Raised in the southern California town of Palm Desert, or, as he puts it, the “crystal-meth capital,” Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme started playing music with bassist Nick Oliveri when he was just thirteen. Homme cut his teeth performing at local “generator parties” — lawless live gigs staged at remote desert locations. First in Kyuss and then with the Queens, Homme and Oliveri have transmuted the earthshaking sludge of Seventies metal into a scarifying modern sound dubbed “stoner rock.” “I don’t smoke pot,” Homme protests, “and Nick hasn’t since he was, like, twelve — not that I think there’s anything wrong with it. Music sounds kick-ass when you’re stoned. You could get high and listen to Britney Spears and be like, ‘Whoo!’ ” The Queens’ latest, Songs for the Deaf — featuring Dave Grohl on drums and vocals from Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees — has conquered rock radio and MTV with the Grammy-nominated single “No One Knows.” Homme checks in from Joshua Tree, California, where he’s producing a Lanegan solo album and is twenty songs deep into the Queens’ next record. “I don’t know why,” says Homme, “I’ve always been concerned about running out of time.”
What music did your parents play as you were growing up?
My parents would only buy one record from any artist. When I was in my single digits, I remember hearing Kenny Rogers: Like “Ruby” and “Coward of the County.” I find it interesting that “Coward” is about gang rape and “Ruby” is about a crippled guy watching his wife go to town to sleep with some other guy.
Do you still listen to country?
Johnny Cash. He’s the only guy who covers songs better than the original. Man, did you hear him do [U2’s] “One” on his last record? I almost broke down and had a big cry.
Who knew you had such a soft side?
See, I’m not a militant, drug-taking freak! I’m sensitive.
What’s the first record you ever bought?
It was a live compilation on Alternative Tentacles called Eastern Front, with D.O.A. and Flipper. Vinyl. It had a cool cover. There were these soldiers shoving a Japanese flag into the ground. I liked it so much I bought it twice, and the first one wasn’t even worn out. I haven’t done that since.
Is there music out there that you absolutely hate?
I used to do all that, but now I realize I don’t have to listen to crap I don’t like. I’m not in the music police. “Do you know why I stopped you? For excessive shittiness.” That’s not my job. Now I just throw bad CDs really far away and say, “Where’s Björk’s greatest hits? Where’s the new Tomahawk? Where’s the good stuff, man?”
You and Nick began playing together in friends’ bedrooms, right?
Yeah, bedrooms all across the country! Nick was the guy in high school that I drank with in the parking lot before school. We used to play for hours and hours. SST [an old-school L.A. punk label] bands like Black Flag, SWA and the Minutemen were the only bands that would play in my hometown. So that shoved the do-it-yourself thing in our faces. You can skate or sit there or play. Those generator parties were a real mishmosh of people from fourteen to forty years old. There were plenty of moments when I was like, “Everybody’s dancing and drinking and having a good time,” and then there were other times where I was like, “Look at the Mexican with the shotgun.”
Dave Grohl said that Songs for the Deaf is the best album he’s ever played on. Wasn’t that guy in Nirvana?
He says all the time, “I was in fuckin’ Nirvana, man.” And I tell him, “OK, buy me something.” I think this is the album that he’s been able to stretch his arms the most on. Because every song is like a different person, he gets to take on different personalities on this record.
Do you have a favorite pop star?
I love Kylie Minogue. That song “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is the perfect bubblegum pop song, but it’s dark as fuck. Totally dark. She’s got cute little horse teeth, and her ass is really high in the air, but she’s really tiny.
She’s five feet tall.
Oh, bless it. ‘Cause I’m six-five. I’d just ask her, “Can I have your lunch?”
You have a short-girl fetish?
I have no type. But I’ll take a five-foot Kylie Minogue. Hear me talking? Booty rockin’.