Q&A: QOTSA’s Josh Homme On the Tour Grind, Eagles of Death Metal & Listening To More Than Punk
After more than a decade recording for Interscope Records, the band made a change to stalwart indie label Matador. The move resulted in …Like Clockwork, which was not only the band’s first release to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but also Matador’s first chart-topping full-length.
Radio.com sat down with Homme and guitarist Troy Van Leeuween earlier this year, when the pair discussed everything from working with the likes of Elton John and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys on the new album to Homme dishing on a traffic accident in which an unnamed actress from TV’s One Tree Hill nearly killed him.
With the band blazing around the world, performing at a slew of music festivals over the summer, we recently caught up with Homme as QOTSA embarked on their own headlining tour, something he admitted he was especially excited about. While Homme sounded tired speaking on the phone from a hotel room on the road, he assures us it’s the “good kind of tired” that comes from preaching the rock and roll gospel night after night from the hallowed pulpit that is the stage.
Let’s start with a rock and roll classic: How’s the tour so far?
It’s good. We’re starting to play our own shows, which I’m glad about. I mean, I like doing festivals, but I prefer playing to our own kids, you know?
Are any of the new songs getting a surprising or unexpected reaction in concert?
We keep playing this song “If I Had a Tail,” and people are kind of going nuts for that one. I guess it’s a little unexpected.
It seems like you’re changing up the setlist every night.
We always put in a different three or four songs, at the minimum, for every show. We have a new drummer [Jon Theodore], and we’re actually learning our old stuff so we can change around the setlists drastically. We have a lot of people that will come to multiple shows, and even if it’s only five people, they might want to see something else. Also for us, too, it keeps it fresh. I’ve seen a lot of bands, we’ve played festivals with them, and they play the same set every night, say the same things in between songs. That would be hard for me to do. Like last night we played in Edmonton, and the crowd was so good, you know? And I told them that, and I don’t say that every night. It’s not necessary to shine ass like that. But I want people to know that I mean it when I say it. I just do whatever it takes to make every show as original as possible.
What made the Edmonton crowd so good?
They were loud. It got really sweaty, even though it was a bigger place, like 5,000 people. When 5,000 people all sweat in one room together, it’s kind of nuts. It’s like walking into some crazy sauna.
You recently sat in as guest DJ on Jarvis Cocker’s BBC Radio 6 show in England and played a really diverse mix of music. One song that stood out was “Oblivion” by Grimes, which is not something I’d expect you to spin. Are you a fan of her music?
Yeah, I quite like that song. For some reason, I think people have this idea that I listen to heavy music all day. I really don’t listen to that much heavy music. It’s not really on purpose. I’m a sucker for hooks. I don’t care what style of music it is. Dean Martin to Slayer to Motown, it doesn’t really matter. It took me until my 20s to stop saying that I just listen to punk rock music.
Well, two of my favorite albums are [Iggy Pop’s] Lust for Life and The Idiot, which came out in the same year . They’re both Iggy albums with Bowie producing and being heavily all over them. I think that was a great combination, and those records are just an influence on me no matter what happens. Like when it comes to background vocals, it’s this kind of T. Rex-y, Bowie, Iggy feel that I just kind of default to with stuff like that. That sound is just kind of omnipresent in my musical brain.
Comedian Rob Delaney recently called …Like Clockwork “a note-for-note masterpiece,” and that “everybody should print out its lyrics and make a suit out of them and wear it.”
Wow. I don’t really know Rob, but that’s really nice of him to say. It might make for a strange fashion look overall, but who am I to stop him from saying something nice?
One of the main components of the new album is Boneface’s distinctive artwork. Will you continue working with him moving forward?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I like what we were able to do together as an idea. I love how he just has this world view that’s kind of messed up, like ours. He’s such a bad ass kid. He hadn’t really done that much, so it feels good to introduce somebody. We didn’t get in his face, and we had a really fair and honest sort of relationship, and he probably won’t ever have that again (laughs). People are really messed up and they want to take from you. So it’s nice to part of something good together.
You recently mentioned the idea of the new QOTSA album coming out sooner than later, and having it be more of an upbeat counterpart to …Like Clockwork. Is that something you’ve thought about more since then?
Those are all just wishes. In a way, I probably guaranteed that it will be anything except that. This is the problem of talking about something before you do it. You sort of jinx the living hell out of it. I know this: I wanna create more stuff. Maybe we should just say touring is a part of what we do, but we’ll just slowly and continuously do it without stopping. We’ll go slower and take longer breaks, and there will just be records over the top of that and we’ll just keep going. Maybe it should just be this slow-moving tank that keeps on rolling.
In between the last two QOTSA albums, you made quite a bit of music with other people, including Them Crooked Vultures and Eagles of Death Metal. Will you be spending more time on QOTSA specifically in the near future, or are you looking to branch out into other projects again soon?
I love the newness of everything. It’s a reason to jump around. I’m going to go home and work on the first piece of a new Eagles of Death Metal record right away. The reason to do that is to change the experience. It’s what makes doing an extended, long tour straight really difficult for me, because I need someone to yank the top page off and get to that fresh, next page, you know? That’s how I’ve trained my brain. It’s very much like a YouTube brain: it needs to have something else going on.
What’s been providing that newness for you on this current tour?
Part of it is learning the old songs with our new drummer. Another part is playing these new songs and really working on making this live show something totally different for us, taking it somewhere it’s never been before. Just experiencing this kind of spot we’re at right now, which is pretty different.