Through Highs and Lows of Rock-Stardom, Josh Homme Refuses to Quit

Andreas Neumann

Josh Homme has been in music since he was a baby. He formed his first band at age 12, and since then, he’s worked with some of the biggest names on the planet.

In 1996, Homme founded Queens of the Stone Age, and in ’98, the band released their self-titled debut. The first single from their third album, Songs for the Deaf, was “No One Knows,” but their first mega-hit was “Little Sister,” from their fourth album, Lullabies to Paralyze. The band—Homme (lead vocals, guitar), Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar, keys), Michael Shuman (bass), Dean Fertita (keys/synthesizers) and Jon Theodore (drums)—have been described as a bubbling cauldron of alt-rock, stoner rock, alt-metal, hard rock and, by Homme, “robot rock.”

While Queens might be Homme’s most famous project, he’s been involved with numerous other bands, including Arctic Monkeys and Biffy Clyro. In ’98, he co-founded Eagles of Death Metal (EoDM) with his close friend Jesse Hughes. (Homme now drums with EoDM only occasionally because of other commitments.) In 2009, Homme, John Paul Jones and the biggest Foo of them all, Dave Grohl, put together Them Crooked Vultures; the trio won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. The only thing that could possibly top that was working with his childhood idol Iggy Pop on the punk legend’s seminal 2016 Grammy-nominated release, Post Pop Depression.

Anyone can be the coolest dude on earth when everything is going their way, but it’s the challenges that bring out character. In 2010, Homme suffered from complications from a botched knee surgery. During that procedure, his heart stopped from asphyxiation for about 10 minutes; a defibrillator was needed to revive him. As a result of this life-changing experience, he was bedridden for four months. During that time, he plunged into a deep depression and considered giving everything up.

He also contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an infection his immune system could not fight because of stress. Homme credits his support system and transcendental meditation with helping him to recover.
Perhaps it was his near-death experience that made Homme acutely aware of the fragility of life. Or maybe it was trauma from the horrific terrorist shooting at the Bataclan Theater in Paris during an EoDM performance in 2015 (though he actually wasn’t there at the time, he worried for the fate of his band mates and concert-goers). Whatever it is, he displays character when character is needed—and he does so while playing kickass rock & roll.

Queens’ seventh studio album, Villians, was released on Aug. 25, 2017, and offered the über-hit “The Way You Used to Do” and “The Evil Has Landed.” Its producer, Mark Ronson, is best known for his work with artists including Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars. The tunes are slick and danceable.

What’s the takeaway from all this? Suffice it to say, there are a bazillion bands that would be so lucky to have the career Queens have had. This didn’t happen overnight, it took years of hard work. It’s relatively safe to say life is good for Homme these days. He married rock goddess Brody Dalle, best known as the founder and lead singer of the Distillers. The couple live in Palm Springs with their three kids. They believe their good fortune is a process they’ve worked on, not a state of being that was just handed to them.

As fate would have it, life took a turn for Homme last year that made him his own worst enemy. During Queens’ performance at the KROQ Acoustic Christmas show at the Forum in Los Angeles, Homme kicked photographer Chelsea Lauren. Shortly after the show, he apologized for what he did. However, it came across as somewhat dismissive and insincere. The intent may have been heartfelt, but the delivery flopped. Homme received a ton of backlash for the incident and the lack of remorse in his message.

In another apology, this time delivered directly to the photographer, Homme said, “I was a dick, and I’m truly sorry, and I hope you’re okay. . . . I don’t have any excuse or reason to justify what I did. . . . I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and last night was definitely one of them. And I apologize for that to you.”

Homme has lost some business deals after this event, but the personal impact is what he reflects on most. He took responsibility for his actions, and he gave a heartfelt apology. Hopefully, this will be a learning experience for Homme, and in time, we can all go back to talking about his music.

Queens of the Stone Age perform at the Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 330-7300; Feb. 17, 8 p.m. $34-$59. All ages.

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