Cleveland Plain Dealer 2003
It's a cliche for rock stars to say they never wanted to be rock stars. In most cases, it rings as hollow as a politicians who say they aren't interested in politics.
With Dave Grohl, though, it somehow seems believable. The Warren native has chugged along with his band the Foo Fighters, putting out effortless pop-rock albums, touring and surviving the trappings that have consumed ex-bandmates, contemporaries and the music scene with which he came of age.
Where others have perished in suicide, midcareer crises and changing trends, Grohl has maintained a large, loyal following and a well-adjusted smile on his face.
"Really, it has been easy," he says, via phone from Los Angeles. "I've been playing music since I was a kid. And my life hasn't changed that much, really."
"My house is a lot bigger," he adds. "But I lead a pretty simple suburban life, not that different from the one I grew up in."
When Grohl called, he was shopping for furniture for his new home in Los Angeles - and bumming about the price tag.
"Man, it's insane. Formica tables are so expensive in L.A.," says Grohl. "You can't get anything for less than $750. Back home you could always find something for, like, $75."
For Grohl, "home" is any number of places and none in particular. Born in Warren, he lived in Niles until the age of 4.
"My grandparents lived there, and my uncle still lives there," he says. "The Grohls are an old Pennsylvania Dutch family where everyone is pretty frugal and hard-working."
Next stop, Columbus.
"My dad worked as a reporter there until he got a job working as the campaign manager for Sen. Taft," says Grohl. "Then we ended up moving to Virginia."
That's where Grohl set out to "keep the real world at bay." In the late '80s, he played drums in Washington, D.C., punk band Scream.
"I was only 17 when we were already touring around the country," says Grohl. "I loved to play music, but really it was an escape from working in a furniture warehouse."
When he joined Nirvana, in 1990, he merely envisioned another escape hatch.
"Success wasn't an option," says Grohl. "It didn't happen to bands like Nirvana."
But it did.
"Nevermind" not only became a multiplatinum hit, it also signaled the "alternative-rock" parade. Suddenly, bands that were destined for obscurity were sitting on the charts.
"Everything just got crazy," says Grohl. Everything ended in 1994, when Kurt Cobain, reluctant rock star par excellence, committed suicide.
The experience led contemporaries to re-evaluate their priorities. Not Grohl.
"Nirvana was caught up in this hurricane," says Grohl. "But, unlike Kurt, I was able to stand outside of it all."
"I was just the drummer," he adds. "And I was fortunate. I was able to just show up and play and reap the rewards of being in the band."
The rewards lasted deep into the Foo Fighters, which he started amid much hype in 1995. Formed on the ashes of Nirvana, the band provided a musical diet - pop melodies atop crunchy guitars - that fans of the Seattle grunge trio were still hungry for.
The Foo Fighters' origins predate Nirvana's ascent, though. In 1991, Grohl started working on self-produced recordings. And by '95, he had accumulated a backlog of material to pare down for the Foo's self-titled debut.
The disc spawned "Big Me," a radio-friendly guitar-pop blast that positioned Grohl somewhere between the mainstream and alternative rock. When alt-rock finally withered away in the late- '90s, Grohl was firmly mainstream.
Unlike many "tortured artists" around him, he never apologized for it.
"Why should I? I feel fortunate that I don't have to wake up at 7:45 just so I can sit in rush-hour traffic, just so I can sit behind a desk all day," says Grohl. "When I go on tour, I look at it as a vacation - a chance to get out of the house for a few weeks."
"When I come to Cleveland, I hope I have a chance to get together with my uncle," says Grohl. "I don't have much else planned out. I'm not the kind of guy who tries to party with stars."
Even when he met the one star he had always wanted to meet.
"One day, I was at the airport standing there when this guy comes up to me and says, 'You're Dave Grohl, right? Well, I read where you said that you'd always wanted to meet Little Richard,'" says Grohl. "And I'm like, 'Yeah.'"
"'Well, Little Richard is my dad,' the guy tells me," adds Grohl. "And then he walks me over to this limousine and the window rolls down and there's Little Richard sitting there."
"Little Richard just said 'hello' and that was about it," adds Grohl. "It was no big deal, but it was perfect for that reason. It just happened."
Like so much in Grohl's life.
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