Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age almost died. In 2010, after a routine knee surgery, Homme was lost on the operating table for a little while, came back to life but was bedridden for months before he was told by doctors that he could work again. This near-death experience is transmuted into Like Clockwork, the band’s macabre-tinged, moody sixth album that was difficult to make in the moment, but “like clockwork” became a sophisticated yet somber psychrock masterpiece featuring guest performances from Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Elton John, and more.
Everything worked out, so Homme says he “isn’t complaining.” In an interview with Kevin and Bean this morning, the Queens of the Stone Age frontman equates the music-making process to a whole menagerie of animals, probably pointing subconsciously to how they want the “end goal to be primitive.” His favorite song to play off the album is even entitled “If I Had A Tail.”
“The monkey is yours now.” says Homme about Like Clockwork. “I’m enjoying playing it. It was tough to make, but I’m enjoying playing it. It’s much like a caged bird; it’s wonderful to set it free.”
“I think by the time you write your sixth record, you sort of have to deal with or go through new obstacles,” explained Homme. “You’ve exhausted all your lateral movement and you kind of look over at your elephant that’s getting drunk in the corner of the room and you say, ‘I know. Here we go.’”
Queens of the Stone Age aren’t afraid to grab that drunk elephant from the tail and just “go with the flow,” even if it takes them into something dark and dangerous. The self-proclaimed workaholics say that when it comes to addiction, there’s “always an itch that needs to be scratched” and, for them, it’s most likely music.
Part of the reason Dave Grohl, Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, and Nick Oliveri were asked to guest on the record is not that Queens of the Stone Age wanted to have them spotlighted like on a hip-hop album, but because they gave the band a welcome respite from their workflow while they simultaneously worked.
“It’s really just Dave, Alex, and Nick to me,” said Homme. He gave an example of how he simply asked Turner over to drink tequila for a couple of hours and it organically transitioned into music. “I almost needed my friends on this–like a mini mental vacation.”
Homme also made a new friend from the process—Elton John, who appeared on the track “Fairweather Friends.”
“It was a Sunday. I was holding my son; we were looking at bugs in the yard,” recalled Homme about when he first made contact with John. His cellphone rang and when John introduced himself, Homme thought it was one of his friends playing a trick on him.“One of my hobbies is to not be made a fool of by myself,” said Homme. But, at that very moment, Homme received a text message from an old friend saying that John was going to call him in five minutes. He then took the call seriously, although part of the reason him and the illustrious British pianist bonded was over the fact that they could both be silly together.
“He loves to play and he’s funny,” said Homme. “Man, we were calling each names within two seconds on the phone. He said, ‘The only thing missing from your band is an actual queen.’ And I said, ‘Honey, you have no idea.’”
“Like my grandpa said. Take the extra five minutes, it makes all the difference, and I got to really multiply that by a large number.”
In the last few years, Homme has had to “reprioritize everything.” Like he sings in “Smooth Sailing” with Jake Shears, he’s got “nothing to lose and only one way up.” His flirtation with death made him not “give a sh*t” about his fairweather friends and focus on the “three or four things” that he really needs.
“Family and people you care about, music for me,” explained Homme. “You could burn the rest down. I’d get over it quick. I’ve never been so much into stuff.”
Homme doesn’t care about what people say about him on the internet. He doesn’t care about whether people like his music or not. He only cares about representing Queens of the Stone Age properly, making sure he nails the “character” of each song, rolling around on the grass with his kid, and showing the kid in him “who is boss.”
“It would be a shame if you let the things you’re afraid of sort of dictate your every move because you’re trying to avoid them,” said Homme. “Music is such a wonderful way to sort of turn and face that down, you know. I think in particular when you feel a little bit lost it’s never wrong.”
“You can not like someone’s music, but it’s never wrong. You show me the worst band in the world, I’ll show you 300 people willing to die for ‘em.”
Like Clockwork is out today on Matador Records. Queens of the Stone Age are playing the Gibson Ampitheatre on August 17th. Pre-sale tickets for KROQ street team members will be available tomorrow morning at 10am.
—Nadia Noir, KROQ