They started as just another satellite in Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions orbit; eight years and one messy divorce later, the Eagles of Death Metal are a full-fledged “movement and phenomenon onto itself,” as mustachioed singer/guitarist Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes puts it. We talked to Hughes for fifteen minutes at the cusp of the Eagles’ spring tour with the Strokes, touching on everything from groupies to girl-phobic indie kids and Rick Springfield. The resulting interview may not be as lengthy as some of the Modern Pea Pod’s greatest hits…but it might just be more rock’n'roll.
Modern Pea Pod: So you’re on tour with the Strokes right now. How’s that going?
Jesse Hughes: Yeah, we just started – our first show is tonight at the Hammerstein Ballroom. So right now we’re on top of a luxury hotel, surrounded by bikini girls.
MPP: Is that the kind of thing you guys are used to?
JH: The Eagles of Death Metal love beautiful ladies and ladies of all sorts. And because we give so much time and energy to them, sometimes they give us time and energy in return. It doesn’t suck, I’ll tell you that.
MPP: (laughs) It seems like early in EODM’s career, you were perceived strictly as a side project of Queens of the Stone Age because of Josh Homme’s involvement. Now you really look to be coming into your own as a separate band.
JH: Yeah, when the first record came out there was a perception that it was a side project, but it was never intended that way. Still, to be in a side project of Queens of the Stone Age doesn’t suck. I mean, the whole scene out here spawned from Joshua’s great mind – and he’s my best friend in the whole world, so I don’t mind at all. I love being part of this scene.
MPP: So it didn’t bother you at all getting pigeonholed like that?
JH: That hurt a little bit, yeah. But after a while it just became a joke. (facetiously) Honey, there’s nothing on the side about us. We’re all up front.
(Not sidekicks…partners – photographer unknown)
JH: It’s interesting, though, because we actually did sort of start out as a side thing; the first thing we ever did was on the Desert Sessions. And that was a joke – we had a death metal vocalist for real!
MPP: So that’s where the name came from?
JH: Well, the name came from Joshua and myself, and a friend of ours. We were in the back of the friend’s VW, smoking … something. And he was a death metal fanatic, so he was really, really trying hard to convince us to listen to all this stuff. He’d keep putting on stuff by these different bands, and we’d just be like, “That sucks. That’s crap. That’s pussy shit.” Then he put on this one band, and Josh said, “That’s not death metal! That’s like … the Eagles of death metal!” And I’ll never forget, because I was eating a graham cracker and when he said that I spat it out, crumbs went all over the place. Our friend was like, “Who the fuck is eating pie in my car?”
A few weeks later, though, I was talking to Josh and he said, “You know, I’ve actually sort of been thinking about what the Eagles of death metal would sound like.” And I’d been thinking the same thing. So we brought in our friend who was the death metal guy to sing death metal vocals, and that was the first thing we ever recorded. Now, though, Eagles of Death Metal is truly a movement and a phenomenon onto itself. (laughs)
MPP: Let’s talk about your new album, Death By Sexy. I read that Peace Love Death Metal only took three days to record; this one took twelve. Would you say that taking your time and really crafting the sound was more of a priority for this record?
JH: The songs I wrote for Death By Sexy were a little more challenging, so we sort of needed to take our time on it. But also, we wanted to beef it up a little. The only way the first album was not going to sound like a fluke was if we went forward, and we went forward. We recorded Peace Love Death Metal at a friend’s house; this one we did at Sound City in Los Angeles!
MPP: How was it, working in a professional studio?
JH: Oh, it was a dream – I mean this wasn’t just any professional studio, it was Sound City! Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumours there. I actually set up vocals in the same spot as Rick Springfield did “Jessie’s Girl”… I was like, “Aw, hell yeah!” And we paid for this shit ourselves, so it’d better be good, you know?
(Not afraid to rock – from the “I Want You So Hard” video by Lonely Island)
MPP: Well, I got the chance to hear Death By Sexy, and I think it’s great. It’s refreshing to hear more bands nowadays who aren’t afraid to rock and be silly and actually put on a show…I feel like the self-conscious sort of indie stuff might be on its way back out.
JH: God, I hope so. The false humility, cliquish bullshit that has infected rock’n'roll has got to go. And you know what else has to go, is bands that are a boy party – a big fuckin’ boy party, no girls allowed. Listen, if you’re a smart man in rock’n'roll, you should be doing what you’re meant to be doing: making little girls dance. (MPP laughs) Seriously, if the little girls are dancing and happy, then everybody‘s happy. But instead everyone’s trying to be the first and only one to be into something. It’s like if you wear a Clash T-shirt you have to have been into the Clash since 1981 – fuck you, dude, I’ll do what I want. I feel like, if you’ve just discovered the Stones, you deserve a handshake and a welcome to the rock’n'roll parade. It’s supposed to be fun!
MPP: That’s a philosophy you guys definitely seem to be living. Are you happy with the new record, as compared to the first one?
JH: I’m very happy with the new record. I don’t know if it’s better than the first, but I had the best time recording it – just everything about it. Even if the songs suck, it was a complete and total joy to record. All my friends were there…every little element has made it such a wonderful experience.
MPP: Great – but it looks like we’re running out of time. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
JH: We live to make Little Richard proud. And if it looks like an Indian and smells like an Indian, then it ain’t fuckin’ John Wayne. That’s what we live by.
The Eagles of Death Metal’s second album, Death By Sexy, comes out April 11. They are currently on tour in the US with the Strokes, and will be playing Detroit’s State Theatre on Thursday, April 13. Buy tickets here.
Interview by Zach Hoskins