Last night I watched my favorite rock outfit, Queens of the Stone Age, perform a mesmerizing two hour show in a small and
intimate thousand person occupancy theater in Richmond, Virginia. For those who haven’t heard QOTSA, their sound is of a unique sort; imagine the soundtrack to a silky, sexy debonair vampire king who is drunk, and high on a cocktail of opioids doing lines of cocaine, bellowing roars of fiendish delight at the thought of soon consuming the blood of mere mortals, which echo through the cavernous halls of his lavish and opulent gothic castle, and out into the moonlit night of the surrounding barren desert populated only by hallucinogenic cacti. That amazing.
The set touched on all of their albums, save for their eponymous debut album, with the greatest emphasis on their newest release, “…Like Clockwork”. The show began with the first two tracks from their break through album “Songs for the Deaf”, starting the show with the epically gargantuan guitar riffs of “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire”, and “No One Knows”. The energy and momentum of the show were explosive, save for three slower numbers, “…Like Clockwork”, “Make it Wit Chu” and “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, though even these were performed in the propulsive style Queens are known for, all the while building to the climax of the gothic cathedral sized powerhouse of “Song for the Dead”, a tune so horrifyingly morbid and raucously cacophonic one cannot help but imagine the undead rapidly pulling their bodies from the crypt to reign terror on humanity.
Death has always been central to Queens of the Stone Age albums, but never as much as on “…Like Clockwork”.
A friend and I used to joke back in the 2000’s that we would never see Queens live because the principal song-writer and soul of the band is Josh Homme, a musical genius with a penchant for, “nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol; c-c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!”. Those are the lyrics, or really the repeating mantra, to the opening track, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” on their sophomore album Rated R. With such a physically corrosive diet, we figured the possibility of him dying from an overdose was not unlikely, if not likely.
Homme says that when undergoing knee surgery in 2010 he “died” for a short time due to asphyxiation caused by an infection, and as a result had to be revived with a defibrillator.
I saw Josh Homme perform with Queens of the Stone Age last night, but did I see Homme perform with Queens of the Stone Age after he died? That is, was I right that I would not see Josh Homme perform with QOTSA before he died?
For Homme to say that he “died” seems to imply that the person that is referred to as ‘Joshua Homme’ ceased to be. But of
course, it seems that the person that is referred to as ‘Joshua Homme’ continues to be. What theory of person identity allows for the fact that ‘Homme’ ceased to exist, but now exists again? Theories based on memory are ruled out, such as John Locke’s theory that two persons are identical if they have the same memories, because Homme was unconscious from anesthesia, such that on this view there is no difference between the scenario in which the surgery was a success and one in which it is not, given that Homme’s memories would be the same before and after in each scenario. As there is a difference between the scenario in which the surgery was a success and one in which it is not (after all, we are looking for the theory that allows us to say that Homme died temporarily) in that Homme died, the memory theory cannot fit this case. I think the same holds true for any theory rooted in memories, such as psychological continuity theories.
Our best bet is utilizing a theory of personal identity known as ‘animalism’, the thought that two persons are identical if they have identical bodies that perform the same animalistic functions of circulation, respiration, etc. We see quite easily that this theory fits well with Homme’s postulation that he temporarily died on the operating table, because the person referred to as ‘Joshua Homme’ is referred to by pointing to a particular body that performs the functions of respiration, digestion, and unique functions, such as the superhuman function of consuming copious amounts of narcotics without addiction, and that this body at some point stopped performing these functions, and at which point in time the person that is ‘Josh Homme’ ceased to be. Yet when these functions started up again, the same functions in the same body were being executed, such that the person ‘Joshua Homme’ came to exist again. Thus, animalism allows us to say that Josh Homme died and came back to life.
Now, I don’t mean to posit anything so strong as the claim that the case of Josh Homme serves as philosophical evidence for the personal identity theory of animalism. Rather, I am merely positing that animalism allows us to make sense of Homme’s claim that he died.
Thus, I was correct that I would not see Josh Homme perform with Queens of the Stone Age before he died, and yet I saw Josh Homme perform with Queens of the Stone Age last night. And man oh man, what a show it was!
More photos below.