Earlier in the week, Jesse Hughes talked to me on the phone from Arizona. We covered a lot of ground in 15 minutes — Josh Homme's absence on tour, rollerblading, the Left's "Nazi-like grip" on the music biz, mustaches. Read on.
The new record sounds good—a little cleaner than past albums, but still grimy a good way.
That’s because I’m a filthy son of a bitch.Y’all are known pretty widely at this point, but you know, when I was talking about this show coming up, my wife was surprised I wanted to see a band called Eagles of Death Metal. Do you get death metal folks at your shows ever, anybody that thinks it’s a bait and switch because of the name?
No, but we’ve gotten some death threats from some Norweigan death metal bands, but the bait in switch is, we offered you death metal and instead we gave you a good time.So, I’ve heard some conflicting reports, is Josh [Homme] playing these gigs with you?
Hell, no. I’ll let him play with my band when he lets me come play with his.Well, that kind of does seem like a bait and switch since he’s in all the pictures with you and in all the promo material focuses on your friendship.
The friendship doesn’t have to manifest itself onstage. Joshua and me are best friends and we do everything together, but Eagles of Death Metal is something that’s sourced from me, but because we need him to do Queens of the Stone Age and because he is the captain of our gang, his duties often require that he be up for it. Once you think of Eagles of Death Metal as a supergroup, you never know who you’re going to get, and besides once they show up and see this amazing mustache they’re not going to remember anything else. [Laughs]
You do have a pretty king mustache. Do you have any tips on growing or maintaining one?
You have to be from the Grand Ole South. You have to have a [unintelligible] for Doc Holiday and a dedicated membership to the Sons of Confederacy doesn’t hurt. You were born in South Carolina and schooled there, too, but you’ve spent most of your life out west, right?
Yes, but I was a true example of a “you can take the boy out of the South” but you can’t take the “South out of the boy.” And because I moved to the Southern California desert, I was immediately different and got picked on, so it really helped me to think everyone in Southern California sucked. Hedonism is a pretty central theme in your lyrics. I know you’ve done a stint in rehab. Is it hard to rock out and sing about the fast life when you’re abstaining?
Rehab taught me a lot of stuff. It also taught me how to do drugs better, I guess. I can’t understand how someone takes responsibility by pretending something isn’t there fault because of a disease. I’ve always been the sort of dude, if something sucks, I stop. You’ve got several nicknames—The Devil, Boots Electric—where’d they come from?
Boots electric came from the fact that I used to rollerblade and Joshua loves to make fun of the fact that I loved to rollerblade, so he used to call me “foo-boots,” and when we started rockin’ in the band, I didn’t want such a fruity nickname, so he rechristened me Boots Electric. Nice. Do you still rollerblade?
As much as I can. Mostly as an act of defiance. Do you have fancy rollerblades?
I got fancy-dancy rollerblades. What about the Devil?
I was always really little in school, but I didn’t take to being picked on to well, so I would get revenge in the only ways that I could, which required a lot of imagination and cruelty, so Joshua, I think it was our junior year in high school was beholding one of my schemes and said, “You’re the damn devil, dude.” Is the tepid public response to “Chinese Democracy” cosmic justice for Axl’s “Pigeons of Shit Metal” crack?
I’d like to think so, but I think more than likely it’s cosmic justice for his renouncement of the gods of rock, so to speak. That whole incident made my career, my man. It gave my dear friend and ally, Dave Grohl, an opportunity to say, “Being disapproved of by Axl is like being knighted by the Queen.” That changed everything for us. It was like we went up against Axl and won. The “uns” and the “oses” left Guns N Roses and it was just G’n’R. The rock went to Velvet Revolver. I think the greatest coup I can ever imagine would be Axl and I making a Pigeons of Shit Metal record. [Laughs] Well maybe that’s next. What else is he going to do, spend another 13 years making another album no one much cares about?
“North Korean Democracy,” that could be another one. You’ve got a lot of famous fans—you mentioned Dave Grohl, Kat Von D, Jack Black. Those all kind of make sense. Anyone off-the-wall you’ve found out is a fan?
Val Kilmer. I love that. Meatloaf. He just covered “I Want You So Hard.” It’s on YouTube
. It’s rad. That’s like winning an award. Is this your first time in Little Rock?
Not my first time, but my first time in rock’n’roll. I’m excited. I’ve always wanted to play through the south because I make Southern rock whether anyone really realizes it. Booty-shakin’ music was made for the South. The South was made for booty-shakin' music and I’ve come to shake booties. You worked for Gannet out of college, right?
Yep. What did you cover?
I wanted to do politics, but I kept getting stuck on the fucking entertainment desk. But I started a couple of my own underground magazines. That’s kind of what I saw myself as doing—being the new face of the conservative party. So like pamphlets?
They were underground. They were everything that High Times should be, but isn’t anymore. Being a Republican and a conservative to me doesn’t mean that you’re not hip, it just means that you believe in total freedom. That’s more like libertarian, right?
But I have to vote for the person more likely to be attuned and do something. Libertarians are ineffectual, and it would be too much of an abuse of my psyche to constantly be on the losers party. Why do we not find more Republicans in rock? There’s you, the Nuge and Dee Dee Ramone and then there’s pretty slim pickin’s.
Because the rest of us are too scared to open our mouths because they’re afraid our careers will be gone because of the sort of Nazi like clinch the left wing has on it with goose-stepping and everything. You think?
Magic fucking monkeys are what we came from, not a God. Somehow the concept of global warming, where the globes gonna get so hot it’s gonna freeze, can be cured by paying more at the gas pump. That’s just bullshit. So have you talked to other rock stars, who’ve told you, “Man I’m with you, you’re speaking the truth, I just can’t get out there and say it.”
All the time. But I don’t really like talking about it too much. Because that’s a bait and switch, I’ll never go for, the come dance, and I’ll tell you who to vote for. To tell you how shitty you are if you don’t vote for this guy, and tell you that actors somehow know more about who to vote for than real-life fucking people. But don’t you think you have influence over people?
I hope that if it’s any influence it’s by example. A lot of people say stuff, but I don’t like saying stuff just because its expedient or convenient or may encourage my inclusion in a press junket. What would be like and example of an action that you’d hope people would see and follow?
I own my own business. I pay my employees. I don’t believe health insurance is a scare. When I go to the doctor, I go to an urgent care. I pay my own bills, and I don’t want anything for free. Do you think you have any future in politics?
If a dude with this many tattoos and this horny a reputation has any place in politics, then maybe.But I have much more fun than shaking my dick and dancing than I do dealing with a bunch of serpents and two-faced liars in a city I wouldn’t go to on vacation. What should people expect from the show on Friday?
We’re going to end dependence on foreign oil and stop global warming dead in its tracks. Beyond that, we’re hoping that more people will conceive babies than in any other night in the history of the city. I just hope everything has a good time.