|Aug. 2002 - Josh Homme Interview
by Samantha and Michele
Q. Where did you record the album and who produced it?
It was recorded in Los Angeles at Conway studios and Barefoot studios. It was produced by me.
Q. I read somewhere that you said that you thought this was a deeper album, like the highs are higher, etc.
I think I've always looked at these first three records as a set. The first one kind of needed to distance itself from Kyuss, my previous band, without losing anybody and establishing a new sound. The second record fans out the music so that we can play a little bit more of what we'd like to play, and I think this third record is the personification of the idea which is musical diversity, and you know, goes from garage sounds to almost like rock opera in some moments. Like "A Song For The Deaf" is everyone singing and screaming and coming in, swirling, so and I think production wise, this is the closest to the dry old ZZ Top drum sound, dry in your face, so that anything that has any sort of effect, shows depth, sonic depth.
Q. As far as the songwriting goes, how does it work with you and Nick? Do you do stuff on your own and then come together, or how does it work?
Well I think our system works best because it has no rules. Sometimes Nick or I will bring in a completed idea and then just as much of the time, the things that are unfinished or that get developed together, and we work with outside people as well. Our rule is just play the good stuff. Since we all have side projects, we kind of leave our feelings and egos at the door, like someone could go, what do you think of this, And you try a few different tempos and a few different ways, and I might look over and go, "I think this sucks." No one goes, "Well, I worked on it for two weeks!" you know. We say, "Well I guess this is something for my side project," cause it doesn't mean it's bad, or good, it's means it's not Queen's for this moment, so because of that, we kind of get to skip lots of that interband psychology, pressure, feeling issues, you know, which is really good because, we're just on a search for our best stuff now at this date.
Q. The Desert Sessions - how did that influence the way you and Nick wrote this album?
I think the Queen's records are more like a very focused Desert Sessions than anything else because they are a collaboration and we're sort of like party coordinators more than anything, because we bring in people. Some people say, well I'm playing piano, you play piano better so you're fired! But we say, you're hired! I mean, we want to be surrounded by the best musicians possible and get their input, and we play stuff that we would have never played, like playing with people like Alan Johaness, Dave and Natsha Schneider, Chris Goss, things that never would have come up, you know?
Q. How did you come to pick Dave Grohl this time?
Well, because we didn't want to say no to Dave twice. David asked to play on Rated R.
Q. Why didn't you want him playing on that one?
Uhm, because Dave's a friend of ours and I didn't want him to feel like we're using him to sell records or to gain any sort of like popularity, and I didn't want to feel that way and I didn't want the perception to be that way. I think that provided us to do it this time, because it's like okay, we've cleared that air, you know, we're friends and we respect that he's the best rock drummer in the world, you know. You can be as good, but you're not better than Dave Grohl.
Q. Is it harder to be honest with a friend when you think musically he's come up with crap?
No, I think for us, we have an understanding that I've noticed that, I don't see a lot in other bands is that you're obligated to speak your opinion. There's no need to like blow up if you're emotional about it like, I'm just not into that! Well, what the fuck! We take that, "What happened??!!' out of the mix you know, because it's just music. You're supposed to love it, but if everyone in the band doesn't really love a song, then we don't play it, you know. We have patience with music, a year or five years down the road it may kind of rewrite itself and become what it was supposed to be. There's two songs on this record that are over five years old, you know.
Q. Which two are those?
God is on The Radio and No One Knows. I write songs around beats and bricks so there'll be four, five songs, in the same kind of structure, beat structure, and they can't all go on the same thing you know, or it sounds all the same. And, you can just sit by the phone, waiting for a song to call you to call you, and when it calls you, you're like, thank God where are you? I'll pick you up. You know, you can't force it through.
Q. Speaking of honesty, lyrically you're pretty open - do you think the music industry has gotten too uptight? Has it become too politically correct?
Yeah, I mean, I think for us that never is a consideration, and the more they get that way, the more that we naturally, I wouldn't say we're reactionary, but I would say, to a certain extent you do, you have to react to your situation. We don't do this because of this, you know, as a total reaction but if you look and see what's going on. I mean, even the case of like so much has been made of with a song like Feel Good Hit of the Summer. It lists drugs, but it doesn't say yes or no. It's almost like, what will people do if you don't swear? You say things that make them react. For some people, they' were like, that song, I gotta tell you, is bad, and you guys reallyneed help. And other people realised that it's almost like social experiment. It got banned in some places and went to the top of the charts in other places.
Q. Didn't they use it as an anti drug message in some schools?
That's what so funny is that the record industry and the radio refused to play the song in America and get behind it because they were afraid. But then the police took it, used it to play to schools, junior high and high schools, so you can imagine how for us, we were like, the social experiment has worked itself out! Everyone's saying, you guys do stuff, but really if you take that song for where you're at in your life and so it's more like setting little rabbit traps everywhere and watching who steps in them, cause I think the psychology of music is beautiful, it's so overpowering sometimes you know? We treat the music like art, art should elicit a reaction, so should good music. If it's just like a pacifier in your mouth (starts imitating Staind song 'It's been a while') it's like, Oh God! Buy a journal - I'll buy it for you! But give me something to react to, uhm
Q. So, what is your stance on drugs?
My stance on drugs is that I'm more like a libertarian, I think they should all be legalized because people take them and they hide and they get chastised and if you've ever known like any real like junkie or anything like that, you say, "You really should quit." Then they go, "Yeah I know I should." And as soon as you're gone, they're like, "Thank God that guy's gone." People do what they do, and as far as their necessity, for music, drugs are on a really long list of what it takes to make music, and they're no more or less important than any of them.
Q. But isn't it a big inspiration one way or the other?
Well I think probably most of your favorite records were done by people on drugs.
Q. Yeah exactly. Isn't it easier to make music on drugs?
Well I think we have a song that about this subject called First they Giveth, then They Taketh away, and I think at first you can draw inspiration and then eventually, it negates any inspiration.
Q. Do you mean because eventually you'll be wasting your time looking for drugs instead of doing anything else?
No, I just think that that idea that I'm gonna get high and make a great song, and you start relying on that you know and saying, now I need to do that to write and to me they don't touch, they coexist next to each other. I don't wave the flag for drug rock, and you know, if someone asked me drug questions, they'd go, what drugs do you take? I'm like, What are you on, because you're out of your mind. That's like, that's none of your business and secondarily, I think they have their place, but not such an overwhelming importance, they're just something interesting to find out about, you know what I mean?
Q. What do you think about Creed and
I think they suck. I don't even want to elaborate because I don't want to even give them the time of day.
Q. Well what do you think of the general state of music at the moment?
I think it's beautiful. For my band, personally I love it because I think there's a lot of mediocre crap and that is a catalyst for all these other bands to go like. I can't take this anymore! I think there's a fantastic anti scene that's been created because of like Vanilla crap like that third generation crap like The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, Millionaire, Peaches, Ween, these bands that sound nothing alike, but that's why they're alike. Their idea is let's be ourselves, you know, let's truly drop from influence, influences I like that band, they're doing their own thing, so can we, but mimicry, too much time mimicry and influence, their definitions get confused, I think.
Q. Obviously you know you've sung about the excesses of drugs - is the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle a myth?
Well I think the reason that that became a myth or a cliché is because those are fun things to do, but we don't act any different off the road than we do on the road. We're lucky to be musicians as something we do and so I'm not gonna pretend I'm an accountant. But at the same time, even as a young boy I just was never that into peer pressure. You know, C'mon let's go do this! I don't want to, Cmon you pussy! It's like, no, still not working (shakes head and folds arms). I don't want to do that, I don't want to jump off a cliff, you know. So I think we just live how we've always lived. I think lots of the things that deal with drugs in our music are misunderstood, like we have a song called Better Living Through Chemistry which is an anti drug song. It's saying it's okay, the government says it's okay for you to take Prozac everyday, every single day, to feel better and feel absolutely numb. Don't smoke that joint though you! (points finger). Like, the war between what some old man says is okay but doesn't know anything and what's really going on, and so I think lot's of the times people naturally assume that we're putting a stamp that says yes like on the drug paper, Yes, bring in the next one! But this band is deliberately set up to have many layers, layers on the front, for someone who's just kind of (acts stoned) and then layers deeper for the fifteenth listen. You know, it's just how far you choose to take it. It seems like it should be designed with that much care because I love our music, I love making it, so I want it to be special.
Q. Being in the position you're in, being on the road and all the perks that go with it, what's it like compared to what you thought it was going to be like?
Uhm, I used to hate touring and I finally enjoy it now, because I've learned how to do it. It's about balance having a balancing act, no habit. When I say no habit, I mean don't just sit and gig all day either, that's what I mean. What do I do? If I'm in Sydney, I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit at the venue all day.
Q. So do you do the sight-seeing thing?
I think when you go to a new territory, you must do the sightseeing thing to get it out of the way, but I look at it as lets go do the sights as quick as we can so I can get to the real side of Sydney, the real side of Melbourne, the real side of Rio because it's an opportunity to see the world in a way that you wouldn't go if you were vacationing. And because you go back to lots of places, where I used to think I'll never see these people again, you realise you do, so you start to try to establish little homes everywhere. Before there was the internet, we used to call it the you know, a web over the world which now is probably defunct term, but you really do sort of connect all these spots you know, when people would come to America from some of those locations, would come to our turf, we'd be like welcome, here's where you go, here's what you do, here's you know, uhm, it's very reciprocal, you know?
Q. Do you have any stand out memories of Australia?
Yeah (laughs). I've been to Australia twice and both of them are stand out. First of all, The Big Day Out is the best tour in the world - it's the Big Day Off as we call it.
Q. What's so great about it?
Because it's about, you're here to do a music festival, let's have a good time, ready, go! You play a show at these beautiful venues in the sun, and you're allowed to play your own shows as well in the city that you're in, and all the bands stay at the same hotel, and have an after party for all the bands if you choose to go, you know. Oysters Kilpatrick.
Q. Where did you eat that, do you remember?
Uhm, in every city, I had a dozen oysters a day (laughs)
Q. When you go back you have to try Oysters Mornay.
(laughs) I'm willing, because Oysters Kilpatrick - Worcestishire and bacon, I was like, sometimes I'd just eat that in a day, and be like, Hey! (laughs). I went to Australia when I was nineteen, with Kyuss we opened for Metallica, we'd never done anything like that before, so it was chock full of so many events, so many firsts, that you know, you can go ahead and kill me now.
Q. Do you have any memorable or funny groupie stories?
Not that I'm willing to divulge actually (laughs).
Q. Any weird kind of fans? Odd, things in the mail?
Yeah, I have, there's one girl in Tenessee that follows us around and keeps you know, lately she's been punching me.
Q. She comes to gigs and assaults you?
She comes to gigs and she says, I just want to talk, I just want to talk, why can't we just be married and be together? And I'm always like, I don't fucking know you, that's the main reason (laughs) Last time she took a couple of swings at me and I had to laugh, I'm laughing while I'm getting hit in the face, I'm laughing.
Q. God, she's not a big girl is she?
No she's not a big girl, thank God! There's tons of that's the thing, is we have many stories, I wouldn't say we go looking for trouble but somehow like we're like, trouble, what are you doing here? I fractured my meta carpal in Australia on the Big Day Out tour, and got what they call a boxer separation in the tissue in my hand. In Melbourne somebody tried to take a swing at me.
Q. What was that about?
I picked up my beer but the table wasn't connected to the top, so when I picked up mine, it acted like a seesaw, and this guy said, you blah, blah, blah, kept swearing at me. I was like, look, I'm sorry, it was an accident, I'll buy you another drink. I pick up this sweatshirt, I'm likewho's is this, I don't want it to get wet, and his girlfriend goes, It's mine you retard and they kept going and kept going, and I went to go buy them drinks and I thought, god they're like strangely overzealous about hating me right now.
Q. Did they know who you were?
Apparently they did, but I didn't know that, you know?
Q. Obviously they weren't big fans.
Maybe they just thought, hey you think you can come here from America, rock stuff, dude stuff.
Q. Do you find that very often?
I find a little bit of everything. And that stuff doesn't bother me, you know?
Q. Do you feel that you can't complain or bitch about something because you're in this great position and you're really fortunate etc.
I don't really bitch. I feel lucky to have my job and I love playing music and I put everything I have into it. I find it extremely easy to justify what I do because I give a shit and I'm doing it. I'm a workaholic, so I can sleep at night easily no matter what anyone from Melbourne or Iowa or whatever, no matter who it is, if someone says, you think that you're a rock star and you do I can easily sit there and be like, you're not bothering me at all. It's not even denting. I mean ultimately, he took a swing at me, and that was his mistake, you know.
Q. What's something that no one knows about you but would surprise your fans?
Well we'll have to skip that question because I'm the private one in this band.
Q. It doesn't have to be personal - it could be that you collect stamps.
I collect corks.
Q. Corks, like wine corks?
Yeah. I have over six thousand of them.
Q. That's some serious cork collecting
Yeah. Initially I would you know, I'm very much all for the moment, you know and so much so that it's gotten me in trouble sometimes, cause I forget what's been left behind and so I would take corks we have a beautiful dinner or I would do something, or be someplace special or be at Italy in a cafe, take the cork and just write on it, you know. I just started accumulating so many, I realized that there's something special about cork (laughs), so I have over six thousand of them.
Q. Where do you keep them?
In my room.
Q. You've become a bit of a guitar hero, how do you live up to that?
Uhm, I don't think about it. No one says that when I'm around here, you know (laughs). I play guitar, I love playing guitar, I like to sound different. And I just leave it at that, I figure whatever I've done till now, has got me to here, I might as well not change it at all.
Q. You must be doing something right.
I guess, that's good enough for me.
Q. Have you heard the theory where they think a woman's uterus contracts to the sound of a heavy bass. Has Nick heard that one?
(laughs) Well, Nick is no doctor, and I doubt highly that that came out of his mouth, but that's a really interesting question.
Q. It's a funny one.
And I'm glad it came up, and I'd like to see the results on that (laughs). I don't have a uterus, maybe you can help us with the answer.
Q. I'll let you know. Speaking of which, you have a strong sort of female fan base as well. Why do you think that is?
I think it's because that partially we are trying to do that. I think a good show is like a party, that's where we started playing at parties, and a good party to me is half boys and half girls, boys aren't slamming into each other, trying to prove how small their dicks are, like it's a party, for God's sake man! Don't bump into the guy next to you, buy the girl next to you a drink and ask her what her name is. I think, we're trying to encourage that and musically there's groove, you know. Some of the stuff is harder, but there's a lot of stuff that you can groove to as well and I think singing sweetly over happy music has a strange taste to it and you know. I liken it to the Stooges, heavy enough for the guys, but sweet enough for the chicks.
Q. What are you listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to this band Millionaire from Belgium, and it's an amazing record, Tending The Simian Flock is what it's called, and I'm listening to Bjork, and I'm listening to Fatso Jetson, and I'm listening to Ween.
Q. Have you have been watching Ozzy Osbourne?
I've seen it a little bit, it's a great show, but they're sort of like the Beverly Hillbillies except since they're from England, I guess it's the Beverly Hillbillyshires Smyth-Jones.
Q. Do you think it de-mystifies the rock & roll image?
Yeah, I mean you'd never catch me doing a show like that, and that's about all I can you know. But Ozzy's such a freak, and he almost looks kind of helpless you know. He looks like under the spell of his children and his wife (laughs) you know, like, I don't want to do that, I'm not playing Albuquerque, (imitates Ozzy) Hello Albuquerque! (laughs) But I think with all this reality stuff going on like, there was a show called Bands On The Run, and it disgusted me and they asked to use one of our tracks, and I wrote the fax back to VH1 that was like you know, never in a million years will I help you to destroy music and make it look so stupid and pitiful, you know.
Q. Do you think that was partly because of the bands they showed or just the idea of the show?
I think it's both.
Q. Cause that was pretty bad.
Yeah, I think that was probably these things are not like, oh wow, and look, we're gonna get all these added benefits from these marginal bands! I think they go in knowing exactly what they're doing, but the only is that, the only benefit is that I wish there were less bands, when Hendrix was around, there were what, thirty bands? Now there's thirty thousand, and.
Q. But the good ones still manage to rise to the top, don't you think?
Yeah and they get copied instantly, and what they do is they allow record companies to go, yeah you're great, but this band has a really good version of you, so I'll take you out. But that's all okay and it's the reason I'm here because it's the D.I.Y mentality of punk rock that is dumbness, and that's why I'm here, is from punk rock and D.I.Y.
Q. How do you feel about being imitated - it's something that you have no control over.
I have no control over it and I don't give it any
Q. Are you flattered or does it piss you off?
They say that it's the most sincere form of flattery but I could do without it. You know. Our message is, were doing our thing, and influence should be so can you. But you know, everyone says like I'm a snowflake, and that's really great right? And I love that, but really, we're not snowflakes, for the most part we're all kind of the same, there's only a few nuances that make you really you, and different, accentuate just those - that's what music is for, and because we're so much alike, we'll all be able to relate and so they're trying to copy those few nuances that you're accentuating, to me that's like, ahh you actually just have it wrong. You know, you're not supposedly that, because as I said, we're mostly the same anyways, you know. But like I said, this D.I.Y mentality has gotten me here, and so, I'm not the music police, I just love music and I want to play it, and I want everyone, I want N-Sync to play it, I want Britney Spears and Creed, I want them all to play, you know, I don't want to stop anyone.
Q. You just don't want to have to go to their shows and watch them.
Yeah, I just don't go to their shows and I think you know for me music is for entertainment. Don't spend anytime on something you don't like, you're just supposed to like stuff, you're not supposed to like, I hate this band, it's blue, here hold it, look at it, it's blue and it's too big and it's like, don't waste your time disliking music. When I dislike something, I'm like, I don't like this, put it over here, and I'm like okay, next, you know. I don't want to figure out why I don't like it. It's good enough for me to know I don't.
Q. Other than collecting corks from wine bottles, what else do you do in your spare time?
Uhm, lots of stuff.
Q. Like when you're on the road on long bus trips, do you read?
I read, I listen to music. Music is such a big part of what I do, I write a lot, you know, and my sound man, Hutch and I we love to go to museums and go looking for wherever the locals hang out. Like, we'll be the only two guys sitting in a bar full of Italians staring at you. But there's something fun about that, you know.
Q. So when you go to a new country, do you ask the promoter, where should I be hanging out?
I ask the promoter and I grab books, about the local region and figure out what's going on.
Q. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you want me to put in the story?
Q. That's it?
That's good. I feel adequately proud.