Men Behaving Badly

Kerrang! 2000

Life on the road with the Foo Fighters isn't all posh tour buses and healthy fruit drinks. Nope, let's not forget the personal hygiene problems, Swedish au pairs and secret wanking sessions.

Baltimore is in the middle of a mini-heatwave. In the city's bustling downtown area, pavements are shimmering under the blazing sun and passing office workers loosen their ties in an attempt to combat the humidity. Thunderstorms are forecast tonight, but right now the weather is something close to unbearable.
  Not that Dave Grohl is bothered by the heat. Inside the giant 12,000 capacity Baltimore Arena the Foo Fighters frontman is beaming from ear to ear.
  The reason for Grohl's joy is simple. Tonight's gig is as near to a hometown show as it gets - Dave's house in Arlington, Virginia is just under an hours drive away, and last night he got to sleep in his own bed for the first time in months.
  "sometimes when you're on the road for a long time, it feels like it doesn't really matter about going home any more," he says. "It's kinda sad. That's when depression creeps in."
  Today, though, Grohl is anything but depressed. The Foos are currently in the middle of America's hottest tour with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. In fact the only thing that seems to be getting Dave down is the sneaking suspicion that he's been on the road just that little bit too long.
  "At this point in time," he grins, "when we go to McDonalds, I don't need to look at the pictures that go with the number for the Value Meals. I just know what they are. A number 9 is a fish fillet, a Number 2 is a double cheesburger, a Number 1 is a Big Mac. Don't you think that's scary?"

Four o' clock in the afternoon, and the streets surrounding the Arena are thronged with fans attempting to catch a glimpse of the bands.
  Deep inside the bowels of the venue, the Foos are relaxing after a prolonged soundcheck. Drummer Taylor Hawkins has brought his girlfriend Mi Mi out on the road with him, and is currently amusing himself by haring up and down the backstage corridors on a borrowed skateboard. Bassist Nate Mendel has disappeared outside with a push bike, leaving Grohl and guitarist Chris Shiflett to mill around the dressing room. Dave soon wanders over to the juicer that stands in the corner and begins feeding sliced-up apples and carrots into it.
  "One thing you need is a juicer in your dressing room," he states. "The down sides of being on the road are not having any life and not having an adequate juicer. You need a good, healthy drinks to survive. I can make you one if you want."
  Uh, no thanks. Is this how you deal with boredom before the shows?
  "Not really," replies Dave. "For me, the boredom is usually after shows. I'm usually too busy stressing out about the show to be bored beforehand. I guess the best way to deal with boredom is to sleep. Sleep the tour away - it makes it go faster."
  "I don't get bored," adds Chris. "If I do, I'll just have a couple of beers."
  The Foos seem to have steered away from the clichéd if-it-moves-shag-it lifestyle that most bands subscribe to.
  "You've obviously not been out on the road with Chris," splutters Dave. "You should follow him around for a week. Go on, ask him about the Swedish au pairs."
  Chris doesn't reply. He's too busy smirking.

By the time the Foos hit the stage at 7:50pm sharp, the arena is a mass of sweaty bodies - metal kids, punk kids, skaters, even the odd 'jock'. Being the 'special guests' on this tour means their set is truncated down to an hour in length. Not that they care about the running time, cramming together large chunks from last album 'There Is Nothing Left To Lose', with a handful of oldies. At one point, Taylor Hawkins is joined by Chilli Peppers sticksman Chad Smith for a little two-drummer action.
  But it isn't until the sixth song in that a little mayhem begins to raise its head. Dave, spotting the barrier-come-wall that runs around the circular arena and divides the seated area from the floor in the middle, decides to go walkabout. Balancing precariously on the wall, he begins his journey around the venue. At first the crowd look stunned, but by the time he gets to the halfway point, the number of people grabbing his limbs forces him to leap to the floor and run the gauntlet of outstretched arms for the last 150 feet or so.
  He finally makes it back to the stage with a sheen of sweat on his forehead. The look on his face says it all: that was close...

"Y'know, there haven't been any Foo Fighters shows that have been complete disasters, although there was one in Japan where Dave had to walk off because he had diarrhoea. Actually, the night before that, I think puked onstage."
  Nate Mendel leans back in his chair and lets out a chuckle. It's the afternoon after the Baltimore show, and we're sitting backstage at the Convention Center Of Pennsylvania in Wikes-Barre, a tiny town three hour's drive from New York.
  So far today, the band have amused themselves by blockading Chris Shiflett in their warm-up room with a wall of flight cases and regaling each other with tales of star-spotting (Dave's account of meeting Lemmy is trumped by a passing Chad Smith, who tells everyone how he once went to take a piss in a club and found himself next to Dave Lee Roth, who loudly proclaimed "Life is GREAT!" before shaking himself off and walking out of the toilet to be greeted by four nubile young blondes).
  But right now the Foos are musing on the more, um, personal facets of life on the road. Like hygiene. Or rather the lack of it.
  "The longest I've gone without a shower is four days," says Taylor Hawkins. "But that's pretty gross when you're a drummer."
  Chris: "Me and the singer in my old band (No Use For A Name) had a contest to see who could go the longest without deodorant."
  Dave: "When I was on tour with Scream, my friend Jimmy didn't take his shoes for a week. When he finally did, it ripped off a wart on his toe."
Whats the longest you've gone on the road wearing the same underpants?
  "I don't wear underpants," grins Taylor.
  Dave: "Once, I didn't shower for a week, so I guess that's the longest time."
Okay. There is absolutely no toilet paper in the dressing room and you desperately need a crap. What do you do?
  Dave: "Use a sock and Nate's old underwear."
  Chris: "You can usually fashion something into toilet paper. You just have to look around the wall."
Masturbating on the tour bus: discuss.
  Dave: "Oh, come on now. It happens. We're not an English band - we're not afraid to say that we are human beings and we have to succumb to desire."
  Taylor: "It's either that or get a bladder infection."
  Dave: "You don't get a bladder infection from not masturbating!"
Groupies: discuss
  Dave: "Disgusting."
  Nate: "Disgusting."
  Chris(grinning): "Yeah, disgusting."
Who's the worst roadie you've ever had?
  Dave: "Nirvana had a driver who was like a fucking pirate. He was so scary. I had to fire him, cos all the girls were afraid they were going to get raped."
What's the best heckle you've ever had?
  Dave: "'Practice!'."
  Chris (to the others): "Remember the last time we played 'February Stars'? It was hard for Dave to get his ego big enough to go out and play a beautiful, pretty song like that, but he did it. Afterwards, there was this total silence, until some guy shouted, 'BORING!'."
  Dave (amid much laughter): "I'm never playing that song ever again."
Have you ever attempted to pick a fight with the audience?
  Nate (to Dave): "the funniest thing I've ever seen you do was when this kid was throwing shit at us. You brought him up onstage and you made him sit there while you gave him his money back. He spat on you four times. He was only about 10 years old and he needed a good slapping."

There are no 10-yearold kids who need a good slapping at tonights show. Or if the are, they're staying well hidden. Once again, the Foos are recieved like headliners by the capacity crowd. There are no walkabouts this evening, but chaos strikes when one of the large lights at the side of the stage catches fire and begins to blaze furiously before the Foos' crew can put it out.
  Thankfully, the rest of the gig is incident free, save for Chad Smith feeding Taylor grapes while he's playing. As soon as the last note is played, belongings are quickly collected from the dressing room and the band board their tour bus for the drive to New York. It turns out they want to catch a show by singer-songwriter Cat Power, a current Foo fave together with Queens Of The Stone Age, Supergrass and Slipknot.
  As Nate retires to the bus' back lounge to indulge in a few hours' mindless entertainment on his Playstation ('Tony Hawk's Skateboarding', if your interested), Dave and Chris both make calls on their mobiles - the former to his girlfriend, the latter to a friend in New York.
  "This tour's a lot more organised than it was before," grins Dave as he slides into a seat, his phone call finished. "It runs more smoothly cos we've got a crack team of professionals, which can sometimes make it seem a little more mundane. We are thinking of hiring some losers to make it more fun."
  Any tips for on the road survival you can pass on to up and coming bands?
  "Don't look at your tour itinerary," quips Dave.
  "Easy", adds Nate Mendel, looking up from his Playstation. Just drink a lot and enjoy yourself.

Words:Tony Woolliscroft

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