Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

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.”