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Metal Massacre

The Eagles of Death Metal owe their existence to Jackyl and facial hair

By Jim Harrington

JESSE "The Devil" Hughes and childhood-friend Josh "Baby Duck" Homme were having a few drinks one night at a place called the Beer Hunter in Palm Desert when someone pushed play on an old Jackyl tune. The song was most likely "The Lumberjack," an ode to tree topplers that features possibly the most ridiculous chain-saw solo in rock history. One patron, with more than a few teeth missing, didn't find the track silly.

"He was almost like this Golem-like creature, only without the lips," Hughes remembers during a recent phone interview from Southern California, "and this guy goes, 'This is metal, man. This is heavy metal, dude.' And we said, 'Get out of here.' And he's like, 'No, man, this is like death metal.' And I look at Josh, and I'm all, 'This is like the Eagles of death metal.' Little did we know, but that's the way destiny delivers the great name for the greatest mustache in the history of rock & roll."

Destiny, or something like it, will deposit the Eagles of Death Metal on the Blank Club's doorstep on Oct. 19. This flock of headbanging birds is touring in support of 2004's Peace Love Death Metal, which is the first full-length since the group made its debut as part of The Desert Sessions Vols. 3 and 4 collection in 1998. The good news is Peace Love Death Metal firmly cements EODM as a real band, not just some fly-by-night side project for Queen of the Stone Age's Homme.

However, Eagles of Death Metal is a real band with a well-lubricated revolving door. Fans that plan to turn out to the Blank solely to see Homme behind the drumkit may or may not get what they are looking for, given that the QOTSA frontman fired himself and plans to perform "unannounced" at only a few shows. The usually upbeat Hughes doesn't see that uncertainty as a downer.

"It's really exciting because there are new members, there are new Eagles, who have been inducted into our gang—Joey Castillo and Dave Catching," he says. Both Castillo and Catching played with QOTSA, with Castillo earning extra points as drummer with Danzig. "When Baby Duck fired himself, we got this litany of calls. Basically, Lars Ulrich called and wanted to be an Eagle, and we had to say no. The drummer from Matchbox 20 called and wanted to be an Eagle, and we had to say no. The drummer from the Distillers called; we gave him a big hug, but we had to say no. The only one who actually made it through the initiation process was Joey Castillo."

The singer/guitarist knows that EODM is a much tougher sell without Homme, but he sees it as a challenge, saying that it is time to slide off Baby Duck's back and let his own ambitions rise. To meet this test, Hughes uses multiple voices, from a soft falsetto to a deep "I'm-horny-as-hell" growl, to sell a swaggering mix of classic rock and chugging boogie that falls somewhere between the Eagles and, well, death metal. The songs found on Peace Love Death Metal draw heavily from the Rolling Stones and the New York Dolls.

"Since I stole all our songs from the best music ever made, technically this is the greatest album of all time," Hughes says.

But the main weapon in his arsenal remains the mustache, which has taken on near-mythic proportions among EODM fans.

"It starts with my mustache, which is kind of like a soft boomerang of love, and it makes its way all the way down my spine to my ass. It makes the little girls dance. And that—and making Little Richard proud—is really what I'm all about.

"At first, I didn't realize the power that I possess. Just walking in the park and shooting sexy glances left and right, I can inadvertently decimate the squirrel population of any given park."

The Eagles of Death Metal perform Tuesday (Oct. 19) at 9pm at the Blank Club, 44. S. Almaden Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $8. (408.29BLANK)

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From the October 13-19, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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