Foo Fighters Turn 10
The Decade of Dave
Dave Grohl can hardly sit still as he rallies off the debauched tales of his former bandmates. No, not Nirvana. Scream, the hardcore act that gave a skinny 17-year-old suburbanite his first break in the late '80s. Apparently one of them used to hook up with a dread-locked squatter chick who could roll a joint despite missing three fingers. Say what you will about the Foo Fighters' commercial leanings and those quirky videos where Grohl appears in drag or pigtails — his roots are relatively badass. For a moment though, let's forget about that loud and grimy scene where Grohl first drummed in bands with names like Freakbaby and Dain Bramage. Forget about the 1990s, that whole grunge thing, and how the rise of "alternative" somehow helped that dreadlocked douche from Soul Asylum pull Winona Ryder. (Perhaps he rolled a really good joint?)
It's 2005 and we're nestled deep in the armpit of Southern California's San Fernando Valley. A 15-foot gate
surrounds an inconspicuous two-story building. We push "call." The gate opens. We enter through Door #1 where we're greeted by a woman who takes us through the less imposing Door #2, and points to the nearest seat in a waiting room of sorts. A lacquered plaque glimmers from beneath a coffee table is an award from a drum magazine declaring Groh! the "Up and Coming Drummer" of 1992. All around, the walls are covered with a decade of staggering history — the Foo Fighters' four platinum records, a photograph of Grohl alongside Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen, a gold record with a photo of the Nevermind baby, blown up larger than life. As if the idea of that album (recently added to the Library of Congress alongside 'Pet Sounds') isn't intimidating enough, baby's now rather immense unit makes the task of confronting what's behind Door #3 all the more intimidating. This is 606, the studio the Foo Fighters constructed about a year ago. We're here, in the midst of all this history not merely to pay homage to Grohl's elaborate sonic resume (though it is impressive; Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D, Probot, Cat Power, and of course. Nirvana), instead, we're here to figure out how 10 years from the band's inception, after picking up a few Grammys and weathering that period where concert goers pelted them with Mentos, the Foo Fighters sacked up and created their most dynamic record to date.
"When I was 14," says Grohl, "I thought for sure I would die before I got my driver's license, 'cause it just seemed too good to be true that I wouldn't be dead by that time. Then, when I was 17 I thought, 'There's no way I'll live, to be 21, because then I'll get to drink — legally.' And what a fucking dream come true... I don t know if this is fatalistic, but it s kind of that same feeling with albums, where you just think each time, 'Well God, it's been so long. Maybe this is a good way to send it off. This is a good last album.'"
After polishing off four "last" albums in roughly seven years, the Foo Fighters built 606 and set out to prove they can sound tougher than the Eagles (Grohl's comparison), but without abandoning that head-bobbing sense of melody that made 'Big Me' an unexpected Top 40 hit in 1996. Their latest send off is a "schizophrenic" double record called In Your Honor, the first disc of which boasts some of the loudest, most hectic songs the Foo Fighters have ever done.
"When I was writing the Probot songs, people would say, 'Are those new Foo Fighters songs?' And I'd go, 'Noooo. Those are too heavy for our hand,' But then I started thinking, 'Well, what the fuck is that supposed to mean? Why can't we just do whatever we wanna do?'"
Thus, on the other end of their punk-metal double-kick opus is a disc of acoustic tracks shorn up by harmonica, string sections, piano (a la Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones no less) and guest appearances bv Josh Homme, Petra Haden and — oddly enough — Norah
Jones. Yes, Norah Jones - the smooth jazz vocalist who
garnered a duffle bag of Grammys and made all of your dads'Top Ten lists in 2003. Something tells me that if the circa -'88, high school-dropout Grohl could magically travel through time, he'd beat down doors one through three and kick his own ass, or at least scream out what we're all thinking: What the hell?!
"That's bullshit. If you truly love music, there shouldn't be any sort of boundaries. When we listened back to the track, for a minute I got kind of worried and thought, 'Is this too fucking weird? And Nate [Mendel, the Foo Fighters' bassist] said, 'That's exactly why we should put it on the record.' As men grow older and you start to get gray hair coming out of your fucking ears and you'll fart in front of anybody - you just don't give a fuck anymore. It just feels so good to be able to do everything, rather than just one thing. And it does almost come down to that feeling of like, 'OK, how much can we get away with now?'"
Granted, that single song's bossanova vibe seems entirely counterintuitive to anything on disc one (let alone everything Grohl's previously released), but hey, this is 2005 - the age of iPod Shuffle and the musical culture clash. We're not only tolerant of complete artistic randomness, we'll actually shell out cash to get it. And in that sense, perhaps, the Foo Fighters are poised for their biggest success thus far. One can trace dozens of tangential lines out from the sonic nucleus that is just Dave Grohl - they're all over the walls. But at the end of the day, at least this day, we're sitting in this building where Grohl's begun to etch his own drastic tangents within the one single, solitary project that has always been closest to his heart. After 10 years of living in the shadows of untouchable credibility cast by his former band, and nearly two decades since those days of just beating the living shit out of a drum kit (though always with impeccable time), Grohl has finally relinquished that defeatist attitude of simply trying to get out another 'last' album.
"This is like square one. In 10 years when I think about when and where we started becoming the band we're capable of being, it will be right now, here in this place. And I bet you in 10 years we'll be sitting at this table talking about another fucking record." He looks around and realizes everyone in the room is laughing, "Tony Robbins, thank you very much."
Nevermind the Everlong a discography in brief with Dave Grohl
1995, Foo Fighters
"The first one was a fluke. It was a demo tape."
1997, The Colour And The Shape
"I was really proud we actually went in and made a record. Then everyone fucking quit."
1999, There Is Nothing Left To Lose
"It didn't even seem like an album-making process. We'd go in for a month then take three weeks off to shoot hoops, BBQ and beer bong."
2002, One By One
"Did it, scrapped it, did it again in two weeks. Half of it sucks cocks. Worse than getting caught beating off in high school."
2005, In Your Honor
"When I listen to it, I'm so fucking charged. We've made something where we can keep going unrestricted."
Words: Stephen Leckart
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