When one thinks of Josh Homme, you are met by the image of a towering red-haired man adorned with rings and a teddy-boy haircut to match his tough demeanour. A native of the Californian desert, Homme exudes a cowboy like cool, a swagger reflective of the environment in which he grew up.
As a musician, he has done it all. He started off as the co-founder and guitarist of stoner rock legends Kyuss. When the quartet disbanded in 1995, Homme would start to make his career-defining impact on the world of music. This is remarkable as Kyuss are a highly respected band in their own right, massively influential in the stoner rock genre. After Kyuss, he toured with grunge legends Screaming Trees and established his pet project, Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA), in 1996.
With the latter, Homme would make a significant impact upon contemporary music, cultivating a respected sound and aesthetic. In many ways a supergroup, the band has, at points, featured Dave Grohl, Mark Lanegan, Nick Olivieri and Joey Castillo. One of the most influential groups of the past 25 years, QOTSA’s style encompasses stoner rock, hard rock and metal, all with a pinch of the experimental.
The brainchild of Homme, QOTSA is an ever-changing force, with a brilliant live show to match. Stuffed with punchy riffs, interesting dynamics and Homme’s trademark overdriven guitar tone, there is no wonder that they have a legion of devoted fans. Apart from his work with Queens, Homme has produced albums by Arctic Monkeys and Iggy Pop. Famously, Arctic Monkey’s hazy 2009 third album, Humbug, which is widely credited as the opus where the band truly started to mature and find themselves, is largely attributed to Homme’s sonic influence. Furthermore, Iggy Pop’s 2016 effort Post-Pop Depression is augmented by the sinister psychedelia that Homme has perfected throughout his prolific career.
A fascinating feature of Homme as an artist is that his methods and equipment are largely kept as a secret. Notoriously, he has been reluctant to share information related to his pedalboard, and in 2007, he explained, “I don’t (share secrets) only because my sound is important to me and I’ve spent a lot of years just working it over with little tricks here and there, I almost feel like if you reveal too much of that, you give away something that’s near and dear to you. It’s like you put it up on the altar and say, ‘Here, everyone, take a slice.'”
Homme is also widely regarded as a proponent of unusual guitars. He once admitted that he owns over thirty-five guitars but that he does not own classic models such as the Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul. Rather, he opts for “weird Japanese guitars” or “scarred”, obscure models with interesting backstories. This is significant as these guitars have had a huge impact in establishing the dirty edge inherent to Homme’s signature sound.
Although he is coy about his equipment, in a 2017 interview with EW, after the release of the seventh QOTSA album Villains, Homme was kind enough to let us into his mind. He revealed what musicians inspired him, and unsurprisingly it is an eclectic mix.
Home explained his earliest forays into music: “When I was young, I listened to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton songs. I knew when I heard Charged GBH or Black Flag that (punk rock) was something I could play too — it made it possible for me. And then hearing the storytelling of Johnny Cash, that’s almost a book on tape with music behind it. Later, I graduated into Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson), but it started with Kenny Rogers’ (‘Islands in the Stream’).”
One would never have imagined that the king of desert rock would have been inspired by the soft rock/country of Rogers and Dolly Parton’s iconic 1982 duet. However, we all have to start somewhere.
On the other hand, given that he is a guitarist primarily concerned with the heavier aspects of music, there is no surprise that GBH and Black Flag made a defining impact on the young Homme. We only have to note how fast and hard he can play, as seen in ‘First It Giveth’ or ‘Sick Sick Sick’ to heed this.
At other points in the interview, Homme revealed his love for Dean Martin, Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. He opined, “My goal is to like as much music as I can. I don’t have guilty pleasures because I don’t really feel bad.” Instead of allowing ourselves to be dumbfounded, if we let Homme’s statement sink in, there is a lot we can learn as consumers of music.
Listen to ‘Islands in the Stream’ below.