“At first I thought it was the PA [system] cracking up, and then I realized real quick that it wasn’t,” Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Eden Galindo said, describing the first wave of gunfire that tore through the Bataclan concert hall in Paris an hour into the band's sold-out show.
The Nov. 13 attack, one of several across the French capital, left 89 dead including the band's merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, and three colleagues from their record label, Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser and Manu Perez.
In an emotional, sometimes profanity-laden interview with Vice that went live Wednesday, members of the Palm Desert band detailed the horror of the attack as well as their harrowing escape and the grief that has since pushed them forward.
“We weren’t sure if they targeted us or not,” Galindo continued, detailing the initial confusion over what was happening -- and why.
A crew member of the band gave them the first signal to flee after spotting one of the gunmen pause to reload his weapon.
Some of the band members were able to escape out of a door close to the stage, as their crew fled in other directions.
Matt McJunkins, the band’s bass player, said he was trapped in a room with fans.
“Everybody started going up into this room … to just escape the gunfire, naturally, instinctively,” he said. “From my perspective I see the shooting, I see the pops go off, the lights flashing … and I have to make the decision: Do I really want to run across the stage or do I want to go in this room, and hope for the best.”
McJunkins then detailed the scene in the room, where the wounded were bleeding. Fans used chairs to barricade the space. The only thing they could find in the room for defense, he added, was a bottle of Champagne meant for a post-show toast.
The room had also begun to flood with water, which McJunkins feared would alert the terrorists.
“The gunfire got closer. It went on for … 10-15 minutes. It just didn’t stop, and then it would stop and there was a sense of relief and then it would start up again,” McJunkins said.
“And then there was an explosion, that just shook the whole room.”
Frontman and band co-founder Jesse Hughes broke down describing the fear of trying to find his girlfriend and bandmates amid the chaos and terror. The band’s sound engineer discussed a moment in which he looked straight at a gunman, who then shot at him and missed.
When members made it outside, they ran over dead bodies scattered in front of the venue.
Co-founder Joshua Homme, who was in the States when the incident happened, worked to bring the band back to the U.S. He showed Vice founder Shane Smith the distressed text messages he received from Hughes, who at one point in the interview needed to be consoled by his bandmates when he expressed guilt over not knowing whether they had all survived.
"Several people hid in our dressing room and the killers were able to get in and killed every one of them, except for a kid who was hiding under my leather jacket," Hughes told Smith in an interview apart from the rest of the band.
"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. So many people put themselves in front of people.”
Homme and Hughes have no hesitation about moving forward as a band. They want to carry the memories of fans and friends who did not survive.
“I think about Nick [Alexander, the band’s merchandise manager who was killed] who protected a friend of his. We have a podium right now because we’re in the freaking band, but we represent the fans that did not make, the people who did not make it, whose stories may never get told.”
When asked what he wanted to tell the families of those who were killed, Homme was overcome with grief: “I want to just get down on my knees and say whatever you need, because there’s nothing I can really say because words just fail to grasp.”
The band intends to finish its tour. Hughes wants Eagles of Death Metal to be the first band that plays at Bataclan when it reopens.
“I cannot wait to get back to Paris. I want to play again,” he said. “I was there when it went silent. Our friends went there to see rock 'n' roll and died. I want to go back there and live.”
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