Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme are back together. While Eagles of Death Metal has always featured a rotating cast of characters, it’s always been led by Hughes and almost always complemented by Homme, who moonlights as the frontman for Queens of the Stone Age. Zipper Down is the band’s first new record in seven years and it’s the first to include Homme since 2006. It’ll be out on October 2.
“This is something that we’ve done together, and it’s not a side project for him,” said Hughes. “He’s just in two bands. After the album was finished, he’s been really jealous of getting to tour with Eagles of Death Metal because it’s fun.”
Hughes passed the time with a Boots Electric solo record, and Homme worked with Queens of the Stone Age, but the childhood friends wanted to hang out again. So an Eagles of Death Metal record was the most productive plan.
“We probably would have finished it sooner, but Joshua and I spent most of our time hanging out and doing [expletive] up things – terrorizing the studio manager,” he said. “On an average day, at the studio, you could walk in and hear someone ask, ‘Where’s Josh and Jesse?’ and the answer would be, ‘I don’t know, they just bought a remote controlled drone and they’re trying to [expletive] spy on the hot neighbor across the street’ or ‘They just got a quarter stick of dynamite from a construction dude and they’re trying to blow some…’ I mean that’s kind of what we are getting into. It was awesome.”
One of those Boots Electric tracks gets new life on Zipper Down. “I Love You All the Thyme” was renamed “I Love You All the Time,” and the tune that Hughes wrote about an ex-girlfriend.
“When you call someone, you’ll never reach them at home, it’s always their cell phone,” he said. “When I was a kid, if you wanted to talk to someone on the phone, you had to ask your mom for permission. Then that person would have to be home. Whenever I was calling this chick, she was never at home. She was always on the go. That made her mobile. So she could always drop in on me.”
Thirty or so members have called themselves a part of the band at some point. Perhaps it was just for a time or two – Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters have both joined the band, as have comedians like Jack Black and Liam Lynch.
“When Joshua and I were bonding as kids, it was over Mitch Helberg,” he said of the band’s attraction to working with comedians, adding that TJ Miller tops his wishlist of musically gifted comedians that he’d like to perform with. “We’re really big fans of comedy. Bill Hicks was one of our favorites. When I’m writing music, a lot of my songs are written with a [expletive] eating grin built into it.”
Hughes stopped short of revealing the lineup for the band’s show in Birmingham, conceding that he and Homme enjoyed recording this one; so much that the pair won’t wait seven more years to do it again. And that Homme will be touring with the band “eventually.”
The mythology of the band’s lineup has painted a landscape that Hughes hopes can survive under the Eagles of Death Metal moniker beyond his own time.
“I wanted to turn Eagles of Death Metal into the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus,” he said. “You can still go see Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, but I promise you that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey are all dead. And yet, their circus survived. That’s what I want Eagles of Death Metal to be.”
As he prepares for his trip to Birmingham, he fondly recalls his Southern roots. You might not know it now, as he and Homme call Palm Desert, California home, but Hughes was born in South Carolina, went to college in South Carolina, still owns a home in South Carolina and maintains a close relationship with his family in the Palmetto State and in Georgia.
“I’m a hereditary member of the Sons of the Confederacy,” he says with pride. “I am very hillbilly. I’m very proud of my roots.”
His native state swarmed with controversy this summer, as officials debated, and ultimately decided, to take down the Confederate flag from Capital grounds in Charleston in the wake of a shooting at the AME Church. Hughes was among the crowd that was reluctant to erase the controversial flag from the face of the state.
Geography keeps him from being a Southerner much of the year, but his heart is still home. He spends parts o his summers in South Carolina, and remains passionate about those roots in the face of an onslaught of national debate about the merits of heritage versus hate.
“I feel like we’re in danger of condemning an entire portion of the country simply because of geography,” he said. “If you were born in this place and are happy with your family, you should be ashamed – and that’s simply not the case. The very first rebellion against slavery was led by a Southern white man. Come on, dude. Let’s get our [expletive] straight. Slavery was on its way out and if the war had not intervened, it probably would have been gone sooner. It just goes to show that there are some bad people that have gotten us so worked up that we can’t think straight or have a conversation without getting emotionally involved. And while we’re in this state, they’re stealing the [expletive] eggs out of the basket.”
Eagles of Death Metal comes to Iron City on Friday, September 25. Jessica Von Rabbit opens. Doors open at 7 p.m., while the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.50.