On the face of it, Josh Homme seems prophetic in naming the sixth Queens of the Stone Age album . . . Like Clockwork.
Having built an enviable reputation with releases such as 2000's Rated R, 2002's Songs for the Deaf and Era Vulgaris in 2007, the plan has unfolded with the precision of a Swiss timepiece.
Since its release in June the album scored the band's first US No. 1, garnered critical acclaim and now sees them announce an arena tour of Australia with Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails.
The irony is the creation of the album went nothing like clockwork. Its difficult gestation began in early 2011 as Homme was struggling to reconcile his own mortality.
Complications during knee surgery a few months earlier resulted in his heart stopping on the operating table and, though the physical scars had long since healed, the mental scars were red raw. "It took a long time to realise it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I'm alive, I know what's important and it weeded out a lot of things," Homme says.
Rock's pre-eminent ginger nut has lived by the ethos that "work is the way", so it made sense when bandmates dragged him into his Californian studio to mend the malaise. But early demos for . . . Like Clockwork came from the same dark place in which Homme found himself, believing he'd lost an important part of himself on the operating table.
On The Vampyre of Time and Memory he sarcastically sings "I'm alive - hooray! You're wrong again. 'Cause I feel no love".
"When I wrote that I was like 'If you make it through and you're still dead inside, what does it f…ing matter'," Homme admits. "When I wrote that I didn't care but this album had such a long arc, by the time we were done making it I did care."
Despite recording album opener Keep Your Eyes Peeled in a day, the band soon lost their creative impetus and Homme fired drummer Joey Castillo, a 10-year veteran of the Queens.
"When you're in three months deep and you thought you'd be done six weeks ago you can either quit on yourself - and I don't even know what that means - or you roll up your sleeves and go 'Come on, motherf….., let's go'," Homme says.
And you know what they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get Dave Grohl.
Homme reached out to the Foo Fighters frontman and Them Crooked Vultures bandmate, who became just one of the myriad special guests on the album.
The list includes Reznor, Arctic Monkey Alex Turner, Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters and, wait for it, Sir Elton John, who some may say is the original queen of the stone age. "Elton just called me on a Sunday and said he wanted to jam and that he was a fan - but he didn't know we were going to start making a record at the time," Homme explains.
The 1.93cm singer/guitarist is no stranger to strange collaborations and after years of cross-pollinating we're seeing these disparate influences creep into QOTSA material, making . . . Like Clockwork significantly more sophisticated than previous releases.
Homme laughs at the suggestion some of it sounds like it was made by David Bowie - if Bowie had lost himself in the Californian desert on a mescaline trip.
"I feel like we always ask a lot of our fans and I almost feel like every record should come with some sort of disclaimer that's like 'Look, I'm really sorry that it's not just like the last one but we put everything we had into it and if you listen to it six or seven times it'll make sense'," he laughs.
While he admits to not knowing how to write a hit song if he tried, the former frontman of seminal stoner-rock outfit Kyuss says hitting the top of the Billboard chart for the first time was a wonderful feeling.
"On the last two records we've taken big chances and there's been a lot of critical acclaim and a lot of critical disdain and I registered all of that and thought 'This one is an even grander leap with no net'," Homme says. "But isn't this what it's all for? I don't work in a bank. Shoot me like a clay pigeon in the sky - all of that is OK."
In the vein of ironically named album track Smooth Sailing, mainstream success has been a bumpy ride at times.
As chart-toppers, Homme and co found themselves programmed on Jay Z's Made in America festival - and it proved an ill fit. The band's bags were searched on entry and Homme felt his band was being used as a "marketing tool".
"The guy's a kook," Homme told CBC Radio 2 afterwards.
Luckily, the QOTSA singer's newfound lust for life makes it easy to overcome such things and focus on what's really important - his work and his two sons with Spinnerette frontwoman Brody Dalle, who will join Homme on the Australian tour.
On the topic of work, we are happy to report a second Them Crooked Vultures album, with Grohl and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, is only "a matter of timing".If timing is the only issue, surely it'll go like clockwork.