Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes Reveals the Rock Concert That Changed His Life
After a long seven-year wait, Eagles of Death Metal have returned with an excellent new album of energetic, sexed-up rock and roll, Zipper Down.
The group, who once famously earned the wrath of Axl Rose (not to mention one of the funniest nicknames in history) while opening up for Guns N' Roses, is comprised of spectacularly uninhibited frontman Jesse Hughes and his childhood friend Josh Homme of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age fame.
We spoke to Hughes about the creation of the new album, the rock concert that changed his life, and what's next for Eagles of Death Metal:
When listening to your records, it always sounds like getting your live energy onto a record comes easy to you. Is that true, or is there a lot of hard work behind the scenes?
Well, it’s yes and no. The hard work comes in the way I like to write the songs. I like it to flow out with ease, so that you can feel that. And I really appreciate you picking up on that. It’s the experience that goes into making the song easy – that’s the hard part, if you know what I mean. The first songs I ever wrote, like "Speaking in Tongues" and "Flames Go Higher," they came in my dreams. I s– you not. I woke up with the whole song lyric and everything in my head. That was really easy. But when you hang around a dude like Joshua, you’re able to aspire to a standard that made it to where, by the time we hit this album, I actually was able to write songs. And that is work. You know, you’ve got to sit there and if something isn’t good you’ve got to work it through until you get to a place that is listenable. Which is hard for rock and rollers because it’s our first songs that are really sort of effortless. And you want everything to be like that, you know what I mean? But the reality is that it’s not. So, yes and no.
How long did Zipper Down take you to make?
You know it’s been about seven years since that last album (2008's Heart On). We spent, I think, a year and a half in the studio [this time]. And in actual recording time it was probably, like you know – three days. [Laughs.] Because Joshua and I were best friends, and we don’t really get to hang out much. And, we are kind of corny. So, every time we get into the studio, instead of like, "okay what should we do today with the music?," it would be like, "Dude, did you see the new f–ing drones that just came out at Target? Let’s go over there and get them." You know what I mean? Any given day in the studio, if the sound engineer was looking for us, "where is Jesse and Josh?," somebody would say, "they are probably out f–ing back blowing something up."
You've been on the road supporting this album for a little bit already. How are the songs going over live? Is there anything that's surprising you, that's working different live than in the studio?
No, some of the songs are a real aerobic workout. If I put those songs in the set close to other songs that are an aerobic workout, I notice I get really f–ing unable to breathe. But I love these songs. I’m finding them to be – sometimes to be honest, when you are in a band and you’ve got a new album out, you stress out about playing the new songs because you don’t know them as well as the other ones. And these songs I really look forward to playing because they are fun.
With the "Silverlake" song, you take on music hipsters in a really funny way. Was that inspired by a real life incident, or a series of them?
Listen to this, this is exactly how this song was written: In Silverlake, there's a speakeasy in one of the coolest f–ing clubs. It's open from midnight to 6 a.m. We were going to play a 3 a.m. show there. So I was walking, you have to park all over the place and I walk over to the venue and these two Silverlake hipsters are in front of me. The one dude was saying to his friend, "this place is so tight, don't even worry. I know the owner, he's like my best friend, I'm gonna get us in, and it'll be no sweat." Fast forward to the door, and the door man is like, "you're not getting in here, I don't know who you are." This dude was in such a state of outrage. "Do you know who I am?" So, I was sitting there with a pen, writing all this down, going "dude, this is awesome." That song sort of unfolded. I don't really have a problem with hipsters. Everyone in some respect wants to be hip, but it's that holier than thou / cooler than thou s– that irritates me.
It's pretty amazing that someone would actually say "do you know I am?" without irony these days.
Exactly! How f–ing amazing is that? When he first said that, me and the two dudes at the door and everyone standing around looked at each other like, "did he really just f–ing say that? That's amazing."
We need to talk a little bit of classic rock. What's the first rock show you ever went to?
My very first concert that I went to? Well, my father was in a rock and roll band. My father was actually in a band called the Fabulous Weapons, which would become Marshall Tucker. My father is an old-hat rock and roller. Kiss was my first show. He took me to the Greenville [S.C.] Memorial Auditorium for the Destroyer tour, and I was third row and I remember when it was – they had just built the fighting tiger set. When the flames blew out, I could feel the f–ing fire. I could feel it on my face. That s– changed my life forever. It wasn't the music, at first. It was the music and the live experience. I still have my comic book with Kiss blood in the ink. I still have my Kiss action figures. I still have my f–ing Kiss Army belt buckle that I got with my fan club membership.
I've got an eight-foot mural of that stage set right behind me here at UCR headquarters...
Speaking of classic rock, I just discovered a classic rock song. My mom says I Quentin Tarantino-ize classic rock radio. I think that's a very accurate summation of what I do. The Dwight Twilley Band, I had never f–ing listened to. I thought I knew every f–ing band that's ever existed in classic rock. But the Dwight Twilley Band, "Looking For The Magic" is my new jam, dude. This dude Dwight Twilley, he created the scene that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would come from. But, Tom Petty got famous faster and eclipsed this dude. He only had a couple of regional hits. But if you look it up, Tom Petty is singing backup. It's a f–ing golden rediscovered classic rock gem.
Listen to the Dwight Twilley Band Perform 'Looking for the Magic'
Thanks for the tip! Speaking of live albums, are you guys going to make one soon?
Yes, we are! Last night, we had a little production meeting and I put together a budget and for the L.A. shows, I want to do a rock live album the way they used to be done. Where it was almost a prerequisite. Where, if a band got established they were required to put out a live album to go, this is what it is live. Ever since I saw the Chambers Brothers' Shout, that album cover impressed me so much because it's them surrounded by a thousand fans and everyone has a s– eating grin on their face. That's bliss to me.
Postscript: While setting up this interview, I asked if Jesse could pick the sexiest rock song of all time in advance – then forgot to ask him about it. But here's his selection:
Queens of the Stone Age Albums, Ranked Worst to Best