|Sept. 2002 - Papermag: Feel Good Hits of the Summer
by Theo Kogan
Allow me introduce myself. My name is Theo. I used to sing in a band called the Lunachicks, but now I've gone solo. I also act, DJ, write and model. I love music passionately, even when there hasn't been much out there to love. The good is few and far between, and the bad is really ugly -- hear me? Anyway, my love for this one band is so strong, it makes my musical little heart ache. The band is called Queens Of The Stone Age, and their new album is Songs For the Deaf (Interscope). Their self-proclaimed style is "Robot Rock". But I don't think that a robot could pull off their sound.
I interviewed Josh Homme (vocals and guitar), who got his start in a band called Kyuss. He's also responsible for The Desert Sessions, a series of albums with a number of different performers, which rock and rock hard. The band also includes Nick Oliveri (vocals and bass), ex-Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan (who collaborates and sings) and Dave Grohl (on drums, just like he was in Nirvana). The Queens are one of the most inspiring, talented and exciting bands of our time. They are artists and they're great at what they do. This is my opinion. I was thrilled to speak with Josh, who's intelligent, funny, precise and even tidy. He was doing his laundry as we spoke -- getting ready for a European tour, as I myself have done many times before. Hang on for the ride.
Theo Kogan: I want to make the interview a bit of Playgirl meets Teen Beat meets a music magazine, is that cool?
Josh Homme: Totally. I love Playgirl. Want to know what I'm wearing? [in a whisper] Nothing!
TK: Do you do all your interviews naked?
JH: Yeah, with a bowl of Jello. It was hot and I was hungry.
TK: So Josh, what's your sign?
JH: Wow, this is like Playgirl! I'm in the centerfold right now!
TK: What are your turn-ons?
JH: In a person? Intelligence. I'm not afraid to admit that I like beauty. And independence.
JH: Ugliness, stupidity and dependence.
TK: Favorite cliche?
JH: Because I love to say cliches when the conversation gets really bizarre -- like, 'Well, takes one to know one,' and 'A penny saved is a penny earned' -- I'm fascinated with them. Actually, I have a book of 10,000 cliches. That's how I avoid them when I'm writing and how I know what they all are. They don't come out of thin air, though. Like, what color is your hair?
TK: Bleached blonde.
JH: So they would say, 'Blondes have more fun,' but they don't make up arbitrary things like 'Blondes love green.'
TK: [I laugh and think that despite the other cliche about blondes, I'm pretty darn smart.] Do you use a thesaurus when you write?
JH: Rarely do I use a thesaurus. I just read my cliches book on the plane and memorize them 'cause I don't have a computer.
TK: You don't have a computer?
JH: I'm in a band that has 'Stone Age' in the name.
TK: Good point. What kind of picks do you use?
JH: Dunlop nylon point one millimeter, since I was 14. No one ever asks that, not even guitar magazines! They want to know that at PAPERMAG?
TK: I don't care. I do.
JH: Are you Theo from New York?
TK: Yes, it's me. Theo from the Lunachicks.
JH: You have the big baby eyelashes! How's Sean [Theo's boyfriend]?
TK: He's good.
JH: I enjoyed hanging out with Gina (Lunachicks/Bantam) and you guys. Your CD is cool.
TK: Thank you! [We talk about my new solo Theo CD and I feel like we're friends.]
TK: When did you know you'd be in a band for the rest of your life?
JH:I thought I would quit music forever when I quit Kyuss and had just turned 21. I didn't even think I'd do it that long. I think when I started doing Queens I realized that I would be doing this forever and that it's kind of a "lifer" thing now. It's kind of too late -- I'd have to go back to working construction.
TK: What's your favorite band of all time?
JH: The Stooges. They were the best band in the world and it could never happen again either. In the time frame -- the peace and love generation -- they were these thugs from Detroit, or Ann Arbor to be more exact. Everyone hated them when they were around and they played less than 20 shows.
TK: I didn't even know that and I love the Stooges!
JH: They were dropped from every label they were ever on and they degenerated production-wise on every album -- that never happens.
TK: I have noticed that. What's your favorite Stooges album?
JH: Funhouse is the shit, and I say that 'cause I'm supposed to, 'cause I'm a purist. But Raw Power is so gnarly. Take the craziest album from the craziest band in the world and play them back to back -- Raw Power first and then the craziest band after -- and they'll sound like a bunch of pussies.
TK: That's 'cause it's Raw Power.
JH: And the later demos are cool too. Songs like "Shake Appeal" make you want to fuck. It's tough enough for the guys and sweet enough for the gals, which is the ultimate goal of all music -- to straddle that line.
JH: I'll get like a woodie.
TK: Ha ha! If you could have a super power, what would it be?
JH: I think invisibility would be good 'cause you could turn it on and off. I wouldn't want to do right with it or anything. I'd want to do evil [a mischievous kind of evil, not like evil evil]. What about you?
TK: I think flying would be mine.
JH: Flying would be the shit. I'd still take invisibility over flying.
TK: Where's your favorite place to play?
JH: Australia, no South America.
TK: What would be your dream tour? Bands past or present?
JH: The real obvious ones would be Hendrix and the Stooges. Hendrix was changing all the time and you never knew what Iggy was gonna do, especially in that drug-addled state. I like that sort of "Oh God, what's going to happen?" feeling.
TK: Any musical training?
JH: I took polka lessons for two years.
JH: I think the rock world needs polka and they don't even know it. We have a couple of polka-style songs on the new album, but see, they're masked properly. I don't think we would bust an accordion or any shit like that.
TK: Are you fighting that urge?
JH: Some of the coolest stuff I've witnessed is people using instruments incorrectly.
TK: You should see me on guitar. How does writing work?
JH: Our habit is to have no habit. Sometimes we'll bring in things mostly finished and sometimes things that need to be sculpted. We try to have no feelings or ego about it. And we all have other projects as well so if it isn't right for Queens it doesn't mean it sucks. So no ego trips and no hard feelings is the best way for us.
TK: I think everyone could take a lesson from that.
JH: Music is so personal and people take it too personally.
TK: I think people take everything too personally.
JH: I think you're taking that a little too personally. [Both laugh] We try to make it personal for everyone. Right now, Nick [Olivieri] is in the studio on his two days off with his other band MondoGenerator.
TK: How has your relationship with Nick relationship changed since the sixth grade?
JH: It hasn't changed at all. Nick is the same as he was in the sixth grade. He used to drink in the parking lot and fight and screw back then, too. And I used to fight and screw and blame it on Nick.
TK: Squid [bass player for the Lunachicks] and I have known each other since the eighth grade. If you two were in a remake of The Odd Couple, who would play Felix and who would play Oscar?
JH: I think it would be Last Tango in Paris. I know from a distance it seems I would be the overly neat guy, but both of us are relatively neat. Now was Oscar the drunk poker-playing guy?
JH: I'm definitely Oscar. We're two Oscars.
TK: Do you realize that you guys are the new Barry White?
JH: Because we love love and we hate hate? That's our motto for this year. I'm not being bitter. I'm not like, 'Why are we huge?" My alternative is working construction. I'm more like, 'This is excellent -- come taste this.' And I think if you can make that a habit, it starts to affect your life a little bit more, and I'm no hippie. It's not kharma or anything, it's just like, 'Don't be a dick.'
TK: I think that's fabulous. I am trying not to be bitter.
JH: Don't be bitter. In music it's very easy 'cause the onslaught of bands you're not into will outweigh the other ones, but if you think about it, it's supposed to be that way -- you're kind of looking for a diamond in shit. And to articulate what bands are good, you need the other ones. We do all these interviews and people ask about the state of music and aren't we disgusted and I'm like, 'Fuck no, what's the alternative -- a bunch of bands that sound like us?' Creed and Limp Bizkit make it possible for us to stick out.
TK: You're so positive!
JH: I think they should make more records and they should come out the same day as ours. Don't you? You and I both come from punk rock guilt.
TK: I know I have some of that. Kids used to give me a hard time about having an RV, and I was like, 'Do you have any idea what we've gone through just to get here, tonight?'
JH: I hate to play into that. But I've learned a lot from Dave [Grohl] and now I'm like, 'That's right. I'm a fucking rockstar and, while we're on the subject, you're actually not fit to talk to me -- can you have him removed?' [Both laugh] I mean it's okay for people not to like you.
TK: I agree.
JH: We were at this party and this intern from Sony was givng it to Dave and he was like, 'I don't have to listen to this. I'm going home to my mansion now.' Uh, Nirvana, hello? It's just tunes -- it's not the cancer cure, you know? Am I taking this too far?
TK: Have you ever played the school for the deaf in Washington, D.C.? It's called Galuidette? They have a big party/festival every year and the Lunachicks played in this cement loading dock and it was loud as fuck.
JH: Wow. Definitely I'd like to play there. Hutch [QOTSA's sound engineer] used to work at dance parties for the deaf and they'd pump the bass really loud and hold balloons to feel the vibrations. We're really into social experiments -- like our first album cover with the black woman's crotch. K-Mart freaked out so I got their catalog with all the lingerie ads and I told them to look at that stuff. They carried the record. And with the last album, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," the single, instead of saying curse words we said drug names which freaked people out and K-Mart wanted us to change the lyrics. Everyone thinks we're a drug band, which of course we are, but change it to what? O'Doul's?
JH: And the deaf thing is obviously a metaphor, but I really want to do a video with all deaf people. I don't feel bad for deaf people. They can smell and see better than anyone. Retarded people, too. I went through a period of time where I was really angry at retarded people because they're so happy all the time. It pissed me off. Like, oh, your Mom died, and they're like, 'Yay!'
TK: So ignorance is bliss.
JH: This kid Tony that went to my high school used to lift up girls' skirts all the time and I was so jealous. I would be in jail if I did that but he was retarded so he didn't get in trouble. Beethoven went deaf and it didn't seem to bother him any. The label asked us to change the title and I'm like, 'Don't you have Eminem and Marilyn Manson? Why don't you go talk to them about it.'
TK: People are touchy about that stuff.
JH: They're handi-capable. A word that describes a condition, but you feel bad. People's panic and sympathy shit confuses them. I don't think deafness is a negative thing, it just is what it is. I'd like to save my sympathies for people who really need them.
TK: Okay. Real quick -- what's your favorite drug?
TK: Okay, booze?
JH: That's killer. I'm an equal opportunity person. I hate junk. I like to use drugs as a means of manipulting other people. I can tell you this though, none of them are a license to be a dumbass.
TK: I'm going to let you go now, but can I be on a Desert Session?
JH: That'd be cool if you write that in the PAPERMAG interview.
TK: I will. I promise [feeling like such a dork]. You don't have to say yes.
JH: It's much easier for me to say no that to placate everybody. We might be doing another one in August -- I have Sean's number.
TK: Awesome! [psyched beyond words]
The winning cliche of the conversation was, "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining." As for the music, the album, the songs and the secrets, I found something I like and I want you to listen.