Josh Homme likes to think of his band as a tropical paradise, an oasis of power chords, hormones and shady women that fellow rockers are drawn to like magnets to metal.
As frontman for Queens of the Stone Age, the towering redhead has cultivated a fluid lineup of musical foils that's included such big names as Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas and scads more who've guested on the band's five malleable, always impulsive records.
"It's about making Queens a destination where people want to come and stay for a while, like Hawaii," Homme says. "There's no rock 'n' roll school, so playing with other musicians is how you learn. It doesn't have to be like, 'Are you stealing my band member?' It's like, 'No, we're just tripping out on this thing that we get to do for a living.' "
At heart, Homme is fond of the riff -- fat, hairy and fanged -- which he sets against a shifting backdrop of acid blues, serrated punk outbursts and pulse-slowing psychedelia.
The band's latest disc, the restless and raw "Era Vulgaris," samples everything from synth-driven new wave to '70s prog-metal, with Homme trying on a different voice for most every song, sounding seductive, sarcastic, robotic and malevolent all at once.
"I've got musical schizophrenia," he says. "I like a little bit of everything, and I listen to all those voices. I don't need a genre, because I don't listen to music that way. I listen to whatever I think is good."
If Homme's musical tastes seem relatively unbounded, it has a lot to do with the landscape he grew up in.
Born in Palm Springs, Calif., Homme spent his formative years gigging in the SoCal desert, an anything-goes frontier that spawned a maverick rocker as uninhibited as the setting in which he cut his teeth.
"You had to be as original as possible in the desert or you got laughed at -- straight up laughed at -- and you got worse than the finger, you got silence," Homme recalls. "It really pushed you to find your own thing. You didn't play for money or for chicks, because it just wasn't available, it wasn't what it was about.
"You played to make music your religion," he says, finishing the thought, his voice free of equivocation. "And that's still what it is for me now."