Josh Homme could be the Evel Knievel of rock and roll. The singer/guitarist pulls a new, death-defying stunt with each successive album by Queens of the Stone Age, tinkering with the band’s lineup and stretching its artistic limits to the max. His latest challenge to himself and fans is …Like Clockwork, an introverted and morbid anti-rock record that documents a near-death experience he had while recovering from surgery a few years ago. As Homme recently revealed to FILTER, that incident wasn’t Homme’s only brush with death in recent years—in March, he scraped up his 1967 Camaro in a bizarre accident on the day QOTSA were leaving town to play their first tour in 18 months.
Has it been a smooth reentry for you?
Josh Homme: I got in a car accident with a girl from One Tree Hill the day we were leaving for South America to play Lollapalooza. There were only two lanes of road. I was making a right-hand turn. She was in my lane, making a left-hand turn. So I headed for a fence. She said to my wife, “I’m in One Tree Hill.” And I said, “I’m in one Camaro in a fence.”
Have you been in many accidents?
No. I grew up in a masculine place [Joshua Tree, California] where you got mocked if you rolled your car or got it stuck in a desert. Guys are really good drivers out there.
Did you ever drag race?
I’ve never been too into dick-waving comparisons.
You’ve got a pretty sweet ride, though.
Yeah, but it’s muted. It’s silver, not red. I’ve always liked a big engine under a raspy hood. I don’t like things that are too flashy.
Your musical gear doesn’t seem too flashy, either.
I really like colors. When you run [a piece of music equipment] through something, it changes it, and that’s what they call “coloring.” There’s some gear that sounds so nice it doesn’t change anything. It’s precise, clean, controlled. But I’m a little more ham-fisted at things like that. Transparency, sonically, is not my strong suit.
You used to run your guitars through bass amps, right?
Yeah. In the beginning, it was like, “Whatever everyone is doing must be wrong.” So I said, “OK, you’re not supposed to play guitars through bass amps? OK, so do that. You’re supposed to tune to E? OK, so don’t do that.”
When you’re a kid, you almost arrogantly do that: “I’m not doing what you’re doing.” It’s very reactionary. But it’s also earnest.
But you’re not like that anymore.
I’m not very contrarian now. You go through stuff, and at some point you’re just OK with pleasing yourself, and you can just let it go. It’s not about trying to anger someone else as a way of making your first step. Like, “Hi, my name is Go Fuck Yourself.” [ed. Homme has attended multiple anger management programs.] It’s not really my style anymore. It’s not too mature.
What made you such a contrarian in the first place?
I never understood peer pressure. It didn’t make sense to me. Just because you guys are doing it, I’m supposed to do it, too? And if I don’t do it, you feel bad? So you want to make me do it by making me feel scared to do it? At a young age, I was like, “That doesn’t work for me.” I’m not a huge rulebook guy, either.
I certainly didn’t learn enough rules when it came to making music, so breaking them was as much accidental as it was on purpose, initially.