Foo Man Chew!

Melody Maker

In our occasional Tour Diary series, we find out why Dave Grohl always chews gum onstage, loves punk rock and why he finds the memory of Nirvana hard to shake off

"Today's actually a break from our US tour and I'm at home, or at least, Los Angeles, where I'm parking my stuff for a while. I just journeyed from Seattle, where I used to live. We were playing there and every time I go back I have to go to the house I used to live in and sort out all the shit that I left there. We don't really have anytime to fucking live anywhere!
  "It's strange 'cos from last November to May, I didn't have anywhere to live. I was sleeping on friends floors, then I'd go to a hotel for a week, then back to my friend's floor. It was probably a good idea to find somewhere to live, to have some kind of foundation before we go on the road. So I had four days to find a house. I put all my stuff from Seattle and drove to LA and found this house, But I'm never here! My neighbours must think I'm in prison.
  "Today is the first day I've been in my home by myself for two months! I haven't done anything. I woke up and I ate cereal, which is very unusual for me. I miss the itinerary already. Normally I know that every day I have an interview from 12 to 12.30, soundcheck at 3pm. Now all I have to do is the laundry. I got back yesterday at 3am. It's noon here now, and I already wanna get back on tour."

"This tour's been great. It's our first with Franz [Stahl] our new guitarist, and I haven't toured with him since I was 19 years old and he's one of my best friends and I love him like a brother. It was strange, the shows that we played in Europe and America and Japan with Pat (Smear, recently departed guitarist) before he left. Because we knew he was gonna leave, so we didn't feel like a solid unit as we walked onstage every night. So this tour was nice because three quarters of the way through I realised that although we've been touring for six and a half months, it feels like the first we've done for the album. Maybe that's because we know that this is the way it's gonna be now, and now we feel strong and solid and confident as the band that we are. We're better than we've ever been.
  "Another thing that's changed - I'm playing drums again. Apart from the Bowie 50th birthday concert I haven't played drums live since Nirvana. But on this tour we have two drum kits onstage we have this double drum battle between me and Taylor. I don't wanna spoil it by saying exactly what happens, but we'll be doing it when we come to Britain. We get a lot of Genesis jokes, obviously. I even went so far as to get an intro tape, which I fucking think is absolutely hilarious. We're also doing a cover of Killing Joke's 'Requiem', It really bugs me when I see those lists of the '100 Greatest Rock Artists 0f All Time' and Killing Joke and Husker Du are never in there."

"I was really expecting there to be some sort of Pat backlash at the shows, you know 'We want Pat' or 'Where is Pat?' banners. Cos I was really worried about Franz. I was worried that he was gonna be crushed under the weight of Pat-ism. I was expecting it every night of the tour and it didn't happen once. But I miss Pat. There are hundreds of things I miss about him.
  "Before 'The Colour & The Shape' was released we were rehearsing for some English shows. Pat came to rehearsals three days before we had to leave and he said - 'I think you guys should be a three piece.' We're like 'Whaaaatttt?' He said he just didn't want to be in the band anymore. He didn't like touring. He really fucking hated flying and just wanted to stay at home. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we're always working. If we're not on tour then we're rehearsing. If we're not rehearsing, we're out on press tours or making videos, and it can really get to someone.
  "I look at it this way. Since The Germs, Pat hasn't been in any band for an extended period of time. When he joined Nirvana his friends all placed bets on how long he was gonna last in the band. Some friends bet a week, some bet a month, two months whatever. And he lasted two and a half years in our band, so we got a good stretch of time out of him. But he wanted to do other stuff and I totally understand that, because if I could go off now and do the 15 million other things I'd like to do now, I'd do them. But I look at this band as my little baby, and I want to see it grow up in front of me.
"Still, I don't want the Foo Fighters to be around for 15 fucking years! I want us to have a good four and a half years. See, the first album is always the first album. The second album y'know, it's fish or cut the line. The third album is the fucking 'White Album'! I always wait for a band's 'White Album', and after that they go acoustic and they suck shit. We're working toward the 'White Album' right now, oh yes! We aren't playing any new songs live yet but we have about six in the pot."

"It feels odd to feel that I'm an established person in music. It feels unnatural to walk onstage and feel natural. It's a bizarre environment and it's an hour and 15 minutes of everyday life, and everyone expects you to be the person they saw in the 'Monkey Wrench' video. It's strange to walk out and try and inflate your persona. So usually my reaction to it is to go on and say 'Hi! I'm a fucking idiot and here's the next song."
  "I can't imagine going onstage and saying the same thing every night. Tons of bands still do it. Tons of bands also still work choreographed moves! How can they do that every night? It's like acting, but playing a role that's supposed to be yourself. It just feels so uncomfortable and bizarre.
  "I still feel like a punk. A lot of the time, anyway. The most punk rock thing I've done recently was this: I stood out on the 17th story ledge of my friend's window, outside in the dark, with an ironing board in my hand trying to break the window back in. Why? You may ask. Because I'd had about a bottle and a half of tequila, that's why! You know, I think that's the most dangerous thing I've ever done in my entire life. I jumped out of the window with the ironing board in my hand, and Taylor, our drummer, closed the window. I was out there for some time, and eventually someone who was a lot more sober than I pulled me back in. I'm lucky, it could have been the most bizarre rock death ever and I'd be on your cover, huh? I can see the headline now, 'Iron Man Falls From Sky'. Those guys are so funny with their fucking captions.
Nate drags it up   "The least punk rock thing I've done recently was to invest in a chain of Microtel hotels, because they're nice little hotels! My mother stayed in one of them and thought it was really good. I made quite a bit of money out of it, actually. So that'd pretty un-punk rock. But I'm something of an expert on hotels. Hell, I've stayed in enough of them."

"What do I do before a show? I usually just have a beer I and I have to have my chewing gum in my mouth precisely 15 minutes prior to playing. If I put a stick of gum in my mouth right as we walk on then it's too fresh, and there's too much flavour coming out of it and I end up choking and spitting. My life is such a nightmare! I don't have a stopwatch, but I can feel when we've got 15 minutes to go. It's always just one beer. Actually, no... in the major cities it's often a few more beers. If we're in Seattle then it's a few beers, maybe a couple of shots.
  "I haven't had anyone asking me to grow my hair back... not yet anyway. I guess if it's long you can shake it about a bit more. The problem I'm having these days, I'm in this uncomfortable middle ground as regards to hair length. It's not really short, it's not really long. Which means that when we play shows the humidity makes it fluff up like a fucking cabbage! I was thinking about shaving my head. I've never done it before. But I think I'm too skinny. I'd end up looking like some prison inmate.
  "On the bus we watch a lot of videos. My favourite at the moment is 'Waiting For Guffman'. It's basically 'Spinal Tap', but based around regional theatre. It's fucking genius, and you have to watch it 15 times, it's just so good. We've also watched a Genesis home video, cos Taylor's really into the old Genesis with Peter Gabriel. Musically we listen to Pixies 'Trompe le Monde', Husker Du 'Zen Arcade', Killing Joke, Tom Waits... some soundtrack stuff from German and Italian porno movies. And a death metal band from Ohio called Bowel. Their LP, 'Rotten Fecal Duct' is really, really good."

"Believe it or not we don't get many groupies. It doesn't seem to happen anymore, unless you're a band with really good looking people in it. I can't imagine being Bon Jovi in 1983! I think maybe once in our entire term as a band have we ever had someone lift up their shirt and bare their breasts to us. North Carolina. That's expected of people there. It's not a party until someone's bared their boobs.
  "I'm currently single. But I'm also currently not speaking about my personal life to anybody. I don't get lonely. I have a wonderful circle of friends and how could you possibly get lonely surrounded by 15 people every day for a year? And everybody in my band is a really good kisser, too! I've known Jimmy, our stage tech, since I was five. Loads of the crew go way back, half of them were Nirvana's crew. Maybe we should play with Krist's band to complete the set! Everybody asks 'Why don't you tour with Krist?' We did play with Sweet 75 once, a benefit gig in Washington two years ago. But we're so busy.
  "Every time I go up to Seattle I see Krist, and it's just like we had never split. people ask if Krist and I'll ever jam together again and I say 'yeah, sure. Why not?' Maybe not in front of any people but we'll play together again because I liken it to bumping into an ex-girlfriend in a bar. You sit down and have a couple of pints and you go home and fuck! Because that's the way it works.
  "There's a very intuitive relationship between a drummer and a bass player. But it's weird when you're in a group in the rhythm section; you spend the course of your relationship sharing the most important thing and never speaking to each other.
  "It's like a lot of relationships that I've been in lately!"

"Over my career, I've supported numerous bands. I actually prefer being the opening band to being the headliner. You don't have to play as long, and there isn't the pressure and the headlining expectation. Plus you get to bed earlier! We choose the support bands, people who make us excited to play. On this tour we've been playing venues that I played with Nirvana and that's weird. I never remember the names on the itinerary and then we walk in... yikes. It's bizarre, especially when you have the same dressing room. Most of the venues that we're playing were venues from the very last Nirvana tour. I haven't found any graffiti on the walls that I left. That would be strange. I guess that really would freak me out."

"We meet the fans a lot and people come up and say things. On this tour this kid came up to me and said that he was extremely depressed for years and this album was the first thing to make him happy in years. His friends were with him and he had this huge smile and they were saying, 'Oh, he never smiles.' It realty touched me, so much that I wanted to get the hell away from him before I started bawling.
  "Two or three times grown men have come up to me and said things like 'Man. I went through this divorce and I got your album right in the middle of it and it really helped ma get through it'. I thought that was bizarre. One guy came up and said to me that his wife left him for another woman, and the album helped get him through that. Crikey.
  "I'm genuinely flattered by this stuff. When people I know give me compliments I can't stand it. 'Shut the fuck up!' But when someone far away has a connection with something I dreamed up in my living room that's pretty special.
  "I mean, this album is pretty personal. It can be weird singing those songs onstage. If I really lose myself in it, it can be very strange."

"I'm starting to think about retirement and I don't think I can handle the idea of retirement! I definitely don't want to be going onstage after I'm 33, but I've gotta be doing something. This my plan: I've got to have an itinerary cos I've fucking had one for the last 10 years. I figure we'll tour this album, then take a substantial time to build a studio, probably in upstate New York. I'm hoping that will take maybe six or seven months. Go in and make our own record in there. I know that they say that when bands build their own studio they tend to disappear for five years! I think we deserve to disappear for five years! Since we started the Foo Fighters in '95 we've had maybe two fortnights off. The trouble is I don't know what to do with myself on those fortnights off. Maybe when all this is over I'll go off and fly planes. But there's always another gig and right now I can't wait."

Words: Dave Simpson

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