The incident happened during the band’s performance on night one of the L.A. radio station’s 28th annual holiday concert on Dec. 9.
Chelsea Lauren, a photographer for Shutterstock, which has a licensing partership with Variety owner Penske Media, said the incident was unprovoked and that Homme was even smiling before he struck her.
“It was obviously very intentional,” she said.
Homme released a statement Sunday, Dec. 10, characterizing the incident as an accident.
“Last night, while in a state of being lost in performance, I kicked over various lighting and equipment on our stage,” the statement reads. “Today it was brought to my attention that this included a camera held by photographer Chelsea Lauren. I did not mean for that to happen and I am very sorry. I would never intentionally cause harm to anyone working at or attending one of our shows and I hope Chelsea will accept my sincere apology.”
Later on Sunday night, he addressed the incident in a series of Instagram videos.
Lauren was on one side of the stage while three other photographers were together on the other side of the stage. In the video, Homme can be seen walking past Lauren, then backtracking a step to kick away her camera.
“Josh was coming over and I was pretty excited, I’ve never actually photographed Queens Of The Stone Age before, I was really looking forward to it. I saw him coming over and I was shooting away,” she said. “The next thing I know his foot connects with my camera and my camera connects with my face, really hard. He looked straight at me, swung his leg back pretty hard and full-blown kicked me in the face. He continued performing, I was startled, I kind of stopped looking at him, I just got down and was holding my face because it hurt so badly.” Eventually she returned to the press room, where a rep from KROQ in the press room received a text from an audience member asking, “Did the guitarist for Queens Of The Stone Age kick a photographer in the face?”
Lauren returned to the pit to shoot Thirty Seconds To Mars and Muse, but went for treatment later that night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. A social worker who looked at the video while she was at the hospital was one of several people, including many who have seen the clip on social media, who have encouraged her to press charges. She plans to file a police report Sunday.
“I feel like if I don’t do anything, he gets to kick people in the face and not get in trouble because he’s a musician,” the photographer said. “That’s not right.”
Minutes after the incident, Lauren said Homme took out what appeared to be a knife and deliberately cut his own forehead, dripping blood for the rest of the performance. (Wrestlers call this stunt “blading,” or intentional cutting to provoke bleeding)
It’s unknown if the 44 year-old Homme was under the influence of alcohol or drugs on Saturday. At one point, he called the sold-out audience “retards” before insulting the night’s headlining act, Muse. “F— Muse!” he exclaimed. He also encouraged the crowd to boo him, told everyone to take their pants off, saying, “I want to give you all a night you’ll never remember.”
Lauren, who spoke to Variety immediately after the incident, as well as over the phone Sunday morning, said she planned to return to the Forum to shoot the final night of KROQ’s gala on Sunday, which features the Killers, Weezer and Phoenix, but opted not to. “I was getting on the elevator when I walked past Tim McIlarth from Rise Against,” she said. “He smiled at me and I was reminded there are a lot of good guys in music still.”
Homme was sued by an autograph collector in March, who alleged that the musician was verbally and physically abusive after a 2016 Iggy Pop concert (with whom Homme was performing) in Detroit. The lawsuit alleges that Homme “intentionally and physically grabbed plaintiff around the shoulder area” and “said something to the effect of—I am not signing autographs for you blood sucking eBayers, I am tired of you making money off me but I will take photos with you.”
Yet he also is known for calling out hecklers during concerts. He told NME earlier this year, “Once in Holland, I think it was the Lowlands Festival, I saw a guy punching a girl in the face, right by the front row. My whole life, I hate watching people get bullied and so, in a manner of speaking, you turn and you try to bully the bully. I have done that many times. I’m the only one with a mic so I think sometimes it perhaps looks like I’m bullying somebody – and I actually am.
“I think I’ve always been trying to prune our audience [of] racist, homophobic, misogynistic assholes,” he continued. “The idea is to have our audience be an open-minded group of individuals. I think that’s why even picking Ronson initially [was] to chase people away.”
Lauren posted an update on Instagram Sunday afternoon: “Thank you everyone that has reached out with supportive messages,” she wrote in part. “My neck is a sore, my eyebrow bruised and I’m a bit nauseous. The doctor released me early in the morning. Here are three images. Two of them as Josh looked at me, smiled and then kicked me. The other one is later after he cut his own face with a knife. I was in the pit in tears – and he just stared at me smiling.
Assault in any form is not okay, no matter what the reasoning. Alcohol and drugs are no excuse. I was where I was allowed to be, I was not breaking any rules. I was simply trying to do my job.
I hold nobody accountable for this but Josh himself. KROQ has nothing to do with this and I will always support them. … Thank you to @variety for their immediate concern and care with this matter. As of now, nobody from QOTSA has reached out to me.”