Formed in 1987 jamming under the name Katzenjammer (German archaic slangword for “Hangover”) before eventually deciding upon Sons of Kyuss. Brant Bjork selected the name from the undead monster found in the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game book Fiend Folio. In 1989 the band recorded their eponymous debut EP, Sons of Kyuss, which was their only release to feature Chris Cockrell on bass. After self-releasing the EP in 1990 (This EP would be reissued in 2009 and 2015) the band recruited Nick Oliveri – who had previously played second guitar in Katzenjammer – to replace Cockrell on bass, and shortened their name to Kyuss.
Kyuss‘ first line-up consisted of vocalist John Garcia, guitarist Joshua Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri and drummer Brant Bjork. The band gradually built a local following in Palm Desert, California and frequently performed at parties in and around the isolated towns of Southern California’s desert areas. These impromptu and predominantly outdoor shows, referred to locally as “generator parties”, consisted of small crowds of people, beer drinking, and the use of gasoline-powered generators to provide electricity for the equipment. Homme commented that playing in the desert “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.”
The band then signed with independent record label Dali Records, who released their debut album, Wretch, in September 1991, with the band touring alongside The Dwarves to support it. Several songs on the album were re-recorded versions of those that appeared on the Sons of Kyuss EP. Album sales were sluggish, though the band was quickly making a name for itself as a live act. Guitarist Josh Homme soon gained a reputation for his unique downtuned, psychedelic style of guitar playing, and his convention of playing electric guitars through bass guitar amplifiers to create a bass-heavy sound
In 1992, the band, along with new producer Chris Goss, began work on their next album, Blues for the Red Sun. Goss understood the band, and was able to accurately capture their live sound in the studio. Released on 30 June that year, the album was critically hailed and is today widely regarded as a pioneering stoner rock record. By the time of the release party, Oliveri was fired and replaced by Scott Reeder, who had been approached about joining Kyuss five-to-six months earlier during a West Coast tour with The Obsessed, making his debut at the release party for the album. The band did a full tour of the United States in support of the album and toured the US again in early 1993. A couple months later they were invited to open nine dates for Metallica touring Australia. Comparisons to stoner rock godfathers Black Sabbath became common, though Homme claimed to have little knowledge of the band at the time but Bjork asserted he and Oliveri were hugely influenced by the British group. Homme often dismissed terms like “stoner rock” and the comparisons to Sabbath, citing his punk rock roots.
The band then soon found themselves signed with major label Elektra Records after Dali Records hit financial problems and was bought by Elektra. On 28 June 1994 after nearly a year of delays, they would release their first major label album, self-titled Kyuss. Originally intended to be titled Pools Of Mercury, the album commonly came to be known among fans as Welcome to Sky Valley. Between record company and bandmember shuffling it would take a whole year for the album recorded in 1993 to be released. Once again produced by Chris Goss, it received critical acclaim and musically demonstrated a much more psychedelic and mature sound. However, personal problems emerged and drummer Brant Bjork left the band following completion of the recording sessions. Bjork cited his extreme distaste for touring at the time, particularly band relationship problems that develop during long periods on the road (Mainly conflicts with Homme as cited in an interview with Rolling Stone many years later). He was replaced by Alfredo Hernández, who had previously played with Reeder in the band Across The River during the mid-80s. On 11 July 1995, they released their fourth and final album …And The Circus Leaves Town with the band touring Europe twice along with the United States in 1995 to support it. A video was made for “One Inch Man”, the album’s only official single. The album was not as successful commercially as Sky Valley, receiving many lukewarm reviews. Within 3 months of the release, Kyuss decided to disband on 1 October 1995, with their last known show being on 9 September 1995 at Festa dell’Unità in Reggio nell’Emilia, Italy.
Shortly after the breakup, Josh Homme toured as the rhythm guitarist with The Screaming Trees, and began work on The Desert Sessions series. In December 1997, a transitional split EP was released, featuring three songs by Kyuss (“Into the Void” -a Black Sabbath cover-, “Fatso Forgotso” and “Flip the Phase”) and three by Queens of the Stone Age (“If Only Everything”, “Born to Hula” and “Spiders & Vinegaroons”). Homme, Oliveri and Hernandez formed Queens of the Stone Age (Previously known as Gamma Ray) in 1998 which has garnered mainstream attention and fame. Homme also is a member of Them Crooked Vultures and Eagles of Death Metal.
Alfredo Hernández, having already played with Across The River, Yawning Man (A band he had a long tenure with.) and The Sort Of Quartet prior to Kyuss, would remain a staple of the desert rock scene after Kyuss’ breakup. Following his tenure with Queens of The Stone Age Hernández would also lend his drumming talents to Slo Burn, Ché, Brant Bjork and the Bros, Avon and Orquestra Del Desierto just to scratch the surface.
Founding bassist Chris Cockerell performed with Solarfeast in the 1990s but eventually moved to Germany, forming a solo project known as Vic du Monte’s Idiot Prayer (And later other bands under the “Vic du Monte” moniker). Cockrell also contributed to Vista Chino’s only album.
Scott Reeder would go on to contribute as a performer and producer to Goatsnake, Unida, Nebula, Yawning Sons and Orange Goblin to name a few. He would appear as a guest for Tool. He also notably auditioned as a bassist for Metallica sometime in 2008. Currently, Reeder is active with Fireball Ministry.
Nick Oliveri formed the band Mondo Generator, named after the only Kyuss song credited solely to him. Oliveri also was a founding member of Queens of The Stone Age and has ties with BL’AST!, Dwarves and Bloodclot! among his own solo projects Death Acoustic and Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable.
Drummer Brant Bjork would perform and produce for the likes of De-Con, Solarfeast and LAB while running a short-lived label known as El Camino. Bjork would join Fu Manchu in 1996 and contribute to four studio albums before leaving the band in 2001. Bjork embarked on a solo career starting with the 1999 album Jalamanta and has since released a total of fifteen solo albums as of 2022.
John Garcia went on to form Slo Burn, although the band was short-lived and released only one EP, Amusing The Amazing, before disbanding in September 1997. He was also briefly associated with the band Karma To Burn (Eventually, he would contribute to the band’s return album Appalachian Incantation). In 1998, he began working with the band Unida, recording one EP, one LP and an unreleased album. At the same time he started working with the band Hermano, having released three LP’s and one live album to date. Garcia has later went on to release three solo albums under his own name in the 2010s.
In 1997, Homme, Bjork, and Oliveri recorded three songs together (“13th Floor”, “Simple Exploding Man”, & “Cocaine Rodeo”) for Mondo Generator‘s debut album Cocaine Rodeo, released in 2000. Also featuring Garcia and Chris Goss on one track, the songs were, for several years, regarded by many fans as the final Kyuss recordings and billed as such by the album’s label Southern Lord Records. Notably, Oliveri had the other members record their parts unaware as to who they were working with. Oliveri would also notably get Homme and Garcia on “The Last Train” on the 2012 album Hell Comes To Your Heart.
In 2000, a compilation album, Muchas Gracias: The Best of Kyuss, was released. The album is a collection of the band’s singles, as well as B-sides and live material. Although Kyuss left behind some “rarities”, many of them were released on Muchas Gracias, and further releases from the band appear unlikely.