Josh Homme is not what you’d call a soft-spoken guy. Locked in a Detroit hotel room, the Queens Of The Stone Age frontman answers the phone by yelling “Johnny Firecloud!” over and over again. We’ve never spoken before, yet he greets me like a long lost drinking buddy, the conversational equivalent of a fireworks show inside your living room. The head Queen refuses to call Detroit by its proper name throughout the interview, instead pronouncing it “Day-twaa” because “I’m trying to help it. The city needs my help.” All of this seems rather natural as we discuss – through much laughter – the new QOTSA record, Trent Reznor, Radiohead and Homme’s focused hatred for the record industry.
Antiquiet: Why isn’t the song Era Vulgaris on the album?
Josh Homme: A couple reasons. We wanted to give something to our fanclub kids that was good enough to be on the record. I loved watching our record company squirm and go, ‘Our marketing plan!’ when I could’ve gotten Trent (Reznor, who did backing vocals) to be on the album. I also liked that the title track wouldn’t be on the album.
Antiquiet: How was the process of recording with Trent?
Josh Homme: Piece of cake, man, he’s awesome. He and I have a different relationship, apparently, than he has with other people. He’s the sort of dude that does something funny, and doesn’t even act like he did until I start laughing, and then he’ll give me a smirk like ‘haha, you know it, fucker.’
Antiquiet: You two have worked together before, but nobody’s heard it yet.
Josh Homme: I sang something on Year Zero that he didn’t end up using. He wanted me to sing the chorus of this really beautiful song. So our relationship is good ’cause it’s like, you tell me what you need, and I will do that. When it’s not right, you tell me how to do it right and I’ll do it. It was definitely a tit-for-tat situation. I’m definitely gonna work with Trent again. I’d love to have him produce tracks. He’s got a great style.
Antiquiet: Is the Queens sound a conscious or deliberate atmosphere?
Josh Homme: The thing is, that’s from years of doing whatever you want. Everything you do is habit-forming. You will form a habit of one style or another. And it might as well be getting people used to the notion that you’re going to do whatever you want. ‘Cause all the other habits include cow-towing to what somebody else wants. And there’s never a time to do that in music. As I understand it, your obligation is to play your favorite music that no one else plays, so you have to. And my favorite music is hooky, quirky, arty, dark, surprising, heavy, groovy, soft, emotional but not emo. It wears a sweater because it’s cold, not because it’s stylistically there.
Antiquiet: And it doesn’t try to fit into girl pants.
Josh Homme: Yeah, like there’s enough room for your cock and balls in your pants. And it’s in touch with its feelings, but it’s not a fucking pussy, man. Like, I need Lee Marvin, and I need Robert Mitchum. But I don’t need Sylvester Stallone, unless it’s Tango And Cash, ’cause that movie is fucking awesome. Or unless it’s my new steak cologne called Stologne.
Antiquiet: What are your thoughts on Radiohead’s name-your-price approach to selling their new album?
Josh Homme: I think it’s working great for them. I think they’re doing a really cool job of it and a really cool thing. Not everyone is Radiohead. You’re talking about one of the finest working bands in the world. So it’s tough to transpose a situation that works for the finest rock n’ roll band in the world and sort of move it around the cabin. If you were in a band no one knew, that wouldn’t work so well.
Antiquiet: What do you think of the album?
Josh Homme: In Rainbows? I think it’s fucking awesome. The single they released was like, they’re playing fast, right on, let’s fucking do this man. They’re grooving. That song’s got a real ethereal arrangement, it just kind of comes out of a jam and keeps moving, and little things get stacked on top of what we hear before something else gets taken away, you know? It’s very cool. We were in New York when we heard the first single, and we were like shit, they’re haulin’ ass, that’s awesome.
Antiquiet: When more big bands get free of their contracts and start to do it their own way, how do you think the labels are going to react to losing their grip on what’s been their cash cow for so long?
Josh Homme: Fuck the labels man, they suck. The last thing they’re stripping down is their own expense accounts and shit. I mean, Jimmy Iovine of Interscope Records takes a private jet or rides first class to tell a band they don’t get tour support. You know what I mean? Fuck that shit, I’m tired of it. And I’m not gonna be quiet because the American label, not Canada, not Europe, but our American label’s fucking us like crazy, so fuck them. Why should I not say anything, what am I afraid of? I’m not afraid of them. One of the things most notable about us is how we work. You could not like the music, you can do anything you want, but we work and there’s no changing that fact. And all I want to do is what we agreed upon. And I’m not even bitter, people say labels are evil, no. They’re just lame. I can’t download my music from the Interscope website, because they gave that power away to iTunes.
Antiquiet: Sounds pretty backwards.
Josh Homme: Sounds like a bunch of fucking idiots to me. Sounds like you don’t know your business at all. If we were selling shoes, it wouldn’t be like ‘you evil shoe selling fucks.’ It would be like, ‘how come you’re trying to sell shoes to cows?’ You know? I THINK OF INTERSCOPE AND ALL THESE LABELS AS THE BIGGEST FUCKING IDIOTS ON THE PLANET. And print that in capitals, because they can’t do anything to me. That’s the difference. The reason is because finally, for once, the fact that this is just their job and this is my life does a flip flop on them because they can’t stop me from being me and from playing, but they can lose their jobs and have to fucking work at Shakey’s pizza like they should’ve all along. I’m really sad for the days of the glorified groupie with the fucking hundred thousand dollar expense accounts. They’d drop bunches of bands before they would ever cut their expense accounts. And the fact of the matter is that everyone should play music because it’s such a beautiful gift. It’s my religion. But maybe not everyone should play it in front of me. It’s okay to play music in your rocking chair or whatever.
Antiquiet: Well who filters out the bullshit? Someone with better taste?
Josh Homme: There’s so many bands today. What we do in Queens is we make it tough to get in the door, so once you’re in, you’re safe and you can do your thing. That concept is old as dirt. But what labels have done is let anyone in the door, try to throw it all up against the wall, and stick to what sticks. But they don’t know who they’re selling their shit to, you know? So instead of making it tougher to get in the door and having some quality control, ’cause they don’t know what quality is, they’re looking to somebody else, saying ‘is this good?’ ‘Yes, it is.’ So I say fuckin’ start the first fire with their kindling.
Antiquiet: It will be interesting to see what bands do beyond that. Trent Reznor and Saul Williams just did the same thing with Saul’s new album, and now that Trent’s free from Interscope, he’s bound to take it to the next level.
Josh Homme: That’s such a great example. Trent basically did what I’m doing. He was like ‘Interscope sucks my dick.’ ‘Cause they do. I know, ’cause I’m looking down at them right now. Even what they did was lame. They’re like, ‘Instead of doing a good job, we’ll let you go. And we get a little piece of what you’re doing ’cause we know you’ll work on it more passionately than we will, so we’d rather have a little piece of your passion than a big piece of our apathy.’ The fact of the matter is, they’re right. For the first time ever they’re admitting what they are: Not a very good work force.
Antiquiet: The passion’s all at the bottom of the food chain.
Josh Homme: All the kids, like the girl that hooked us up with this interview probably does more work than Jimmy Iovine because she’s in the nuts and bolts of what goes on in Interscope. The underpaid, overworked section of Interscope. The interns and assistants and people that are starting out. I’m ranting because I know what I’m talking about. I’m also beyond pissed, as in not pissed, because I kinda figure they just don’t know better by now. It’s like when a dog shits in the house, you can hit ’em with a paper but they really don’t know what the fuck happened. How can retarded kids know to not throw a Frisbee at the forehead of another retarded kid?
Antiquiet: How can they not be aware?
Josh Homme: I’m past the point where figuring it out has any meaning because I already know stuff that they apparently don’t know. And I only know it because I almost tripped on it walking in the front door. I don’t mind saying this shit because I’m a free spirit, man. If you think you can hold me down, best of luck to you. They don’t have the skill to hold me down.