Troy Van Leeuwen

troy_van_leuweenTroy Van Leeuwen is the current multi-instrumentalist of Queens of the Stone Age, a position formerly held by Brendon McNichol and the legendary Eagle of Death Metal Diamond Dave Catching. He can be found stage left playing guitar, lap steel, and occasionally bass in recent years. In the Songs for the Deaf era, Troy held down keyboard and organ duty as well, but the inclusion of Natasha Schneider has largely left him to his extensive collection of axes and stompboxes, including his signature model Yamaha SA503TVL.

Troy was born on January 5, 1970, and after initially showing interest in bangin’ the skins settled on guitar at age thirteen and began laying down gritty power chords and blazing leads while playing along with Zeppelin, Sabbath, and whatever riff- heavy rock would fit on the family turntable sometime thereafter.

60 Cycle is the first band that anyone seems to have proof of Troy playing in, and little is known aside from their releasing two LPs in the mid ’90s on Strap On records. Their song “Strapper” also made it onto the soundtrack of the 1997 film Boogie Boys . He toured with Failure in support of their 1996 album “Fantastic Planet,” and ’tis rumored that this was when Troy met one Mr. Josh Homme who was doing the Screaming Trees thing and had a little something going on in Joshua Tree after the whole Kyuss was no more. Before long, Failure disbanded and Troy chose to get busy in the studio, recording and engineering with the likes of Limp Bizkit, Korn, and Orgy.

Some may question the credibility of a musician who has played with such blatantly corporate acts as the Bizkit and other nu/rap-metal morons like Crazy Town (You remember- ‘Come my lady / Come, come my lady.’), but I’d like to think of Troy’s case as an exception considering his prominent involvement in more experimental and credible outfits. During their recording of “Mer de Noms,” our hero became involved with ambient prog-metal outfit A Perfect Circle alongside former Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel and Maynard James Keenan. Troy took his gig with Queens for the “Songs for the Deaf” tour before another APC record was produced, and was eventually replaced by the formidable James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins fame.

In many ways, Troy provides an air of professionalism and sophistication to the QOTSA lineup that seems to have rubbed off on his fellow bandmates, Homme in particular. From his finely tailored suits to his often stoic stage presence and precise riff delivery, Van Leeuwen serves to neatly mop up some of the beloved sludge in the nooks and crannies of the Queens’ sound without pushing things too far into squeaky clean territory and adding a special somethin’ to the catchy heaviness that’s been present since the group’s beginnings.

Along with his studio work with other groups and, of course running about with Queens, Troy has sustained a side project called Enemy, his self proclaimed “big, dumb rock trio.” This stripped down trio sees him taking most vocal duties and partaking in just about every sonic rock excess possible with former Handsome bassist Eddie Nappi bringing the low end and Kellii Scott keeping time.

Troy also started the band Sweethead with Serrina Simms, Eddie Nappi and Norm Block (of the Mark Lanegan Band) in 2008. The following year, they released a self-titled album and an EP (The Great Disruptors). Sweethead is rumored to be working on their second album in 2013.

Given the relatively short spans served by the previous multi-instrumental pantswearers in QOTSA, it would be logical to wonder if Troy’s time is nearing its close, but something in the way things are going seems to suggest that he’s become much more than a mere rotating member in Homme’s show.

Written by Ben Erickson