They Came From Outer Space
They Came From Outer Space

Blender 1995

Dave Grohl slides his lanky frame into his new 'Vette and fires it up. He allows himself a huge grin as the engine lets out a fat belch and settles into a steady growl. The vehicle is a cream-white 1968 Coupe, to be precise, with a T-roof and
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Dave introduces the band
retractable headlamps and a black leather interior, and you don't have to tease him about it because he's already taken plenty of shit since he bought the "pimp-mobile a few weeks ago. "Everybody says its either a penis extension or a sign of midlife crisis," he says, "and I'm too young for a midlife crisis..." He's 26 years old, but given the sort of life he's been leading lately - as drummer for the monstrously successful Nirvana and now as singer/guitarist with his new band, the Foo Fighters-it's almost surprising he hasn't hit critical mass. But while Grohl is ambivalent about his own considerable star power and uncomfortable with the trappings of celebrity, it doesn't seem to have stopped him from helping create some of the most exuberantly catchy punk anthems of the decade.

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Expectations & baggage
Despite overheated expectations surrounding the Foo Fighters-which include guitarist Pat Smear (former Germ, and Nirvana sideman), bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith (both of the now-defunct Sunny Day Real Estate>-Grohl is determined to steer wide of the media spotlight, imposing a near-total press blackout. It's a decision based largely on his experience as part of the most hyped and scrutinized rock outfit in recent memory. "The whole thing just kind of freaks me out;' he acknowledges, "Iím sure a lot of the reason most people are going to want to do interviews with us is to kind of get inside a member of The Band That Self-Destructed, and find some explanation," Still, the Foo Fighters' decision to strong-arm the media doesn't seem to have dampened the presses breathless myth-making - sample headline from the Toronto Star; "Foo Fighters Prove There Is Life After Death."

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Pat talks cigarettes
Without benefit of prerelease promotion or advertising, the Foo Fighters' debut album became the subject of considerable anticipation last spring, fed in part by bootlegs circulating throughout the tight-knit Seattle music community. "I'd give tapes to everybody,Ē Grohl admits, "Kids would come up and say [forlornly], 'Nirvana was my favorite band; and I'd say, 'Well...here, have this.'" Nearly two months before the album's official release date, radio stations in Los Angeles and Seattle began airing unfinished tracks. Capitol Records promptly issued a cease-and-desist order, but not before the phone lines lit up in a frenzy of requests. Ultimately, Grohl is forced to concede, "There's really not much you can do. If you don't want anyone to come to your shows then don't make a record, don't be in a band. Stay in the basement."

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Dave & Nate talk UFOs
Even a tour of duty with one of the biggest rock bands in history didn't quite prepare Grohl for the challenge of fronting his own outfit. "Sitting down playing the drums, you can duck back and hide, and they're just so loud that you don't really feel like it's you;' he says, indirectly offering a possible motivation for the savage backbeat powering Nirvana's intensity. Of the Foo Fighters freshman tour, in which they travelled the States opening for Mike Watt, Grohl says, "It was so incredibly refreshing to go out and do something where you're frightened, really scared to do it. Every once in a while, in the middle of a set, my stomach would turn and I'd have a little panic attack"

Grohl is adamant that the Foo Fighters is a team effort. "My biggest fear is that this will be seen as a solo project," he says. .'It's ridiculous because, I mean, I don't have the charisma of Bono or Steven Tyler or whoever, and by no means do I want to be considered Front Guy. That's like my worst nightmare." But feeding the nightmare and the media's intense focus on Grohl is the fact that the album, actually recorded before the group was assembled, is the work of a virtuoso one-man-band - Grohl sings and plays every instrument. He and co-producer Barrett Jones pumped the thing out in a five-day recording blitz back in October. Though most critics were astonished by Grohlís unknown songwriting ability, the Foo Fighters album was really just another in a series of tapes he's been making since junior high. Initially, it was just meant to be a creative outlet, a chance "to be able to do your own thing without making this big deal he says. "I never took it so seriously that I thought, 'Wow, I'm gonna start a rock band and be the singer-guy and make jokes between songs and smile for the camera:" But it didn't take long for music-industry honchos to sniff out the demo. "All of the sudden I had like four record companies calling me;' says Grohl. "It was crazy." In the end, he finagled a distribution deal with Capitol that gives his own label, Roswell Records, ultimate control over the material and the bulk of the profits.

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The band perform Big Me
After signing up Smear, Grohl reeled in Goldsmith and Mendel just as Sunny Day Real Estate called it quits. Goldsmith, who calls Grohl "one of my favorite drummers of all time," says thing got off to a rocky start. 'I really didn't feel comfortable playing drums for Dave, I felt really weird and inadequate and stuff. I sat down with him and I was like, 'This means everything to me, but I don't feel like I have what it takes; and he goes, Well, if you quit I quit. He was unconditionally supportive:' After a few local outings, the band joined Mike Watt for a U.S. tour, and following a temporary derailment when Goldsmith popped his left elbow out of joint hurdling a concrete post in a parking lot, they took the show on the road again - this time headlining. Determined to keep things low-key, the Foo Fighters stuck to playing medium-sized venues.
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Dave reveals the bands rider
Going over a sample rider in preparation for the tour, Grohl seems astonished by the perks some bands require. "Itís fucking ridiculous Pat likes Perrier and I just like Coca Cola and Budweiser in a can. I'm pretty simple about stuff. I'm terribly boring." Grohl does make a single concession to wigged-out rockstardom: He's something of a UFO enthusiast. "I really relieve there's something being kept from us;' he says intently. "I mean, there's obviously something going on, whether it's the military testing their own craft or if itís something else..." Out on the narrow deck of his completely unassuming Seattle ranch-style house he gazes into the sinister forest of tall pines and lights a cigarette. "I used to sit on my porch and stare at the skies and fucking pray I would see a UFO," he says. "But who knows? The idea that there's something other than the 5 billion people on this planet is kind of entertaining."

Iím sure the album is going to be scrutinised and compared to Nirvana," Grohl sighs with resignation, "and sure, there are some similarities. I learned so much about songwriting from Kurt:' The influence is apparent in that grunge alchemy of irresistible hooks and ferocious guitar-driven punk aggression, typified by ďIíll Stick Around But where Nirvana often worked to formula, Grohlís songwriting is remarkably complex and varied in tone, ranging from the elegiac Exhausted to the goof-ass lounge rocker For All die Cows. And Grohlís self-assured vocals lack even a trace of Cobain's trademark contempt. Even in a wail of muted frustration like Alone and Easy Target, Grohl drops a heaping spoonful of sugar into the mix, singing with disarming sincerity beneath the crash of guitars.

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Drumming vs singing
If the Foo Fighters manage to wipe that smart-ass smirk off the face of nineties punk-rock and sweeten grunge's embittered medicine, it may only be because they really, really enjoy playing music together. "All of us came from dysfunctional band experiences;' Grohl explains. This time around however, the warm fuzzies appear to have set in. "It's kind of a snuggly-kittens- in-a-box type feeling" says Goldsmith, and you can feel the connection between them at work when Grohl inquires about the status of "Will's broken wing" and emphasizes the band's responsibility to "nurse him back to health:' Or when Smear starts kneading Grohl's shoulders. Or when Goldsmith throws his good arm around Menders neck or points a big wet kiss on Smear's face. "The main concern is just the fact that were doing it together and that we care about each other," Goldsmith practically gurgles.

If there's a hint of sarcasm there, ifs only designed to hide the fact that he actually means it. "Everybody's really honest and open and affectionate and supportive. Itís, like, the perfect gig.Ē

Words: Aaron Gell

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