Superstar singer/songwriter/guitarist/drummer, Dave Grohl really should be a power-mad egomaniac by now. But he's not. With the Foo Fighters set to release an ace new album, Kerrang! meets their thoroughly bloody nice mainbloke in LA to talk aliens, pickles and sex-crazed stalkers.
Bassist Nate Mendel, all ginger beard, warm smiles and slightly nervy shuffles, turns up, having parked his rented black Cadillac in the Capitol records parking lot.
Superstar guitarist Pat Smear ("too cool" to do interviews) and gawky new drummer Taylor Hawkins will arrive later, for photos.
Dave Grohl steals Kerrang's matches and lights up a full-strength Marlboro. He is buzzing with energy, but he looks knackered. "That's what you get after not eating all day until 11pm and then having 10 cups of coffee," he shrugs. "Last night, I was so fucked, and then I got back home, got into bed, and there's two dogs at the place where I'm staying. Beautiful fucking dogs, but they need attention all the time. So Dallas - that s one of the dogs - gets into my bed and starts snoring. I'm like, 'Get out of my fucking room!'. I close the door, and try desperately to get to sleep, but my head's pounding. I need aspirin! I can't find any, so I run out to my car in the street in my underwear, looking under the seat for fucking aspirin, I ended up falling asleep nursing my head."
Dave rubs his temples and sucks on his cigarette. He's slumped on a couch, Nate looking less comfortable on a chair to his right. He might deny it. but Dave is the natural leader of the Foo Fighters.
"I don't like to say that," he shrugs. "Foo Fighters wasn't, like, my band. It was my demo tape, and that became the band."
"It's a totally democratic thing," adds Nate. "But if there s going to be somebody leading the way, the first person into an idea or a song will be Dave. It's not like there's an iron fist, or no one else has a say, but I think that's the role he plays and it works well."
He turns to Dave: Is that fair?
Grohl smiles. "That's fair. That's nice."
Rumours abound that drummer William Goldsmith, who quit the Foos in March, left because Grohl was forever on his back. 'Do this', 'do that', etc. William's contribution to the final mixes of the Foos' new album. The Colour & The Shape ended up being virtually nil.
"William did a few songs," says Dave, testily. "He's on two songs on the record."
So what happened? Dave shifts uncomfortably on the sofa.
"Really?" he says. "Okay, we had toured for a year and half and we were all exhausted. We didn't have much time off before we went into the studio. We got into the studio, in Seattle, and it was an expensive place. We were really under the gun, there was a lot of pressure to produce and have the album out soon.
It was just a bad experience. Maybe we went in too soon... By the time we were done in Seattle, there were things that we wanted to re-record, but we didn't have enough time or money to do it all over again. So we came here to LA to do it differently."
"And then William decided he didn't want to go on tour, and he wanted to play with different people. There's no serious animosity, but it sucks. We became a family on the road and William is the kind of person you kind of love very quickly."
"You can stop this at any time, you know?" chimes in Nate, coming to his buddy's aid.
Grohl opts to finish the story: "We came down here. Some songs were changed. I played drums on stuff. We kept some stuff from Seattle. And that's about it."
Goldsmith was replaced by Alanis Morissette's touring drummer, Taylor Hawkins - one of the most showy live drummers ever. Why him?
"Because we love Alanis Morissette's music," deadpans Dave. "No, because he's a fucking incredible drummer. I'm blown away by Taylor. I wish I was as good as him.
"I actually called Taylor to ask if he knew of any drummers. I didn't think he'd want to do it. He said he wasn't doing anything and I said, 'Do you wanna come and, like, jam with us a little?'. Plus, he's just... funny. He's so incredibly hyperactive. He's totally out of control."
Dave Grohl must be lapping it up as the Foos' frontman. Anyone who's ever seen the band's live shows will attest to the fact that he's taken to the top job like a duck to water.
"Well, I still feel weird about being the singer, but I get to play guitar," he shrugs. "When I was a little kid, I wanted to play guitar and sing in bands. But then when I started playing drums that was it, I wanted to be a drummer."
But in Nirvana, you were the wild man - hair all over the place, arms thrashing about. Like you were bursting to get out from behind the kit.
"Oh no," he says, "not at all. I loved playing drums."
When did you say to yourself. 'I'm not going to be the drummer in the Foo Fighters'?
"Probably the first practice. It wouldn't have worked if I had been the drummer. It would have been like some weird fucking Yngwie Malmsteen experience You hear Yngwie's records and you think, 'He's got an amazing voice', but it's actually some little dude with a funny haircut singing."
Have you got over your initial embarrassment of singing?
"No. I think my voice sounds good on the record. It works in the studio. And I feel a lot more comfortable singing now. because I've had it blasting out at me from monitors for the last year.
"But no, he smiles. I still hate it."
Life is sweet for the Foos right now. They've got a brilliant new album in the can, Nate's finally got himself enough money together to buy a house. Then there s the sex, the drugs and the rock'n'roll...
"Uh. we're the most boring band in the world! says Nate, sheepishly. "You don t even want to get into that with us. We don't go in for any kind of rock 'n' roll extravaganza."
"This is what it's like before we go onstage." says Dave. "There's a knock on the door and someone goes. 'Are you guys ready?'. And we go, 'Uh, yeah. okay'.
But you have fun?
"Fuck totally!" insists Dave between mouthfuls of a vile-looking gherkin sandwich. "I have fun. But I'm boring on the road. I don't fucking do shit, man. To me, getting on the bus and going for a ride is my favourite thing.
I love being on the bus! I love getting in my bunk and closing my curtain. And I hear people laughing in the front lounge, or I smell the popcorn in the microwave, and I get all excited. I jump out and I'm like, 'Hey! What are you guys doing? '."
Dave Grohl thrusts his sandwich at Kerrang!. "Have a pickle."
Rehearsing in LA for the upcoming tour - which kicks off in the UK in May - doesn't mean showbiz schmoozing and celebrity parties for the Foos. They didn't even watch the Oscars on TV. But they did bump into Courtney Love the day after the event...
"I hadn't seen her in a long time," says Dave. "It wasn't bad. because Kurt's Mom, two sisters and child were there. I hadn't seen them in a while, so it was a really nice reunion."
Late last year Courtney panned Grohl in an interview with the now-defunct US mag 'Rip'.
"Yeah," says Dave, flatly. Subject closed.
Dave Grohl's favourite Spice Girl is Victoria, Nate Mendel's is Mel C. The pair list their personal highlights of the Foos' career so far as the '95 Reading Festival ("fucking amazing!") and the filming of the daft Big Me video in Australia.
And the biggest disasters?
"Shit," says Dave, puzzled "We haven't had any disastrous shows..."
Nate: "No tantrums no ones gotten hurt..."
Dave's eyes widen: "Hey! I got hit in the face with a quarter and had to go to hospital in Atlanta. But that was a good show!"
Nate: "William had plenty of antics, but of course, only he has the details. He took care of it for everybody. He'd get drunk, smash windows, wind up on someone's floor across town..."
But you must get shit-faced every once in a while?
Dave: Not like fucking blind drunk. If we're on a two month tour then there'd be probably two or three nights on the whole tour where I'll get fucking obliterated. I don't smoke pot, I don't do coke, I don't do anything.
Aren't you always getting that kind of stuff shoved in your face?
"Not really," says Dave. "Big Alf, a band we know, came up to the studio and they were just about to go on tour. They were saying. 'In the 70s there wasn't any MTV so bands had to be on the road for years and years promoting their record. If you do that much touring you've gotta have your blow, you've gotta have your ups and downs. When you're too wired you've gotta come down, when you're too down you've gotta get back up!'
"Jesus, man. Thank God for MTV then!"
Queen fan/boxing enthusiast/guitar collector Pat Smear is plagued by stalkers. Mad fans who bother him all over the world. None of the rest of the band are affected by this strange phenomenon.
"We come into town and there's people waiting outside every hotel," says Nate. "How do they know where we're staying? Don't know but they're always there."
Dave. "And they always go straight for Pat. What was that one girls name? She offered Pat a psychic reading and he was like 'Oh thank you very much, but no...'
And then she started showing up at every show. Like. 'Oh I came to visit my Mom' - in Minneapolis Next day Indiana, she shows up outside the hotel: 'Dave' Dave!' she's going. 'Tell Pat I'm here! I'm waiting outside'. Then Chicago, then Denver... As far as you can go and she's still there.
Did she ever meet up with him again?
"Oh. He probably fucked her a couple of times."
Pat eventually arrives with the words 'Am I early?'. He is in fact, rather late. But earlier than Taylor, who finally makes his entrance with all the manic energy of a bus-load of Tasmanian Devils.
Smear - who's accompanied by his girlfriend - tells the rest of the band about a magazine article he's just read in which he is referred to as 'the gay guitarist in the Foo Fighters'. The band find this hilarious. Pat is clearly as straight as a snooker cue. Wild-haired Taylor has some incredible celebrity stories that he begs us not to print. During the Kerrang! photoshoot Taylor makes everyone laugh by sticking a fake hand in his fly. Grohl takes it off him and smokes a cigarette from between the fingers of the plastic appendage. It's an amazing sight seeing the four of them interacting like giddy schoolpals.
Later, in a seedy part of North Hollywood, the band pose for more photos in a field surrounded by huge electric pylons. Kerrang! informs Grohl that we're reminded of the Martian killing machines in 'War Of The Worlds' - a cunning ruse to get him to reveal his teen sci-fi freak past...
"I used to want to see a UFO when I was a kid," he obliges "I used to lie in the back garden at night and I wanted them to come and abduct me. 'Please get me out of here!'.
"I had amazing UFO dreams. There was one dream where I was standing outside my house looking up at the sky. and I suddenly realised that it wasn't the sky - it's this huge disc and the bottom of it is like a mirror. I can see the cars next to me in the bottom of this thing, 40 feet above my head. It wasn't scary. I was just like. 'Take me! Take me!'.
UFOs are an escape. I sure fucking hope there's something else out there. There has to be It's the romantic idea of standing up at the stars and knowing that someone's staring back at you."
The Foo Fighters: the force is with them.
Words: Mike Peake
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