Getting Intimate with Josh Homme
By: Andrew Bruss
For Homme, the group’s gravitational center, his musical roots start in the deserts of Southern California where he founded Kyuss in the grunge laden early ’90s. The group soon disbanded, and from the ashes Homme formed Queens of the Stone Age, a kinky hard rock outfit that’s gradually seen a significant change in their sound, as well as their lineup.
QOTSA spent their first few albums working closely with bassist Nick Oliveri until a falling out left the group’s leadership entirely in Homme’s hands. Following Oliveri’s departure, their fourth album, Lullabies to Paralyze, was met with critical acclaim and seen by many Queens fans as a bold new direction. This summer saw the release of Era Vulgaris, a freaky, tweaked out trip through the always-interesting mind of Homme, and was once again seen as a far-out step in the right direction.
For one reason or another, several months after the traditional publicity campaign for Vulgaris was complete, Homme dispatched word that he wasn’t done talking. Seizing the opportunity, JamBase caught up with Homme to discuss everything from his media friendly tendencies to creative habits and even his experiences with groupies.
JamBase: It seems like you enjoy doing press and giving interviews, which is pretty rare in this business.
Josh Homme: I enjoy it?
JamBase: Well, it seems like you’re pretty willing to do it where many artists find it to be a hassle.
JamBase: You’ve become known as a guy who can give a pretty good quote. Do you ever feel this creates pressure to keep an interview lively or make a provocative statement here or there?
Josh Homme: One of my hobbies is being a smart ass, and I just like to mess with language, so I never worry about that. I just talk. It’s always in the interaction with somebody, and trying to find a way to say something that you’ve said before.
What keeps you occupied while you’re on the road? The time spent on and off the stage seems pretty unbalanced.
I always look for something. It’s sort of like trying to chase down a scent you’ve never smelt before. I try to keep myself moving at all times, and keep myself looking for anything that I’ve never done before. It doesn’t matter how perverse it is, whether it’s a movie or going to a bookstore or what used to be a record store – which is pretty hard [to find] right now – to playing WhirlyBall in Atlanta.
You’ve said in past interviews that as you’ve traveled around the world you’ve felt like a scientist learning about the world we live in. What do you feel you’ve learned about America as a culturally diverse country? Whether it’s Southern California or New England, do you feel there’s a consistent, defining characteristic of the United States?
As far as geography goes, it seems as though the deserts of Southern California have played a pretty big role in the development of Queens Of the Stone Age. Coincidentally, it seems that with your music, you’re big on themes, or what some folks might call concept albums. So, I’m curious how you feel that you’re connection to the desert has seeped into the music you’ve made over the years.
What I love about the desert is what I love about any situation. The best way to put it is you’re not in a hurry in the desert. You get the chance to make a completed thought. Which is why I think, more accidentally than anything else, Queens’ records are kind of the amalgam of an idea in total. It’s not really a delivered concept record but they end up being a completed thought, or a certain examination of a certain thing. That’s why it’s never like 2112 [by Rush]. The desert is more like getting a chance to really look at something without the hurried pressure lots of cities have. When you’re in the city you’ve got to get it on or get swallowed. I don’t feel like that time pressure is the same in the desert.
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Do you feel as a songwriter that you’re looking to tell a story or tale? Or do you feel that your music is more of a strict expression of the way you feel at a certain moment in time or maybe a certain experience or theme at large, for that matter?
Is there anything in the past that you’ve utilized to help maintain the reality of your music when you may have felt that it was taking on a fake nature? What’s something that you’ve used to help bring things back to Earth?
Ultimately, it always needs to have a root in something. The one analogy I’ve used a lot to explain, but never actually used in song, is the amount of time you sit around on tour or being in a band is amazing. The amount of time I look at a doorknob – or a door handle probably sounds better – and just stared at it and hoped it would turn so someone interesting would come through the other side, and I’ve always thought, “Man, I need to write a song about the door handle that turns and what’s on the other side.” And I never have. It doesn’t have to be something with a resolve, where it goes “The end” and people live happily ever after. It just needs to be a representation of a real moment in time. When you start saying to yourself, “Here’s this door handle and why won’t someone…” it takes on another life. Why can’t it be someone I care about on the other end? Why is it always someone I never know? That, to me, is a story in and of itself. So, I think what’s important is that a song comes from something small because it usually has a shot at having a bigger connotation to it.
So for you a song has a snowball effect, in the sense that it starts out as something small and you build something bigger around it?
Yeah because I think that songwriting is chasing.
What do you mean by that?
You’re the only original member of the group now. Is it fair to say that the lineup you’ve got is something you’re happy with right now? Or do you feel that the lineup of Queens of the Stone Age is something that’s going to consistently keep changing?
To be honest, I never deliberately changed it. With each lineup, I’ve always thought, “I hope this one lasts forever.” It’s such a difficult thing to find really talented people that accent everything really well and you can live with after. Each time someone has stayed or been thrown from the cart, it’s been a group decision. Whoever’s in Queens that’s the group, you know? I know it’s got to look from the outside like I’m this tyrant who runs it but we don’t play a song unless everyone supports it. There’s no point in doing something if someone isn’t backing it. You really have to develop that relationship of saying, “No, I really want you to say what you think. I really want you to add what you think to this mix.” And when it comes to people, if I’m coming to your house to tell you it’s time to go you’ve probably been fucking up for at least a year.
You just tossed out the notion that you’re a tyrant ruling over the group with an iron fist. That seems far from the truth but is it fair to say that Queens of the Stone Age is your band?
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Even with all of the rock bands in the world, we’re short of actual rock stars. I’m talking about Pete Townshend trashing his guitar, Led Zeppelin and their infamous mud shark incident, Iggy Pop literally walking over an audience. As someone known as a rather colorful rock ‘n’ roll personality, what do you think it takes to be a rock star?
You just mentioned you don’t like the term “rock star” but in the years since you’ve achieved stardom what are some of the perks you’ve come into? A lot of people dig being recognized or the groupies or even getting to play in nicer venues. What is you’re favorite thing about your rise in notoriety?
If I could be 100-percent honest…
That’s what I’m looking for.
I used to shy away from as much of that stuff as possible because of what I call the “They Theory.” What will they say? What will they do? The minute you say to yourself, “They will never be happy” and if I met them I’d be like, “Man, those guys are dicks,” then you sort of release yourself from all that. Some of the perks are playing beautiful venues. We play these beautiful theaters all over the place. It sounds great and you have a chance to have all this production, and I love trying to make someone’s jaw drop. In the past, before I was married, [I was into] groupies. That shit, it was awesome. Anyone who says it isn’t is totally lying. This notion that you could hook up with some beautiful girl, that’s an amazing thing. It gets strange and old after a while, when you’re like “Wow, this is just some weird warm hole,” and that’s it.
Was there ever a moment when you had a beautiful girl in bed with you and you remember specifically thinking, “Wow, this is getting old?”
As a public figure, how has the role changed since you’ve had a child? Obviously being a performer was a decision you made but you might not want your kid to be in the position where a photographer shoved a camera in his face.
What I do is I stay out of those situations. It was my choice to do this but not hers. The other thing is, I don’t talk about it much deeper than what I just said. You’ve got to invite the vampire into your home before it can come in. The other thing I’d say is that if anything, it’s made my relationship with the press a little different. I’ve always been very Cosa Nostra. My business is my business. What it’s done for me, going through things with [former Queens bassist] Nick Oliveri and everything surrounding Lullabies to Paralyze and what we did and chose not to do, it’s made me realize I needed to relax, because you can take all this stuff way too seriously. I like it more when I take the music seriously and don’t give a shit about the rest. It’s tough to not give a shit because you actually have to not give a shit. You can’t just be like, “No, I don’t give a shit,” and then be like, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”
For someone who might not have heard your music or may not have even heard of your group, what would you like them to know about Queens of the Stone Age before they get an album or buy a concert ticket?
I would want someone to know that we never rest. We’re always at the frontlines. That doesn’t mean you’ll like it, but if you do you have the possibility to like it the whole time. We don’t get out-tried by somebody else. I can’t make guarantees for someone to like it, but we never rest. We never rest and we never stop.
Queens Of The Stone Age – “3’s & 7’s” (clean version)
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