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When I interviewed local music legend Jesse Hughes in August 2015, he was in good spirits and quite excited about the then-soon-to-be released Eagles of Death Metal album, Zipper Down.

“This album is like John Holmes, only with a bigger dick,” Hughes told me. “I’ve never been one of those dudes who has tried to change or do something different. I pretty much want to make Little Richard proud, and I feel that this album has gotten me closer to that goal than any other record.”

Sure enough, the Eagles of Death Metal made waves with the release of Zipper Down—the band’s first new release in seven years. In fact, the Palm Desert-born band was enjoying the most critical acclaim it had ever received.

This high would not last: On Nov. 13, 2015, during an EODM concert in Paris at the world-famous Bataclan, the venue was attacked by terrorists. While the band escaped physically unharmed, 89 people lost their lives.

A new documentary directed by Colin Hanks, Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends), was screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival on Saturday night, Jan. 14, at the Annenberg Theater. Both Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme attended the screening, as did Colin Hanks, who introduced the film and took questions afterward.

The film will air on HBO starting Monday, Feb. 13.

The documentary starts with Jesse Hughes at home in Los Angeles, about three months after the attack, on the day he and the rest of the band were slated to return to Europe to resume the tour. Gone is Hughes’ jovial, comedic attitude that he so often displayed while off-stage: He appears nervous as he packs his luggage and his manager hands him the boarding passes for the band and crew. He emotionally explains that the rock ’n’ roll music for which he’s always been known is now a huge question mark—because the tragedy in Paris will always be what comes up when people talk about the band.

The film covers the backstory of the band. Hughes and Homme talk about the first time they met each other, as kids in Palm Desert—and include an anecdote about Homme rescuing Hughes from bullies who had thrown him in a pool and wouldn't let him out. Homme describes Hughes as a guy who loves to talk about himself—although that talk is so amusing that you want him to keep talking.

Homme, who can't always tour with Eagles of Death Metal, was not with the band at the Bataclan. He describes being in a recording studio when he started receiving alarming text messages from the band at the time of the attack.

The band members each describe the attacks and their aftermath. While most of the members have already told these stories to VICE, Dave Catching—the band's guitarist and owner of the Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree—tells his story for the first time: He describes spending two terrorizing hours in a dressing room, hiding in the shower with the door barricaded. He said terrorists tried at various points to get into the dressing room—and that one of the terrorists eventually blew himself up nearby.

The final portion of the film shows the moment when the band finally plays again in Paris. Homme and Hughes are filmed greeting many of the survivors of the attack, shaking their hands and hugging. One man tells Hughes he saw the terrorists enter the Bataclan—and feels sorry because he didn't do anything to stop them. Hughes emotionally tells the man that he’s not at fault.

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friend) is a heartrending look at Hughes, a rock ’n’ roller who lived through an event that would change him and his band forever. The film pays tribute to the victims in a beautiful way, and affirms that the terrorists in no way won anything as a result of the attack.

While the Eagles of Death Metal EODM will be associated with tragedy forever, the members confirm: They still believe in rock ’n’ roll.

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) premieres Monday, Feb. 13, on HBO.

Published in TV

Friday the 13th of November 2015 will forever be remembered by fans of desert rock.

Of course, we all know what happened on that day: Armed gunmen shot and killed 89 concert-goers, and wounded more than 300 fans, at an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan in Paris. It was the worst of a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris that night.

The hard-edged pop band features frontman Jesse Hughes, with Josh Homme—frontman of the platinum-record-selling Queens of the Stone Age—on drums; both grew up in Palm Desert. The band also includes guitarist Dave Catching, who resides in Joshua Tree at his world-famous recording studio Rancho de la Luna. While Hughes and Catching were on the Bataclan stage on Nov. 13, Homme was not; he had been on the European tour but had returned home to be with his wife, who is expecting their second child.

It was an hour into their set when gunfire broke out. The band was quickly ushered offstage and escaped harm’s way. However, the band’s merch manager, Nick Alexander was not so lucky: The 36-year-old British resident was shot and killed—and a wave of shock is still resounding in the music community here at home.

“I spent a lot of time with Nick, but the thing about the touring merch job, it’s one of the more thankless jobs,” drummer Patrick Carney of The Black Keys told Rolling Stone; Carney had worked with Alexander, but was not in Paris during the attacks. “You do it because you just want to travel, and you’re interested in meeting new people, and it’s really hard work. It’s not the job you take if you’re into partying. … He was just a sweetheart, that guy.”

Within 24 hours, fans started a social-media campaign to launch the Eagles of Death Metal single “Save a Prayer” (a Duran Duran cover on EODM’s latest release, Zipper Down) to No. 1 on the charts. Within 24 hours, the single had risen to No. 5 in Norway, and was No. 1 on Amazon. Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon said all proceeds from the song would be donated to a charitable organization.

Anyone who didn’t know about the Eagles of Death Metal before the attacks certainly knows about them now. Unfortunately, that includes some morons. At the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., Pastor Steven Anderson—who has clearly never heard one note of the band’s music—gave a sermon, posted online, in which he referred to EODM as a death-metal band, and the group’s fans as Satan worshipers.

“When you go to a concert of death metal, somebody might get killed!” he said. “You know, you’re worshiping death! And then, all of a sudden, people start dying! … Well, you love death so much; you bought the ticket; you love worshiping Satan! Well, let’s have some of Satan’s religion come in and shoot you! I mean, that’s what these people should think about before they go into such a wicked concert.”

Believe it or not, after saying he didn’t condone the shootings, Anderson’s rhetoric then got even worse: “But you know what? Nobody should be at a concert worshiping Satan with this drug-pushing hillbilly faggot. And that’s what he is.”

Here at home, we are happy our friends escaped safely, yet deeply saddened by the loss of the lives of Nick and all of those fans. It’s a testament to the state of affairs in our world that you never know when your time on the planet is up; it could even end at the next desert-rock show.

Read more from Robin Linn, including an expanded version of this story, at www.desertrockchronicles.com.

In October, Eagles of Death Metal will release a long-awaited new album, Zipper Down.

It’s been almost seven years since Eagles of Death Metal released Heart On, heretofore the Palm Desert group’s latest album. What in the heck took so long for Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme to record Zipper Down?

“We had a lot of bodies to bury. No, I’m kidding,” Hughes said, with a laugh, during a recent interview. “We’ve been asked that question, and it sort of took Josh and me by surprise, because we hadn’t realized it had been that long. It seemed like it was a couple years, but then it was like, ‘Holy shit, it’s been that long.’ We don’t really believe in a concept of a certain time. … Josh made the Them Crooked Vultures album and a Queens of the Stone Age album, and I made a solo record, and the right time didn’t pop up until right about now. It wasn’t intentional; it just occurred that way. But I do promise we will not let it go that long again before we put out another record.”

What makes this record stand out compared to previous albums?

“Have you ever heard of the adult film actor John Holmes? Well, this album is like John Holmes, only with a bigger dick,” Hughes said, quite incredibly. “I’ve never been one of those dudes who has tried to change or do something different. I pretty much want to make Little Richard proud, and I feel that this album has gotten me closer to that goal than any other record.”

Little Richard? Hughes has long cited the music great as one of his biggest influences.

“Little Richard, to me, is like what I do: He’s a sleeper,” he said. “You wouldn’t expect a dude who’s dressed so fancily to be a bad-ass rock ’n’ roller. He’s essentially the first death-metal artist to show up, and they burned his records. That’s one of the things I love about him: He can sing ‘Tutti Fruitti’ and make everyone in the room horny, and that’s really all I want to do—stay horny.”

Hughes got to meet Little Richard.

“It was a surreal moment,” he remembered. “I was introduced to him by a mutual friend who told him I wanted to meet him, and he was like, ‘Oooh, child!’ And then right in the middle of talking to me, he excused himself and started screaming at photographers: ‘You motherfuckers have been taking my picture my whole life and stealing from me!’ He went into this rant about how the photographers had been ripping him off and stealing from him. After the tirade, he stopped, smiled at me and said, ‘Nice to meet you.’ I was like, ‘Wow! That’s Little Richard.’

“When it’s a dude like Little Richard, you have certain allowances. He can be the craziest queen of rock ’n’ roll if he wants to. As long as he goes into ‘Lucille,’ I’m happy.”

It’s been 17 years since Hughes appeared on the Desert Sessions, marking the beginning of his music career, after working as a manager for Video Depot and as a journalist. Hughes said he never saw a music career in the cards.

“I honestly never did—but Josh always did,” he said. “He always had this in mind when we made the first Eagles of Death Metal song. It was for the Desert Sessions album back in 1998, and Josh even then was like, ‘Dude, you really need to be in a band!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, this is a waste of time.’ The whole time, he always had this vision.

“The Coachella Valley music scene, at least when I was a kid, was very eccentric and very serious. Los Angeles was pop music, and the Coachella Valley was Frank Zappa. I’ve achieved the things I’ve achieved because I have a Coachella Valley attitude about it. The whole world might be smaller than Los Angeles, but it’s still the whole world to me. People like Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson, making the music they made when I was a kid—it basically helped me pull off … what I’m doing now.”

Hughes said that while he goes back and forth between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, he technically lives in L.A. now.

“Josh and I always try to say in our heads that we live in the desert; we’ve never changed our phone numbers, and they’re still 760 numbers,” Hughes said. “But you kind of have to be close to Los Angeles to ride the animal. You know what I mean?”

However, today’s music scene in the Coachella Valley has captured Hughes’ interest.

“I’m happy about it. I’m not going to say I was worried, but there was a moment when a lot of the talent had left or moved on,” he said. “I was worried that the desert would fall prey to the Los Angeles suburbanitis. … It gets to be 120 degrees in the summer, and no one is crazy enough to really want to live there, so that sort of insulates us from too much change. My son is also part of this new Coachella Valley music scene, and I’m incredibly proud of him.”

Hughes credits the way of life in the Coachella Valley for the positive changes in the burgeoning local-music scene.

“I’ve thought about this: At first, when I was a kid, there weren’t any places like The Hood,” he said. “For whatever reason, the desert ended up with a lot of veterans and a lot of really heavy go-getters—the people who can survive in hot weather and have nothing else to do but be hot. Music is a good place to go to, because you don’t have to go anywhere to hear it or to play it. When you’re in the desert, you’re responsible for your own entertainment. There’s not a Hollywood Boulevard—there’s Indio Boulevard and Highway 111. I always felt like the Coachella Valley was like the Australia of America, because it’s its own island, and you have to make everything. Otherwise, it’s an import.”