Josh Homme puts his leopard-printed feet down and accelerates down the Pacific Coast Highway through a cloud of burning rubber. We’re in a silver 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, the only car ever owned by the Queens of the Stone Age frontman. This car has been a constant sidekick for the 50-year-old since he was 14, and once for a brief period in his ’90s, it was also his only home. You can barely hear Chet Baker singing “I Fall In Love Too Easily” above the roar of the engine. The ocean is on the left, so we turned right and climbed up the hills of Malibu to a quiet spot overlooking the water, which Om grins through his shaggy white goatee and describes as a “make-out point.”
It’s been six years since Queens Of The Stone Age last released an album, and they’ve had the most difficult six years of Homme’s life. In 2019, he separated from his wife, Distillers frontwoman Brody Dalle, after almost 14 years of marriage. The couple’s divorce, which was finalized earlier this year, was further disrupted by accusations of violence, restraining orders from both sides, and a lengthy tug-of-war over their children. In March, Om won sole legal custody of all three children, and Om shared the full statement regarding the legal battle.
Om’s world was also turned upside down by the deaths of his close friends. In 2022, Homme lost his former bandmate Mark Lanegan, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, and his best friend The Hawkins in the space of two months. Treme Actor Rio Hackford. Over the past seven years, he has mourned a total of 11 deaths, including another famous drinking buddy, chef and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain.
After a period of self-imposed exile and mourning, Homme returns this week with Queens of the Stone Age’s eighth record, ‘In Times New Roman’. Leaning on the hood of the car, with nothing but the ocean in front of him, Om says, NME How learning the art of acceptance shaped the raw sound of the album.
NME: Between divorce, the death of a close friend and the pandemic, a lot has changed since Queens of the Stone Age last released a record. When did you start wanting to make music again?
om: “I mean, the world was messed up, my world was messed up, everyone’s world was messed up, so making records wasn’t really a priority.”
NME: Did you ever think you might not make another album?
om: “Hey. I don’t think people stop and think, ‘I really should make a record,’ when you’re dealing with the extreme ups and downs of life. Those things don’t exist in that moment. If your roof is flooded, you wouldn’t say, “I should have a record of this!” We must stop drowning in the flood. I recorded it probably two and a half years ago, but it was abandoned waiting for completion. I didn’t sing until last November. I wasn’t done living. To be honest, I might have been scared. I wasn’t ready. The flood must end. You can then decide whether to accept the flood. Since this is a record about acceptance, I think you have to actually get there yourself. ”
NME: This record feels as direct and personal as anything you’ve ever written, is that fair?
om: “Yes, of course. That’s what it is. You start dropping the armor that protects you from your fears, but once you drop a piece of that armor, you can’t get it back. This journey of the stone age queens.” I don’t think there’s any armor left in. It’s just a matter of walking into the darkness.That’s how it should be.It’s not so good at this age to flatter your insecurities and fears.” No, it should be more vulnerable, not less, and I think a lot of people are making tuned, clicky records trying to fit in with pop music. “We’re rock, but we’re also a little pop, okay?” ”
NME: The title ‘In Times New Roman’ comes from the final song ‘Straight Jacket Fitting’, alluding to the similarities between modern America and the fall of Rome…
om: “Many reasons, but it’s also funny to me. The most boring font, named after one of the greatest empires in history. Brought you vomit, orgies, and vomit.” place of Orgy party! Also, I think it’s fair to admit that Rome is burning and the Titanic is sinking. I see no problem with that. Reality needs to be recognized when dealing with the concept of acceptance. I can’t joke. ”
NME: “Paper Machete” is about breaking up with your wife. Did it feel exposed to write about an apparently still raw subject?
om: “I am supposed to write about my life. It should be real and honest. , to be vulnerable, because that’s my job.How many songs have you written about breakups and get-togethers? Continue. So I’m not worried about that. What concerns might you have about speaking from your own honesty?”
NME: With ‘Negative Space’, would you say that you’ve found a certain standard of acceptance in terms of divorce and grief as well?
om: “I was thinking about the nature of oblivion. Do you want to hear melancholic thoughts? If you’re cut off from your spaceship and in your spacesuit, nothing can stop you. Spin slowly.” But when you see the Earth, you think, “Damn, I can’t see it anymore.” And it just… [spreads his arms towards the cliff’s edge, gesturing at the vastness of eternity] …that. Over the past seven years, I’ve dealt with a lot of situations where that happens, whether I like it or not. In a way it is oblivion. When you’re done and you take your first breath, it’s like, ‘There’s nothing more I can do. I think it’s worth writing about. For me it’s worth it. ”
NME: I am sure it will resonate with many who have been through this since the pandemic began.
om: “So much. I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve been through a lot. In a way, I wonder if this record wasn’t the record of its day. Say. I think what we should do is enjoy the moment until someone else understands it, but I’m not even trying to understand it. And that in itself is the answer. ”
NME: On ‘Made To Parade’ you sing, ‘Give your best years/To a bloated corporation/Who’s going to make you work like a slave/You better think about it’. Do you have any relatable comments about our times?
om: “Selling fear, frightening, corralling to do what others want, I’ve always despised it so much. Now everybody sells hard. My old man always I say, “I know you’re scared, but what does that have to do with it?” Fear should get you started, not stop you. You run the gauntlet, but you can get out on the other side. As long as you keep going.
“I’ve become obsessed with this merry-go-round. Those keyboard parts. Did the Merry really spin?” Are you really stuck in the wheel of ‘I want to be, let’s get out of this’? There are many references to merry-go-round music on this record. ”
NME: The song ends with a euphoric guitar solo…
om: “It’s like, ‘Are you done yet?’ ‘No, but I’m coming!’ I paint my ideals romantically. Acceptance, Forgiveness, Truth, Fairness, Perfection. These are things you strive for, but can you actually achieve them? Just reach out with all your might. In terms of perfection, you can fix all the mistakes and adjust everything, but even if you achieve perfection, you will find it boring. Safe. It is of no use, because it is in the friction of life…the universe is made of collisions and subsequent sparks. Babies are made like shit. It’s about borrowing friction and accepting friction from life. They see a car accident as the beginning of something else. ”
NME: “Carnavoyeur” sings: “We live, we die, we fail, we rise / I’m a vulture so I hear the farewell”. What do vultures resonate with you?
om: “I love vultures. I love animals so much. It doesn’t matter if it breaks.I’ve seen it.I’ve seen animals take their last breath and fight to the end.I like it.The vulture is kind of listening to your final confession. I think it’s like a priest saying, “Shhh, shhh, it’s okay.” Then it goes like this: “Boys…” [gestures as if to beckon in his vulture mates] and they eat you up. That’s what you should do. At the end of life, it’s really beautiful to be met and carried by this being doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s like, “Okay, I’ll do that too.” [pats his stomach] Try not to waste after you leave. ”
NME: Over the last few years you have had to grieve so many close friends…
om: “Eleven, come on. It started with Tony’s death, suicide. It was a lot, and the Bataclan before that [In 2015, terrorists killed 90 people at the Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris. Homme was not on stage at the time]. Time and time again, too many times, circumstances have said: ‘Joshua, we don’t care if you like it or want something else to happen. i was here ‘What made me embrace those moments was… I don’t think I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. Even though they’re gone, I can still love them all. I can still love everyone. I lost my best friend Rio Hackford. He had two small children. he was 52 years old. I can still meet with his children and I can describe what he was like. ”
NME: That feeling of acceptance comes through in “Emotion Sickness.” Why was it the lead single?
om: “It’s a strange single. I won’t pick it because it doesn’t matter, but I was surprised because it’s very Frankenstein’s monster. The verses are all down to earth and the chorus is on a hang glider.” It’s like running off this cliff.The Crosby-Stills-Nash three-part harmonies have never been done before.
you sing: “People come and go on the breeze/A lifetime? Probably”
om: “I admit I don’t know. Are they going to be there forever? I don’t know. Some people think so. I was so relieved to find out that it was acceptable.” Numbing Lullaby ‘ is Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a way of explaining things through such eyes.and [supergroup Them Crooked] Vultures It was all animals: elephants, lions, vultures, leeches. I’m kind of obsessed with it. I want to know what it is about. It should mean something. It was all by candlelight when I sang this. You try something and you’re like, ‘I’m scared’. I am afraid to write this. I felt terrified. ‘”
om: “Because it’s too harsh. A lot has happened. It’s like… how is this going to happen? But then I realized, ‘Oh my God, whatever it is, it’s an acceptance.'” I was very relieved. ”
Queens of the Stone Age’s In Times New Roman comes out June 16th. The band will be touring the UK this fall – see details here.