Heavy Load: Jesse Hughes

Ladies’ man, Little Richard fanatic, diehard Republican… 42-year-old Jesse ‘The Devil’ Hughes isn’t your average rock’n’roller. As the frontman with Eagles Of Death Metal, the band he formed in 1998 with childhood friend Josh Homme, he has charted his eventful life across four albums – the latest being the revealingly titled Zipper Down. Hughes is also the star of a forthcoming warts-’n’-all documentary, The Redemption Of The Devil.

What were you like at school?

I was quiet in my own way. When you move from South Carolina to LA as a kid, and you have a southern accent, it makes you stick out. I was sweet, but if you fucked with me, I would get vengeance on you in such an unusual way it earned me the nickname ‘The Devil’.

When did you realise you could sing?

When I was a little boy in church I was a soprano, so I’ve always been familiar with singing. Church was a big part of my life, and music is such a big part of church, so gospel was always there. But I never had the desire to be in a band or sing professionally.

Until Josh approached you about EODM.

Yeah. I’d just discovered my wife was having an affair. Coming home and seeing her with another woman fucked my head. Joshua was coming to check on me because my mother was worried I was going to commit suicide. I’d written one or two songs as a joke, and he sees Whorehoppin’ and I Only Want You. He listened to them, then drove me to Hollywood. It was like Cinderella, but Cinder-fella.

In The Redemption Of The Devil you’re ordained as a minister. Was that a way of reconnecting with the Almighty?

It was. When our first album came out I got kicked out of church because we seemed very anti-God, so this was about me establishing that I’m quite the opposite.

How’s your relationship with God now?

It’s excellent. Once I determined and accepted that God is real, it’s never bothered me again.

What’s your most striking religious memory?

About five years ago, Chris Goss [of Masters Of Reality] became deathly ill. We thought he was going to die. My mother is a really devout Christian, so I went to her prayer group with her and the whole church prays for Chris. It’s about 9.30pm. Two weeks later Chris comes out of a coma, and it turns out that at 9.30 that night he was dreaming that my mother and her friends were encouraging him not to give up. When he told me that, I knew prayer was real.

What in your life are you most proud of?

My son. He’s a good kid, and he just took a summer camp to learn to mix front-of-house. Seeing your son follow in your footsteps when he’s only fifteen, it doesn’t get better than that.

What advice will you give him as he grows up?

Tell the truth. Even to yourself, even when you think no one will ever know.

What can Jesse Hughes do that no one else can?

Lead an entire crowd of women to simultaneous sexual ecstasy.

Are you as much of a ladies’ man off stage as you are on stage?

I’m a man who loves women. But the only time they get me is on stage, because I’m unbelievably dedicated to my great love, Tuesday Cross.

What would you say is the worst drug you’ve ever taken?

The first, LSD. Life is trippy enough.

And the best?

A processed speed of the highest order, unique to California. We call it ‘full-tilt boogie’. It’s not for the weak.

You used to be a Republican speechwriter. What was that like?

You’re essentially studying the ability to manipulate in math. A Republican, for example, has to be getting a certain number in the polls internally, with his own base. If he’s not, they send a dude like me to get to know the people and tweak his speeches. If I did it right, his poll numbers would go up. That’s kind of fascinating. But ultimately it’ll make it harder to go to sleep than going to war.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

I’ve been asked if I’m gay a few times. But the biggest misconception about me is that I’m irresponsible.

Why would people think that?

Because I’ve carefully cultivated that image [laughs]. I’ve engineered my own misconceptions. They’re logical conclusions you’d reach with the lifestyle I present.

When death comes, how would you prefer to go?

Getting busy with Tuesday. I intend to be really fucking old, so it probably won’t take too much to kick out the old heart.

What will be written on your tombstone?

“Here lies a good father and a good friend, and you will see him again if you believe in God.”

Classic Rock 215: News & Regulars

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.