To say that Jesse Hughes (A.K.A. Boots Electric), Eagles of Death Metal front man and subject of VICE documentary The Redemption of the Devil (directed by Alex Hoffman) , is a throwback to rock stars of old is a bit of a misnomer. Although he shares certain qualities with any number of rock and rollers, Jesse Hughes is his own man, and God bless him for it. He’s a hard living, gun carrying man who loves his momma, and just happens to be an ordained priest. In fact, his story has a very country music kind of quality to it. Is it any wonder that he was born in South Carolina?
For the people who only know Eagles of Death Metal from the horrific events in Paris this month, here’s a primer; they were formed in 1998 by Jesse and his best friend Josh Homme (guitar player and singer for Queens of the Stone Age). They have released four studio albums in that time, the most recent of which is this year’s “Zipper Down.” The band does not have any members of the Eagles in it, nor do they play death metal.
The Redemption of the Devil follows Jesse throughout most of 2013. In this time he is seen preparing to record the album that would become “Zipper Down” (the album had the working titles of “Vagina,” and “Crazer Beam” among others), playing some shows, shooting guns, partying with friends, and becoming an ordained priest. His main co-star throughout all of this is his girlfriend, ex-adult film actress, and part-time band member Tuesday Cross.
As the film progresses, other portions of Jesse’s life begin to come to the surface and he becomes more open with the cameras. He goes to see his mother and talks about how his father got him involved in music, but then ended up tearing the family apart with physical and psychological abuse. It is also revealed throughout the film that Jesse has been married previously and has a teenage son that he hasn’t seen in a couple of years. The portions of the film where he opens up about his son are pretty wrenching and aren’t played for the camera, and it’s in these scenes where the film finds it’s heart. A thousand rock documentaries have been made that show the cool side of the business, but a good one doesn’t shy away from the harsher aspects; The Redemption of the Devil meets them head on.
Towards the end of the film, Jesse and Josh Homme finally get down to the business of making the album that will become “Zipper Down.” Homme seems to have a calming effect on Jesse and just in the few minutes of screen-time the two have together, you can see why they are friends and why they work so well together. The two just seem to have a rhythm (pun intended) that comes naturally. Having played in a lot of bands over the years I can safely say that it’s hard to find that type of working relationship, and it’s even harder to keep it up year after year.
Like most documentaries, The Redemption of the Devil doesn’t tie everything up in a nice bow. Jesse continues to have issues with his ex-wife and is still trying to get visitation with his son when the film ends, “Zipper Down” was still well over a year away from release at the end of 2013, and Jesse has yet to announce his run for president in 2016. The film does show footage of Jesse officiating his first wedding as a priest though, so that’s a pretty neat way to end things.
As far as rock docs go, I would say this one would belong in a similar category to Ondi Timoner’s Dig!. Dig! follows the tumultuous, multi-year friendship/rivalry of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dandy Warhols. The two films cover some similar ground, but Jesse Hughes is a more grounded, relatable person so this one is probably easier to watch, although both of them are required viewing for music fans.
If you’ve never listened to Eagles of Death Metal, go check them out. They don’t sound like the Eagles, nor death metal, but they do kind of sound like “Exile on Main Street” era Rolling Stones and that ain’t ever a bad thing. After you’ve listened to their music, check out The Redemption of the Devil, but be warned; it’s a hell of a scene man.
Until next time…