Don't even think about telling Joshua Homme that rock is dead. Seriously, don't. Because he will contemplate punching you, and that would be bad. He is, at 44, still a very large, very intense dude, redheaded in a feral rather than Ed Sheeran–y manner, with more than a hint of curled-lip Presley-an swagger. And as it turns out, an unwise exec – "somebody way up" – once uttered those dangerous words. That was a few years back, before Homme's ever-stellar, ever-mutating band Queens of the Stone Age left Interscope Records for indie Matador, which releases the groovacious, Mark Ronson-produced new LP Villains on Friday.
Just after 11 a.m. on a Monday in early July, Homme sips from a glass of high-end tequila in his management company's L.A. headquarters and recounts the Interscope confrontation with undisguised, chops-licking pleasure. "I was like, you probably walk around the world thinking, 'Nothing's ever gonna happen to me – I can just talk the way I want.' But I've gotta let you know, everything could change in a few seconds, based on what you say next. Isn't that crazy – you're in that world all of a sudden?"
Crazy or not, Homme makes it all sound reasonable when you're three feet away from him, in much the same way he's persuaded me to join him today for a morning drink or three – this particular tequila is so sweet, he argues, that it's practically breakfast. Homme is good at bending the universe to his will. And if that means ditching a few bandmates – or, like, most of them, at least in the band's first decade – he's cool with that. "I fired my best friend in the world," he says, referring to former Queens bassist Nick Oliveri, who also played with Homme in the hallowed riff-monster Nineties band Kyuss. "Could you do that? That's hard. But to preserve this is sometimes to destroy other things. Sometimes, you have a talent at something you don't like. I have a talent at saying things that are difficult to say."
He pauses. "I'm rambling," he notes, "because I'm really drunk from last night, still." Last night was the premiere of American Valhalla, a documentary about how Homme came to produce a great, horrendously titled album for Iggy Pop, 2016's Post Pop Depression (short version: Iggy really wanted him to). But come on, isn't he hungover at this point, not drunk? "I know where hungover is. I can see it from here." But back to rock. "I actually dig it when it's supposed to be over, because we're the perfect band for that time when it's over. The record business is dead, actually. Rock's fine. Music is fine. Frankly, I like this time."
He's avoided some occupational hazards, managing to live his rock & roll life without dying or embracing sobriety (Oliveri said that Queens' most famous lyric – "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol/Cocaine" – was about the pair's actual intake one day long ago). "You don't know where the line is till you cross it," Homme says. "But you make an adjustment, and you fucking don't burden someone else with that shit. ... Want a little more?"
He has a glamorous rock & roll wife – Brody Dalle of the Distillers – and kids ("the short people in my house" ), whom he raises in as rock & roll a manner as possible: "Find your center of self, and chase it with reckless abandon. Essentially, find a life and don't let anyone take it away. There's a whole list of 'don't's – they're still writing them, putting it on top of the old list. Follow those only if someone's watching. And then get back to living as hard as you can. I don't think people should tell you what the truth is – 'My face is making noise, do what I say.' ... I'm gonna give birth to monsters who will terrorize normalcy."
"I'm gonna give birth to monsters who will terrorize normalcy."
So, that. Also, with Villains, Queens of the Stone Age have yet again made an album that could at least plausibly be argued to be their best, from the slow build of "Fortress," written for Homme's 11-year-old daughter, to the hand-clappy buzz of "The Way You Used to Do," which is surely a number-one hit in some other universe: It's inspired by ZZ Top, Cab Calloway, Shirley Bassey and the Misfits. "It used to be, if anything had any hint of anybody else," Homme says, "I wouldn't play it. Now, I don't worry about things, even though copyright law is really fucked up right now because of that dumb shit Robin Thicke. What a douchebag. Talk about thick. Now the copyright law is like, 'If it tastes like chicken, I guess you stole it.' Thanks, asshole."
Most seventh albums made by musicians in their early forties are, perhaps, not as good, a fact that Homme finds irksome. "The minimum obligation if you get to be in a band for your life," he says, "and you've been doing it this long, is that you would throw everything into each record. The minimum obligation."
Homme is chasing something in his music – he describes
it as a bumper of a car that's just within reach, and also as "inner voice
... feeling worth it ... inspiration." Working with Iggy, he felt like
he touched that bumper. For a moment. "I've sort of resigned to keep
chasing," he says, "in the hope that I finally get there."