EAGLES OF DEATH METAL //// JESSE HUGHES //// SEPTEMBER 2009
For this one, it might be good idea to set the scene. It’s about 8pm at night and I’ve been sitting alone in Outline HQ for a couple of hours. The reason, I’m waiting for the phone to ring with a direct line from downtown LA, where a man known as ‘Boots Electric’ is due to call me to talk about…amongst other things, another man called ‘Baby Duck’. With this in mind, I have a feeling this call is going to be well worth the wait. Boots Electric a.k.a Jesse Hughes is the front man of Palm Desert, California based Eagles of Death Metal. An outfit who also feature Queens of the Stone Age’s head honcho, Josh Homme. This band are a bunch of real deal cool dudes who just write and perform with that certain Rock n’ Roll swagger. A formula which keeps listeners and audiences mesmerised night after night. Before their arrival in Norwich, Outline got down and dirty with the one & only Mr. Boots Electric…
Diving straight in, i wondered what we can expect from the tour then?
Well, we are going to attempt to end global warming and we are going to attempt to mass impregnate every female member our audience….
Really? And who could blame you for that? But I wondered apart from this, are there any particular things you enjoy about plying your trade when in the UK?
Knowing where my roots are. I’m a great appreciator of history and where we come from. There’s a reason why we speak the Queen’s English all over the world. Do you know what I mean?
Looking at your Myspace page, you have a list called ‘Flesh, Family and Friends’. There were a couple of names that stuck out for me, a couple being Jack Black and the super hot Kat Von D. Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with them?
I guess the best way to describe it, is that we are like a gang. Jack Black is a dear friend of mine, but he has also been a great supporter of the band. He’s a freak, and in the early days, he decided he wanted to become an Eagle of Death Metal. I’ll give you an example of Jack Black. He recorded with us on ‘Death by Sexy’. He couldn’t get a vocal right, so he decided he would try and get a running start. So he went about twenty five feet away from the mike. He started running and then jumped until he was right in front of the mike, where he started singing. He was like ‘that’s it’ (laughs). And Kat Von D is truly one of my dearest friends in Hollywood. She’s the real deal. I love that girl with my whole heart. I’d be either gay or stupid if I didn’t think she was one of the hottest girls in the world.
So erm, wink wink, nudge nudge, will you eh, be bringing any of your dear friends over here on the tour with you?
Of course, I will be bringing the good Lord in my heart. Let’s see, Joey Castillio from QOTSA is coming over to be our drummer. And there may be some other surprises too.
I heard that you personally were the inspiration for the U2 track ‘Put on you Boots’. How d’you feel about that? I wondered where you were when you found that out? That’s got to be pretty flattering?
Dude honestly…and I’m not just saying this. I really look up to U2. The Edge…he just makes them so badass. As a person, I’m very politically involved, but I make a rule never to involve my politics in my music. Bono is the only dude that even if I don’t agree with him, I respect the way he always handles it. So to have that happen, in fact, for anyone to write a song about me is pretty bitchin’. A bunch of our fans started going on our site and asking me to listen to the interview on the BBC. When I was listening to the interview and I was like ‘NO WAY’, and then I thought about it for a minute and I thought ‘why not?’. I mean, have you ever seen my moustache…Heeeellllooooo. I felt like someone had turned me into a thousand dollar bill, and then wrapped me in a hundred dollar bill.
Ok, so for anyone who hasn’t heard Eagles of Death Metal, which movie do you think best describes the band and your vibe?
That’s a rad question man…it’s a combination between ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ and ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’.
Can you tell me how and why yourself and Josh (Homme) formed the band?
Well starting from the inception of the band (which was really before Queens), I had no real interest whatsoever of being in a band. Joshua was like, ‘c’mon I ‘m doing the whole Desert Sessions thing, lets do this’. I had no idea how to play guitar. It was kind of a joke really. So I got married and I went about my goal of trying to become a senator (and then who knows maybe president). It was a standard square, if you will. Then I ended up getting divorced, an ugly terrible divorce. Because my mother was worried about me, she called my best friend Joshua, and said ‘I need you to go and check on Jesse, I’m worried about him and I don’t know what the hell is going on with this kid’. So Josh came and checked on me. It was New Years Eve, I shit you not, and Joshua broke into my house , because I wouldn’t answer the door. He saw some songs (I’d written) on my computer and he was like ‘dude, your coming with me’. So he drove me to Hollywood in my mother’s car and here I am talking to you.
Nicknames seem to be a big thing for everyone involved?
We don’t have many rules, but nicknames are essential. There are a lot of reasons why the Eagles of Death Metal are special to us, but one particular one is that it evolves around a philosophy that you make the best music you can make, whilst never taking yourself too seriously…
Your music has been used in an awful lot of advertising campaigns, films and TV soundtracks. Do you have a say as to where and when your songs are used?
I have absolute authority. In fact, it’s different than for most rockers. If there’s a song being used in a commercial, then it’s because I have actively solicited it. When we started this whole thing, we had a few ideas about stuff. When I looked around the landscape and saw how every other artist in the world was pretending like ‘it’s about the art man…it’s about the music, it’s not about the music’. I was like ‘bullshit’. It is about the money too. So our philosophy was kinda like…if we were ever to have a press conference and someone asked, ‘is it true Boots Electric that you sold your music to big corporations simply to make money’. I would answer ‘duh…next question please’. It’s what we have to do. In a weird way it’s also like the new radio. Interestingly enough, that’s where we get most of our exposure from.
Jesse, I wanted to ask you a question about a supposed incident between yourselves and Guns n’ Roses. Is it true that a few years back you were supporting them, you had a little trouble with Axl, which ended up with you etching a somewhat unusual tattoo on your arm?
Oh yeah, and I really do have the tattoo on my arm. It was trippy. First of all I took it as a huge honour to be invited on that tour. C’mon dude, hands down ‘Appetite for Destruction’ is one of the great fucking albums ever made. At that point Axl Rose was one of the greatest front-men…they were the last truly dangerous fucking band in the world. I didn’t realise that it was not really Gn’R. The ‘Un’s’ and the ‘Oses’ had become Velvet Revolver. On the first day of the tour, which was the day we got fired, it was a 25,000 capacity arena, with only 5000 kids there. Right out of the gate it was like a dismal failure. I remember saying to my manager I think we might be making a giant fucking mistake. We played the show with Tommy Stinson on bass, so some of my biggest heroes were there. At first, the 5000 kids (whom probably not even one of them were born when Appetite came out) didn’t like it so much, but I refused to not be loved, so by the end of the gig we were loved. When we walked off I felt like we had kind of accomplished something at first. I’ll never forget it. I had five hair stylists with me from a local salon and I’m entertaining these hot chicks. Axl being the vain monster that he is, had PA speakers set up throughout the entire arena, so you had to listen to him, no matter where you were. It’s about three songs in and I hear him say, ‘so what y’all think of the Pigeons of Shit Metal, you better feel sorry for them little fellers, cause’ it’s their last show’. I spit out my drink and for a second I thought, oh my God, this is the end, I’ve been shamed by Axl Rose. Then I thought, really this dude is the biggest fucking asshole I have ever met, he is the white Michael Jackson of Rock n’ Roll. I just got disapproved of by a prick, awesome. If Adolf Hitler wrote me a letter that said ‘you suck’, hang it up, it’d be like winning Nobel Peace Prize. That news spread like wild fire. Within two minutes Dave Grohl called me and said, ‘being disapproved of by Axl Rose is like being knighted by the queen’. And I’m talking about the queen of England and not Elton John.
I believe you put out a hilarious statement out the next day which read – ‘At first, the audience refused to Welcome us to the Jungle, but by the time we took our final bow, it had become Paradise City. Although Axl tried to November Rain our parade, no Sweet Child O’ Mine can derail the EODM Night Train. We say Live and Let Die…’
Yeah, we wanted to make the best of it. I was raised by one of the greatest women in the world and have one of the best families. I was bummed and pleased at the same time, but would rather have avoided the ugliness of the situation. I think we wanted to remind him that it didn’t make us sad, let’s keep it good natured and remind him that we know every fucking song that he has written.
After all the who-ha regarding the release of Chinese Democracy (the new Axl Rose Gn’R album) how did you rate it, when after over a decade, it eventually saw the light of day?
I’m glad you asked that, because I think it’s important to talk about him and people like Michael Jackson. I really do believe that there is a standard that we have to have in Rock n’ Roll. There must be some sort of standard. So many people have been given so much but then they begin to take it all for granted. It started in the sixties, when we started to hero worship and they started to believe they were god. If you make an infinite amount of money then people start to give you exactly what you want. You really have no other choice than to be the coolest motherfucker in the world. You should be walking around saying ‘hi I’m Jesse, nice to meet you’, then shake their hands. But with Axl Rose, he took millions of dollars to record a record. He looked the entire system in the face and said ‘fuck you’. He cost a lot of people their jobs and he could probably cost the label their existence. He didn’t give a shit and he took all that time to, at best, and I mean at absolute best, make a mediocre world music soft jazz type album.
So the tattoo thing is true then? I’d heard that you went and got yourself a ‘Pigeons of Shit Metal’ tattoo on your forearm. I would have loved to have seen the tattooist’s face when you requested that?
He was like ‘are you serious?’. It’s kinda like asking someone to do the words ‘your name on my ass’, it took him a second, and then he said ‘fucking awesome’. Its saying fuck you to a dude like Axl Rose, and I think its something that everyone wanted to say. Guns n’ Roses is something that happens when Axl Rose, Duff, Slash and Izzy Stradlin get together and freak out. And if you want to be really truthful it was Izzy Stradlin that wrote all of Appetite anyway. So get the fuck over it Axl, he just wants to have the most toys when he dies, but his toys suck. The tattoo is a badge of honour to me. You know the way the gay community wears pink triangles? This is like my pink triangle, but I’m into chicks.
Admiring these press shots, there’s no questioning your style…can I ask who and what inspires this?
I take my style very seriously and not because I want to look good, it’s because I’m a vain motherfucker. I kind of have a couple of operating principles. You’re only fucking cool if your fuckin’ cool. I don’t want to be different, I wanna be the same as Chuck Berry or Little Richard etc etc…
Man, I’d be lying if said I hadn’t picked up on the amount of sexual energy running through your music, so I’m guessing your backstage party antic’s can get pretty full on?
‘Crazy’ is one way to look at it or perfectly sane is another. I’ve always seen Rock n’ Roll as pretty straight forward. It’s about pussy so to speak. This ain’t no fucking Bible study as my Dad used to say, this is fucking Rock n’ Roll. My mom would say to him ‘what have you been doing all night long David?’ and he would answer, ‘this ain’t no fucking Bible study girl, it’s Rock n’ Roll, and I’m just doing my job’. A bunch of dudes can sing about how tough it is being a dude, or about global warming, but I’m just gonna cut the bullshit and cut to the chase. Ladies, what’s up? D’you wanna get down, because I like to Boogie, so let’s do this. When you are really honest in your approach its amazing how responsive people can be. Like they told you in school, just say what’s on your mind brother. Our backstage area is actually very calm. It’s cleansed of the typical chaos caused by that bullshit. ‘Nah baby, I’m really into your brain and I’m really into Women’s Lib, no no, I’m not trying to have sex with you at the back of a rock show’. None of that shit is happening, it’s actually quiet, casual, there’s conversation, some really groovy music set at the right volume, it’s packed wall to wall with people. The pretence caused by pretentious fops has been eliminated. Then suddenly it turns into an empty room as everyone is off in their own dark corner getting down…to the Bible study business if you know what I mean.
Is it true that you’ve been working on a solo album called Fabulous Weapon?
Yeah, it’s been a long time coming and I don’t even really want to look at it as a solo record. It’s almost feels like my final exam. I’ve had such a charmed way of coming into Rock n’ Roll. It selected me. I pulled the sword from the stone or another way of looking at is, I was a Werewolf all my life but I didn’t see my first full moon until I was thirty. The Eagles of Death Metal has never been Josh’s side project, it’s always been a real band. Even in states of bewilderment, I know it’s a real band but I ask how? Kind of wow, this is crazy. What kind of dude other than Joshua Homme, would let me become myself? Cause’ dude really, not many people would do that. It’s almost like I found myself having this chip on my shoulder about having to prove that I didn’t need him in the first place. And then I started to think, what sort of dick wants to prove that about his best friend. You get torn. You get everyone around you within that Hollywood mind set, saying ‘yeah, I know its all you’. So really I want to make a record which shows people why I am part of the gang. It is the fairest question in the world to ask if I rode Joshua Homme’s coat tails to the top, because I did, but now I gotta get fitted for my own too.
Finally, and this one is a personal one for me. Your guitarist Dave Catching also plays with my favourite performer Greg Dulli and his Twilight Singers group, not to mention Dulli’s sublime project with Mark Lanegan ‘The Gutter Twins’. How do you rate these guys?
Ah I love you man. Part (a) is my band Eagles of Death Metal and part (b) is people like you turning up to the shows, and when we look at each other man, a beautiful thing happens. Those dudes are the real fucking deal. In the realist sense of the word. Greg Dulli ain’t no fucking joke and he is one of the last too. The internet ain’t the only thing which has changed about the business. When the mechanisms change, its because the people operating the machinery have changed and that’s what we see taking place around us. Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan have done nothing other than what they must do, they are trubadors, they are pirate minstrals dude, they are not pop artists by any stretch of the imagination. Everything that those dudes do is badass, its not just cool, its like WOW., that kinda cool. It’s the kinda cool that makes dudes like me get pissed off…aww you motherfuckers…how dare you (laughs)