenge.
Guitar.com: What other instruments were you asked to play for this tour?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Lap Steel and Electric Piano.
Guitar.com: What is the writing process like in Q.O.T.S.A.? Do you bring in song ideas or is that all Josh and Nick?
Troy Van Leeuwen: The only process is there is no process. The best idea wins. In the past, it's been mainly Josh and Nick at the core and a gang of special guests, but since we've been on the road there has been a lot of ideas exchanged which has provided me the chance to contribute to the next record. There is a chemistry with this line up that seems to be generating creativity.
Guitar.com: What would you say your guitar role is in Q.O.T.S.A. - are you lead, rhythm, what?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I do both. Josh and I alternate roles. A lot of the playing is off the cuff. We are always poking each other in the chest, you know, "Top that Mother****" "Oh yeah? Well my headstock is longer than yours" "So what... mine's wider". We have fun even if he is jealous of the width of mine.
Guitar.com: What types of effects are you using live?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I've been using Maxon pedals, which are really durable and sound great. The OD-9 Overdrive is solid. It's basically an old Tube Screamer in a new box. The FL-9 Flanger sounds like the one I bought when I first started playing. I also use a Digitech Whammy, an MXR Q-Zone, a Line 6 Mod Modeler, a Way Huge "Aqua Puss" Analog Delay, a Lexicon Vortex, a T.C. Electronics G-Force, a Digital Music Corp. GCX switching system controlled by a Ground Control Prol, and an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal.
Guitar.com: What about amps?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I have this great new amp made by a company called Bad Cat. It's the Black Cat model, a thirty-watt combo that is both thick and sharp. The best combo I've ever played. I've also used their Cub model, a fifteen-watt combo for the studio with Q.O.T.S.A. Sometimes I plug my 1963 Fender Bassman head into a Marshall 4X12 in the studio.
Guitar.com: And guitars?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I have a few. Gibson Les Paul Classic 1960, Gibson ES-135 Semi-Hollow Body, Yamaha AES-1500 Hollow Body, Fender Telecaster Deluxe 1972 Reissue, Burns Double Six, Maton. Al are loaded with Seymour Duncan Pickups
Guitar.com: I see you have a couple hollow bodies in your arsenal. What is it that you like about those particular guitars?
Troy Van Leeuwen: One word... Resonance.
Guitar.com: Do you encounter feedback problems with the hollow bodies and if so how do you solve those problems?
Troy Van Leeuwen: There's good feedback and lame feedback. My 135 had a couple of lame spots, but I just cut up some foam rubber and stuffed it in the "F" holes. If you play while you're shifting the foam around, you can hear where it needs to go.
Guitar.com: What do you use for strings?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Since there are multiple tunings there are multiple gauges of string. Ernie Ball makes a custom gauge of 10 to 52 for standard, and a heavy jazz gauge of 12 to 58 for lower tuning.
Guitar.com: What alternate tunings are you using with Q.O.T.S.A.?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Standard E, D, and C.
Guitar.com: What are your strengths as a player?
Troy Van Leeuwen: I was always able to hear things right away, so playing off of others is something I can do. I think communication is key for any musician to be good. Also knowing how to underplay.
Guitar.com: Tell us about your band Enemy?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Enemy is my big dumb rock trio, where I sing and play guitar. The band includes bassist Eddie Nappi and drummer Kellii Scott. The recording and live performances are usually done with very little preparation or time so there's a sense of urgency that I like. It's also a great outlet for me to disregard all the things that are mentioned in the answer to your last question.
Guitar.com: So do you play big dumb guitar solos with enemy? What ever happened to solos?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Hell yes. I'm keeping it alive. If you think about it, all music is based around the big dumb guitar solo. Who wants to hear songs with vocals and words and melody and ... drums? That's all just seasoning in the big dumb rock guitar solo stew.
Guitar.com: Do you have plans to release an Enemy CD?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Yes. I keep pushing it back due to this tour schedule. I don't have enough time to focus as much as I'd like to. I'm learning as I go, and I want it to be right.
Guitar.com: Does the band have a website?
Troy Van Leeuwen: Yes. www.enemyonline.com. It has a little content but it's still under construction.