Josh Homme: “Music Has Always Been A Religion For Me And Jesse. This Is Our Way To Heal”

On November 13, Eagles Of Death Metal were playing a gig at Le Bataclan in Paris when terrorist gunmen invaded the venue and shot nearly 90 people dead. In the wake of the horrific event, the band have started ‘Play It Forward’ –
a project inviting musicians to cover ‘I Love You All The Time’, a track from recent album ‘Zipper Down’, with all proceeds and royalties going to help the families of those involved in the tragedy.

With Florence + the Machine and The Maccabees teaming up, alongside covers by Kings of Leon, Mini Mansions, Imagine Dragons, Savages and more, a strong roll call of musicians have lent their support. We spoke to Eagles Of Death Metal founder member Josh Homme about his hopes for the project and how the band are bearing up a month after the tragic event.

What’s the overarching idea behind ‘Play It Forward’?
Josh: “There’s a couple of prongs to this idea: one, for us to give something away and try to heal something instead of just being a footnote of what happened that was terrible. And then also to encourage some kind of solidarity within music in general – between artists, but also getting iTunes and Spotify and those titles to not make money for a moment and give it all away. To be part of something. And almost all of them did it.”

How did you go about getting these artists involved?
“I started by sending emails very early on to some friends and asked them to pass it along and got responses right away. I think people want to do something that helps but it’s hard to know what, so I think this was something that was felt right and wasn’t uncomfortable or unfamiliar. So Florence and the Machine and The Maccabees did something right away, and Kings of Leon did something right away. [The request was to] take the song, expand it, do whatever you want to it – it hardly matters, as long as it’s something you’re comfortable with.”

Were you involved with any of the recordings?
“I was involved with none of it because I was trying to stay involved with setting up [the logistical side]. It was very serendipitous that my family and I were involved with setting up a charity that just got cleared in the States called The 1C. Sometimes you want to do something that raises money but the government always seem to get in the way. Some charities are really great but they hold on to 60 cents in every dollar because it costs so much for them to run themselves, so we’re trying to start something where 98 cents in every dollar goes where it’s meant to go. It allows us to find the right families and the right situations to give all the money away, so that way we can make sure [it’s going where it should].”

Have you had more artists approach you to contribute since releasing these covers?
“At the risk of not wanting to jinx them, there’s some really big names and a sea of fan covers [still to come]. Ideally, what happens is it takes on a life of its own, so it doesn’t matter if you call yourself a ‘professional musician’. I always think that music is a lot like bowling – it’s a lot of fun whether you’re a professional or an amateur, it doesn’t really matter. So getting these covers from everywhere, even if they’re just put up on YouTube, it’s still an exhibition of faith and solidarity.”

Which ties in to the cover of Patti Smith’s ‘People Have The Power’ that the rest of the band performed in Paris with U2 a couple of weeks after the event…
“I was really proud to watch those guys get up on stage when the gig before was a really difficult, terrible moment. It was really heroic to watch them get up in Paris just a couple of weeks later. I mean, can you imagine how hard that was?”

How are the rest of the band holding up?
“I think the best way to answer that is to ask yourself if you could ever un-see that. I feel like there aren’t words that have been made yet to express how I feel about it. I wish I knew how to push the right vowels and consonants together [to explain it] and I wasn’t even there, so I can only imagine what [the rest of the band] are going through.”

Have you found doing this project has been a helpful process in trying to deal with the event?
“Music is built for the moments when you don’t know what to say. Music has always been a pursuit to explain the uncomfortable and the bizarre and the longing and the dark side, and it’s new for me to use it in such ways as to try and help others and by extension my own self. But also, music has always been a religion for me and for Jesse too, so this is our way to heal and move on or at least move forward.”

Will you be playing the rescheduled dates in Paris with the band next year?
“I’m expecting another child, so my plan is to do what I had intended to do from the beginning of the record, which is to show up as much as possible, whenever possible. I wish I knew when that was but I also think it’s kind of cool to not need to know when that is. I’ll go to every show I humanly can.”