Nearing the end of a nationwide tour in support of new Queens of the Stone Age album Era Vulgaris, frontman Josh Homme gave us a call from
CraveOnline: Queens’ music has always been full of the thick, groovy hooks, but Era Vulgaris has a bit more swagger than all the others. Was that a conscious decision or state of mind?
Josh Homme: We felt that way this time. Because something had happened with Lullabies where, whether right or wrong, deserved, or undeserved, it was definitely a firewalk, you know? And there was no way to get around it. There was nothing that could be done to stop it.
CraveOnline: The pressure of making a follow-up to Songs for the Deaf?
Josh Homme: Right. We could’ve played like Slayer, and people would’ve been like, ‘you know, that hard edge is gone…’ Instead of attacking that notion by playing hard, it just wasn’t… I couldn’t, man. I couldn’t do it for that very reason. So you just play what you feel, but the war was on. Many people got their opportunity to go ‘These fuckers need to be dropped down a peg, and here we go!’ Instead of trying to stop it, we were like ‘go ahead.’ It’s like knowing you’re going to be jumped, and going into that room anyway, and being like ‘You’re all going to jump me and I’m not going to move.’
CraveOnline: Was there any way around that?
Josh Homme: I didn’t feel like there was. I honestly felt like, whoever we’re going to keep out of this war, whoever’s going to live is going to respect us and respect me more if I just stand here and take it and don’t do anything, you know? And you hope someone notices.
CraveOnline: It must have been validating to survive that as a band.
Josh Homme: Feeling like we survived that did something funny to us. When the last thing is thrown, when the kitchen sink hits you, you check yourself and you say ‘Okay that was it? Alright, f*** this, man. Now I can take it.’ And I honestly think the swagger came from being like, well, they’ll never see this coming. And I think it permeated the music, this ‘I’m gonna dance now’ attitude. I’m gonna dance like Ali, you know? Because it all of a sudden felt like we were a f***** panther in the trees, gonna jump down on everyone and launch into their necks and drink the blood of the virgin…well that’s way too intense. But it felt like we were gonna do something great, man. That was the mood, like, we’re gonna win this thing.
CraveOnline: Do you feel like you accomplished that?
Josh Homme: Yeah, because that victory is in the sound that came out of it. Me,
CraveOnline: Vocally, you’re going places you haven’t gone before on this record. Did you do anything to prepare your voice for the process of doing that?
Josh Homme: No, I don’t do anything really, because it’s mental. I knew with Nick (Oliveri, former Queens bassist) and Mark (Lanegan, occasional
CraveOnline: The security of repetition.
Josh Homme: Right. There is no safe thing. People think that when they’re playing it safe, they’re trying to preserve what they have, but there is no preservation of what you have in music. There’s no safety in music. You’re guaranteed it’s gonna be over faster that way.
CraveOnline: The industry seems to be transitioning into something new, but they don’t seem to know exactly what’s going to work. How does that affect artists right now?
Josh Homme: It’s never been tougher in the business of music than it is now. Because, there’s definitely a transition occurring. From one thing, the old way, to a new way that is actually not defined. It would be one thing if it was a transition into something that was defined, but that lack of definition and the panic of the retarded children at record labels creates this environment of hysteria there.
CraveOnline: How does it affect you?
Josh Homme: I could not f***** care less, because it doesn’t change the struggle. You’re always supposed to fight the fight, or you’re supposed to fuck the king because you’re the king’s whore, you know what I mean? So you’re either trying to kill the king, or trying to blow him, you know? And I’m not sucking any king dick. And that’s the Queen’s promise.
CraveOnline: The quality of popular music seems to work in cycles, where total shit saturates the airwaves and the billboard charts for so long, and then there’s a massive breakthrough. The last time that really happened was when Smells Like Teen Spirit hit radio. It knocked everybody on their asses, because there was nothing like it on radio.
Josh Homme: Abacab…Abacab was being played on the radio. Genesis with Phil Collins was being played on the radio.
CraveOnline: And people freaked the f*** out when Teen Spirit hit radio. It was hysteria, sheer mayhem. That doesn’t seem to happen much anymore with music.
Josh Homme: Well we’re in a neutral time, you know? I’m not worried about it; this will all regulate itself into a new form. People will live and people will die in that transition. But it’s nothing to really worry about. Music is the only thing I’ve ever known that doesn’t have any rules at all. And so the selling and promoting of it should never impact what it is that you do with it. How you do it, what you do, how you make it. Why is it that Jared Leto’s the biggest poser since Fred Durst? The reason is that he’s an actor. People don’t want their actors acting like musicians. Music’s supposed to be real. When it really touches you, it’s supposed to be real. And this is the time more than ever to never shake from what you know. Don’t change why you do it. I’m not changing now because they don’t know how to sell it to you.
CraveOnline: I saw you on the VMA’s back in September with Mastodon, The Foo Fighters, Lemmy and so on. How did Cee-Lo get involved?
Josh Homme: ‘Cause that’s a f***** brilliant idea by Dave Grohl. I mean, I’ve actually never stood around somebody whose voice is that good. It took him a second to get “Make It Witchu” and understand how to do that, but by the end of the song he knew exactly where he was, you know? He’s just got no break in his voice from the low, all the way to the top. I was in awe in the true sense of being in awe. I just thought it was a great move by Dave. That whole situation was a great move by Dave. He set all that up, and MTV wanted nothing to do with who he was asking to be there. And in a moment when he could’ve been a total pussy, he turned and said ‘these people are my people, and if you don’t want to have anything to do with these people, that means you don’t want to have anything to do with me.’ And they basically caved like the pussies they are.
CraveOnline: When will we see another Eagles of Death Metal album?
Josh Homme: We’re recording in my time off. The new album’s called Eagles of Death Metal’s Heart On.
CraveOnline: Are the songs all ready to go?
Josh Homme: Yeah, and they’re f***** strrrrange. Strangely attractive. They’re like an exotic person’s good looks. They’re strangely attractive and alluring and you feel drawn to them, like a bug to a light. It’s everything that is Eagles of Death Metal, and then some. The Eagles you know and love, plus. Aww is that you’re little girl in the background?
CraveOnline: Yeah, she’s singing that “Umbrella” song. Little 17 month old. Greatest thing in the world.
Josh Homme: Aww, that’s so awesome. Congratulations. Mine’s 20 months. She’s in the next room, it’s awesome. There’s none higher. I did all the hard work, man. But you know what though? It’s cooler than changing the strings on your guitar.
CraveOnline: So what do you do when she’s older as far as school when you’re out on tour? Do you home school her?
Josh Homme: The reason I’m not into home schooling is because of how I live my life. I don’t care about stuff. I don’t care about accumulating stuff. It’s never meant much to me. I’m only on the earth because I love people. Relationships that I have, I want to make them stronger. I’ve always thought of this as a social world. Home schooling is too insulated for me. The more you understand people, the better you move through life, to me. The more you really listen and witness people at the same time, really listen, the better life you have and the better life people have around you. And so I want to inundate her with the world as it really is and not what I wish it was. Cause I don’t think what I wish it was is really worth too much (laughs).
CraveOnline: The question I’ve been wrestling with is how much do you shield them from the world? As parents, how long to you hold on to the Santa Claus fantasy and keep them from the grit of life?
Josh Homme: It’s a real delicate balance, isn’t it? The beauty of myth, like Santa Claus, is great because when you’re too young to understand everything, the myth of Santa Claus is a pacifier. But really, Christmas is really celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Now whether you believe in that or not, whether you upgrade the myth is up to you, but at the same time you’re going to walk by junkies on your way to go Christmas shopping. So what’s weird… what’s gonna be hard for me is not picking one but living in both, and the explanation of ‘Yeah, there is no Santa Claus, but I told you because it’s okay to wish for something beautiful.’ You just can’t live there. Santa Claus is not year round.
All I care about for our girls is that they don’t believe that they have to be an object to be worth it. Somebody else doesn’t have to treat her like a trophy for her to feel worthwhile. The confidence that, while you’ll never be perfect, you can be happy with who you are. And somebody else doesn’t need to treat you like a trophy for you to be worth it. It’s gonna be interesting, um, this is the one thing where you can’t blow it. Everything else is… that doesn’t mean you’re not going to fail along the way. I’ve seen a lot of strip bars in my time. I need to never go there and pick up my daughter.
CraveOnline: A running trait among most of those girls is having a father figure that really was…
Josh Homme: A fucking asshole.
Josh Homme: We’ve gotta keep it tight. We’ve got to keep it tight and keep it right and keep it together. I guess the key is being there. We’ve just gotta be there.
CraveOnline: What do you think is important in terms of imparting music tastes onto your kid?
Josh Homme: Music is a pleasure device. It should be used to make you feel good or explain why you feel bad when the words aren’t there to do it. That’s it, and everyone’s got their taste ranger. It’s really not up to you what you like. What she gravitates to. She’s gonna be listening to Roky Erickson all the time, as she already does. So she’s gonna be inundated by the finest music that the world has to offer. Because I’m not concerned about whether I play the finest music, to everyone else, but I know I listen to the finest music. Black Flag to Roky Erickson to Elvis Presley to Roy Orbison…Slayer, I know that I listen to the finest music around. Tom Waits to Bjork.
CraveOnline: Is she a little rocker?
Josh Homme: She’s a killer dancer, man. It’s the best, like the sickest moves ever. I was blown away. Ironically, one of her favorite bands is Brody’s new band, Spinerette. She always goes, like, ‘play some more Mommy working.’
CraveOnline: A lot of bands seem to confuse sensitivity or vulnerability with emasculation. You set a certain example by showing more direct vulnerability, lyrically, on Era Vulgaris. Intentional?
Josh Homme: Jesse Hughes of the Eagles of Death Metal and I have a theory. We’re socially liberal but government conservative guys, but we have this thing about the emasculation of the American male where all these chicks for years have been like, ‘get in touch with your feelings’, and all these guys are listening to that, and then these girls are like ‘Holy shit this guy’s a total pussy.’ She says ‘What movie do you want to go to?’, and then the guy goes, ‘Whatever you want to go to.’ And I’m like, eww, no man. No. No, no no. I’m not emasculated, and neither is Jesse. And then on top of that, I’m also 34 years old and I know who I am, and I’m comfortable with it. So being vulnerable is a good idea. It doesn’t change who I am, you know? It doesn’t define my character, it reveals it a little more.
CraveOnline: You’re coming from a different place than you may have been seven or eight years ago.
Josh Homme: Right. I think at this point in my life I can’t necessarily write “Monsters in the Parasol”, which is about me tripping on LSD. I’ve been there. But I can write about what it’s like when you stand there with your palms facing up, looking at ‘em and going, ‘what happened?’ I want someone else to feel like they understand what that is, so it’s got to be as vulnerable as possible. I’m f***** around right now ‘cause I love to have a good time, but I’ve got enough scars to know what it’s like to get hit.
CraveOnline: When you’re writing, do you have pre-set lyrics that you fit a song around, or is it an organic growth from the music itself?
Josh Homme: The best habit is no habit, because I want something to be able to happen that hasn’t before. So it’s important for me not to give too much credence to how it happens, but to chase it when it does. Music is about pushing against a wall, and when you hit a soft spot, breaking some shit.
CraveOnline: I’ve heard your sound referred to as Halloween music.
Josh Homme: I like that. I’m not sure it’s a compliment, but I like it because Halloween is the most visually stunning holiday for me. It’s spooky, and it’s full of the earthtones, you know? And I like music that evokes a color and an emotion and a visual and a taste and smell if possible? I like it to attack me. Like, Elliot Smith music attacks me. It doesn’t have to be hard to do that. I like something that’s really proactive, that comes at me.
CraveOnline: So where do Queens go from here?
Josh Homme: Ever forward. We’re gonna tour for a while. There’s a lot of places we haven’t gone in years. With Lullabies we almost didn’t tour at all, so we’re gonna go play for a while.
Photo: Johnny Firecloud