Joshua Michael Homme was born in Joshua Tree, California, on May 17, 1973, the son of Irene and Michael Homme. His father was a private general contractor who built houses around the Coachella Valley. Homme has an older brother named Jason. His surname is believed to originate from the Norwegian village of Homme; he also has English, French-Canadian, German-Jewish, and Swedish ancestry. He grew up in a well-known family in and around Palm Desert, California. His paternal grandfather, Clancy "Cap" Homme, moved to the area from North Dakota and was an early settler of the Valley. Cap has a private street named after him in Rancho Mirage, marking the original road to the Homme ranch, as well as a park named after him in an exclusive enclave of the Valley. Homme moved with his family on a regular basis due to his father's work, residing in many towns around the Valley.
In 2011, Homme discussed having to "create [his] own fun" as a child growing up in the desert, stating that he did not start playing music to "get girls or make money" and that he assumed he would grow up to be a contractor like his father. He also has ties in Idaho and has talked about his formative experiences there, such as seeing Carl Perkins perform at the Sandpoint Music Festival and the first time purchasing his own electric guitar (an Ovation Ultra GP) in a Sandpoint music store. Homme began playing guitar at the age of nine, after his parents denied his wishes for a drum kit. He took guitar lessons for the next few years, where his teacher predominantly focused on polka music. During this time, Homme supposedly did not learn of a barre chord or a pick until well into his third year, lending to his unique playing style. He joined his first band, Autocracy, in 1985, at the age of 12. Despite his musical success, he continued to work on his grandfather's farm until he released the first Queens of the Stone Age album at the age of 25 because he "didn't want to lose [his] grip on reality".