Cherry Rock 2011 - Jesse Hughes

Here I was, just coming to Australia for vacation and to see some friends of mine… and this here Cherry Bar show was made available. It’s going to be unique because it [Jesse Hughes and band] is a sophistication of a process that was born at the Cherry Bar.”

This ‘process’ indeed happened at Cherry Bar on a previous tour and that performance involved Hughes rocking out over a bunch of drumbeats and letting his funk-driven body thrive below the microphone… thus creating a sonic mélange akin to “George Clinton getting butt-fucked by Gary Numan.”

Hughes addresses this vivid description of his solo sound, seeing as it’s a large step away from the upstart stoner rock he produces with Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures) as Eagles Of Death Metal.

You see the thing about ‘Eagles is that when Eagles Of Death Metal records are made, I’m writing these songs and I give them to Josh and he reinterprets them. But,” he exclaims, “what really is happening… is that I am obsessed with George Clinton, Gary Numan, Little Richard and The Rolling Stones, so Joshua helps me de-funk and rock up my songs,” explains Hughes, whose tone straddles a unique sphere that includes sincerity, bemusement, sex-appeal and downright tongue-in-cheekiness.

Hughes honestly admits that a part of ‘going solo’ (well, having a band that simply bears his moniker) is so he can feel legitimate in the company of Homme and the Eagles Of Death Metal contributors – which, since Homme and Hughes formed the band back in 1998, has seen guests like Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters).

Well, I kind of look at Eagles Of Death Metal as a family of great musicians and there’s kind of a built in allowance for one to, like develop themselves,” Hughes muses. “At times it can be that everyone I play perform with in Eagles has been in bands since they were 13. They’ve always wanted to do this and that’s where they’re at,” he notes, pushing the idea that he’s almost the musical black sheep of the EODM family. As Hughes figures, “But I always wanted to do something else (that’d be journalism) and got here [music] really late in the game… but since being in the band, I’ve learned all this shit and I want to express it via this solo record!”

However, after this fairly innocent claim of searching for creative identity, an inner-looking Hughes now self-effacingly adds, “I wanted to be the one who was producing this time and take everything I’ve learned and really honour – in one respect – the shit that I’ve done. And,” he adds happily, “in another respect I’m a vain motherfucker, so I definitely want all the glory! I need to make a solo record that allows me to come back to ‘Eagles as an equal partner, if you know what I mean?” he asks rhetorically, before adding cutely, “The solo project is kind of like an honorary degree.”

So what did Homme think of Hughes’ idea to fly solo, when the reality is that it was Homme who initially liberated Hughes from his fairly mundane life, to one of roc stardom.

Joshua calls me and is like ‘Dude are you fucking making a record to try and prove that you’re not just a puppet? You don’t need to do that. What the fuck is wrong with you?’,” Hughes laughs. “But, you know, he’s my best friend… so of course he wants me to succeed with this, but one thing he did tell was that he ‘Expects to hear one of the weirdest records I’ve ever heard, in about five months, that’s what you should focus on’ and I’m like ‘derrr, thanks baby, see you in six months’.”

One element of Hughes’ personality, outside of his music, that critics like to chatter about are his seemingly redneck-ish appeal and ideals… a fairly superficial bow to draw, because many who assert that Hughes is a dim-witted conservative are simply are too lazy to look beyond his drawl, moustache and checkered shirts. Hughes gives an intelligent but enjoyably humorous explanation of the global disillusionment that Americans don’t like President Obama anymore.

Let’s say we’re talking about the Australian Prime Minister; in the US we just see him as a swell cocktail party guest, but if he was doing diabolical shit back home in Australia that was, say, causing people to lose their homes then you folks in Australia would be like ‘fuck this guy.’ But over here we’d be like ‘we don’t understand why you guys don’t like him.’ ” After this animated reverse analogy Hughes explains, in his opinion, exactly what it’s like in the US. “The situation over here is that Obama’s policies, even to his own party are baffling, it’s like ‘what the fuck are you doing dude’ but in a place like America, generally, the cult of personality rules the day as opposed to the school of common sense – that’s where we’re at.” (Well… That actually does smack of simple conservative rhetoric that’s not entirely based on facts. Regardless of moustaches. – PoliticsEd)

Hughes has a particularly close relationship with Australia and in explaining his affection for our country he just stops short of staying that it is his spiritual home. The conversation regarding his relationship with Australia begins with the seemingly innocuous mention of his sponsorship deal with Australian guitar manufacturer Maton.

My relationship with Australia is deep; I don’t just use Maton guitars, I use (Australian manufacturer) Rode microphones, I use a lot of things exclusively Australian because, well, first of all I’m raised as an old fashion boy scout, so I have the ability to appreciate what makes a people and gives them their identity.

When I first got off the plane in Australia and I saw that almost every dude who’d be about my dad’s age was covered in tattoos just like me and they have miniturised El Caminos called a ‘ute’ rolling around. And there’s 53 biker gangs and the number one touring comedian is Chopper Reid – that’s a fucking country I can relate to!” the passionate Hughes explodes with laughter.

When Hughes first picked up an Australian-made guitar, it was love at first sight. Nowdays his guitar rack boasts exclusively Matons and includes MS500, a BB1200 and an EAJ85 Jumbo Acoustic. Hughes explains that it was love at first touch with Maton guitars. “Fenders are always too heavy for me and because I have short fingers the necks are too wide and Fenders are not really my sound. When I first picked up my first BB1200 with that over-drive switch, and ran through my fucking silver tongue, it was perfect for my hand; it’s amazing lightwood and so exquisitely made. A week after I got it I threw out all my Fenders and I have never gone back.”

Australia was also the first country to use one of Hughes’ EODM songs in an advertisement much the excitement of the Palm Springs, California local. “The first song I ever licensed for a commercial was I Only Want You for a Levi’s ad; then when I got to the country and there’s girls running around in sundresses and pigtails and the quality of people is one that I admire, and everybody pretty much keeps their word and you can fly within the country without showing an ID. That’s the kind of trust that comes with integrity.”

Surprisingly the final word from Hughes is not further hyperbole about how great Australia, he instead saves his accelerated prose for his girlfriend and bass player, the pornstar Tuesday Cross and how she’ll look on stage at Cherry Rock.

When you see her you’re going to understand when I say that she’s not like anyone else in the world. She sort of unites with her clothing to create this goddess of leather and boots, it’s so bizarre.”