Jesse "The Devil" Hughes realized something just wasn't right fairly early in the night of November 24.
Even before his band, the Eagles of Death Metal, took the stage at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena to open the first of what was supposed to be 15 North American dates on the Guns N' Roses tour, Hughes witnessed what he perceived to be an odd occurrence.
"I saw people booing the Suicide Girls," he said, referring to the inked and pierced goth pinups who served as one of the night's other openers. "A rock show booing hot naked chicks is not a rock show — it's a freak show. And now I'm just sorry we won't be touring with the Suicide Girls every day."
That's because on Friday, the Eagles of Death Metal exited the GN'R trek — after just that one performance — following an onstage rant by Guns frontman Axl Rose, during which he nicknamed the band "The Pigeons of Sh-- Metal" before informing his audience that the gig would be the Eagles' last on the tour (see "Pigeons Of *! Metal? Eagles Of Death Metal Laugh Off Axl's Ohio Rant").
"I've been really thinking about this because, to be honest with you, I don't know what happened," Hughes said from a recording studio in Los Angeles, where he's hanging out with Queens of the Stone Age, who are currently mixing their forthcoming LP. (Queens frontman Josh Homme, Hughes' high school friend, is a member of the Eagles, though he doesn't always tour with the band and was not present at the Cleveland show.) He thinks, perhaps, that Rose might be just a tad bit envious.
"I think he's just jealous of my mustache," Hughes said.
He is a bit more circumspect about the crowd's reaction to his band's straight-up but tongue-in-cheek hard-rock stylings.
"It had nothing to do with us," he said, referring to the boos that greeted the band's arrival. "That sh-- doesn't faze me, and we turned it around and we had a f---ing kick-ass show and we walked off the stage to a cheering crowd. When you're not the headlining band, you've got to win them over, which we did."
As for Axl's comments, Hughes insisted that GN'R bassist Tommy Stinson threw down his bass in disgust after Rose went off on the Eagles, and that Rose later fired a member of the GN'R crew. "When [Rose] called us the 'Pigeons of Sh-- Metal,' Tommy Stinson took his bass off, threw it down and went, 'F--- you, that's it!' to Axl. And then Axl picked [Stinson's] bass up and threw it at [him]."
GN'R's manager, Merck Mercuriadis, disagreed with Hughes' account. "There is no truth to either claim [that Rose fired a crew member or that Stinson threw down his bass] as evidenced by the fact that our crew remains identical to when the tour started almost six weeks ago, and to say Axl threw a bass at Tommy is pure fiction," he told MTV News. "The Eagles of Death Metal were asked to leave the tour not only because Guns N' Roses' audience hated them and tore them apart but because they could not handle the response. They were supposed to play a 60-minute set but left the stage after 42 minutes due to the hostile reception. The facts do not support the image they are trying to portray, which is why they are attempting to put this spin on it."
With this unexpected gap in the band's schedule, Hughes said the Eagles will take some time off for the holidays before heading to Europe in January for a run of gigs there. And he's not going to take Axl's snub to heart: He believes Rose had never heard his band before that night, and maybe their tongue-in-cheek rock was lost on him.
"I can't take this personally," he said. "I'm disappointed that Axl Rose presents himself as sort of a knighted person in the pantheon of rock and roll and behaves so poorly. People want to see him freak out. And that's just not the place for the Eagles of Death Metal."