Monsters Of Rock
The Mail On Sunday Magazine

What do you do if you were in Nirvana and made enough cash to retire at 25? If you're Dave Grohl, you form the Foo Fighters - and become a gigantic rock star all over again.

Dave Grohl 'The foundation of my life was music and when Kurt died it was just pulled out from under my feet. My world fell apart. It was heartbreaking just to listen to music. I couldn't turn on the radio, much less pick up a pair of drumsticks. Then eventually I realised that the only thing that was going to help me through was music, so I started writing and making my own. But it was traumatic.'
  Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters' front-man and former Nirvana drummer, leans back on the sofa in his suite at the sumptuous Covent Garden Hotel, London and pauses to reflect once again on the event that determined the shape of his life: the suicide in 1994 of Nirvana's lead singer Kurt Cobain.
  'It was really difficult to imagine being in a band again,' he continues. 'A band is a powerful relationship between three or four people and when any band ends it's a break-up, a death, a loss - and it takes a long time to get over something like that.
  'When Nirvana were starting out we signed to a major label but had no idea of the success that was about to happen. We had no idea that we were going to sell millions of records. We knew we had good songs and that we were going to make a decent album but none of us, not even the record company, expected that to happen.' Indeed, DGC Records originally hoped that their new signings' 1991 album Nevermind would sell 250,000 copies - in fact it eventually passed 26 million and continues to sell on average 150,000 copies a year.
  Grohl's 13-year journey since Cobain's death has been an unexpected one. From a one-man hobby project to a six-album, four-Grammy band with 20 million CD sales to their name, the Foo Fighters have grown - almost while no one was looking - to be one of the biggest acts on the planet.
  At their first proper UK gig - headlining the second stage at the Reading Festival in 1995 - they very nearly stole the show. 'By the time we went on, the tent was overflowing and the promoter was asking us to go on after Bjork on the main stage, and headline,' says Grohl. 'I said, "Fuck, no. This is our first gig here. I don't want to go straight to headlining the main stage. That's not right."
  'It was chaos but it was amazing. The energy was unbelievable and from that moment on I realised, "OK, it's different here in the UK".
  'It was the same with Nirvana. We exploded in England before we did in America. I think the UK's always had a pretty good idea of what's about to break. If it blows up in England then it's only a matter of time before it blows up everywhere else.'The band were back last year for their most memorable gig yet - performing in front of 85,000 people at Hyde Park, with heroes Motorhead in support ('a dream come true') and Brian May and Roger Taylor joining them on stage for a romp through Queen's 1976 rock classic Tie Your Mother Down.
  'Before the show I was backstage in our dressing-room area, cooking steak and chicken for friends' he says, as if it's the most natural thing in the world to be doing before the biggest gig of your life. 'It didn't feel like the most important show of our career. It was more like I was hosting a barbecue for 85,000 people. Seriously, it just felt like the biggest party I'd ever had.'

Grohl, dubbed the 'nicest man in rock' by all who meet him, says the UK is like a second home. He also prefers the politics - the only man that really seems to upset the otherwise affable Grohl is George W Bush. The Foo Fighters actually signed up as the warm-up act on John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign after George W Bush started using their song Times Like These at rallies.
  'In America everybody's scared,' he says. 'And that's how the government likes it. Really, I don't know who's scarier - the terrorists or us. All I know is that I remember a time when I didn'tlive every day in a state of fear, and it was pretty great. Of course we live in a different world now but after 9/11 the US Government introduced this terror alert system - a colour-coded warning that was at the bottom of your TV screen 24 hours a day. It was ridiculous, Orwellian Big Brother shit. The fear was so amplified that you had people in tiny towns afraid that the bogeyman was comin' to get 'em.'
  'I think it's sad we live in a world of fear instead of hope and I refuse to live that way.' He slumps back into the sofa. 'I just think that if I'm going to jump on an aeroplane and fly to England whatever happens is going to happen. And I made it. Nothing happened. Woo-hoo!
  It's rare and refreshing to find someone as successful and famous who utterly content with life. Even drained and exhausted after a long flight from America he exudes an enthusiasm says he's having a ball, life is good he couldn't ask for more, But Grohl doesn't conform to any of cliches of fame and fortune.
  He's never had any class-A habits to feed, cigarettes and the odd whisky his only current vices. And there's no revolving door on his hotel room - he's happily married to second wife Jordyn, a former MTV producer, with whom he recently had a daughter, Violet Maye. Grohl doesn't do red carpets or awards unless he's nominated or performing. He doesn't hang out in 'celebrity' bars and restaurants and his only famous friends are Queens Of The Stone Age ('the greatest band in the world') and actor Jack Black. 'I just don't get off on being a celebrity,' he says. 'I get off on being a musician.'
  The absence of rock-star behaviour and celebrity leanings as well as his contentment Grohl attributes to two things: low expectations and complete freedom from ambition. 'Everything that has happened has been an accident,' he says, 'from playing in bands as a teenager to the success of the Foo Fighters. You know, playing hardcore punk in the Eighties in Springfield, Virginia, there was absolutely no career ambition - because there could be no career in making two-minute-long, 200-beats-per-minute hardcore punk rock songs. We just did it for fun. Starting the band, practising in a basement, pressing our own singles, making our own fanzines, going out on the road, booking our own tours... it wasn't a career option. You were lucky if you got your $7-a-day living allowance.'
  'So when success eventually falls into your lap like it did with Nirvana you just kind of chuckle and go, "What the fuck? That's insane." I was able to make my way through that whole situation by sort of holding it at arm's length and thinking, "Now isn't that strange?"
  'Our attitude was shaped by the under­ground punk rock scene we all came from. There were no stars in our scene. We had heroes - but everyone was considered a human being and entirely approachable. And that's never changed.'
  As if to emphasise his unpretentiousness Grohl slumps back into the sofa and ends up near-horizontal, with his chin resting on his chest. 'That attitude's had a lot to do with the band's success,' he says. 'The Foo Fighters started with a demo tape that I did down the street from my house. I didn't even expect it to be a band at first - it was just a bit of fun. Not aiming for world domination has kept the focus on what's real, which is making music. It doesn't matter how many people come to our shows, it's still purely for personal satisfaction.'
  'I get kids coming up to me and saying, "Hey Dave, got any advice for someone trying to make it?" and I say, "Don't. Don't try to make it. If you love making music, just make music. And if it's great music people will listen."
  'It's not rocket science. All this success is just like the cherry on the cake. I mean, had this never happened to me I'd probably still be happy. I can't imagine I'd be disappointed, because I still don't feel like I deserve it and I sure as hell don't expect any of it. I never did.'

Words: Dan Gennoe

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