I can’t think of a band that would be more fun to rock with than the Eagles Of Death Metal. They’re like vikings on ecstasy, fiercely devoted to the cause (rocking your shit) with tongue planted firmly in cheek all the while, and a mandate of fun across the board. Constructed by Jesse “The Devil” Hughes and Queens Of the Stone Age Papa Grande Josh Homme deep under the influence of a lifelong friendship and rock comradery, the Eagles have three albums of bluesy white-boy sex rock under their belts, brimming with swagger, flash and more than a few sexually suggestive metaphors.
Jesse Hughes may be the less-famous co-pilot of this pirate ship, but anyone who’s seen an Eagles Of Death Metal show will tell you that he’s the personality centerpiece of this band. Cocksure and radiantly eager for the kill, the tattooed, muscle-shirted, aviator-wearing Hollywood history buff makes no bones about what he’s here to do. An EODM concert is nothing short of a foot-stomping, ass-shaking, tits-flashing grand old time with Jesse at the wheel, always ready with a wink and a devilish grin beneath his 70’s cop mustache.
And goddamnit, that’s exactly how a rock star should be.
The Eagles’ third album, Heart On, was released just a few weeks ago (Oct 21), and it’s an easy contender for the best record of 2008. We tracked down Hughes to discuss, among other things, the pitfalls and perils of LA, his new solo album (tentatively titled Fabulous Weapons) and the perils of being sodomized by P. Diddy. That’s right.
Antiquiet: You’re rockin’ my hometown tonight (Detroit). You there yet?
Jesse Hughes: Yeah, we’re here. Can’t wait to get the blood pumpin’, cause it’s fuckin’ freezing in this town. I’m rockin’ the long johns for this journey.
Antiquiet: You should wear ’em onstage. They’ll definitely get on well with the ladies.
Jesse Hughes: Well, see that’s the thing, I want ’em to come off with the ladies.
Antiquiet: Well, who knows? They’re a different breed out there, they might be appreciative. Detroit sure as hell aint LA.
Jesse Hughes: Dude, you know what? It sure as shit isn’t LA. There’s nothin’ LA. about this place. But that’s kinda what I like about it.
Antiquiet: I can relate. Now with Heart On, the production value this time around has really been stepped up from the previous two records. Was that a conscious decision between you and Josh, or a natural progression?
Jesse Hughes: Well, it kinda happened on its own a weird way. We recorded in a bunch of different studios all over the world, and at one point, when we’d already gotten most of the record down, we hit that sweet little Goldilocks spot where everything just felt perfect in the sound. So then we had to go back and rework everything else to fit that tone.
Antiquiet: Was it a frustrating experience, having to go back and redo everything?
Jesse Hughes: Really man, we just truly truly truly wanted to make the best album we possibly could. This album had to step it up from the last one, and once we got to that point, it was one of those Eureka! We found it! moments.
The first two albums were really just Joshua putting a bubble around me so I could develop, you know? And I feel like his production was restrained because I wasn’t able to give an equal share to the process and development. But this record is the shit, man. This is what it’s all about. We couldn’t be happier. And Josh, really… I’ve got this theory about the record business. There’s a lot of magicians out there in the music industry, man. Lots of tricks and flashy distractions. But my friend Josh Homme is a wizard.
Antiquiet: So let’s talk about LA. Heart On really seems to step away from the previous two records in that it’s much less about celebrating chicks and sex rock, and more of a love story about Los Angeles.
Jesse Hughes: That’s true. That’s exactly it. The first two albums are celebrating the joy of sex, and this one is about hitting that slipstream in Los Angeles. Swimming strong when you’ve got sinkers far as the eye can see.
Antiquiet: Now I’m A Fool stands out for me- it takes you to a serene kind of place that not many rock songs can. The lyrics have nothing to do with this, but it just strikes me as the perfect Sunday morning song, driving down Sunset to PCH after a night of hard livin’. How did that song get built?
Jesse Hughes: When I’m writing most of my songs, they normally start in the car. Because I don’t live in LA, and I normally drive into Los Angeles about four times a week. Sometimes in Hollywood, the second you engage in a relationship, it becomes a public, different animal, and you end up losing that person forever.
Antiquiet: As a fan, I just want to thank you for making an amazing record.
Jesse Hughes: I’ll send you the demos so you can see where it starts. Watching what Joshua does- watching him at work is a blessing.
Antiquiet: What’s the witching hour in Los Angeles?
Jesse Hughes: What’s the magic hour? Sometime around 1:45 AM. That’s my hour, dude. It’s the midnight creature hour, for sure. But what ends up happening is that the city empties out, so you’re able to traverse greater distances, and what ends up happening for me, cause I’m kind of a history buff of Hollywood, like hey, this is where Glenn Frey freaked out on cocaine and was chased by the cops for two hours. And for me, because I’m kind of a romantic, when you’re occupying the physical space of your heroes, you kind of experience a moment of it, in some vicarious way. That’s something you don’t get to see or experience when you’re stuck in traffic having some asshole threaten to sue you or shoot you.
Antiquiet: How do you avoid the Sunset trap? It can be a nits and grits kind of place if you don’t have your armor on. To glide above the sleaze and the grease.
Jesse Hughes: LA’s weird man, people really travel by habit. So many roads are unused at the same time of day, and there’s traveling roads.
Antiquiet: I didn’t mean so much as traffic as the warts and Hollywood monsters.
Jesse Hughes: Oh, yes. The actual traps. Well, I’ve become a hooker for a Russian gangster and my daddy protects me. Hey what are you wearing right now? Me and the boys want to know.
Antiquiet: So happy you asked. My kid’s got a fever, so the goal of the day is to keep her laughing. I’ve got on an old, puffy, cookie-monster blue robe, an Elmer Fudd hat and some Kanye sunglasses.
Jesse Hughes: Dude, are you at an American Apparel photo shoot right now?
Antiquiet: Nope, just doin’ my job as a dad.
Jesse Hughes: Right on, I’ve got a kid too. When they’re sick at that age, it’s so cute cause all you gotta do is keep em laughing. I’m keeping everybody laughing, walking around Detroit in my long johns.
Antquiet: I miss long johns, man. I miss weather. Not this burning skies and snowing ash bullshit- I’m talking about actual seasons. I come from a place where there’s thunderstorms and lightning and it actually gets fucking cold in the wintertime. Out here it’s hot, not quite so hot, and kinda warm.
Jesse Hughes: I love that- “I come from a land where there’s thunder and lightning. Where men wield lightning bolts and fight off the heathens.”
Antiquiet: Yeah, we’re a different breed, out there.
Jesse Hughes: I’m with you, man, believe me. It started in Minneapolis. I’m being dead serious. And I guess this why the album’s called Heart On. These fucking crowds are the best, man. It aint fuckin’ LA and you know that immediately. They want to fuckin’ rock, they wanna party, they’re not worried about what anyone fuckin’ thinks, and if they don’t like the rock, you’re doomed. And that’s the best fuckin thing to go up against.
Antiquiet: I saw a video a while back talking about the election. Something tells me you weren’t one of the people running through the streets, crying and screaming over Obama winning.
Jesse Hughes: No, I was one of the people running and crying in the streets. I was just crying for different reasons. Because we just elected a communist to the highest office in the land, simply because he wasn’t a Republican. I still don’t know reasons why we voted for him. I know why we didn’t elect the other guy, but that doesn’t make any sense. You can’t be a communist and a free thinker at the same time.
Antiquiet: Don’t you think it might take someone that far to the left to offset the balance of the neocon movement and unchecked corporate pillaging?
Jesse Hughes: I think it’s because we’ve been deceived and confused into thinking in left and right, when we should only be thinking in terms of right and wrong. And when you don’t think in terms of right and wrong, you voluntarily allow for propaganda and deceit. I’m talking about the same people who believed Bill Clinton and when it turned out he was lying they spent the rest of their political lives making excuses for the criminal. I don’t see that setup being any different here.
Aside from that, I think it just proves what maybe was possible all along. Maybe this country isn’t as racist as we think it is. You know what I mean? And I think that’s a fuckin great thing. But on the other hand, a dude who wants to give everyone free fuckin’ lunch doesn’t impress me much. The highest office in the land puts him in charge of the military. Something this man hates, by record. He hates it. And what has the motherfucker ever done in his life besides get elected? Cause that’s all he’s done. He’s really good at it.
Besides, I wanted to get down with Sarah Palin, and now I don’t get to have that fantasy in my face every day. That’s a bummer.
Antiquiet: Palin was just offered $2 million to be in a porno.
Jesse Hughes: $2 million? That’s an insult. If they offered her $15 million, and a false promise of secrecy, then they could get her to do it and trap her in it forever. That’s the way to do it. Blackmail her.
Jesse Hughes: Oh, good, you got my joke- get it? Black male… to hell with Nailin’ Paylin. But I wanna talk politics for another second here. Do you see how lame it is when politics gets into rock n’ roll, and suddenly it turns an entertainer into a preacher without God. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s kind of unfair to get people to come to your rock show with promises of hot chicks and dancing and then Dixie Chick ’em, you know what I’m saying?
Antiquiet: How do you reconcile that with your views?
Jesse Hughes: I’m not gonna lie to ’em. When someone asks me, I’m not gonna tell ’em that just because movie stars are into communists, I’m gonna be. I don’t feel inclined to follow that trail. I like people more than I like politics, man. And to me it’s more important to not miss out on relationships and experiences with my friends just because our politics differ. And it doesn’t matter if their politics are sometimes more conducive to hard-headedness. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll easily be the first one to withdraw. My favorite politician, by the way- I won’t tell you who he was, but he was a very famous politician and pragmatist. The story is that he was walking along a very narrow sidewalk in a thunderstorm, and the gutters were full, and his political enemy was coming from the opposite direction. His enemy stopped short and glared at him, and said “I never step aside for a scoundrel.” And the politician tipped his hat, stepped into the gutter, and said “I always do.” Be the first one to step in the gutter, man. Just keep movin. I’m not gonna stop and bend ears for an asshole anytime, know what I mean? And quite frankly, anyone offering me free all-you-can-drink lemonade if I vote for ’em is an asshole. Cause I know they’re gonna give me a cup, pour a little bit of lemonade in the bottom and say “that’s all you can drink.”
Antiquiet: So how does God play into rock n’ roll?
Jesse Hughes: That’s an interesting question. I love it. This is a cool interview, man, because I’m getting to talk about the shit I wanna talk about. God factors into rock n’ roll. God factors into everything we do whether we believe it or not, agree with it or not – it doesn’t fucking matter. He doesn’t give a shit whether you believe in him or not. It’s still gonna happen. He is the great and ultimate parent. It doesn’t fucking matter what we want. And a lot of times, simply because we dress our eyes up so we can’t see him anymore, we think that means something. That doesn’t mean shit. And based upon that principle, I break the rules, I got that. That’s fine. I just don’t need to make the rules wrong in order to do it. I don’t need to pretend that God doesn’t exist in order to sin. I like sinnin’. And I like sinnin’ more when I know it’s really wrong.
Antiquiet: How does Boots Electric repent?
Jesse Hughes: That part’s easy. I go to church, and I say “Lord, forgive me.” And it’s all forgiven.
Antiquiet: That doesn’t strike you as a little too cut-and-dry simple?
Jesse Hughes: You and I both know that people in LA go out of their way to make things difficult. People in Hollywood will make their own lives miserable and confounded simply so they don’t have to accept the fact that they suck as an actor.
Antiquiet: Well there’s a lot of self-hatred, self-loathing going on, and no amount of tabloid features or plastic surgery is going to help that.
Jesse Hughes: How many people do you know that are from Hollywood? I don’t know many.
Antiquiet: I‘ve lived in Southern California ten years now- I don’t know any.
Jesse Hughes: The best friends I’ve met in Hollywood, the best and finest in the business, live in fuckin’ Joshua Tree anyway. Or in Silverlake, in a beautiful home that was just rebuilt after a fire. And I’m talking about Mr. Joey Castillo, ladies and gentlemen.
Antiquiet: Nice. Joey’s on drums for this tour, right?
Jesse Hughes: Dude, listen. I’m the fuckin luckiest hillbilly on the face of the Earth to be in this touring band right now, with this cast of criminals. Castillo… he’s one of the fuckin reasons I wrote Wannabe In LA, dude. Cause LA is the great irony of my life. How it is that I came to the phoniest fucking environment ever made by man, Hollywood, and was able to find the best examples of friendship, integrity, truth… I was able to find role models and a family of friends who’ve looked out for me above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. That shit doesn’t happen everyday, and you’d be an asshole to miss that.
Antiquiet: You wrote the songs for Heart On as far back as two years ago- are you writing now and looking to the future, or just marinating in the moment?
Jesse Hughes: I like to be prepared. To me, there’s nothing new under the sun, so I’m always stealing songs from the best. The way I’m looking at it now is that Heart On is the vision of the future for me. And I intend to go through that looking glass. I’ve recorded most of my solo album, which is tentatively titled Fabulous Weapons.
Antiquiet: What’s it sound like?
Jesse Hughes: I’ll tell you what- it sounds a lot more like my Heart On demos. I’ll send those to you so you can see the difference between finished product and the seedlings. Computers make things really rad. You can have a more fully realized idea than you ever could before, with the use of Garageband. I’m more Parliament-oriented and a purist when it comes to my beats. I’ve always had a grand vision of putting out an album that can serve as proof that rock n’ roll is an attitude, and real hip-hop is just rock n’ roll as Led Zeppelin in a way. Without having P. Diddy buttfuck you on national television.