Editor’s note: Eagles of Death Metal were playing a concert at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, France when terrorists opened fire on November 13, killing up to 100 people. According to the Associated Press the band was on stage when the shooting began, but were able to exit the stage and theater through a back exit. The band had originally reported via social media that they were”trying to determine the safety and whereabouts” of the band and its crew.
Below is a story and interview with band founder Jesse Hughes that was published in August of 2015, when Eagles of Death Metal played Riot Fest Denver.
By Brian F. Johnson
The new documentary about Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes, “Redemption Of The Devil,” starts with a bible quote and a Ronald Reagan quote, back-to-back.
It may seem an odd way to start a film about a man who has dedicated his life to what he calls “dick-shaking, boogie-woogie rock and roll,” a man who has bragged that he’s destroyed more marriages than money, and a man who happily flaunts his nickname, “The Devil.”
Jesse Hughes — who started Eagles of Death Metal in 1998 with his childhood friend Joshua Homme, the guitarist and founder of Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures — has famously said, in almost every interview he’s ever done, “This ain’t no fucking bible study. This is rock and roll.”
So as he prepped to get on the road for the tour which will debut the EoDM’s first album in seven years, Hughes said that the film’s opening quotes might be off-putting to the uninitiated, but that they make perfect sense in the big picture of the enigma of Jesse Everett Hughes IV.
“To get to the opposite of a bible study, one must first have an operational understanding of what a bible study is,” said Hughes during a recent interview with The Marquee.
Hughes, a former journalist, who speaks with astounding quickness in sentence after sentence of quotable sound bites, knows a thing or two about bible study. In late 2012 he became an ordained Catholic minister and in 2013 he became a bishop at his church. Despite the hedonistic lifestyle that Hughes lives, and the fact that he spends every night in front of an equally self-indulgent crowd, the life-long hype man and carnival barker, who dates a porn star and makes jokes about how gay his relationship with Homme could be, also occasionally dons a collar and preaches his own version of the word of God. “I’m possessed by the spirit of rock and roll. It’s going to be hotter in hell for me than it is for you, I assure you. But I’m never going to be the fool that stands before God and tells him that I believed he didn’t exist,” Hughes said.
“Redemption Of The Devil” isn’t a tell-all piece, but it is a tell-most film which, despite being a documentary, is a loose rip-off of “The Big Lebowski,” and features enough Marshall product placement to make a marketing agent gush (Hughes is the spokesman for Marshall’s headphone and consumer speaker line). But the movie doesn’t really explain Hughes’ stint in rehab after the recording of the Eagles of Death Metal’s second album Death By Sexy; it only partially delves into why Hughes considers himself a conservative in lieu of many of his liberal-leaning philosophies; it leaves the most poignant pieces of the film, where Hughes is crying over the isolation from his son due to a nasty custody battle completely unresolved; and the whole of Hughes and Homme’s lifelong relationship is sadly, but hilariously summarized in one quote by Homme who said. “We’re as gay as we can get without sucking each other’s dicks.”
But what the documentary does show — in great quantities — is an unapologetic, affable but pretty crazed artist that adores his mother, and blissfully enjoys what he calls the best job in the world, making music with his friend, who fortunately has enough notoriety of his own to warrant some heaping amounts of attention from the media. “I’m tied to Josh, but I’m not in his shadow. I’m sittin’ in the shade, baby. And riding on coattails is a lot more comfortable than walking,” Hughes has said.
Hughes explained that when he and his old friend do get together to write and record these days that it’s not too much different than what they did when they were 12. “Joshua always says that when I show up I have a big box of toys and some are more polished than others, and I dump them out on the table and say ‘Which ones do you like?’ And it’s cool because from the second he picks one up, our shorthand is so fast that sometimes we can get into guitar parts without saying a word.”
For Zipper Down, which the band will release this fall, the two chose 11 toys out of the box that Hughes had dumped on the table. Three of the songs on the album are re-recorded and arranged versions of tracks that Hughes put out on his solo album Boots Electric, while another one is a surprisingly good, fuzzy cover of Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer,” and the others fall squarely into Hughes’ category of dick-shaking rock, which he laughed had been kicking around for a while. “Since I steal my songs from the greatest rock albums ever made all of these songs have been kicking around for a while. And since I’m stealing from the greatest albums ever made, technically I write the greatest albums of all time. I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel, here. I’m not trying to do anything different, I’m just trying to be as good as Little Richard, and I think these are some of Joshua’s best guitar performances. My grandmother used to say that rock and roll is like milk. It ain’t nothing new, but it’s only good when it’s fresh, and that’s my attitude,” Hughes said. “And I think that this album is going to be greeted as, like, brand new and that people will finally realize we’re here.”
The band has in fact been ‘here’ since 1998 when Hughes and Homme joined forces in the rock and roll world for the first time, after imagining what it would sound like if The Eagles were to play death metal music — which it turns out, sounds like classic rock, or as Hughes has described it, “stripper drum beats and Canned Heat vocals.” They have released three previous albums, 2004’s Peace, Love, Death Metal, 2006’s Death By Sexy and 2008’s Heart On.
Famously, the band once opened for Axl Rose’s 2006 version of Guns N’ Roses. After their first performance, the very first night of the tour, Rose, who was so unimpressed with their set, called them the “Pigeons of Shit Metal,” and kicked them off the remaining dates of the tour. Hughes, now has a tattoo on his arm of a banner emblazoned with “Pigeons of Shit Metal,” and the band made a t-shirt to match that, ironically, is their best selling piece of merchandise to date.
Eagles of Death Metal tours off and on, but rarely with Homme, due to his numerous other projects, and even this upcoming Riot Fest show will see Hughes playing with his touring band, although he always leaves the possibility open for Homme to join. “It’s like there’s this big old cake coming there, and sometimes Joshua jumps out of it,” Hughes said, a little bit like a boy still hoping his dad is going to come to his big Little League game.
Since Heart On though, the Eagles of Death Metal camp has been relatively quiet, well in terms of production anyway; their songs are in heaps of commercials from Microsoft to Nike and in TV shows like Criminal Minds, Queer As Folk and The O.C. Over the last few years Hughes became clergy, pimped himself for Marshall’s consumer line and released an album under his alter-ego Boots Electric. Homme on the other hand started Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones in 2009 and spent time with that supergroup side-project through 2010. Then after some time off, some medical issues and a reissue of their debut, in 2013 Homme and Queens of the Stone Age released their latest Grammy Nominated album …Like Clockwork.
“When Joshua and I started this tour, one of the first journalists I talked to said it’d been seven years and I was shocked. Honestly, it had never occurred to us,” Hughes said. “But what’s funny is that the amount of time that Josh and I get to spend with each other has been reduced and this is the least amount of guests we’ve ever had on an album. We were so selfish and jealous of our time that if I walked into the studio and someone else was there I’d be like ‘Who’s he? Why are you talking to him? We have shit to do, so maybe you shouldn’t talk to him.’ Truly, if we weren’t both so into chicks we’d be the best gay couple in L.A.”
Through his shock-and-awe sound bite delivery though, Hughes, who is almost always clutching a pack of Camel Lights and a cigarette lighter like some sort of adult security blanket, breaks his rock and roller facade every once in a while to genuinely give credit to his friend. “We don’t just get to create something but I have the dream job! I’ve found myself in one hell of a situation and one hell of a rare situation and I guess I kind of marvel at it. Joshua has personally made it an amazing situation where I have not had to corrupt myself like most people would normally have to. He’s allowed me to keep my word and make fewer compromises and that I’m really, really grateful for, because those little corruptions and little compromises are the ones that when you hit a certain point you become really concerned for your soul, and I don’t want to have that,” he said. Then, quickly, as if he realized he let his rock and roll guard down, Hughes jumps back to the album saying a line that he also said in the documentary. “This album though is nothing but boner rockers. It’s a promise of what’s going to happen live and it’s the jelly of the month club, because it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Go If You Dig:
- Queens of the Stone Age
- The Raconteurs