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My Life in Music: Josh Homme

Josh Homme: Queens of the Stone Age singer/guitarist on the life-affirming powe of robots, guitars, and a well-deployed nose flute

Josh Homme may have a lot of classic punk-rock albums in his record collection, but his career as guitarist for stoner-rock legends Kyuss and current frontman for Queens of the Stone Age suggests a rather skewed sense of what hardcore means. “To be honest, I don’t really give two shits about punk rock,” he says. “I carry the flag for no genre and no scene. Let’s destroy all that.” With that out of the way, Homme, calling from an airport as he and his bandmates were about to board a plane to Japan, mused on the records that rocked his world.

A. Jackson Browne, Running on Empty (Asylum/Elektra, 1977)“I discovered Running on Empty when I was eight. It was a fixture with my old man, and it still is. I was into the fact that it’s all about the road. It’s like the school of hard-rockin’, except it’s not hard and it isn’t rockin’. I look back on the hundreds of times I’ve heard it, and I realize I’m cursed to live on the road as well. But it’s a beautiful curse.”

B. Various Artists, Eastern Front, Vol. II (Enigma/Eastern Front, 1982)“This is a live punk-rock compilation. It’s got the Lewd and Channel 3, and I liked it so much that I ended up buying it twice. I really liked the cover, which was like the famous Iwo Jima photo, but with the American flag replaced by the Rising Sun. I grew up near Palm Springs, California, and there was one record store, called Record Alley, that would carry anything. When you bought something there, it felt like your little secret, since it might have been the only copy they’d ordered.”

C. G.B.H., City Baby Attacked by Rats (Clay, 1982)“Along with Never Again by Discharge, this to me is very melodic but heavier than heavy metal. It was heavy and fast, and the production was so raw that I just knew it was real. You know, I never really listened to metal. When I was in Kyuss [in the early ’90s], people assumed we were into Black Sabbath, but I hadn’t really heard those bands. I followed the punk-rock-guilt rules–you can’t listen to anything else. I wanted to be able to claim that I’d never heard the music that supposedly influenced me.”

D. Black Flag, My War (SST, 1983)“One of the things about SST bands is that each one sounded completely different, and that really permeated our scene. If you sounded like any other band in our town–or any other town–you were ridiculed. It became a hellbent search for originality. I loved Black Flag’s Jealous Again and Damaged, but it was My War that really summarized Kyuss’ approach to punk.”

E. Nirvana, Bleach (Sub Pop, 1989)“By 1989, it seemed like punk rock had sort of died, and I thought Nirvana were picking up where Black Flag and G.B.H had left off. I remember thinking I didn’t want my band to sound anything like Nirvana because they had set the bar so high. I didn’t want to get too close.”

F. Iggy Pop, Lust For Life (RCA, 1997) “I heard Lust for Life, and it actually made me quit Kyuss. I listened to it obsessively for two and a half years, and at the end I thought, ‘There are just way too many bands out there, and if you want to know what I have to say, just listen to this record. It’s all here.’ I sort of went backward with Iggy Pop, and eventually I got to the Stooges’ Raw Power, which I still think is the craziest-sounding record ever. Take any band that says they’re raw, play them Raw Power, and they’ll sound like the biggest pussies of all time.”

G. Can, Cannibalism 1 (Spoon/Mute, 1978) “So I began writing this angular, robotic guitar stuff, and I started to wonder if anyone had ever done that before, which is how I discovered Can. Their drummer was so straight and so groovy, and they’d play one note for six minutes, which I realized is actually hard to do. It used to be disheartening for me to discover that someone had already done something I was doing, but at this point in my life, I just wanted to do things I liked. So hearing Can revitalized the search. It was like an endorsement.”

H. Björk, Homogenic (Elektra, 1997) “This is where I realized, ‘Wow, in the modern age of music, you can have a 53-piece symphony, someone playing champagne glasses, and a guy playing a nose flute, and you can still sound beautiful. Genres mean nothing.’ It really made us push ourselves in Queens.”

I. Ween, Chocolate and Cheese (Elektra, 1994) “I think Ween are so underrated. They have a casual arrogance and a disrespect for genres. Chocolate and Cheese has lots of eclectic, schizo songwriting jumps, but Ween never say ‘We’re just kidding.’ The realization that they’re not joking was very frightening at first. They used to be on Elektra like Kyuss were, and we both had this philosophy of ‘Let’s take all the money they’ll foolishly give us.'”

–Illustration by Akiko Stehrenberger