“You haven’t lived until you’ve been in the room with eight tubas.” This and more revelations from the QOTSA mainman.
Over the past couple of years, California’s desert rock darling Josh Homme has become almost as widely known for his production work (Iggy’s 2016 album Post Pop Depression owed much of its sound to Homme’s input) as for his day job fronting Queens Of The Stone Age. Still, for a man who’s spent much of his 30-odd-year career moving from project to project (Kyuss, Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles Of Death Metal…), the propensity for new adventures is hardly surprising. He even guested on a Lady Gaga single, Perfect Illusion, last year. Most recently he’s made a new QOTSA album, Villains, produced by Mark Ronson after he fell in love with Ronson’s mega-hit Uptown Funk.
We caught up with Homme on a sunny day in Munich.
There were a lot of guests on the previous Queens album, so it’s a bit surprising that there are none at all on Villains. Although we always have a good time together, the last record [2013’s ...Like Clockwork] was difficult to make. So it was kind of like being on the rowboat to hell. It was funny, but it was going to hell. And so the guests really saved us and sort of acted like a break from it all. And then it became funny, where it was like: “Well, let’s try… let’s have this.” It was so many people, and I knew that they weren’t going to over-impact on what we’d done, because that defeats the purpose. There was no need for anybody this time.
Did you talk to Dave Grohl about that? The new Foo Fighters’ album has quite a few guests on it.
Well, you know, I think we’ve always had a great relationship of twisting our own versions of each other here and there. We’ve been friends for so long, and it’s fun to play with people, in all honesty. I mean, I’ve gotten the luxury of collaborating with more people than anyone I know. And I’m really thankful, cos I’ve learned so much stuff, and it’s cool – that notion of bringing the revelation to someone else, that you can collaborate with someone and it’s not forever. Nothing is. In fact we’re chasing moments here. Do you want to have one? And I’ll change your life for you. And that’d be kind of foolish to turn down, when the environment’s right.
The environment was right with Iggy Pop and Lady Gaga? Well, normally I’m the one offering, you know? (laughs) In the last couple years there’s been some cool offers, which has been interesting cos I even remarked about five years ago: “No one ever asks me to do anything.” And then I was like: okay, wait, that’s not exactly true. My manager was putting together a full discography of everything, and that list was bigger than I thought. I’m not too nostalgic, so I don’t look back so much.
But working with Iggy must have been a dream come true. Surely he was on your wish list?
Well, I only had one goal on my list, and that was to make a record with Iggy one day, so I don’t have any other – number two is blank and that’s kind of been it. Honestly, I was like, in a strange sort of depression way: “What do I do?” But you find your way. Could you imagine doing another album with him, or was that a one-off ?
I’d never tell you that anyways [laughs].
I could ask him.
I know you could. But I think he was very adamant – and I came to understand why – that this would be his last record. He said he’ll still do stuff or guest over here or there, but the putting everything into an album and then promoting it, this is the one to end on.
Will you ever re-form Kyuss or join any of its spin-offs?
I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back. I don’t like… I’m not nostalgic. It makes me sad. And for me, that’s not being alive. I know some people who are able to do that, and sometimes I’m envious of that, but it doesn’t make me feel good, because it makes me want to run away. But there’s nowhere to run. You can’t run away. Wherever you go, there the fuck you are. It’s like: where are you going to go, man? When you have red hair, you learn to either stay or run. And I don’t run, man.
What made you use a string quartet for the first time?
I’ve always used horns and masked them as guitars all the time. I’m a tuba guy. Because you haven’t lived until you’ve been in a room with eight tubas.
Your upcoming tour will take place in huge venues like Madison Square Garden, The O2…
I know. I’ve tried to avoid it for years, trust me [laughs].
Does that mean you have to come up with a proper show?
All I can offer you is the same – this who we are. We played a festival yesterday with Eagles Of Death Metal, Queens and Iggy. And Jesse [Hughes] is such an amazing frontman, I love watching him. It’s like he was born to do it. And Iggy, there’s no question. But I’m not. I don’t do what those two guys do. I do what I do. I can’t offer any more on that. I’ll do that the most I can. I’ll make each night different from the night before, but I’m not going to get you chanting “Day-o, day-o…”, you know? You’ll have to go somewhere else for that.
Does Josh Homme like to dance – at least in private?
Hell yeah. I love to dance. I mean, I dance when we play anyway. That’s what’s so great about [playing live with] Iggy, too – I was free to move. I’m kind of Velcro’d to the mic a lot of times, and on the Iggy tour I got to finally just go: “Ah, play guitar and move” I love going dancing with my brother and his husband. It’s just such a freeing thing. Like Palm Springs, with the gay community there, I feel free dancing out in that environment. I’ve always liked that. I remember when I was a kid, I’d be going to a junior-high dance and going: “Why are you guys standing here? All the girls are on the dancefloor,” and them saying: “It’s stupid.” It’s like: “No, you’re just saying you’re scared. No one cares. Be a fool, let’s go.”
Villains is out now via Matador.