Rock'n'Roll Rebel... Almost
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl may be a multi million-selling ex-Nirvana rock god but he has a sensitive side. He tells Elle about wearing stockings and taking his mum on tour
Dave Grohl has just been told that I fancy him. I stare at the floor, cheeks on fire, debating whether to kill myself (or just the smirking publicist). It is not the most auspicious of starts to an interview. Then something cool happens. Instead of calling security, Grohl unfurls a dazzling smile, yells 'Alright!', bounds across to the sofa and pats the space next to him. 'Over here, ma'am,' he grins and I find myself grinning too, my embarrassment deftly defused. Everyone always says that Dave Grohl is the nicest man in rock. Although I've only known him for 30 seconds, I'm inclined to agree.
In the midst of Los Angeles' suburbs lies the studio in which 36-year-old Grohl and his band mates have made the new Foo Fighters' album, In Your Honour, a double album - one CD of, in its singer-guitarist's words, 'loud-as-fuck rock music'; one of 'gorgeous sleepy acoustic songs' (featuring Norah Jones). Later on, I sit at the mixing desk (all overflowing ashtrays and bottles of Jack, as you'd hope) as the album blasts forth and Grohl sits close by, proud as punch. This is the Foo Fighters' fifth album (the previous four have shifted nine million copies between them). And it's their 10th year in the business - one that sees them headline the Reading/Leeds and T in the Park festivals this summer.
Who'd have thought that the drummer from Nirvana, lurking in the shadows of tragic frontman Kurt Cobain's fame, would, after the singer's suicide in 1994, emerge to form another multi-million selling band? And so the nicest man in rock became one of the most successful, too - although he's far too humble to shout it from the rooftops. 'I'm funny looking and I'm skinny and I'm not the smartest guy in the world,' he says, lighting a cigarette, 'but I'm pretty cool with the person I am and Foo Fighters have accomplished more than I ever thought possible.'
Nice - yes. Successful - sure. But with his unruly mop, excess of facial hair and that toothy grin, Dave Grohl 'the sexiest man in rock' shouldn't work, yet somehow it does. As DJ Jo Whiley puts it: 'He's very charismatic - girls and boys alike fall over themselves when he walks into Radio 1. He charms everyone in sight.'
The California tan, the lithe frame and the tattooed biceps certainly help, but the bottom line is that Grohl is a brilliant laugh. Far more fun than your average celebrity, he's a superb raconteur and full of mischief. And, despite me being outed as a potential stalker, he's hugely tactile, all hugs and gentle taps on your shoulder to make a point. There's only one moment when he shuts up; when I tell him that every woman I know adores him, that he's a bona fide rock'n'roll pin-up. He looks totally foxed.
'I've never had anyone tell me that in my entire life. Well, that's nice. I imagine that's a compliment because they see me for the person I am,' he says quietly.
Growing up in Virginia, Grohl was 'shown a lotta love' by his parents and remains particularly close to his Mother. So much so that he takes her on tour: 'I often find her sharing a pint backstage with other rock stars.' Mad about music from the age of 10, he dropped out of high school to pursue a career in music: 'I had no ambition to be in the biggest band in the world, just to make enough money to put gas in the van.' Aged 21, Grohl moved to Seattle, where he joined Nirvana, aka the biggest band in the world-in-waiting, thus ensuring that buying gas for the van was never going to be an issue again.
Presumably, I say to him, you've had your fair share of groupies over the years.
'No, not really,' he says. 'Girls would try to throw me against the wall - but it takes a little more than a pretty face to turn me on!' he laughs. 'I was in relationships most of the time, but when I did have the opportunity to play the field, I couldn't juggle ladies - I'd get attached.' Throughout most of his Nirvana days, Grohl was married to a photographer called Jennifer, who came to one of their early gigs. 'We were young. I fell in love with her the instant I saw her. She was wearing a strange wig. I like a good weirdo and she was one - we were weird together. We got caught up in romance, the thrill of adulthood. It just wasn't meant to be.'
Today, he's happily, make that, ecstatically - married to Jordyn, his wife of two years whom he met in an LA bar. 'Have you seen a photo of her?' he asks.
I haven't. I ask if he has one on him.
'I don't need one because I'm always with her,' he smiles. 'She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. She looks like a fucking angel. She sat by me in this bar and I thought there's no way I was going to have any chance with this girl.'
I gently remind him that he's an international rock star.
'That doesn't matter. Anyway, we laughed and laughed and got drunker and drunker. At one point I remember her putting her finger up my nose to check if I had hair up there - it was just nuts! I got so drunk I said, "You're my future ex-wife, you know that?" When she left, she gave me her number and wrote "from your future ex-wife".'
Two years later, they were married in the garden of his house in the Los Angeles hills. Happily for Jordyn, Grohl's romantic repertoire extends beyond getting her to poke around in his nostrils. 'It can be as simple as a flower on a pillow, or...' he flashes that megawatt grin, '... a Learjet to New York City for her birthday. I got one with a double bed in it.' That's some birthday present, you old smoothie.
'It's mostly the little things that matter, but now and then a grand gesture of disgusting wealth doesn't hurt!' he guffaws.
He lights his 400th cigarette, and we move on to sillier things, such as dressing up as a lady. Grohl made a fetching
air hostess in the Foo Fighters' 1999 video of Learn to Fly. 'I always
say it takes a big man to put on a pair of fucking stockings now and again.'
We also talk about less silly things: last week it was the 11th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Grohl wrote the poignant track Friend of a Friend, which is on the new album, 15 years ago when they used to share a flat. Does he still think about him? 'Kurt is with me a lot. There are a lot of fond memories. I tend to revisit that stuff more often than the dark stuff.' The smile has a tinge of sadness.
It's time for me to go, but Grohl's publicist (yes, him again) is having trouble getting his charge to can it. And Grohl, of course, must have the final word. Remembering the news that he's considered something of a hottie, he grabs my tape recorder and puts on his best rock-god drawl: 'Ladies of Britain, I'll see you soon!'
Here's hoping he brings that Learjet.
Words: Kerry Potter
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