Jesse Hughes is a self professed “bride of Rock & Roll,” a job I assume is similar to being Satan’s housekeeper: filthy, sweaty and invariably punctuated by the occasional stab of a rogue syringe.
Common assumption dictates that Rock stars are insatiable beasts, feeding on a steady diet of money, drugs and women — or men if you’re Rob Halford or Freddie Mercury. The circle continues forever until a contract (or the performer) expires.
We look at Rock & Roll through this prism because it’s all that we’re used to. For our purposes, Rock artists are typically beaten down, self-deferential nightmares, may or may not have a heroin problem and have a shelf life — professionally and literally — of a teddy-bear hamster.
Or they fade into obscurity like the guys from Foghat after their lone hit.
But don’t lose hope yet. Hughes, the lead singer of the Arena Rock breakout sensation, The Eagles of Death Metal, seems to be reinventing the wheel and taking ancient Rock mythology for a spin. The band — boasting Josh Homme, lead singer of Queens of the Stone Age on drums — is shattering stereotypes by remaining true to the spirit of Rock & Roll without comprising its integrity.
Hughes describes the credo of EoDM as “symbols of what happens when you (build a Rock band) the way it’s supposed to be done. It’s what happens when two best friends get together and really love each other and have the best time you could possibly ever have.”
Hughes met Homme in high school when a bully was trying to steal Hughes’ lunch money. Homme set the bully straight and laid the foundation for a fast friendship. “We both come from the same sorts of family,” Hughes says. “We both have the same sick and uncompromising notions of family and honesty and morality.”
They formed The Eagles of Death Metal in 1998, but as a result of Homme’s success with Queens of the Stone Age and Hughes’ previous marriage, the band was relegated to the back burner as a side project. In the meantime, Hughes pursued a career as a journalist.
“My life revolved around my desire to write and relay the news,” he says. “I’m a conservative and I wanted to make up for the fucked up situation that the ‘60s generation left us in. I fundamentally rejected the counterculture. I felt that other than the music, everything else that came from the new counterculture was bullshit.”
But Rock & Roll had different plans. Despite Homme’s success with Queens, he remained true to his friendship and his obligation to EoDM and the group released their first album, Peace, Love, Death Metal, in 2004.
Ironically, EoDM would probably never have existed if QotSA hadn’t precluded them. Interestingly, this is a fact Hughes doesn’t shy away from. He unabashedly embraces it. According to Hughes, being in a side project of an extremely popular Rock group “doesn’t suck.”
“Nobody would have ever given a shit about this band or ever come to see the first shows if the lead singer of one the greatest Rock bands wasn’t playing drums,” he admits. “I knew that (Homme’s) success actually gave me the best opportunity, and instead of getting my ego involved I happily sat on his coattails.
“I would be a bad friend if I wasn’t pleased (our band’s success) began with my friend’s fame that he earned on his own and he decided to come and gamble it on me.”
The association is also responsible for the high-profile feud that Hughes attributes to his band’s popularity today and to the edification of his Rock & Roll philosophy.
In 2006, the band opened for Guns n’ Roses — sans everyone in the original lineup save for Axl Rose — for what was supposed to be their opening act debut for an entire tour. After EoDM finished their set, Rose reportedly came on stage and began to verbally skewer them, referring to them at one point as the “Pigeons of Shit Metal.”
Hughes considers this a crowning achievement in his career.
“It taught me that it doesn’t really matter what anyone says, you’re only real if you’re fucking real,” he says.
He found Rose’s spectacle to be a cheap copy of what Rock & Roll is supposed to be.
“I realized that naked chicks were getting booed on stage,” Hughes says, referring to the band’s saucy stage show. “That’s crazy! It was a fraud!”
According to Hughes, being fired by Rose made their career. Being criticized by a notable charlatan of Rock was “like being knighted by the Queen,” he says.
The band has since released two more albums. They are currently on tour for the 2008 release, Heart On.
The Axl incident also summed up Hughes’ philosophy of Rock music and musicians like Rose.
“If I got a letter from Adolf Hitler that said I was an asshole, I’d hang it up because it would be like winning the Nobel Peace Prize,” Hughes says.
He eventually got a tattoo that says “Pigeons of Shit Metal” on his arm to commemorate the occasion and he wears it like badge of honor.
Or, as he says, “It was like the Gods of Rock saying, ‘Jesse Hughes, I sent you to spank an imposter.’”
THE EAGLES OF DEATH METAL play the 20th Century Theatre Feb. 17 with The Living Things. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.