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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.”

The Coachella Valley today is home to a healthy, growing music scene—but it wasn’t always that way. In the 1980s, young local musicians were forced to basically create their own music scene.

These kids had no idea they would one day be considered pioneers.

One of these pioneers is Brant Bjork, the drummer for and one of the founders of Kyuss. He’ll be appearing at Coachella on Friday, April 10 and 17, with his latest project, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band.

In 1987, while in high school, Bjork got together with Josh Homme and John Garcia to form the band that became Kyuss. Of course, Kyuss went on to become one of the most influential rock bands of the early ’90s, putting Palm Desert on the map for desert rock—or stoner rock, as some people called it. In 1994, Bjork left Kyuss due to a conflict with Homme.

During a recent phone interview, Bjork said he’s proud of what Kyuss accomplished.

“I’m most proud of Kyuss because we were offered a once-in-a-lifetime shot, at a time and a place where it was highly unlikely that shot was going to come to us,” Bjork said. “I’m proud of the fact that we were true to where we were from, and we took that shot and went out in the world and said, ‘We’re from the desert, and we’re a desert rock band.’”

What does he think about the “desert rock” and “stoner rock” labels?

“Being an artist or a member of a band, you don’t really get the luxury of deciding what people are going to call your band. I’m not in the business of coming up with genre names,” he said. “I can’t argue with either term. Desert rock is pretty obvious and appropriate. As for stoner rock, (the term) certainly wasn’t around when we were in Kyuss—but we were stoners. A big part of what we were doing involved marijuana. I think whether people like it or dislike it, it’s pretty authentic.”

During his days in Kyuss, he formed a bond with the band Fu Manchu, another big name in the “stoner rock” era.

“Through a mutual friend, I met the Fu Manchu guys while I was in high school,” he said. “… They were beach guys, and I went out to the beach one weekend, and I met them, and we kind of became friends. They were kind of different but had a similar spirit. … We were tapping into returning to rock music—shameless rock music, like ’70s rock music. We were like brother bands.”

Bjork joined Fu Manchu in 1996 and played drums in the band until 2001.

“After I left Kyuss, Fu Manchu signed a solid record deal and started touring,” he said. “Then the drummer and the singer-songwriter in Fu Manchu parted ways, and Scott (Hill, guitarist and vocalist) called me up and asked if I wanted to join the band. I said yes.”

Bjork later decided to release albums under his own name. He also took part in the Desert Sessions series at the Rancho de la Luna recording studio, which reunited him with Josh Homme.

“Desert Sessions wasn’t really about the desert. That was something that was conceptualized by Josh Homme, and it involved musicians who weren’t from the desert,” Bjork said. “I can’t speak for Josh, so I don’t know what his idea was, but he asked me to take part in the first one, and even though I was questioning the concept, as a musician, it’s hard to say ‘no’ to playing with some accomplished musicians like John McBain from Monster Magnet, or Ben Shepherd from Soundgarden. These were great bands I admired and respected, and this was an opportunity to play music with them.”

In 2010, Bjork got together with John Garcia and Nick Oliveri to play and tour as Kyuss Lives! However, they changed the name to Vista Chino after a lawsuit from Josh Homme and bassist Scott Reeder. The project dissolved after several years.

“For the people who were there and for those of us who were involved, it was beyond a success, and it went way beyond everyone’s expectations,” Bjork said. “We never sounded or played better, and the music was wonderful. In fact, that’s why it stopped—it was stopped because it was so awesome.

“As far as going into the future and getting back together with Kyuss again involving Josh Homme, who willingly didn’t participate—I don’t know. I don’t plan on it, that’s for sure.”

Bjork explained his current project, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band. Last November, the project released Black Power Flower.

“I returned to my solo work, and I just felt like I wanted to rock,” he said. “… It’s been years since I put out a solo record, and in returning, I felt I wanted to make a solid rock record—and sort of scream and shout.”

Bjork said he and his fellow desert-rock founding fathers back in 1987 would have never dreamed the Coachella Valley would once be home to a music festival as prominent as Coachella.

“No,” Bjork said with a laugh. “I think I can count on one hand the artists who came through the desert when I was growing up. It’s a bit crazy. When you break it all down, as crazy it is, it makes good sense, too. It’s a beautiful area; the weather is great; you’re a couple of hours from L.A.; and I think the powers that be hit it out of the park as far as the location and concept—so hooray for them.”

Published in Previews

Coachella Day 2 is always the festival’s busiest—and that was evident on Saturday, April 19, as people came to enjoy numerous up-and-coming artists, in addition to the big headliners.

Early in the afternoon, Laura Mvula took the Gobi stage. I was in the nearby press tent, and the drum beat coming from the Gobi stage captivated me to the point where I had to get up and see what was going on. Mvula’s drummer turned out a unique set of beats throughout the entire set, while Mvula’s stunning soul-style vocals resonated through the whole tent. People were dancing and grooving, with some simply amazed by her performance. Meanwhile, a man in a marching-band outfit stomped through the crowd as people took photos of him.

Speaking of soul, The Internet (yes, that’s what they’re called) followed Laura Mvula. Fronted by a woman named Syd Bennett (aka Syd tha Kyd), the neo-soul band immediately captivated the audience with smooth bass lines, jazz piano and some chill vibes similar to those of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Bennett knows how to entertain and sing deep songs without weird spiritual elements or outrageous costumes: She was wearing a Beach Bum swimsuit, a T-shirt and colored socks with marijuana leaves on them.

As I made my way to the Outdoor stage to see Ty Segall, I noticed that Cage the Elephant had a much smaller audience than the band should have had. The group managed to capture the mainstream with the single “Shake Me Down” a few years back; apparently, the band did not act fast enough to put out compelling new material after that. The band put on a great show; it’s just that the crowds were scattered elsewhere.

As for Ty Segall, he and his band were given an intro by a surprise guest: flop-comedian Neil Hamburger (who will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s in May; look for an interview with him soon in the Independent). The dry-comedy maestro delivered jokes about Skrillex, Arcade Fire, Fred Durst, his nemesis Carrot Top, and Britney Spears before introducing “Ty and the Boys.”

Ty Segall’s much-publicized love for Hawkwind was evident throughout his performance. His first two songs were loud and heavy psychedelic. During the third song, a tall, shirtless skinny guy managed to start a mosh pit. A man with an inflatable pink dolphin was in the pit the entire time, holding up the dolphin; he even went crowd-surfing a few times. Half-full bottles of water were thrown into the pit, as was a quarter of a watermelon. Segall ended his set with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love.”

The Head and the Heart took the Outdoor stage as the afternoon transitioned into evening. The folk-rock band from Seattle put on a great set that makes you ask: Is rock music really dead? The band’s folk-rock sound featured beautiful harmonies and violins. Many people were dancing; a group of people even held hands and danced in a circle. The Head and the Heart proved that unique bands can captivate an audience with a mellow sound.

The ladies of Warpaint took to Mojave stage at 6:15 p.m. and turned in a stellar set. Frontwoman Theresa Wayman’s guitar puts out haunting echoes, while Emily Kokal’s synthesizer adds a dark vibe. Warpaint’s echoing vocals and a dark sound are supported nicely by the rhythm section of drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg.

The High-Energy Performance Award of the Day goes to Future Islands, who rocked out the Gobi tent as the early evening took hold. Beth Clifford, chief doorwoman at Pappy and Harriet’s, told me that the Future Islands show that took place after the Pixies show this past Thursday (April 17) was one of the best shows she’s ever experienced at Pappy’s. Frontman Gerrit Welmers was jumping all over the place as the band opened up with “Back in the Tall Grass.” At times, it sounded as if he was out of breath, but he always kept on going. The band offers a unique modern twist on new wave and synthpop, with a heavy rock sound added in. Given the fantastic stage performance and the recent album success, we should be hearing more from this band in the future. I would not be surprised to see the group back at Coachella on a much grander scale.

As the evening progressed, Fatboy Slim performed to a packed Sahara tent. (The Astronaut even made its way into the tent behind the soundboard.) Opening with “Right Here, Right Now,” Fatboy Slim never stopped, only allowing himself brief transitions that included snippets of songs including Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapvine” and Bing Crosby singing “Let It Snow.” While it certainly wasn’t Christmas, it started to snow in the Sahara tent from the ceilings.

People who wanted to sneak in to get a good spot for Skrillex’s night-closing set in the Sahara were pretty much out of luck: It remained packed, with Empire of the Sun following Fatboy Slim.

As the Fatboy Slim show wound down, The Pixies took the stage in the Mojave to similar conditions: The tent was crammed full. The Pixies proved earlier this week that the band can perform for two hours or more; it’s odd that these legends were given just a 50-minute set that was not on the Main stage.

As for the Main stage: When locals Queens of the Stone Age walked on, they delighted their die-hard fans. While the audience wasn’t as large as it was for some acts, the band still garnered a decent-sized crowd, considering the Pixies weren’t quite done yet on the Mojave, and Sleigh Bells were tearing it up on the Outdoor stage. I’d never before seen the Queens of the Stone Age live, and now I know: The experience of seeing and hearing them live cannot be fully captured on video. The band plays with some serious power, and they were ready to rock on Saturday night. The visuals in the background were stunning; one was a dark desert sky with fierce moving clouds, and a marquee with “QOTSA” front and center.

The Queens opened up with “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire”; “No One Knows” followed. Josh Homme made note of the fact that it was beginning to get late. “Darkness is upon us … and I’m already fucked up,” he told the audience, to a loud ovation. “Little Sister” and “If I Had a Tail” were played in the middle of the set, and the band only got better as the show progressed. When Homme noticed the sign-language interpreter to his left, near the video monitor, he asked, “Are you doing sign language?” The interpreter nodded as he signed; Homme then made a request to the interpreter to sign: “Let’s go fucking nuts!” When the band finished up with “Go With the Flow,” the image of seagulls flying in silhouette was the visual.

Pharrell Williams began in Outdoor theatre right as the Queens were finished—and the Outdoor area was already filled beyond capacity. I got as close as I could, and I could barely hear or see the show. He performed “Blurred Lines” with special guest T.I. Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, Usher and even Jay-Z also showed up during his set; alas, Snoop Dogg was absent this weekend when Pharrell played “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Pharrell’s stage show was obviously big enough to be on the Main stage, but was quite exciting to the people who could get close enough to enjoy it.

It was at this point that I had to call it a night: Someone tampered with my laptop in the media tent, and I needed to make sure it was functional enough to get me through Day 3. Therefore, I asked Dan Gibson, the editor of the Tucson Weekly, to take notes for me on what happened with the headliners—and I am glad he did, as I missed some interesting goings-on.

The second Pharrell’s set ended, the majority of the crowd from seemingly all stages rushed to the Sahara tent to see Skrillex. That left a half-empty tent for synth-pop legends the Pet Shop Boys. Clearly, the Pet Shop Boys show represented the 30-and-older Coachella-attendee meet-up; the band’s energetic performance included two dancers wearing giant cattle skulls at times—with Alexander McQueen outfits for the duo themselves.

The strobe-heavy lighting for the Pet Shop Boys proved to be too much for one attendee, who needed attention at the side of tent for an apparent seizure. Despite a seemingly over-long wait for medical attention, the woman was able to walk away with assistance.

Seemingly all of the headliners, including Nas and The Dismemberment Plan, ended their sets at almost the same time, meaning the rush to the parking lots and shuttles was shoulder to shoulder. In fact, the parking lot was still half-full at 2:30 a.m.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews

Hide the kids! Hide the wife, and take cover! The Dwarves are coming to The Hood on Friday, Aug. 16.

Formed in 1982 in the suburbs of Chicago, the Dwarves came together playing garage rock. As they crafted their early hardcore-punk sound, they became one of the first bands to use samples and drum loops.

Their live performances later became notorious for onstage acts that included violence, drug use and GG Allin-style self-mutilation. The band’s frontman, Blag Dahlia, had an infamous violent altercation backstage at Los Angeles’ Dragonfly club with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme in 2004. It earned Homme a court-ordered trip to rehab and anger management classes.

When asked whether the violence might be taken too far someday, Blag says the day has already come.

“I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been beaten over the head, and I’ve had my throat slit,” said Blag, during a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “All the guys in the band have suffered various violent altercations. We’ve given in to the goodness of God sometimes. It’s all part of what rock n roll is: You don’t exactly know what’s going to happen, and it just goes. The music is very energetic, and it kind of inspires those kinds of responses. Shit happens.”

Blag added that people who say “Blag got his ass kicked at the show” have it all wrong. “Anyone who ever tried to kick my ass got it back just as bad as they thought they were giving it out,” said Blag.

In another controversial episode, the band issued a press release in 1993 that stated their guitar-player, HeWhoCannotBeNamed, was stabbed to death. Turns out that was a hoax, and the incident led to the band being dropped from Sub-Pop Records.

However, Blag has a different point of view on the events.

“(HeWhoCannotBeNamed) is the creature who transcends life and death,” said Blag. “At times, there are those who believed he was no longer among us. He’s like a very material sort of entity, and he’s an icon of rock and roll. So these concepts of life and death sort of have a different meaning for him.”

Through all of the controversy, the band has had a successful recording career. Blag has also produced albums for the Swingin’ Utters, The God Awfuls, and former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri’s group Mondo Generator. (Oliveri is also a member of the Dwarves, playing under the alias of Rex Everything.) He’s written two novels: Armed to the Teeth With Lipstick and Nina.

In what some would call an unexpected move, Blag also recorded “Doing the Sponge” for an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.

“One of our former members, Salt Peter, has written a lot of material for SpongeBob,” said Blag. “He wrote a bunch of novelty songs that they do in there. So early on in the first season, he had written a song for them. They wanted somebody who sounded like Lux Interior of The Cramps, and he’s one of my favorite singers; I said, ‘I can go in there and sound like Lux,’ and so I did. It was a lot of fun, and it makes me popular with those in the 8-years-old crowd.”

Blag said he looks back on the band’s musical accomplishments with unapologetic pride.

“We’re undoubtedly more known for the controversy, but that’s not because we haven’t left a bunch of great music behind,” said Blag. “We’re the only punk band that gets better with time, and the only one anyone can conceive of … (that) continues to be great. This is a band that makes classic record after classic record. We just keep pushing the boundaries of genres. We’ve had outstanding musicianship, outstanding production with Top 10 producers, and great studio players. The Dwarves are one of the best-recorded bands in history. The fact that people don’t know that has a lot more to do with marketing (than) the quality of the music.”

What does the future hold for the Dwarves? They’ve been in the studio recording and are hoping to release a new album within the next year. (Their most recent studio album was 2011's The Dwarves Are Born Again.) In the meantime, they’ve booked some shows (including the one at The Hood) to keep them busy. Blag also does a podcast called Radio Like You Want.

They’re also no strangers to the Coachella Valley.

“We played there with Kyuss when they didn’t have a club there, and there was a nudist colony that people used to do shows at,” said Blag. “We just got done doing some recording in Joshua Tree. I’m looking forward to going out there and seeing some of our friends in the desert. We’ve always loved the desert.”

The Dwarves will play with the Hellions, the Atom Age and Hot Beat Acoustic at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 16, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. Admission is $10, and there are no presales. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or visit thehoodbar.com.

Published in Previews

It’s been six years since Palm Desert’s Queens of the Stone Age released its previous album, Era Vulgaris; however, that does not mean band founder Josh Homme hasn’t been busy.

He started the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. He’s contributed to a number of other projects. And, thankfully, he hasn’t forgotten about Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork (Matador Records) will be released on Tuesday, June 4—and it’s well worth the wait.

As with previous albums, there’s an impressive list of guest appearances, by Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Alain Johannes and even Elton John, who reportedly told Homme that the band needed a “real queen” on the album. Former bassist Nick Oliveri plays on some tracks, as does drummer Joey Castillo, who recently quit the group. (Dave Grohl wound up playing drums on several songs.)

“Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” featuring Jake Shears, is a perfect opener: It hints at a chaotic, darker side of the Queens, a theme that holds throughout the album. Shears and Homme sound great together, even if the result is far different than Shears’ normal sound.

“I Sat by the Ocean” has a catchy hook and puts a fresh, invigorating spin on the heavy psychedelic rock and bluesy guitar riffs upon which QOTSA built their desert-rock sound. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” starts off with a beautiful piano arrangement accompanied by synth accents in some places. The Brian May-sounding guitar solos and the dark choruses make this one of the best tracks on the album.

“If I Had a Tail,” featuring Alex Turner and Nick Oliveri, offers a dark guitar sound that resembles the output of a horn section. It’s unlike anything the band has done in the past—a song that would make Pink Floyd feel envious. “My God Is the Sun” offers more desert-rock-sound goodness.

“Kalopsia” features Trent Reznor on what starts out as a mellow, beautifully crafted tune, with melancholy lyrics; the song then gets chaotic and loud before settling back into mellow. Sounds spanning several genres show up on “Kalopsia”; while it sounds eccentric, it’s also experimental and distinctive.

“Fairweather Friends” is a mass collaboration, featuring Elton John, Reznor, Johannes and even Homme’s wife, former Distillers vocalist Brody Dalle. Elton’s scattered piano and backup vocals make it hard to determine who’s doing what, and who’s playing where. Nonetheless, it’s a decent track that fits in nicely toward the end of the album.

“I Appear Missing” was the first track to be previewed online. It’s a dark, intense song that’s heavy on psychedelic influences. Homme (who declined an interview request from the Independent) has said that he wanted to feature dark characters on some of the songs—and that’s exactly what he does here.

The title track concludes the album—and as “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” was a perfect opener, “… Like Clockwork” feels like it should be played as the album’s credits roll. Hypnotic bass lines and a dark piano composition aptly conclude this gloomy, loud, trippy, fucked-up masterpiece.

The band went through a lot of chaos while making this album, including the departure of Castillo, and the fact that Homme was unable to secure Reznor to produce, as originally planned. However, it all worked out—beautifully—in the end. While the Queens have been hailed as pioneers for their earlier work, … Like Clockwork proves that Josh Homme is still innovating and striving to stay original.

Published in Reviews