Kick Out the Jams
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Why Josh Homme’s Actions Against Chelsea Lauren Cannot Go Unpunished
NO humour and insincerity is meant…
IN THIS PHOTO: Chelsea Lauren
by me referencing the MC5’s most-famous song as the title of this piece! It is not a playful piece of wordplay: the idea is to cast scorn and opprobrium on musicians like Josh Homme - who feel their status and legacy preludes them from repercussions and awakening. I was going to reflect on Josh Homme’s unprovoked attack of photographer Chelsea Lauren when it occurred (a couple of days back) - but I wanted to let the dust settle and see how the Queens of the Stone Age frontman responded to the, understandable, wave of social media anger and shock. I will come on to look at how these actions – assaults against other music professionals are not new – but I was not expecting something as random and violent from Homme. I know, as many newspapers and commentators have stated, he has been embroiled in controversy throughout his decades-long career. There have been incidents of homophobia and violence (threats, at least) but, given the fact he is a Rock frontman under constant scrutiny, far fewer examples when, say, compared with artists from other genres – and the legendary Rockstars of old. That is no defence but, at the very least, Homme has come out and apologised for his actions. The initial statement - released on Twitter - from him blamed the situation/music for the attack – a case of getting lost in the moment and not really thinking it through.
PHOTO CREDIT: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for KROQ
I have seen the footage (a fellow gig-goer captured the moment a few rows behind Chelsea Lauren) and it shows the kick in all its horrifying (and gory) detail. The frontman was prowling and swaggering on the stage when, as he walked in the direction of the photographer, kicked in her direction and, as we know, inflicted injury. The camera was forced into her face and, with it, the photographer spent the night in the emergency room. Not only has Chelsea Lauren vowed never to shoot the band again – as a fan and follower; that decision could not have come as easily as you’d imagine – but there needs to be sterner investigation. Homme, after the initial statement, recorded a video where he looked genuinely upset and affected. His culpability is undeniable – the U.S. frontman has confessed a serious error of judgement and, in his own words, acknowledged there are issues to address. Other erratic behaviours have been noticed recently: the same tour has seen him slag-off fellow artists and appearing with blood on his face (whether a self-inflicted cut or an accident whilst performing). I saw Queens of the Stone Age ignite London’s O2 Arena recently and that show was a massive success. Homme’s on-stage interaction was minimal but he switched from a quasi-philosophical shaman (living for the moment; being your own boss; questioning our role on this planet) and middle-finger-to-The-Man rebel (ignore the curfews and urging us to party like it’s 1999!).
It was a fantastic show and, throughout the gig, Homme danced, walked and swooned around the stage and connected with the audience – without any physical connections with photographers! That was fairly recent into the Villains tour so, one wonders whether the slew of gigs and miles covered have taken their toll – the recent incident occurred at a gig in the U.S. One can argue most artists, who cover the same ground and days, do not succumb to acts of violence! That is true, but it is clear the Queens’ lead has a lot of problems to address. Things go beyond exhaustion and stress: perhaps there are deeper psychological troubles that, in a brief explosion, came to the surface at that gig. Whatever angle you look at it; that casual and reckless attack has left a stain on the floor of music. Fellow photographers have come out in support of Chelsea Lauren; determined not to associate with Queens of the Stone Age in the future. That is understandable and I wonder, when Homme issued a video apology, he knew the fallout would be huge. Forthcoming gigs are going to be a rather tense affair for Homme. Ironically; there will be more glare and focus on him – aimed more at his actions rather than his voice.
I, myself, have issues and anxieties that I am aware of. The way we deal with these burdens – when things get hard and pressurised – defines who we are as people. There is never an excuse for any acts of violence at a gig. This was not an attack on women or photographers: it was a man unable to control his emotions and sense of entitlement. One cannot go as far as putting barriers between photographers and bands (as fans would need to be guarded in the same way) but I wonder whether we are being too soft in regards these acts. It was, essentially, assault - and one would like to see Josh Homme dealt with the same way anyone else would (I am not sure whether Chelsea Lauren is pressing charges or not). I can understand the weight put onto a musician’s shoulders in this day and age: the destabilising and exhaustive demands levied can create physiological and physical cracks. Homme needs to control his temper better and, if there are problems he needs time to focus on; take time out of money and cancel a few dates. There needs to be a serious period of self-reflection and repentance: a man who lashes out without any reason like that cannot continue the way he is. The fact he realises the damage done, and accepts he make a huge mistake, is good to see.
Over the course of this year; I have seen a few cases of male musicians saying or doing something reckless and inexcusable – whether a physical attack or an unforgivable remark. Given the scandals coming out of the acting industry – and many male producers/stars accused of sexual assault – few are going to be forgiving or patient when they see acts like Homme’s come into the news. I still have a lot of respect for him – and this will never be repeated – but, as head of one of the world’s biggest band, this sets a terrible example to those who idolise Queens of the Stone Age. I am not sure how the matter will resolve itself; whether legal process will begin or it will gain more publicity – there needs to be some accountability beyond apology. Homme needs to recharge his batteries and, if there are external events/situations impacting his mood, these need to be challenged and squashed. As Queens of the Stone Age continue to tour and face thousands more fans; I am concerned something even bigger and more worrying will happen. There will always be one or two controversies in music...but I cannot fathom why Homme did what he did. It was such a casual and unprovoked kick against someone who was doing her job. I hope something positive comes out of this event – Homme has a moment of self-actualisation and seeks help if needed – and the Queens’ lead learns a valuable lesson. Scars, physical and emotion, have been left on Chelsea Lauren – let’s hope she does not lose faith in other artists. One thing is for sure, mind: nobody wants to see anything like this…
PHOTO CREDIT: Press/Getty Images
DARKEN music’s name.