December 5, 2010 by Dan Swinhoe
Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol. C-c-c-c-c-cocaine! There is no more rockstar way to describe your diet than in song. And the lanky, tattooed gingered-quiffed Joshua Homme is every bit the rock star, the kind that people imagine in their dreams, the kind your parents don’t want you listening to.
As the end of the naughties draws near, ‘The ginger Elvis’ he is known to his friends, is a major player in the rock world, with producing The Arctic Monkeys latest Humbug, and featuring on Biffy Clyro tracks, recording the new Eagles or Death Metal alb AND taking the world by storm with his newest project Them Crooked Vultures. Busy man. He is a figurehead of the rock mainstream but has still managed to retina his ‘keeping it real’ credentials, a hard feat indeed.
This was not always the case. Everyone has to start from somewhere. And Homme’s rises to power from a kid in a rock band the dusky desert to, well, a rock star in the dusky desert with drugs, arrests and a fair few fights and breakups in-between.
His story starts with Dungeons & Dragons in the California Desert, as all the best stories should, with sons of Kyuss. The band took the name from a monster in the game and produced one self-titled demo before a line up shift and a name change to Kyuss took them into the nighties.
Kyuss themselves are legendary. The desert jams and fights with the audience are features that recur throughout Homme’s career. The band’s ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ (1991) release created modern stoner rock, and the name is spoken in reverence among the rock critics.
Sadly, due to lack of commercial success and interband relationships (Homme is well known to be hard to work with) the band split in 1995. But to their credit they haven’t reformed, Homme citing that he likes the aura around the band, “Sounds like a legend forming to me. I’m too proud of it to rub my dick on it”.
After a short stint in Screaming Trees (he left due to annoyance at the bands lack of productivity) he formed Queens Of The Stone Age in 1997. He took his trademark chugging riffs and added a pop sense of melody. And for lack of anyone better, he took over vocal duties for himself.
‘Rated R’ was his commercial breakthrough, with ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ & ‘The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret’ becoming successful singles. (Homme even agreed to allow the LAPD to use ‘Feel Good’ (in an anti drink-driving film in return for a reduced sentence)
But rather than rest on his laurels as many do after some success Josh went back into the desert to form ‘The Desert Sessions’, an improv series that “You play for the sake of music.” It draws together Homme’s friends, including Nick Oliveri, PJ Harvey, and lets them play around, some of the songs being written and recorded within minutes of meeting one another. While the quality isn’t always there, it always makes for interesting listening and some of the tracks mutate to become QOTSA tracks in the future.
Joshua’s breakthrough proper came in 2002 with ‘Songs For The Deaf.’ Selling over a million copies, it remains the bands highlight and demonstrates the band and all their powers. The blend of pure metal with Homme’s unique melodies showing the world metal’s not all Satan and shouting and black t-shirts. It was also the first collaboration of Josh and Dave Grohl, the superdrummer of Nirvana and Foo Fighters frontman.
The story isn’t all rosy though. Soon after the release of ‘Songs…’ Nick Oliveri was kicked out, ironically considering Homme’s lifestyle, for too much partying. The next two albums while still selling well lacked the earlier quality, leading critics to questions how much impute Nick really had. His fiery personality has led to trouble on more than one occasion.
Josh managed to bag himself an arrest, a restraining order and a stint in rehab after he attacked Dwarves frontman, Blag Dahlia, for the Queens bashing lyrics; “This one goes out to Queens of the Trust-Fund, you slept on my floor, now I’m sleeping through your motherfuckin’ records.” from ‘The Dwarves Must Die.’
Not learning his lesson, Homme publicly promised never to play at Ozzfest again, leading the ever pleasant Sharon Osbourne, among other niceties, to state that “I hope he gets syphilis and dies”.
Hitting controversy once again, Homme had to apologies in a letter and deny homophobia after letting off a tirade of abuse after objects were thrown at him during the Queen’s set at the 2008 Norwegian Wood festival.
Things seemed to have brightened up again for metal’s answer to Jack White. After meeting John Paul Jones at Dave Grohl’s 40th birthday, the three decided to have a Desert Sessionsjam that sound evolved into Them Crooked Vultures, a group of rock ‘n’ roll that’s “lean, hungry and wants to grab you”. While the people around him have changed, Josh hasn’t; “I got arrested on the third day of our session.”
While it won’t, as some critics have suggested, be an ‘Era-defining force as Led Zep were for the 1970s’, it is the best work to come from Homme in a few years and the reaction speaks for itself: 70,000 records sold in the first week and the tour selling out in 12 minutes, before the album is even released.
“I gotta be just who I am, because I don’t know who else to be.” And that what makes Homme great. No matter how successful he is, no matter what, he always refuses to change and play the music he loves.”