Interview: Josh Homme on QOTSA’s ‘End of The Road’ Halloween Show and ‘Lots of New Songs’
As Queen of the Stone Age round the final bend on their world tour in support of …Like Clockwork, the desert-spook wizards have added one final addition to the itinerary: a special ‘End of The Road’ Halloween concert-party in Los Angeles. Joshua Homme and friends will headline L.A.’s legendary Forum on October 31 with an all-stops-pulled showcase including The Kills, JD McPherson and Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable — as well as appearances by SuicideGirls and a creeptastic assortment of carnies, freaks and sideshow surprises to send the costumed ghosts & goblins off with fire in their veins and fear in their hearts.
It’s the End of The Road indeed for Queens, who’ve circled the globe swinging a jovial wrecking ball of sextastic, hypnotic grooves and broken-robot strut in support of their latest record. They’re going out with a ghoulish bang, and if you can make it past the Blackout Haunted House in the parking lot on your way in, it’s bound to be the kind of nightmare bait you don’t want to wake from.
Beyond the Halloween shindig, QOTSA are already chewing through the restraints to get back into the studio for more. We caught up with Homme, nucleus and mastermind of the most revered gang in Rock, to dig deeper into what’s in store for Halloween, an abundance of new Queens material and the idea of Them Crooked Vultures flying once more.
I was driving on the way here, and “White Room” by Cream came on the radio and it hit me like a fucking lightning bolt – you and Jack Bruce seem to be the only people who do that ghostly falsetto, that ‘awaaaake in thiiis place….’
(laughs) Well you just did it really good, actually. No, I can’t scream, so I think you just kind of haunt the rooms in the house that are available to you. I love Jack Bruce. And I think that tonally it’s such a great juxtaposition. But also, it would be interesting if I could do the death metal scream, to see where we would be at. Cause who knows, I may have gone ‘well shit, I can do that, so I’ll do that.’ I’m kind of glad that I can’t do that…
Because it makes you flex other muscles?
Because the truth is, I want to play for the girls. And I somehow feel like death metal… I want it to feel like a party, and you have to encourage and incorporate the girls in there too, you know?
Death metal’s not very sexy.
It’s categorically unsexy. It’s badass. I’ll listen to Vader, I’ll do it all, but…
So on to this End of The Road show on Halloween. Any time my mom’s around, she asks ‘what’s that Halloween music you’re playing? What’s that spooky music?’ So it fits to her, at least.
Yeah, your mom is right. And I think she always has been. Eagles of Death Metal had the luxury of playing with The Cramps. They’ve played the Warfield for 20 years straight. Queens had the luxury of having them not play there, but to play with us at the Greek Theater one year. And I’ve always loved the Cramps, I’ve always loved the creepiness and mysteriousness of playing things that are just eerie. I’ve always loved Halloween, and I think that lux is gone, that notion of saying ‘Let’s make Halloween ours.’ And we’re going all out to set it up, so it’s going on all over the Forum. It’ll be in the foyer, the balcony, outside, inside, and it’s going to go on constantly. When one band comes off, immediately a film is gonna be shown, and someone else will play somewhere else in the building.
So how do people make sure they don’t miss any of the various things happening?
I think the thing is that you will miss some things, and that you will not capture all of it. And to me, that’s part of the idea of it – that you’ll catch something. And you’ll be like ‘Whoa, if I wasn’t here getting a drink or if I didn’t go to the haunted house…’ Well do you know who Blackout is?
It looks pretty intense.
They became world renowned, because from the outset, before you even walk in the building, you’re like ‘Man, I don’t know about this.’ People are too afraid to try it. They’ll stand in line and be like ‘Nope, I’m not gonna do it.’ It’s kind of like a roller coaster in that way.
You have to walk through by yourself too, don’t you? You can’t be with your friends?
No, you can’t be with a group of friends. You sign a waiver where you agree to give away certain rights. The old ones, the very first one they ever did, they put a bag on your head. You took your shoes off, they put a bag on your head, and that’s how it started. You come out feeling like ‘I need to shower, and there’s no way I’m washing this away.’
The haunted house they’re doing for this will go on all night, too. Because I don’t think it needs to have a set time. If you watch some of JD McPherson, and you check out art exhibits of famous Halloween stuff. There’s gonna be exhibitions… right now we’re talking to Rick Baker about putting up some of his stuff too, and he’s probably one of the most famous movie makeup artists ever. Whether it’s Friday the 13th or From Dusk Till Dawn… the list goes on and on.
I’m really wanting to make this in reverence of The Cramps, too. So we’re trying to put together something to really showcase and highlight The Cramps too in another photo exhibit.
The costume contest doesn’t seem like a kitschy little thing like most Halloween parties throw.
Well my friend Steve Agee, the really funny comedian, is going to walk the audience and pick five of the most impressive or depressive costumes. He’ll bring them up onstage, and the audience will judge and crown the king and queen of Halloween, and we’ll have a special seat on the side of the stage with monitor mixes and coolers of whatever they drink. So they’ll be able to watch the show for as long as they want from the side, with free booze.
We’re gonna have people roaming the halls, and we’re even having a Dio De Los Muertos mariachi band that’s going to be wandering the foyer between bands. And also we’re gonna show some movies up on the screen in between, and we’ve got a list of circus freaks that we can just put up on a box all over the venue. And when you’re looking at a sword-swallower, a contortionist, a fire-breather, someone who hooks themselves like Hellraiser – it’s tough to pick which to do, you know? So as I said, it’ll be everywhere. It’ll be difficult, not impossible, to capture everything everywhere.
My favorite part though, is that I started a charity to help folks with cancer, and kids with cancer. It’s called Sweet Stuff, and I’m gonna have a Sweet Stuff dunk tank. Our drummer Jon is deathly afraid of clowns, and we’re having Hutch make a sign that says ‘Come dunk the clown that lives in your nightmares.’ So for the charity, not only do the people that need the money get the money, but you dunk the clown that scared the shit out of your life for however many years.
That’s a great way to confront your fears, whether or not you’re on drugs.
I think any time you can dunk your fears like a cop at a donut shop, you should attempt to dunk your fears.
The Kills are playing. I’m fucking excited.
We’ve played with them a couple times, and their show has really turned into this kind of almost rally. Have you seen them recently?
It’s been a couple years.
I don’t want to give too much away, but it comes off like this crazy… The way it looks, it’s articulated into something like a badass rally, somehow. So I’m looking forward to doing that. Then there’s an artist that I’ve really been listening to religiously now for about a year and a half. And then there’s this cat JD McPherson.
What draws you in?
I’ve always loved rockabilly kind of stuff. But I don’t like it when it looks like someone’s just auditioning for the next Outsiders movie. I like when it’s just real and blue-collar and cool. And this cat JD McPherson, he’s from Oklahoma, and he’s a blue jeans guy, you know? It’s not some getup. He’s influenced by all sorts of things from all different worlds. But when he ingests it, it sort of comes out like this bastard child of Little Richard. His voice is incredible, he’s incredible, and it’s hard for me to understand how he’s still sort of unknown. But he is. And I’m telling you, Johnny. You go get his record Signs & Signifiers, and if you don’t like it I’ll buy it for you.
It’s a deal. So he doesn’t have seven Johnny Cash tattoos and a big bouffant?
(laughs) No. If you look cool and your music’s cool, that’s cool. But if you look cool and your music’s just ok, you just made it worse. That’s the plank I walk. When it comes to music, it’s always listen to me is better than look at me. But it’s wonderful when they’re both firing on all cylinders. And this cat JD McPherson is just the real deal. It’s totally for real. And I think to myself, where has this been my whole life?
Then of course, my partner in crime Nick Oliveri. And his new band is called Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable, which makes me so happy, that that’s what it’s called. Yeah. It’s so goddamn true, and I just love him for that.
Naturally once the fans saw Nick’s name attached, there’s speculation on collaboration and so on. But mostly there’s just relief that everything is good beyond the storied history…
Honestly, what they don’t know is that three months after I let Nick go, we were already going out and drinking beers together. That is a scar, but it healed 12 years ago. It’s been years and years now. And the truth is that we’ve always been there for each other, even when it got dark. And the sad thing is that people get included in something they don’t understand. But that’s the way this goes, you know?
I think there are bubbles, and you don’t want to burst some bubbles. But sometimes these bubbles aren’t concentric, they don’t overlap, and one can exist right next to the other one that has nothing to do with the other one. And I think as musicians sometimes you try to create a bubble away from reality. And sometimes you get it, and there aint no reality in it. So it’s hard to be surprised.
As far as surprises, what is the “End of The Road” concept for Queens, beyond powering down and taking a break at the end of all this?
Well this tour went on longer than we would’ve hoped (laughs)… or than we were planning. It’s a good thing, but it’s also like ok, we’re ready to stop now. And so it makes Halloween a real celebration, because there’s a certain hurray punctuation attached to it. And also it means we can take a little time, and get in the studio. We have a lot of songs.
A lot of new songs?
There’s a lot of new songs.
Did you write on the road, or is this stuff from the Clockwork sessions?
I’ve been writing a lot on the road, and there’s some stuff that we didn’t quite pick up to tinker with that was waiting in the wings on the last record that just never got… we had enough. We were having plenty of trouble figuring out those ones, so as not to pick up the other ones. And they didn’t really belong on the last record. Some of ‘em were too happy.