Kerrang! September 1995

Nevermind The Bollocks

Kerrang! September 1995

They've just fried Reading! They're the Foo Fighters - the hottest band on the planet! But mainman and ex-Nirvana-ite Dave Grohl can't be bothered with all that music biz bullshit! Kerrang! heads to Detroit to find out why.

Lets be honest here....none of us expected Foo Fighters to be quite this fucking good did we? See ol' Dave was a bit of an unknown quantity when he was in the most passionate, most brilliant band of the 90s. So when he formed a new band called Foo Fighters, lets be honest, we all wondered exactly how much he really could do...
  Quite simply, the Foo Fighters' eponymous debut album is the sweetest ear candy since 'Nevermind'. Understandably, Grohl is at pains to avoid such comparisons. So too is Foo guitarist Pat Smear who played alongside Grohl, Cobain and Novoselic on Nirvana's final tour.
  But hell, there's no denying it - 'Foo Fighters' is the most singable, danceable and jumpable album since 'Nevermind' infected a generation.

Dave Grohl has done all he can to stop people thinking he's milking the Nirvana name, the Cobain connection. He played every instrument on the Foo Fighters record himself. He recorded quietly and without fanfare. He avoided mouthing off to Rolling Stone and other such internationally-statured music mags on release of the album. He steered clear of any media aiming to generate another generational hero.
  And he really doesn't talk a whole lot about any of this even now. The album came out with major distribution through Capitol but on a label called Roswell Records. And Dave Grohl has since toured the US and Europe with the wide grin of someone having a fucking good laugh.

St Andrews in Detroit is a grungy little hall. It reeks of Alternative, and the trim balcony that goes around the rectangular dance floor has doubtless seen some divers in its time.
  "It always amazes me how many of the the kids that come to see Foo Fighters have Nirvana shirts," observes the band's publicist Anton Brookes.
  Pat Smear slouches on a stained sofa in the large upstairs backstage area.
  "Oh, I'm hating everything," he sighs. "The shows are great but everything else sucks."
  He stops and chuckles.
  "Naaaa, I'm only kidding. It's been great but I just like to complain. Complaining's sorta fun."
  Drummer William Goldsmith is wandering around in a Melvins Fiend Club shirt and dustman-style bright orange trousers. He's on the cutting edge of fashion or he's dressed disastrously. It's tough to tell.
  Dave Grohl is downstairs doing a soundcheck. It is the first time I have seen him up front and strumming a Les Paul. He looks comfortable. Very comfortable.
Foo Fighters   He cranks out AC/DC's 'Shake A Leg'. It's low-key, no fuss, but significant in terms of the sheer energy the band cook up later onstage.
  "Hey," he yells out when we meet upstairs. "How's it going? Hungry? There's some great pitta sandwiches here. Jennifer (Grohl's significant other) and her family are from here and they brought them for us..."
  Compared to so many of his miserable, whining or drama-seeking peers, Dave Grohl is pleasantly mellow, relaxed and excited. He does, however, appear a little perplexed at having had a Rolling Stone writer on his ass for four days trying to pin him down to talk about Cobain. Grohl refused. Indeed, Grohl is happy to chat to most people, but is reluctant to do taped magazine interviews.
  "People forget there's still a lot of pain there," sighs Anton Brookes, and although Grohl never says it in those terms, it's obvious.

Says Grohl of the Rolling Stone reporter: "He was a nice guy, but he just kept saying to me, 'I'm on the line here, I've gotta ask you about Kurt and that stuff'. And I kept on saying to him, 'Well, I won't talk about it'. I mean, it's very uncomfortable, that stuff."
  I tell Grohl that the album has, whether he knows it or not, the same kind of vibe and excitement in its grooves as 'Nevermind' had, irrespective of his own involvement with both.
  "I know what you're saying, but it's just..." his voice trails off. "Let's just say I hope not."
  What Dave Grohl means is that he's not interested in seeing a zoo again so soon after his last trip to one turned dramatically ugly. Grohl is determined to keep Foo Fighters moving smoothly along, playing shows, letting the album time-release itself as organically as possible, avoiding the hype without saying much. Anything more seems scary to him.
  "Being able to have a booking agent who can get me shows like tonight, get us paid and get us enough money to go onto the next show in a day is just awesome," he says. "It's enough right now. I mean, what more could you want?"

Foo Fighters Capitol Records are bemused that Grohl won't do a single official interview for the album right now, but then they've got the dollar signs before their eyes.
  Anton Brookes and Foo Fighters manager John Silva recently had a series of meetings in the Capitol Tower in LA, and their explanation of the 'slow and easy build-up' of the band's career wasn't exactly received with flowing joy. But Grohl remains adamant that the band be left to develop at their own pace.
  "It's strange," Grohl shrugs, "but this whole tour has felt like the first part of the 'Nevermind' tour; the spirit, the atmosphere. We're even playing the same venues most of the time."
  It is obvious that even in saying this, Grohl feels somewhat uncomfortable simply because he's touching on that 'N' word. But he seems to accept that his immediate life will be a series of comparisons until the fuss and furore dies down. Grohl remembers clearly the time when Nirvana's fame went out of control, when he realised that life wouldn't be normal.
  "It was on the 'Nevermind' tour, and I used to room with Kurt," he recalls. "One night I really wanted to get some smokes, so I was stepping out to get them from downstairs when Kurt laughed, 'No, no, we can call and have somebody do that now!'. "We both knew how absurd it was, we all did, which is why we were always doing things to drive people insane; like absolutely going out of our way to do the exact opposite of what anyone asked, taking it as a challenge. We did that for at least a year."

If there's one thing that's obvious about Dave Grohl, it's that he has absolutely no interest in cashing in on Kurt Cobain or the Nirvana legacy.
  There will be no Nirvana covers in the Fighters set. There have been no sob-story interviews. And the sight of a tape recorder here would be taboo.
Foo Fighters   Indeed, the word 'fear' creeps into the mix many times when Grohl is scrutinised. Fear of huge success. Fear of being viewed as an exploiter. Fear of the media's desire to create another Grunge icon. And fear of losing that wonderful, almost naive innocence and sense of fun which Grohl is enjoying right now.
  When Foo Fighters take the stage in Detroit they deliver one of the greatest sets I have seen in years. Just like great live Punk Rock should be, every tune is a bit faster than usual. Fireworks fly abundantly in this 100-degree-plus sweat-box.
  It is 50 minutes of the purest, rawest, catchiest entertainment you will see anywhere this year.
  Dave Grohl is a legend-in-the-making. His natural synergy with a guitar is amazing. And his energetic explosions are wild fits of enthusiasm I thought were extinct in 1995 and banned by the 'cool brigade'.
  The show is everything that made Punk Rock great. After the gig, Anton Brookes makes sure that a four-year-old kid named Angelo gets to meet Grohl and gets a shirt signed. Angelo has a set of drums and sometimes plays 'em for six hours a day, his parents proudly announce. Grohl chuckles. That's a lot more than he ever did, and anyway - as a kid, Grohl was a guitarist.

Ultimately, the real magic of Foo Fighters is their simplicity. It is Punk-Pop power at its finest. Yes, it is frustrating that Dave Grohl doesn't want to record interviews, but so what? He's refreshingly happy. And the fact that he's not spewing superlatives all over anyone's tape-recorder is weirdly cool.
  Because with Foo Fighters, what you see really is what you get.

Words: Steffan Chirazi     Pics: Lisa Johnson

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