"For me, "Paradisiac" is about wanting to get out of a bad or dark period" explains Millionaire singer/guitarist Tim Vanhamel. "It's about longing for more than the shit you have." Recorded at Sound City Studios, Los Angeles by Queens Of The Stone Age mainman Josh Homme, the Antwerp quartet's second album is everything modern rock should be: heavy, layered, danceable and intuitively melodic. It's also been a long time coming. The band's debut, Outside The Simian Flock'' was released way back in 2001. In the interim, they toured the world with QOTSA, supported the Foo Fighters in Europe, and opened for Muse a couple of times. Tim also joined Homme and Jesse "The Devil" Hughes in glam-boogie trio Eagles Of Death Metal, while keyboardist Aldo Struyf played in Mark Lanegan's touring ensemble. Powerhouse drummer Dave Schroyen kept himself busy with idiosyncratic Belgian outfits PornRobot and Vandal X, the latter produced by Millionaire bassist Bas Remans. Somewhere along the line, the latter produced by Millionaire bassist Bas Remans. Somewhere along the line, second guitarist Ben Wijers left to pursue other interests. "When we got back together last year I was a little nervous," admits Tim, "But we started rehearsing and the spark was still there. Dave and I have been playing together for 14 years, and we've known Bas since we were kids. This is very much a band, not a solo project type thing."
The roots of Millionaire can be traced back to the small town of Sungarden, in Belgium's north-eastern province Limburg. Although this 'garden of the sun' never lived up to its name, the Vanhamel household was a hotbed of creativity, thanks to Tim's jazz musician father. "My dad played lots of different instruments: stand-up bass, piano, accordion, clarinet, saxophone. And he had a lot of jazz, folk and blues records. Once he saw me take my first steps into music, he was really there to help me. It was definitely a good environment. "From the age of 11, Tim started playing in jazz combos with his dad. Then, when he was 14, Vanhamel Junior heard Suicidal Tendencies' classic debut LP, and gave up jazz for the speedy thrills of punk rock and skateboarding. Already a freakishly gifted guitarist, he was asked to join local Sunville heroes the Cosmic Pigs. He immediately bonded with drummer Dave Schroyen, three years his senior, and the pair soon formed a new outfit. Sister Poo Poo was a wild, improvisatory affair which enabled Tim to find his singing voice - a versatile instrument which occasionally echoes Prince's playful androgyny. In 1995, the two friends moved to nearby metropolis Antwerp to join Mauro Pawlowski's cult dance-rockers the Evil Superstars.
Still only 17, Tim's precocious six-string wizardry lit up the group through two albums and a stack of eclectic EPs, until their dissolution in autumn '98. He's still close to Mauro, who co-wrote the opening track on "Paradisiac". After the Superstars split, Tim was recruited as second guitarist by Antwerp alt-legends dEUS. He starred on Tom Barman and co's Ideal Crash tour in 1999, but then they too went on hiatus. At this point, the budding frontman decided to take the spotlight, hooking up with Dave, old skate pal Bas, plus rhythm guitarist Ben Wijers (synth and samples man Aldo came on board later, when they started gigging). Their leader shopped his demos to various labels, eventually finding an ally in Brussels industrial legend Luc Van Acker, of Revolting Cocks fame, who secured the nascent band a recording budget. Although Tim wasn't happy with the album's production - "we sounded like wusses" - 'Outside The Simian Flock' remains a fine debut, fizzing with wit and invention. It certainly made an impact on Josh Homme. As well as inviting the band on tour, he repeatedly offered to produce the follow-up. That promise became a reality in August 2004, when Millionaire decamped to Sound City in Van Nuys. For Tim, being in Los Angeles was a trip in itself. "A lot of my influences are from LA, from The Doors to Guns N' Roses to Beck. I'm a huge Jane's Addiction fan, too. I actually wrote a couple of things while I was in Venice Beach with Eagles Of Death Metal. And it was such a relief to have Josh in the studio, someone we could trust to get a fat sound down.
" Sure enough, "Paradisiac" is loaded with juicy, blood-thick grooves. Songs like "I'm On A High" and the insidious "A Lust Unmatched" are propelled by an enigmatic, hip-swivelling sensuality. It's sexy music - minus the clichés and macho bluster which often blight hard rock. "That's something we share with Queens. We definitely have that feel - sex and death and life. Religion too, sort of. I'm not a practising Catholic or anything, but deep down there's something. Knowing right from wrong." This feeling fuels maniacal closer "A Face That Doesn't Fit" - a Brainiac-wired attack on celebrity culture - and the deliciously twisted "Alpha Male". "It's good to have a theme you can scream when you're angry," says Tim of the latter. "It's aimed at a bunch of people. It could be George Bush at the time, it could be a friend. All the songs are just moments. "Sonically, Millionaire are refreshingly capricious, gleefully mixing the organic and electronic: "I've never been either or with technology. I'm interested in both analogue and digital. I don't want to choose. Someone usually has the main idea for a song. We take that to the rehearsal room to work on the lyrics and so forth. But it's different for each tune - sometimes we jam, some things come from a sample. Sometimes I make a drum track on my computer, then give it to Dave and he makes it his own."
This diversity of spirit is reflected in the band's audience. "I love the people who come to see us! We get everyone from rock kids to 55 year old freaks. No matter how young or old, they want good things from life. They look for the same things as me. They prefer The Rolling Stones to Engelbert Humperdinck."
That fanbase looks set to increase exponentially with "Paradisiac". As Josh Homme says, "It truly is a magnificent album. The music just floats in all possible directions. Some of Tim's songs will make you wonder how on earth music can be so heavy and danceable at the same time."