- Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes (center) strives to be "the white Morris Day of rock and roll."
The story goes that a sloshed fellow in a bar claimed that the glam band Poison was the Eagles of death metal. Jesse "the Devil" Hughes was around to hear this declaration, and it inspired him to concoct one of the silliest bands of all time, Eagles of Death Metal. There are other stories of how the Eagles of Death Metal got their name (probably all fictitious -- and conceived by Hughes), but this is the best of them.
Like Poison, EODM have as much in common with Cannibal Corpse as the Wiggles. Conceived among the sand storms, glowing red sun, and twilight haze of Palm Desert, California, EODM first appeared in 1998 on The Desert Sessions III/IV, one in a series of glorious, sun-baked jam recordings from Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and his marijuana-addled pals. Homme had first met Hughes when they were in high school and played for the same local soccer team. Eventually Homme turned his pothead rock band Queens of the Stone Age into an epic, million-selling phenomenon. But he didn't forget about his old pal Hughes, a dandy songwriter, and the two got together to record in 2003, reportedly nailing most of the songs on the first take.
"I was never in a band before," Hughes explains. "I couldn't even stand up and play guitar when we recorded the album. In fact, I could barely play guitar at all."
This spring, the Eagles of Death Metal finally landed upon their first full-length record, Peace Love Death Metal, a wild, uninhibited orgy of magnificent, goofball music. Sporting a big floppy mustache, '70s rock-dude falsetto, straw hat, shades, and spiked bracelet, Hughes is the chief rocker and composer of the band's diesel-fueled, souped-up, Camaro-driving, Farrah Fawcett-Majors-humping, Mountain Dew-guzzling songs. His conspirators on the album include Homme (with the nickname Baby Duck), who played drums and produced, former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri, Distillers screecher Brody Dalle -- who wrote all the hand-clap parts -- and guitarist Timmy Van Hamel (a member of Deus, Millionaire, and Evil Superstar).
An ass-kicking flashback to more carefree times, when sex and drugs were less risky and expensive, Peace Love Death Metal is an appreciation of manhood, an homage to cut-off shorts and the bushy 'stache. On the butt-thumping tune "Bad Dream Mama," Hughes wails, "I'm just a mean machine . . . Don't try to be too smart/You might just find you'll miss the best part/I'm here right now/I want to be your monkey!"
Another tune, "San Berdoo Sunburn," finds the protagonist with his pregnant swinger-girlfriend cruising from the Carolinas to the desert of San Bernardino, while "Flames Go Higher" recalls the New Age mysticism of bad '70s classic rock and early metal. It's got that whole hobgoblin, woman-in-a-white-gown-clutching-emeralds, burning-lakes-of-fire vibe.
One of the catchiest songs is "Kiss the Devil," where a chorus of Beelzebub worshipers chant, "Who'll love the devil?/Who'll sing his song?/Who will love the devil and his song?/I'll love the devil/I'll sing his song/I'll love the devil and sing his song."
It's all entirely ludicrous and somewhat funny. But to a few death metallers, it's an affront to their livelihood. "We have gotten some interesting death threats from death-metal bands in Sweden and whatnot," Hughes says. "It's like, 'We'll kill you. You are ruining the name of death metal. Who do you think you are?' Of course, they sign their name like Frodo Chronos of the Underworld."
The Eagles of Death Metal have met with more enthusiasm from critics and rock fans. The band was even nominated for the fairly prestigious Shortlist Music Prize this year. Homme is still an occasional member, showing up to play drums once in a while. But he'll be more intimately involved in crafting and recording the Eagles' next platter.
"We've got about another three albums' worth of material that we consider to be on par with Peace Love Death Metal," says Hughes. "We go into the studio in January to record Death by Sexy. The two primary Eagles, me being chief among them, and Baby Duck, are accompanied by a cavalcade of the finest and the brightest that rock and roll has to offer. It's the same with how we tour. We kind of have a reverse Spinal Tap going. It's me, the ultimate mustache in rock and roll, and Dave Catching on guitar, and then a never-ending, rotating carnival of the finest drummers in the world. I'm proud to announce that Claude, the drummer from Ween -- a fucking animal -- will be the Eagle touring on the East Coast."
Though they don't crumble distant mountains with their rock like another Queens of the Stone Age, the Eagles could easily dismantle, say, the Darkness in a duel. Their pseudo AC/DC groove is mighty catchy. Hughes, who says he hopes to be "the white Morris Day of rock and roll," never seems to lack imagination.
"We were actually mobbed once, when we landed in Europe," he says. "By my estimation, it was a million girls. But apparently it was only a thousand. They chased us into our hotel rooms -- and they were Belgians, for God's sake."