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One of the most interesting interviews I have had in years ends up ... on a recorder with dead batteries! Bad karma or what?
Jesse Hughes was kind enough to give me almost an hour of his time while we discussed everything from childhood happenings, to American politics to the 'great beast', Aleister Crowley. I know, I know, but hey - I am guilty of going off on a tangent as well.
First the facts: Jesse formed Eagles of Death Metal after his 1998 divorce. It was a defining moment in his life as he had a lot of pent up emotion to get out of his system, and the lyrics/music came easily to him. He feels the divorce contributed to a 180 degree change in his life. He went from being a '210 pound working stiff' to a slimmed down rock star whom the young gals go wild over. (Living well is always the best revenge, Jesse.)
Although people like to think of Eagles of Death Metal as Josh Homme's creation after Queens of the Stone Age, it is actually the reversal. Eagles of Death Metal appeared on Josh's Desert Sessions, Josh just happened to like Jesse's sound enough to offer up his drumming/producing abilities.
I mentioned to Jesse that I first saw EDM in the Fall of 2003 when they opened for Placebo. I remembered thinking that they were 'not bad at all' and I also remember looking at the drummer and thinking, gosh that looks like Josh Homme. This concert was before Jesse released his 'Peace Love Death Metal' in March of 2004. Jesse said that the event I saw was the beginning of his active touring schedule.
Jesse discussed a bit of his early life - he was 7 years old when his parents divorced; tough at the time, but fortunately he had an extended family for support.
My father was very spoiled and came from a Southern family. He was an only child and I think the time in which he was born, and the sort of mind he had, did not lend itself to longevity. He died in 1988, but my parents divorced when I was 7 and I actually had a happy childhood. My family is a tight family - four or five clans get together. The divorce was traumatic, but then I moved to Southern California and everything was cool.
Any issues Jesse needed to discuss were often presented to his Grandfather, who apparently had words of wisdom to share on every count.
I moved to California, but had had a hillbilly accent which wasn't cool. I didn't fit in immediately. I immediately did not know anyone, and I did not have any friends and I had to rely on my ability to be charming.
When Jesse mentioned school life, I immediately asked what he would say to any teens out there who feel as though high school is the be all and end all to life.
I would say, hell no! Everything for me happened at 30. I used to think school was the be all and end all, but my Grandfather said (when I was 9) ... well I am very emotional and wear my heart on my sleeve... and my Grandfather was picking my brain to figure out what was bothering me. I mentioned what kids thought of me and he said, 'You should never care what an asshole thinks'. I was one of those kids that listened to my grandparents - they were amazing people.
We then got on a roll discussing the differences between generations from the Second World War to present day.
I have almost disgust for my parents' generation because they were so spoiled. All my parents' generation - that 60's generation - wanted to do was fuck and take drugs. I think they hid behind the convenient duality of the English language of Make Love Not War, and their attitude was ... my parents suffered in the war so they spoiled the fuck out of me in the 40's and 50's and now I am a monster. I'm going to protest in the streets, and then in the 80's I will go into politics and make everything hell. When I saw everything my Grandparents went through I never understood why my parents took it all for granted. Everyone was so lost in the 60's - it was an explosive time.
Ronald Reagan's name came up in a further conversation, so I immediately jumped on the political bandwagon and threw out three names for Jesse to comment on: Reagan, Clinton, and Bush.
Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived - greatest president in my lifetime. He and Walt Disney single handedly brought about the hearings that would result in the McCarthy Hearings because of the legitimate Communist threat that existed in Hollywood. He has always been at the forefront. Walt Disney, James Stewart and Ronald Reagan filed the complaint that led to the McCarthy Hearings.
(And here I had assumed it was started by Senator McCarthy because of the U.S. Army's response to Roy M. Cohn's meddling in the drafting of G. David Schine.) This discussion then led to an examination of propaganda, and the best circles and the best format in which to release it.
Cinema is very influential. For example, the movie 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' ...
To which I cut in saying, 'I loved that book as a child - I never saw the film, but the book was brilliant.'
Watch the film and you will see what an amazing piece of propaganda it is. It is technically considered to be one of the first purely Communist-made films in America. One of the first propaganda films. There's a lot of films like that - even now we have propagandists like Rob Reiner and Michael Moore.
To my dismay, I said nahhh... does the film (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) actually follow the book?
It follows the book, but it's the manner in which it can make abstract images with words and appear concrete.
I mentioned that one of the greatest propagandists, in my opinion, was Hitler's Goebbels.
There was also Leni Riefenstahl, the one who made all the movies for Hitler. That's what Hitler referred to as the darker and more mysterious aspect of human emotion. They tapped into that emotion using cinema. That's Hollywood as well, there's no better way to tell people how to live than to use an all-star cast.
At the mention of Hollywood and stars, I had to ask Jesse what he thought about Scientology.
I think Scientology makes perfect sense in Hollywood. It's no different than when some senior Hollywood stars belonged to the Church of Satan in the 60's.
Do you mean the era of Aleister Crowley and Jayne Mansfield?
Yes. Eventually Michael Aquino, Aleister's right hand man, started the Temple of Set. All the Church of Satan was ... was a pyramid scam for power hungry people. All you're doing is getting people to work for you, then they advance you, and on their backs you advance yourself and you get into networks where you can meet more people. Scientology is obviously the next step. It's a chain, a pyramid scam. It's all financial. And the absurdity of what they believe is interesting. All because Ron L. Hubbard said, I can get people to believe anything, watch this. If you believe all the bullshit in Scientology, you need to have your head examined. I know for a fact that those people don't believe all that shit. I'm in NA, Narcotics Anonymous, and I can tell you for a fact, that 40 per cent of the people in Hollywood - who attend those meetings - have never done a drug in their life. They're simply there to prey upon someone like me, someone who is in rehab and wounded, and they will say, "Oh, but I care..."
I remember Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers saying that to live in Hollywood, you had to belong to a group - be it music, modeling, acting, religious or whatever. Everyone had their clique. There's a defining theme that you have to belong to.
I don't think there's anything wrong with that, fundamentally.
But you know what - isn't that like going back to High School? Same thing. Everyone has their clique.
Yeah, and it sucked for me, but I am still friends with some of the people who were the most vicious to me. I have always been the kid... well, my emotions and I have always had a relationship that's intellectual and academic at times.
You are more unconditional in your relationships.
Yeh, I am unconditional. I don't take things personally. The time I got locked in a varsity locker after water polo, I didn't take it personal. It sucked being in there for three hours, but I didn't take it personal, and I hope they didn't take it personal with what I did to them in return.
We discussed some of Jesse's revenge scenarios, and I learned that he got his nickname 'Devil' from his advanced algebra teacher who (after a revenge situation) referred to Jesse as the damned devil. Then there were some other aspects in his life where the moniker 'Devil' was appropriate. We then went on to discuss Aesop's fables, computing grade transcripts, journalism, dealing with difficult people, etc.
I always have to deal with difficult people. To me it is an interesting challenge to get around people. My favourite politician, Disraeli,
(interviewer's note - Disraeli was the British Prime Minister in 1868 and from 1874-1880, who chose to write stories to explain his views to the average citizen)
My favourite Disraeli story was that on a rainy night, he was walking down the narrow sidewalk and the gutter was full of water, and his arch nemesis walked up to him and said, 'I never step aside for a scoundrel.' And Disraeli tipped his hat, stepped into the gutter and said, 'I always do' and kept on walking. And that is an important lesson that I use all the time.
So you are essentially taking the high road, while making a point?
Just because someone is being an asshole, doesn't mean you have to deal with it. And they shouldn't even know that you are bypassing them. You can be more clever than a person by talking things up, or be more clever in silence. Give them a little charity. That's the only true charity - the charity given anonymously. And the charity of not exposing them for the asshole they are, it the most awesome charity in the world.
Jesse then got into discussing Narcotics Anonymous but felt that he didn't buy all the 'bullshit' they say. He felt that we make choices in life and you can't exchange a drug dependency for a group of people telling you what to do. He doesn't buy the 'it's a disease' aspect. So that seguewayed into exploring the aspect of choice versus victim mentality. Using past issues as crutches instead of addressing them and moving on in life.
Yeh, I don't believe in that bullshit. I went to a place called 'Promises' which, granted, is a cappuccino resort, but I get sick of people trying to blame shit on other things, or who feel they are entitled to something. You aren't entitled to anything but death when you are born. Everything else, you have to earn. You know what sucked? The dependency was my problem, but I was making it everyone else's problem, including my son and my mother and the people who depended on me to do what we're doing for a living. I could never be one of those dudes who looks myself in the mirror every morning saying, 'I can't help that I have a problem'. I'm not going to go out and shoot a bunch of kids in my high school class to get attention. There's a great Onion quote - 'Who does a girl have to fuck around here to get closure with her father?'
Then we ventured back to the music scene and specifically I wanted to thank Jesse for making "Death by Sexy' as it has made my summer a lot of fun. It is nice to listen to 'feel good' music. I also informed Jesse that he was developing a huge following, to which he responded with a modest 'thank-you'. I don't think he truly realizes how much of an impact his cd is making. We went on to talk about the 70s influences in his music, and Lux Interior and Poison Ivy playing on the CD. This conversation led to the discussion of whom to trust in the music industry with Jesse citing Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Jack Black, etc. to be the ones he trusts.
You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Loyalty and friendship is huge, and something that's uncommon in Hollywood. Most people in Hollywood want fame while they're there, but they want to pretend that they don't give a fuck about fame. I'm lucky that I don't have to be around that. I am one of the luckiest guys in the world that Joshua Homme is my best friend. Dave Grohl and Jack Black are the sort of men that they are - they are real men. Men of character, that keep their word. They are the only dudes I would think it is possible to do business with on a handshake. That's the kind of guys they are. When we were set to tour with The Foo Fighters, it was done on the phone and that's how it should be. The level of appreciation I have for being in this job is amazing, and to be able to do it in the way it should be done, and to have the support of people around you who want it to be done the way it should be done is like the roulette wheel coming up, winning. It's like a rock and roll lottery ticket. One day I was married square, the next day I have a couple of tattoos and I am making a record. I happened to be friends with some of the biggest rock and roll stars and now here I am in Vancouver, speaking with a lovely lady like you, and it doesn't get any better than that.
I mentioned that it was refreshing to hear Jesse appreciate his career choice because I find a lot of artists get tired of interviews, and dissecting their music to the point where they begin to withdraw. Jesse appreciates artists feeling that way, but he loves talking about his music and he loves talking about himself. We agreed that everyone needs a certain amount of vanity - not necessarily conceit - but vanity to be in the business. When we were discussing family life, he mentioned that he had a six year old.
What's your son's name?
Micah Edward Hughes. Like the last prophet in the Old Testament. On the 'B' side of our Canadian release, 'I Want you so Hard', he's playing drums on the cover of 'Addicted to Love'. He's overcome a lot of obstacles to be my son. He's definitely a mini me.'
Definitely - I want to remarry. My attitude and my experiences are the result of being burned by a girl, but I don't think there's anything better than being in a relationship. I don't fool myself that it really works, and I'm not necessarily in the right position to lead someone into believing that I would be in a relationship with them. I have girlfriends in a lot of places who I am friends with all the time - I guess I am in a weird spot because I am worried ... I love women and I really respect women, and I don't want to be the dude who's 40 years old and unable to be in a relationship because I don't have the skills anymore. I think I am designed for parenting and I think I made a great husband. I didn't choose my wife very well, and she had different motives.
We started discussing Bush and the charisma of Clinton, the tape recorder died, but I managed to wrap up the interview by asking Jesse which interview question he disliked the most.
It is always a baited question and it's always about Joshua Homme and it is designed to make me feel animosity towards him. He was a superstar first and I rode in on his coattails. Which is what I did - I rode in on his coattails.
How can you ride in on his coattails when you helped him with the Desert Sessions?
Yeah, but what is reality and what is not in the public eye? You may know that, but most fans of The Queens of the Stone Age don't know that. They think that the famous lead singer of The Queens of the Stone Age started up a side project called The Eagles of Death Metal. In fact, it was being promoted in your local paper as 'Peaches featuring Queens of the Stone Age side project, Eagles of Death Metal'. Let's just put it this way - the only way I'm ever going to get out of his shadow is if he gets out of my fucking sun. That's another one from my Grandpa. That's why I hate that question because it can put me in a situation of being misquoted - especially English journalists. It's tough because we're friends and I've never met anyone more genuinely wonderful than Josh Homme. The only reason he knew I was working on a record was when my Mother was worried about me (after the divorce) and he came around and checked in on me.
With that being said, and the rest of the interview left unsaid (due to the recorder) the interview wrapped up. Jesse was accommodating, talkative, and up front about most of the areas in his life. It was a treat to chat with him and get his 'take' on life in general. Afterwards, whilst watching his concert, I think it finally dawned on him just how popular his band was. It was nice to see him be validated in such a public forum.