Foo For Thought: Dave Grohl Reshapes the Foo Fighters
Alternative Press 1997
"I knew that no one was going to stand for another record of absolute nonsense," says Dave Grohl, pacing the floor of a North Carolina beach house. After masking his emotions behind some throwaway lyrics on the first Foo Fighters album, and refusing to trivialize his feelings about Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain's suicide by talking about them in the press, Grohl is breaking his silence-however guardedly-on the Foos' new album, The Colour And The Shape (Roswell/Capitol).
"On the first record, there are things here and there that only I knew; only I could find the meanings. I didn't wish to reveal myself to anyone, really," Grohl explains. This album was really a challenge. I knew a year ago there were two ways of going about it I could wear my heart on my sleeve and sing songs that mean something to me; be more direct and invite less speculation. Or I could do the same thing as the last record and deny everything all over again. I didn't feel I could do that.
"A lot of things I don't want to talk about in interviews or with people I don't know, now I can honestly say, 'Read the lyrics. Figure it out.' The songs have a lot to do with the last year of my life," Grohl says, referring to the period during which he achieved international success with his own band, but also divorced his high-school sweetheart. "Now there's something new to sing about. A lot has happened, and it's made its way into the songs. I know it sounds cliched. Sometimes, in the face of crisis, I feel fortunate to be able to feel these emotions."
Is it safe to say you mean the emotions caused by your divorce and the death of a certain bandmate?
"Read the lyrics," he quips. "Figure it out."
Grohl confesses his fear of going it alone in the quiet opener, "Doll," then throws caution to the wind as "Monkey Wrench" explodes and he vents a torrential stream of frustration. He aches for Cobain in "Hey, Johnny Park!," fearing his own success has sold out his friend. "Up In Arms" and "February Stars" address his divorce-the former angry and confused; the latter from his ex-wife's perspective. Then the jaunty "See You" and "New Way Home" paint a happier future. Discussing the individual songs, Grohl scampers away again. "Maybe I'm not ready for this," he confesses. "Before, people would ask, 'So you did the record in five days. What was it like being in Nirvana?' Now the questions are directed at me."
But the personal bent of the lyrics isn't the only advance from the first record. The Colour And The Shape is really the band's debut; it's their first time in the studio together for more than a b-side. Unlike the last time, when Grohl wrote and recorded everything himself and then put the band together afterward, everyone collaborated on songwriting for Colour. It's also the first time guitarist Pat Smear and bassist Nate Mendel worked extensively with a producer (Gil Norton) and the first time Grohl worked with a producer as both a singer and a songwriter. Indeed, Colour has more dynamic range than the first record, with sharper rock songs and more poignant ballads. "I had no intention of [the first record] being anything but this tape I could do in five days," says Grohl. "I wanted this album to sound good. I really wanted to make the songs as great as they could be, instead of setting up the instruments in front of the microphones and 'one-two-three-four-go'... I wanted it to be expensive." Drummer William Goldsmith left the band soon after recording finished, a split described as amicable and explained by the band's frenetic schedule and the usual "creative differences." As for new drummer Taylor Hawkins - formerly Alanis Morissette's timekeeper - Grohl says the two were likely separated at birth. "He's awesome. He's 1000 times better than I am; really," Grohl insists. "This guy knows what he's doing. I was just faking it." Grohl also deflects any credit for opening the gates to the '9Os alternative revolution, saying he would never flatter himself to think of any post-Nirvana era. "Hey, dude, I was just the drummer," he cracks, affecting his best big, dumb and ugly voice. "I didn't have nothing to do with anything."
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