A new type of writing should be invented to do justice to the experience of talking with Jesse Hughes of the Eagles of Death Metal. Words fly out of Hughes at rapid-fire intervals, without regard for volume modulation. Hughes is a rock star in the way that Walt Whitman was a poet. Never mind the mess; the important thing is to live as much as possible and record it for posterity. The Eagles of Death Metal’s third stab at immortality, Heart On, is scheduled for an October 28 release via Downtown Recordings.
Tell me something exciting about the new album.
It’s filled with sex. Is that exciting enough?
Were you thinking Rolling Stones, around Sticky Fingers?
I consider myself to be a direct disciple of both Little Richard and Keith Richards. When it comes to real rock music, everybody says they’re looking for something revolutionary, but there’s really nothing that new under the sun. Rock music is rock music. The Rolling Stones are like gods, so they were definitely in my mind when I was writing for the album.
Are you concerned that music fans will confuse Heart On and hard-on?
I’m hoping that it will occur to someone eventually, that there will be a place where the twains meet. You might say that it crossed my mind.
What was the songwriting process for Heart On?
I live life and then I write songs. I love to get out there and live life, and the nightlife in particular. An Eagles of Death Metal song is born when I get delighted with some particular element of the darkness and decide to write a jingle about it. Most of the songs are recorded in my home and then taken to Josh Homme, who works his particular brand of magic to make them studio worthy. He takes what is essentially a very rough idea and molds it into a finished form. On the most basic level, though, the band always has been and always will be about two friends having the shits-and-giggles best time together.
Have the Eagles of Death Metal become more serious over their career?
We’ve definitely gotten more serious about not taking ourselves too seriously. I entered into the music business in the most fairytale, amazing way possible. All of a sudden, here I am in a band with one of my best friends. The first album was written during the first few months I played guitar. The places I could go musically were very limited. As a rock musician, however, you’re basically asking people to come along with you on your trip. You’ve got to take them somewhere. Eagles of Death Metal has always tried to create the best possible musical product, but it got more serious now that I am a more serious assassin with my weapon. For Heart On, I gave Josh better missiles to fire.
How has scenic Palm Desert influenced your music?
The desert has defined our whole mentality. Living in the desert leaves you without the mentality for bullshit. You have to be tough to survive out here, because of the environment. Our music is definitely a product of that environment. Any weakness is kicked to the curb. The desert is beautiful, but it’s also really severe. There’s no time for anything but the distilled best. That’s how I approach my writing.
You’ve collaborated with some pretty interesting musicians during your career. Is there anybody on the wish list?
I want to work with Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, and Andre 3000. I want to do something with Dr. Dre. When I’m writing a song, I mix samples over a beat. Everything is built around that idea. Andre 3000 and Dr. Dre are scientists in the field. They create three dimensions with sound, and that’s genius.
A part of your band’s persona is the bestowing of nicknames. Where do these come from?
The nicknames are normally from Joshua. He’s been giving them for a long while. The Devil was my nickname from when I was a kid. Boots came about during the first album. I like to get out on the Rollerblades, and Josh took to calling them fruit boots. It probably doesn’t help that my ensemble is entirely sky blue, from tank top to compression shorts to socks. Eventually, I won him over and it was shortened to just Boots. When we started recording, I had this dance I was doing, and that’s where the Electric part comes in. When I start playing music, I get going and there’s not a whole of stopping.
Why should music fans spend their dollars to see you in concert?
Two hours spent in heaven is cheap at any price.
What was it like to share the stage with the Hives?
The Hives are true aristocrats. Such a solid rock ‘n’ roll ensemble that it almost defies explanation. It is a pure joy to watch them ply their trade on a nightly basis. When you put them together with the Eagles of Death Metal, the greatness is almost too splendid to be described.
Have you eaten the pancakes at Denny’s?
Are you fucking kidding me? Those pancakes are one of the coolest fucking things that have ever happened to the band. Those fucking things have white chocolate in them. How big a taste treat is that? I am at Denny’s all the time, and I don’t even have to read the menu. I know what I’m having.
Do you have a dream project?
Yes. I build a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield and all the baseball players from all time come and play a big game. Seriously, I would like to put together a soundtrack for a big Hollywood movie. I’d want to get all the musicians that I admire, and set to recording songs together. It’d be kind of like putting together my own personal “We Are the World,” only less gay.
You want to back off from that?
[Laughs] No, we’ve kind of had our moment with that kind of thing. I don’t think we should let words have power over us. When I use the word “gay,” I’m not using it describe a person. We need to get past using labels to describe people anyway. The Devil is taking back that word.
Do you think that Chinese Democracy will come out this year? Would you take a free Dr. Pepper from Axl?
I guess it’s possible, but he shouldn’t put it out unless he wants everybody to hate him. Let me put this out there. Guns N’ Roses is one of the greatest fucking rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, and Appetite for Destruction is one of truest, most complete albums of all time. I still listen to that record. And whatever went on between the Eagles of Death Metal and Guns N’ Roses is ancient history. We played a show together, and the guy who showed up was Wacks-l Rose instead of Paxil Rose. We just ended up on the wrong end of his freak-out on a bad night. Does that mean that I wouldn’t take a free Dr. Pepper from the man? No, it does not.