When I Think About Rock Stars Today I Think They're Arseholes!

Metal Hammer

..says Dave Grohl, of the glitz factor as opposed to the talent factor. He tells Dan Silver he will never stop making music, but the rest of the bullshit he can do without

Now I don't know about you, but when perusing the main stage line-up for the Ozzfest, one band in particular seemed to stick out like Jo Guest in a wet T-shirt competition. Nestling not so snugly between the likes of Black Sabbath, Soulfly and Korn are the Foo Fighters. Don't get me wrong - a fantastic band in their own right and proven festival favourites if their recent triumphant appearances at Reading, Phoenix and V97 are anything to go by - but an an Ozzfest? The Foos? Eh?
  "When I got the call I was immediately psyched to do it, I wanted to do it right off the bat, but at first I wasn't sure it was an Ozzfest," explains chief Foo Fighter Dave Grohl in his custamary amicable way. "My management just said, 'Do. you want to open for Ozzy?' and I was like, 'Hell yes!' Then when I found out it was an Ozzfest I thought, 'Oh my God - we're gonna get fucking killed!'"
  The trepidation in Dave's voice is cranked up a good few notches when he enquires as to the full running order for the day. As I reel off the Who's Who of heavy music confirmed for the festival, he lets out an almost disbelieving 'Oh my God...' Aware of his band's shortcomings in the heaviness stakes on such an unfeasibly metallic bill, Dave and his compadres Franz Stahl (guitars), Nate Mendel (bass) and Taylor Hawkins (drums) have came up with a contingency plan of action for their slot - which, for the moment, the frontman is keeping decidedly shtum about, save for the tantalising hints that it will be something in a direction that nobody would expect the Foos to go in at all, and that at first, people might not even recognise that it's them playing at all. What can it all mean? Surely they're not going to do something ridiculous like, umm, come out in Kiss make-up?
Dave   "No!" Dave laughs, "We did all that stuff when we were like, 13 years old!" before adding the mind boggilingly cryptic hint, "Just remember that we're big fans of Celtic Frost..."
  This may came as same surprise to a lot of you out there, but Dave Grohl was, and to some extent still is, a metalhead. He's been there, done that and baught the skull-emblazaned T-shirt before many of you would-be-detractors even heard your first riff, and therefore isn't quite as fazed at the thought of headlining over the likes of cover stars Pantera and Slayer as you might expect.
  "I've been a fan of a lot of these bands since I was a kid - I remember going to see Slayer play when I was about 14 years old." he says to prove the point. "I've loved Ozzy since I was a kid, but the Slayer thing really put it all into perspective though. When I heard that Slayer were on the bill and they were underneath us, I really felt weird because I used to worship that band when I was a kid."

Dave goes on to enthuse heartily about Mercyful Fate, Kreator, the early '80s thrash scene, Human Waste Project, Entombed ("Their singer's got a fucking great voice!") and his old mate Max Cavalera. The boy from Brazil famously asked Grohl to drum for Nailbomb when the all-star side project played the Dynamo. Festival a few years back - a much anticipated meeting of musical minds that would have happened had Foo Fighters' commitments not got in the way. So, can we expect a similar collaboration on June 20?
  "I don't know, I haven't talked to Max in so long," sighs Dave. "Sepultura were one of my favourite bands, I always thought they were cool.
  "I started getting into the band around the time of 'Beneath The Remains', and then when 'Chaos AD' came out I thought, 'Oh my God, these guys are fucking amazing!' 'Chaos AD' came out when Nirvana were doing their last tour of Europe, and I remember being in the back of the bus with Krist Novoselic rocking out to it, and saying, 'Man, we should have these guys came open far us!' Krist and I were seriously considering having Sepultura came out on the road and open for Nirvana, but the band didn't last much langer after that...
  "And then when 'Roots' came out, I think that was the most innavative heavy metal album in the last decade. I haven't heard any Soulfly stuff and I haven't talked to Max far a long time but I've always really considered him to be one of the leaders in heavy songwriting over the last five or ten years."
And it doesn't stop there, with Dave going on to eulogise Pantera's Vinnie Paul as one of the best drummers around at the moment, and generally confessing his love for the power and aggressian of modern metal. All of which cames as something of a surprise, to these ears at least. So, presumably, we can expect to see Dave rocking aout in the field from the moment the gates open then?
"Oh man, I'm gonna be there from minute one," he enthuses. "This is the kind of show where if our band wasn't on the bill, I'd still go along. We went to see Ozzy a month and a half ago in Australia when we were an tour and it was fucking great. And I've never seen Sabbath, so I'm psyched, Bill Ward is one of my drumming heroes too. It's scary - I get freaked out before we do anything like that, really flipped out. We've played on weird festivals before and been an bills that we didn't really fit, but I'm psyched man - I don't really give a shit! To have an excuse to go, to have someone pay for your ticket to a show like that!"
  So, when can we expect the Foo Fighters' debut metal record then?
  "It's strange with our band, there's so many different facets to what we do. We do ballad-like stuff, we do acoustic stuff, we also do things that are upbeat and playful, and then we do some things that kind of sound like '70s rock, and other things that sound a bit like punk rock and hardcore. It's weird, because we've covered a lot of ground and you can tell that when we do a show, it's hard for people to keep up sometimes. It's also weird cos we've always been coined as a rock band; if we brought something out that was really heavy and people tagged us as metal, I don't think it would really surprise too many people cos we're sort of borderline right there anyway.

There's been a fair bit of activity in the Foo Fighters' camp since the last time Metal Hammer caught up with Dave Grohl, most noticeably guitarist Pat Smear's departure and subsequent replacement with former Wool and Scream member Franz Stahl. Dave once described Pat Smear in an interview as being the focal point of the Foo Fighters. Now that he has departed, what does that mean for the notoriously limelight-shy frontman's role?
  "When he split I did feel extra responsibility, but it was strange because he was the focal point, yet he never did interviews. When he first left and you listened to the band, I don't think you could really tell he wasn't there. Now you can tell he's gone though, because in the last eight months we've become the best band we've ever been -live and in the studio. I think that Franz's guitar playing is so much more contained and precise and powerful. When Pat left I expected people to be holding up 'Where's Pat?' signs; I expected there to be some sort of backlash, or a lot of people that were upset about him leaving, but not once have I seen anyone say, 'We miss Pat'. That sounds awful, but it's true. Actually, after he left. the band started getting more popular, so I don't know what that has to do with! It seemed like he split right at the wrong time, cos everything started going so well for us. But he still gets to sit at home and he gets the cheques, so he's psyched, he doesn't have to work. We do, we work for the money and he gets it."
  There was a rumour doing the rounds on the Internet that Pat's decision to leave the band was brought about by his friendship with Dave's ex-wife Jennifer, leading to problems when the frontman started stepping out with Veruca Salt's Louise Post. Grohl doesn't actually confirm or deny said piece of gossip, attacking the Internet as a glorified anonymous rumour mill instead. Of course, from his time in Nirvana, Dave's more than used to being fanned by the breeze of wagging tongues the world over - a burden that shows no sign of abating.
  Four years on from Nirvana's tragic demise, rumour and scandal still plague the band - each anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death seemingly bringing out another batch of crackpots with their bizarre conspiracy theories. The latest tiresome chapter in this long finished story concerns Nick Broomfield's documentary Kurt And Courtney, a film the Hole frontwoman unsuccessfully tried to ban. Perhaps understandably, Dave Grohl wants no part in the fracas surrounding her legal action and has no intention of even viewing the film ("Why would I wanna go and see that? I'm not interested," he testily exclaims), although he still gets distressed by prying journalists trying to get that big, final Nirvana scoop.
  "There are a lot of things that are nobody's fucking business, that's just the way it is," he snaps. "I think a lot of people don't realise that we had a lot of fun in that band too, so there are a lot of great anecdotes, a lot of crazy fucking things that happened to the band. I'm not afraid to talk about a lot of stuff, but for the most part a lot of the stuff is off limits, and it's nobody's business because it's like being in a relationship with someone that didn't work out, or came to a sudden end. I would never walk up to a complete stranger and ask them about something so personal or heartbreaking. I would never do that cos it's so fucking rude. So I was always amazed that journalists would ask questions that were obviously off limits, or should have been off limits - how can you be so fucking rude, you know? I know that you're working for a newspaper or a TV show or whatever, but it blew me away that people could be so rude, and there was this lack of common decency. That fucking totally took me off guard. I really used to think all people were just great, and that changed..."
  Fortunately for Dave though, he managed to all but escape the attentions of the media on that blackest of musical anniversaries.
Dave   "I did manage to avoid it, yeah," he says in a grateful tone of voice. "I went up to Seattle as I needed to pick up this van that I have, and drive it down to Los Angeles. I was on my way out to Seattle when I realised, 'Oh my God, I'm gonna be there on the anniversary of his death'. I called Krist before I went to Seattle but there was no answer - I wanted to hook up with him but I wasn't sure how. So I got there and was driving to the hotel I was staying in, when I saw him (Krist Novoselic) walking down the street! I picked him up and ended up staying the night at his house, and we spent the day together. It was really nice, avoiding all the other bullshit.

Talking to Dave Grohl always gives the impression that he's first and foremost a music lover, and that his elevation to rock star status is a by-product he's somewhat reluctant to take on board. It's a theory that he more or less agrees with.
  "I've always thought of the rock star term as fucking derogatory man, it's gross. When I think of rock stars of yesteryear, they sort of seem like superhero cartoon characters. When I think about rock stars today, I think they're arseholes! When someone is termed 'one of the last true rock stars', to me it seems like they're saying 'one of the last true arseholes', you know? In order to be a good rock star today you have to be arrogant, very career-driven and everywhere all the time - in all the right places and dealing with all the right people.
  "It used to be that rock stars had something to do with music; they were people that were exceptional and really excelled in whatever they were doing. Whether it was John Bonham, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne or Tony Iommi or whoever - they were dong something that was new and meaningful and wonderful and different. Today it just seems like this person got lucky cos they had a hit single and their face is on the cover of every magazine, and that gives them licence to fucking mouth off, which grosses me out. It should be secondary - it doesn't have anything to do with the music anymore, it has to do with the image. That's what I think is wrong."
  All of which could lead to the opinion that Dave Grohl possibly wants out. He's moving out of Los Angeles, back to Virginia in an attempt to get away from it all, and expresses a desire to do other things with the rest of his life rather than travel the world in a rock band. He fancies his hand at production as well as film scoring, and would like enough spare time to tinker around with old cars. In his recent Get In The Van interview, Dave also expressed a desire to stop touring and start a family. Is he about to jack it all in?
  "I'm not really sure," is his diplomatic reply. "I always have the yearning or itch to go out and play shows, but I'm sure there's gonna be a time when I want to do less touring. I'll never stop making music but we've been a working, touring band for the last three years and after a while, you start figuring out that there's a lot more to everything than just tour buses and hotel rooms. It's sounds really cliched but it's true - there's got to be more than that. And there is something to be said for sleeping in the same bed every night"
  But don't fret just yet. After all, there's that Ozzfest surprise to come, and a firm promise that Dave will be Foo Fighting for a fair bit longer yet.
  "I'm sure we won't let up anytime soon," he adds reassuringly. "Things are going well enough that we don't wanna stop."

Words: Dan Silver   Pictures: John McMurtrie

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