After a near-death experience, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme is appreciating hearth and home, he tells Eamon Sweeney
“I woke up and there was a doctor going, ‘Shit, we lost you’,” the towering Queens of the Stone Age frontman explains. “I couldn’t get up for four months. When I did, I hadn’t got a clue what was going on.
“But in all honesty, the last couple of years of failure and anguish have been the best thing to ever happen to me,” Homme reasons. “It gave me a chance to figure out what’s really important to me.”
“My grandpa used to say, ‘Everyone gets knocked down, but it’s the style in which you get up that matters’. Well, it feels like I got to stand up my way. Does my grandpa mean a lot to me? Well, his name is tattooed on my fingers.
“I don’t need to explain to anyone what he means to me.”
Family, friends and making music got Homme through what he calls a tough couple of years. “I thought, ‘I can run away from this, or I can run into it’,” he says. Homme is married to Melbourne-born singer, guitarist and equally prolific punk rocker Brody Dalle. One of the coolest couples in rock, they have two young children, a girl called Camille and a boy called Orrin.
“The wife and I have a little shack out the back of our house, so I put a little studio in there,” Homme says of domestic life.
“She encouraged me to go in there as much as possible and told me not to worry about what I wrote.”
“So, I went in and the first song I wrote was The Vampyre of Time and Memory. I hated it. I thought, ‘Who wants to hear this?’ Then Brody reminded me, ‘Who fucking cares?’ You got to start somewhere and the bottom can be a really great place.
“This record was born from something rough, but I hope I’m not turning you upside down and trying to shake the change out of you. At the same time, when you’re making a record where reality and honesty is your only device, sometimes it’s going to get dark.”
The result is … Like Clockwork, the sixth darkly brilliant Queens of the Stone Age album that features a truly headline grabbing cast of guests and collaborators.
Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, Mark Lanegan, James Lavelle, Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys and none other than Elton John all appear.
“I’m almost regretfully realising that we had too many guests, but to be honest, it was really like a buffer for me,” Homme reveals.
“For example, Alex Turner might come over for five hours, drink some tequila and maybe sing something. It would be a little mini-vacation away from how much work it took to make this record.
“Having your friends over is important and that’s what they are rather than guests. Jake Shears is my TV buddy. Alex (Turner) is my mate who lives in LA now, so we ride motorcycles. Nick (Oliveri) made his record in my studio and we’ve remained friends since we parted ways all those years ago. It was time to let the air back into that one, so we went for lunch.
“ And I go to the movies with Lanegan all the time. These are real friends.
“I didn’t want to play music anymore because I died on an operating table,” Homme confesses. “I didn’t give a shit about little things anymore, and music had become a little thing.
“So I’d call up Trent (Reznor) and we’d go and have coffee and talk for five hours about other things. It became part of the process of feeling whole again.”
Elton John might show up on your record if your name happens to be Kate Bush, but Queens of the Stone Age?
“I know, man, it’s wild,” Homme agrees. “The funny thing is he called me. It was a Sunday and I was at home with my son. The phone rings. ‘Josh, Elton John here.’ At first, I thought it was somebody fucking with me. He told me the only thing my band was missing was a real queen. I said, ‘Honey, you’ve no idea.’
“Elton is just a lovely, funny, excited guy,” Homme enthuses. “Whether he’s signing cellists from Croatia off YouTube or finding kids in Ireland who are 15 and sound like the Beatles, he’s just so passionate.
“He’s a total workaholic too. He shares my attitude that work has always saved him. Although it’s fucked me up too,\[Mark Hayes\] but let’s face it, but it’s always saved me in the end.”
While Homme has worked with the biggest queen in showbiz, once upon a time he was accused of being homophobic. At a festival in Oslo in 2008, Homme allegedly called an audience member who threw a shoe at him onstage, a “chicken-shit fucking faggot” and “a 12-year-old dickless fucking turd”.
Several bloggers branded his outburst as homophobic. The hoopla got picked up by the mainstream media, although maybe it’s worth noting that both the LA Times and Pitchfork have both seemingly removed their stories
covering the incident.
“Let me tell you a couple of things,” Homme responds, his voice darkening slightly.
“First of all, I never check myself on the internet, so I never give a shit. Second of all, if you had salmonella poisoning and had lost 28 pounds in five days and you’ve been on an IV for four hours just before coming onstage, and there are pots onstage in case you need to puke or shit yourself, and say someone threw a shoe at you? How would you react?
“The difference is that I don’t give a shit,” Homme says flatly. “I don’t mean I don’t care, I just mean I don’t give a shit about that guy. I lost my shit and I called him every fucking thing in the book.
“One thing I am not is politically correct. I’m sorry man, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me. I don’t really give two shits what anyone thinks.
“I can sit here and tell you that my brother is gay and has had the same boyfriend for 20 years, but it’s none of your fucking business. I’ve made tons of mistakes, but I’ve learnt from them. I’m grateful for my mistakes, but I’m not sorry in this regard.
“This is a crazy mixed-up life, but I know a few things from over the years. One of them is that fame is fake. It’s not a real thing. It’s the ultimate in ‘perception is truth’, so I don’t worry about either the up shot or the down shot of it. That’s why I’m far more infamous than I am famous.
“To anyone who has ever called me a homophobe — I’m sorry, but I never listen to that shit. I’ve been called all manners of things that have walked or crawled.
“I think you’d understand from also having red hair that you learn pretty quickly that you either run or stay. Well, I tend to stay. I’m not much of a runner.
“I’m not a tough, macho guy, but I have a son and a daughter and I want to be a real man if I have to, and a real man makes mistakes.”
…Like Clockwork is out next Friday. Queens of the Stone Age will perform at Donnington, Roskilde and Benacassim. Irish dates will be announced soon.