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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

Sinner Sinners is one of those bands you really should be listening to—even though you’ve probably never heard of them.

Thanks to tours with Eagles of Death Metal and the reunited Refused, however, the group is starting to get some much-deserved attention.

Sinner Sinners will be playing on Saturday, April 16, with the Mojave Lords (featuring Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching), Boots Electric (featuring Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes), Fatso Jetson, Chris Goss and others at Pappy and Harriet’s. It’s very likely this show, co-presented by Rancho de la Luna, will sell out.

Originally from France and the Netherlands, Sinner Sinners now call Los Angeles home. The brutal punk-rock sound has earned the band accolades, and both the video for the song “Modern Man” and the album Cardinal Sins have received write-ups in publications like Rolling Stone and Maximum Metal.

During a recent phone interview shortly after returning home to Los Angeles from a European tour with Eagles of Death Metal, Sinner Sinners frontman Steve Thill said the fact that the band is not currently signed to a major label has not been a problem.

“When we released the first demo, almost right away, we got a deal with Universal Publishing in France,” Thill said. “They signed us, and they were looking for a label for us, and they couldn’t find one. So Universal couldn’t find us a label, and we figured that finding one ourselves would be even harder. … We just figured we’d put (our album) out ourselves, and it’s been doing good. I think the one thing a label can really do for you is help financially to record and (with) PR stuff, but we pay for recording, and we have a PR agent to help promote the album when it came out. We don’t get all of the cool magazines, because it’s a self-release.”

Thill’s wife, Sam, has incorporated the keyboard into their brutal sound, which reminds of another well-known punk band.

“When we started the band, we were really into The Damned, and I think that’s where it comes from,” he said. “We’re more into their goth era, or more like the Machine Gun Etiquette album. It’s one of my favorites, and when we first started, we were playing some of their covers. It was going to be like Sisters of Mercy kind of stuff, with a drum machine, but during the first rehearsal, we (realized we) wanted a drummer.”

How did the Thills choose Los Angeles as their new home?

“We came over for vacation first, and came back to record a few times,” Steve Thill said. “We began staying longer each time, and we figured we should be here, because there’s more happening here musically. We eventually moved here. We come from a really small town in France. It’s cold all the time, and it’s raining all the time. Los Angeles was pretty appealing to us.

“We were in our hometown in France last week while we were on tour, and it was so fucking cold.”

Both Steve and Sam were shocked when they heard about the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris—and horrified that it happened during a show by some of their friends.

“Nothing like that ever really happens there, and you don’t ever hear about gunshots or anything, because it just doesn’t happen,” Steve Thill said. “When we heard about it—that it was an Eagles of Death Metal show, that our friends were there, and we had just played with the Eagles a month before—it was completely insane. It’s one of those things you think only happens to other people. You hear about things like that on the news, and you never think it would happen to your friends.”

It is no surprise that Sinner Sinners are taking part in the Play It Forward campaign, which features various bands recording a cover of the Eagles of Death Metal’s song “I Love You All the Time,” to help raise money for the victims of the attack.

“We thought about it, and we thought—especially being friends of Jesse Hughes and his girlfriend, Tuesday Cross; the fact we’re neighbors and have been friends for the past six years; and we’re from France—there’s no way we couldn’t do it,” Steve Thill said. “It would be fucked-up and insulting if we didn’t do it. We got together, and we did it, and it was the first time we were playing music after it happened.

“For us French people after that whole thing happened, especially being here, we couldn’t really get a feel for what was going on, and we were watching the news as much as we could to figure out what was happening. It was probably not the best idea, because the news channels here are always pushing everything and keep showing the same videos all day, and ‘Terror! Terror! Terror!’ According to our friends there, people never really stopped going out and stopped going to bars or clubs, even after the first few days after the events. The attacks were as bad as they were saying, but the state of Paris wasn’t as bad as they were saying. When we went back three weeks ago, people were actually going out of their way to go to shows and were super-pumped about going out.”

While the Sinner Sinners are currently working on a second album, Steve and Sam are happy to be returning to the desert for a performance at Pappy and Harriet’s. The last time they played in the desert was in September 2014, at the Palms in Wonder Valley, with Jello Biafra and Spindrift.

“It’s weird, because when we started the band in France, we were following the whole desert-music scene and listening to those bands we’re playing with,” Steve Thill said. “We’re the outsiders, and it’s really an honor to be on that (Pappy and Harriet’s) show—and scary at the same time.

“Last time we played in the desert was really weird with Jello Biafra and Spindrift. It was definitely a strong memory, and I remember we saw some scorpions when Jesika Von Rabbit was playing. It was a really rad experience. You hear about the desert on TV and never think you’ll find yourself in one, and even though we’ve been here a few years, it’s really strange for us.”

Sinner Sinners will perform with the Mojave Lords, Fatso Jetson, Chris Goss, Alain Johannes, Boots Electric and Strawberry Smog at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

On this week's extra-thankful Independent comics page: The K Chronicles wonders whether we're sending the right people to Washington, D.C.; This Modern World ponders America's response to the terrorist attacks in Paris; Jen Sorenson examines Thanksgiving's past, present and future; and Red Meat celebrates having a nemesis.

Published in Comics

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.

On this week's Independent comics page: Red Meat has a sneezing problem; Jen Sorenson looks at the difference between ISIS and Muslims; The K Chronicles looks for an archenemy; and This Modern World deflects the argument.

Published in Comics

I have two local friends who hail from London: Rupert in Rancho Mirage, and Gillian in Palm Desert. They often laugh at how Americans react to their British accent.

“Well,” I tell them, “Americans can’t really differentiate between British, Australian, South African or New Zealand accents, let alone between North and West London. We just assume that if you have that accent, you must be smart and educated.”

Many of us have similar trouble differentiating between Vietnamese and Filipino, Japanese and Chinese, Saudi and Syrian, Egyptian and Liberian. They’re all either Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern or African—if we know enough to make those distinctions.

With what just happened on Nov. 13 (more than 125 dead in Paris), as well as what happened only a day before in Beirut (43 killed) and a couple weeks before that on a Russian plane (224 dead), it’s also difficult for us to differentiate between who is “us” and who is “them.”

I’ve written before about this tribal hangover in our evolutionary journey, whether about “mean girls” or political correctness or motorcycle gangs or the local “us” versus “them” in Coachella after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris earlier this year. It feels urgent to me that we consider how important it is for Americans to not only preserve our sense of security, but also act based on our values. If we can be pushed into knee-jerk policies based on fear—not unlike the internment of law-abiding and loyal Japanese Americans during World War II—“they” will have already won. There should be no fear worth abandoning our basic concepts of freedom, equality and respect for human rights.

After the most recent Paris attack—amid reactions that include concerns about accepting Syrian refugees, even if they’re fleeing death and destruction; rushing to commit troops to harm’s way; voicing political rhetoric without acknowledging the need for allies whose philosophies or way of life may be vastly different from ours; and a call to shut down American houses of worship (First Amendment be damned)—I had the great pleasure of interviewing Deepa Iyer, author of a new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future. A South Asian American, born in India, Iyer immigrated to Kentucky at age 12. She has served as executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together and is a senior fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion, as well as an activist in residence at the University of Maryland.

Iyer’s book chronicles some of the shameful incidents that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, including Islamophobia in the Bible Belt, the massacre at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin, the violent opposition to an Islamic Center in Tennessee, and the demonstrations against building a mosque in Lower Manhattan. She also looks at public policies adopted after Sept. 11, like rampant profiling (as if we could suddenly distinguish between a Muslim and a Hindu—can you?).

Not coincidentally, we’re witnessing campus protests by young people who decry stereotyping, exclusion and hate crimes. The Black Lives Matter movement seeks to highlight institutionalized racism.

Iyer has a particular take on hate crimes: “Hate violence affects everyone in America. A hate crime affects not only the person being targeted, but the entire community to which that person belongs. Acts of hate violence can disrupt and affect even those who do not belong (to) the community being directly targeted.” She cites, as an example, the massacre in Wisconsin, where afterward, non-Sikhs also experienced fear and anxiety and felt forced to change some of their behaviors.

Are home-grown hate crimes different from what ISIS is doing? Local bullies want a sense of power. ISIS terrorism is designed to frighten anyone who might be inclined to oppose their desire for power—including other Muslims. As a nation, if we react based on that fear by abandoning our principles and beliefs, including our historical willingness to integrate people from other cultural and religious traditions, then ISIS will have been successful in pushing their notion of “us” and “them.” ISIS wants to be seen as a legitimate state. Granting that status to ISIS is antithetical to defeating what we should recognize as nothing more than a worldwide hate crime being perpetrated by armed bullies.

In addition to our revulsion at indiscriminate killings, there is at least a smidgen of a desire to distance ourselves from the possibility that in each of us, there still lurks that tribal impulse toward violence against “the other.” Being “civilized” means we have mostly found ways to transcend those impulses; the choice of how to go forward must be informed by realizing that some members of our species are apparently still “uncivilized.”

We all have Uncle Joe or Cousin Amelia, whom we dread seeing because their behavior becomes obnoxious after the second glass of wine. Still, they are family—no matter how we might like to distance ourselves from the idea that we are in any way like them. It may not be all that different to fear seeing ourselves as capable of being at all like ISIS extremists. Yet abusive bullies live among us.

Despite political finger-pointing (Bush got us into Iraq; Obama pulled us out too quickly), we are where we are, and there are serious questions to be asked: Do we want to rush into combat for the sake of looking tough? Are we willing to once again increase American casualties? What about “collateral damage”—the killing of innocent women and children? Should we implement policies, created out of fear, that restrict the freedom of others, based on nothing more than what they look like, or which religious affiliation they claim, or where they come from? What are the consequences of both intervention and a lack of intervention? How much is already being done that hasn’t been made public? These are public conversations worth having, and we need coherent and nuanced responses.

We must resist the temptation to see even ourselves as “us” and “them.” If we can’t even distinguish one accent or one nationality from another, maybe it’s time to realize there is no “us” and “them.” We are all Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Unitarian, Jewish, Scientologist, Mormon—and none of the above. We are Italian, Laotian, Moroccan, Polish, Jordanian, Irish, Iranian, Belgian, Ukrainian, Swedish. These are ways of distinguishing and identifying ourselves, but in the end, it’s all “us.”

The challenge is to educate ourselves about each other enough to not let fear turn us against our better natures. We can only hope that our more civilized selves represent the direction of our evolution away from mere tribalism.

We are all Parisian, Lebanese, Russian. Like him or not, Uncle Joe is also “us.” Alas, ISIS is also “us.” For better or worse, we’re all in this together. In the end, there is no “them.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors