“Bro, everyone got shot… Everyone got shot. They took hostages. I’ve got blood all over me.”
Josh Homme, co-founder of the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal, received this message via text on the night of Nov. 13. It came from the group’s lead singer (and fellow co-founder) Jesse Hughes, who had, along with his bandmates and crew, made a frantic escape from Paris’s Bataclan theatre after two gunmen armed with AK-47 Kalashnikov machine guns opened fire on the crowd during their concert. It was one of several coordinated attacks that took place across the City of Lights that night by a group of ISIS-affiliated jihadists, killing 130 people. The attack at the Bataclan proved the deadliest, claiming the lives of 89 people—including several members of the band’s crew.
Speaking with Vice, the Eagles of Death Metal opened up for the first time about the assault on the Bataclan, and how they escaped.“At first I thought it was the PA crackin’ up,” recalled bassist Matt McJunkins, who says that once he realized they were firing guns, he escaped from the stage and into a side room with a bunch of the band’s fans.
“As soon as we get there, there’s a few people that have been shot and were bleeding. We started grabbing chairs to barricade the door, and there’s like a little mini-fridge, and someone had left a bottle of champagne in the room for a post-show thing,” said McJunkins. “We had that to use [as a weapon] because that’s it. That’s all we had.” He continued: “There was a woman in front of me. It was scary because she was bleeding… she got shot… on her upper thigh, and there was nothing to do. There was this guy who was holding her and keeping pressure on her, and she had a friend who was doing the same thing… Her blood was running out on the ground, and there was a leak for some reason, but the whole room was starting to get flooded. And we were worried because water was—it was up to [our ankles], covering our shoes. It started trickling down the stairs, and then we were worried that maybe it would alert someone that there were people in this room.”
McJunkins said that the gunfire went on for “10, 15” minutes, and that “it would stop, and then there was this sense of relief, and then it would start up again.” He also remembered hearing a very loud explosion that “shook the whole room,” only later learning that it came from one of the gunmen setting off his suicide vest.
As for Hughes, as soon as he realized they were under attack, he said that he went looking for his fiancée, Tuesday Cross, to see if she was alright. But his search brought him face-to-face with one of the terrorists.
“I didn’t see her on the side of the stage so I ran up to the dressing room,” said Hughes. “I threw the door open. She wasn’t in there. Then I opened up the hallway door and that’s when I saw the shooter. And he turned on me, brought his gun down, and the barrel hit the doorframe. I was like, ‘Oh, fuck.’ I could tell [audience members] were following me. You know, this was a situation where everyone was looking for the place to go. I realized that, and I was like, ‘No, no, no, do not fucking come this way!’”
Hughes headed back down the stairs where he finally ran into Tuesday, and was quickly grabbed by the group’s guitarist, Eden Galindo, who led them toward the exit.“We headed out, and I noticed immediately that everyone was pouring around from the side, and nobody was coming out of our exit, and they were just standing there,” said Hughes. “We were like, ‘Move! Move!’ I think Julian [Dorio, the drummer] noticed the same thing. People just didn’t seem to know what to do.”
The Eagles of Death Metal’s sound engineer, Shawn London, was situated in the rear of the venue by the doors manning the sound console.
“Out of nowhere, I just heard what I thought were firecrackers directly behind me. They came in the door, instantly walked in, and just started blasting,” said London. “And there were two of them. Instantly, people started dropping to the ground—injuries, death. There was no way to go, so they basically ran towards me and jumped down below my console, and I was still standing up, and I could see the gunman and he looked right at me, and he shot at me, and he missed and he hit my console. Buttons went flying everywhere… That’s when I went instantly down to the ground, and we all just huddled. I think he thought I probably got hit because I went down so quickly, and everybody else around was injured. There was blood all over. He stayed there and continued to shoot—and shoot, and slaughter—and scream at the top of his lungs, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ And that’s when I instantly knew what was going on.”
The most emotional moment during the interview, which was conducted by Vice co-founder Shane Smith, came when Hughes recalled exiting the venue and not knowing whether his fellow band members were safe.
“I felt so guilty in a way that, like, I had left Matt on the stage and maybe Davey too, and I didn’t want anything to have happened to them, and I really needed them to have gotten off the stage, because I didn’t see what happened when we got off,” he recalled, fighting back tears.
Hughes also broke down recalling how the group’s merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, sacrificed his life to protect a friend.
“[Nick] stayed quiet and never called for help until he bled out because he didn’t want anyone else to get hurt,” said Hughes, who later added, “People were playing dead, and they were so scared. A great reason why so many were killed is because so many people wouldn’t leave their friends, and so many people put themselves in front of people.”