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|15 Minutes on the Tour Bus with Eagles of Death Metal
Frontman Jesse Hughes on ladies, Leno and Death by Sexy
by Ashley Graham
The first step up onto the tour bus is higher than you might think. Your expectations of what’s going on inside are probably higher than the actions themselves can live up to. And the people on board are likely not as high as the bad rock clichés have always taught. There are two types of traveling musician—the kind that is normal and boring and inhabits the bus just described, and the kind that lives up to every cliché ever put forth. Less than a minute on the tour bus of Eagles of Death Metal proves that frontman and brains behind the operation, Jesse Hughes, is one of the crazy types. This tour bus is the cliché, and these folks are the kind of high we’ve always been warned about.
“Want to hear the best dance song ever recorded?” Hughes asks as he dances up and down the aisle of the bus to various songs on his blaring iPod. It’s too fucking loud to even think, and Hughes & Co. (in this moment including a female roadie, bass player BOC, aka Brian O’Conner, and tour manager Dennis) seem quite alright with it—lucid, declarative thoughts are furthest from their minds right now. Hughes glances over several times throughout his routine to say things like, “Hang on, baby, I’m just getttin’ inta the zonnnnnne.” Then he mock-lap dances before O’Conner, shouting from behind his well-maintained ‘stache, “Only the first one’s free, baby.” Later, more sexual innuendo will arise with the mention of O’Conner’s nickname, “Big Hands.”
But wait, this is the Eagles of Death Metal whose name has been tripping off countless tongues the last month as they ventured out on the road with the ultimates in cool (and normal), The Strokes? Are we really to believe that they come into the rock spectrum at such a completely different locale than the laid-back New York heroes? Believe it. But it hasn’t kept them from enjoying every second with their opposites while out on the road.
Ashley Graham: Let’s talk about the Strokes.
Jesse Hughes: YES! Let’s talk about the Strokes.
AG: How awesome are the Strokes?
JH: They’re amazing, they really are. They’re sweethearts. It’s been the coolest tour we’ve ever been on. They’re sweethearts; I don’t know any other way to describe them. Every night they watch us, we watch them, it’s been a big love fest. And they’re an amazing rock ‘n’ roll band, Fab is one of the most amazing drummers ever.
AG: I saw you rocking out on stage, you and Josh.
JH: You saw me rocking out?
AG: Yes, Portland.
JH: It’s ‘cuz they rock—“Take It or Leave it”—that finale, is so cool.
AG: And the new album?
JH: I love it, I’m obsessed with it. I love the first track, that song is so badass.
AG: You’ve toured with Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age—this is the best tour?
JH: Those were great but this is totally different. This is my first bus tour across the United States, so there are a lot of firsts going on for me that everyone else has already gotten in on. Nick, Fab, Julian, every single last one of those guys is my friend now.
AG: Albert and Nikolai?
JH: (laughs) Them too, yeahhhh. Albert rode on the bus with us from Austin to Dallas. We share each others spirit, mannnnn.
AG: You’ll be crushed when the tour ends then, I imagine, with the spirit sharing that’s taken place and whatnot.
JH: Yeah, but we’re leaving the tour so we can play Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, that doesn’t suck.
AG: Made those trips before?
JH: Played Conan before, he’s a sweetheart. We’re going to play David Letterman too.
AG: Big time!
JH: (smirks) Big time, baby.
We’ve heard the story—Hughes and drummer/producer Josh Homme met years ago, quickly became best friends and dreamt up the idea of the band. But forget about all of that, because with bands like this the story seldom matters. Hughes and Homme’s rock is reminiscent of the bygone eras, and it’s quite literally screaming from the stereo for attention. As is Hughes, whose personality in one moment is rock ‘n’ roll, and in another seems instead the friendliest you’ll encounter. He somehow seems both completely inspiring, and completely impossible to take serious.
Hughes’ dark-as-night aviator sunglasses never leave his face throughout EoDM’s live set, his red hair is buzzed to perfection, and his moustache is just so mid-70s porn king. He flings his black, sweat-soaked shirt into the crowd each night, and he’s always yelling “Let’s hear it for the ladies!” from the stage. Are we supposed to laugh, or declare our neverending love? Is it really fucking stupid, or really fucking amazing?
The all-important question is impossibly unapproachable. When Hughes is done dancing his fool head off and is in the “zone,” what follows is the repetition of phrases like “Yeah, that’s right, baby” and “You know it, girl.” The only thing that seems to make sense about the encounter is that it, for the most part, makes no sense at all—everything is sporadic, in the moment, and a little on the crazy side, which, really, is fitting for Hughes and EoDM. We’re left to our devices in deciding just what to think of what they’ve created.
But we’d all be really missing out on something if we denied how much we like it. Death By Sexy… is one of the most refreshing things to hit the stereo yet this year, filled with inane lyrics about sex, drugs, and, most importantly, Hughes’ beloved ladies. It’s crunchy, vintage, rock with the snarl and spit of the classics.
AG: The new album.
JH: Death By Sexy…
AG: Yes. Most excellent album title.
JH: Thanks, baby, you hear it yet?
AG: I haven’t.
JH: You gotta hear it, baby.
AG: Tell me about it.
JH: It’s just a rock album, it’s just a dance album. For me it’s just a celebration, if you will, to use a corny term, that it’s okay to have fun. And dancing, and chicks. Rock ‘n’ roll is about ladies, so let’s remind everyone over and over again.
AG: I do recall you reminding the Portland crowd repeatedly.
JH: There were beautiful ladies there that were dancing! I’d be insane! I’d be gay and crazy, and I’m neither—or maybe I’d be crazzyyyyy gay, no, no, just kidding. It’s awesome, though, man, it’s the best job in the world. This job can’t suck. I mean, when you love it, and they love it back—that’s the juice, man.
This the new face of rock ‘n’ roll. And the heart of rock ‘n’ roll is still beating. All of that. This is what we’ve always hoped rock ‘n’ roll was all about, but always imagined couldn’t possibly be. Hughes is in love with this shit, and he’s just about the most exhilarating individual you’ll ever meet.
Homme stumbles onto the bus at 5pm, just having awoken from a nap at a nearby hotel, and just minutes before the band is to head to sound check, ever so slightly more jaded to the business of rock than his compatriot. He’s greeted by, “There’s the guy,” gives a brief smile to the proceedings, and then heads to the back of the bus, presumably, to crash. He’s the rock star, Hughes is the charmer. And it works out just fine, because as Hughes explains, he’s the only real constant in baby Eagles of Death Metal’s life. Homme’ll be parting ways with the quartet in favor of Queens of the Stone Age dates throughout the summer, to be replaced by the “other Eagle,” Samantha Maloney, but the heart and soul of the band, what makes it so great, and so lovable, will continue to live fully in Hughes.
JH: We shake it up out on the road; different people, different cities.
AG: The reason?
JH: This is my show, baby.
AG: You’re the star.
JH: I write all of it!
AG: You’re doing the legwork, then?
JH: We all do all the work, I just get to benefit the most.
AG: You get to be the FACE of Eagles of Death Metal.
JH: That’s right, girl.
Eagles of Death Metal’s dates continue throughout the summer. Death By Sexy… is available in stores now. For more information on the band, go to www.eaglesofthedeathmetal.com.