I’m usually not fazed by death and destruction. As a product of the ‘80s, I was weaned on an unhealthy stream of Rambo, Mad Max and Conan, and built up an obscene tolerance to wonton murder and devastation. It’s not that I don’t have a heart, but I’ve long been able to remove myself from tragedy that unfolds on television.
However, it really hit home when I heard about the recent shooting at the Bataclan Theater in Paris where 90 Eagles of Death Metal fans were killed just because they were enjoying a show. It’s very easy to put myself in the place of those fans, because I go to concerts to escape from the crap of the world and I’m a huge Eagles of Death Metal fan. Had the shooting happened in New York, I would definitely have been there. Even worse, this happened to a band that is the complete opposite of anger and aggression. The Eagles of Death Metal were born to have fun and have done that for the entirety of their career.
I’ve been following the group since they released their first record back in late 2004. I was a huge Queens of the Stone Age fan and bought pretty much anything Josh Homme was doing (including that awful Them Crooked Vultures record). When word came down that he started a garage-rock side project with his childhood friend, Jesse Hughes, I had to hear their record and see them live. After pulling a few strings, I was able to get passes for Allison and me to check them out at an industry event at CBGBs on December 3, 2004. The band (consisting of Jesse, guitarist Dave Catching and a drummer not named Josh Homme) shredded through most of their first album, Peace, Love & Death Metal and melted everyone’s faces during the 45-minute set.
I was instantly smitten and set up an interview with Jesse a few days later. Here’s that bad part. A good chunk of this interview was deleted due to the tape getting eaten. I was pretty bummed about that and never submitted it for publication. The early part of the interview was spent waxing philosophical about Jesse’s previous career as a journalist and how he ditched his corporate life after his wife cheated on him and left him for a friend. He turned to his friends in Queens of the Stone Age to help him get out of his funk and help him live out his lifelong dream of being a rock god.
Below is the rest of the interview along with photos of the band from their 2004 CBGBs show and images from a November 17, 2008 gig at the Bowery Ballroom.
Everyone talks about your name, but it’s clearly a joke. Is it a play on what the Eagles would sound like if they played death metal?
Jesse Hughes: The name came about like this. This is the god’s honest truth. We were in a van with a friend of ours, Cole Lou, who is actually Lou Balls, who was on the Desert Sessions when Eagles of Death Metal first appeared; he is a death metal fanatic. We were all altered with chemicals and he was desperately trying to convince us how tough each new death metal band is that he is playing for us. So we were busting his balls while eating graham crackers and totally stoned — cottonmouth, graham crackers and death metal.
He is going, “dude, listen to this, this is so hard.” And I’m like, “Dude, this isn’t death metal, this is like the Eagles of death metal.” And we all laughed and sprayed crackers out of our mouths and the Eagles of Death Metal were born. Josh showed up the next day, we rocked. The end.
When did the mustache come into existence?
Jesse Hughes: Well it happened like this. About four months before we went on tour with Placebo the mustache arrived and then the gauntlet and cape of rock and roll were given to me on the next day. On the third day, I did rise and I rocked. That’s basically how it happened.
Is it just you and Josh on Peace, Love & Death Metal?
Jesse Hughes: It is, with special guests Queen Bee (Brody Dalle), Alain and Natasha from Eleven and Nick Oliveri. I dreamt about Dave Catching being on it but he was so busy that he couldn’t show up. Claude was writing me secret love letters but he wouldn’t show up. It was a bizarre quagmire of interestingness, so it only ended up being us two.
Speaking of bizarre quagmires, how did you land the Placebo tour?
Jesse Hughes: That was my first tour ever. My first show ever, in a band, was opening for Placebo in Canada. It was weird man. It was a bunch of sad and depressed children showing up to a show to be sad and depressed. And then a band like us show up and they simply can’t deal with us. They were miserable at having to dance and be happy. I like Placebo, but their music doesn’t rock; it just rolls.
Were any of the songs on Peace, Love written beforehand? You guys cranked out this record pretty quickly.
Jesse Hughes: Honestly, like any great rock and roll lottery win, I wrote most those songs the week preceding the recording of the album. Josh had only heard two of those songs ever. When you hear the album, you literally hear Josh hearing the songs for the time and playing them for the very first time and nailing them on the very first take. We did the whole record in three days.
I’ve seen the Queens of the Stone Age live and Josh is a sick guitarist. Was he the first person you considered for the drummer slot?
Jesse Hughes: He’s always been a drummer. That’s part of the concept. The beats are written by a drummer who feels rhythms but doesn’t play drums.
Did you ever have people come to your shows and were shocked that Josh isn’t the singer of the band?
Jesse Hughes: Yeah, but most of the times they shout, “You are so much better than we could have ever imagined. Thank you for rocking me with your mustache.” I wish I could tell you what these adolescent girls told me the other night, but it’s X-rated and your readers won’t be able to see this. Man, I go home with three girls, two of them start dancing with one another and one of them, Little Jilly, leans over and goes, “So what are you going to do about it.” And I showed them and showed them well.
What was it like touring with guitarist Dave Catching?
Jesse Hughes: I’ve known Dave for a long time and I always looked up to him. For me, honestly, as a non-sequitur statement, it’s like playing with my fucking heroes. It really is. And Davey smokes every time. Sometimes I even forget to play because I’m listening to him smoke and ruin the song and bring devastation upon the ears of everyone around. It’s hard for me because I get insecure.
Did you purposely choose not to have a bass player on the record? It seems to be the thing to do these days.
Jesse Hughes: We didn’t do it to ditch the bass player; it was just the secret tuning that I use. We do a little scientific stuff on the tone and approximates bass frequency. It sounded so cool that we didn’t want to fuck with it. The new album that we are getting ready to record next week is not going to discriminate against bass, because I actually really love bass. But on Peace, Love we beefed up the low-end and the drums and let the guitars stand on their own. We definitely don’t want to be compared to the White Stripes because they are so bad ass and the greatest mustache in the history of rock will accept bass any time he can get it.
How far along are you on the new record?
Jesse Hughes: The creative spurt that came with Peace, Love & Death Metal hasn’t stopped. I really am the luckiest and most fortunate guy in the world because A) I get to tour in a band with my best friends in the whole world and some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. B) I get to rock some of the hardest music ever rocked. So I’ve written shitloads of music and we have about 50 songs for the next record to pick from that I think are on par with Peace, Love.
Are you doing anything different with the production this time?
Jesse Hughes: We aren’t going to eliminate the rawness or the urgency, but we are going to record at Sound City in Hollywood, which has history to it. We are going to step up in terms of who performs on the album, because now we have a nest full of eagles. We have Claude, Davey, myself, Joshua and Joey C.
Will you force everyone in the band to get mustaches?
Jesse Hughes: There can only be one mustache in a band.
Does it have a name?
Jesse Hughes: No, but it has named me and given me the name Devil.
Do you have anything else to add?
Jesse Hughes: I’m 6’ 1” and a fun loving guy and I enjoy water sports and hockey. Just kidding. I don’t enjoy water sports because I’m strictly for the ladies. Ladies only.