Foo For Thought

Metal Hammer Presents...Foo Fighters, 2005

Dave Grohl; My Story

Metal Hammer Presents....Dave Grohl David Eric Grohl was born in Warren Ohio to a young couple of newlyweds called James and Virginia. The pair split when Dave was just seven years old, leaving his mother - a high school teacher - having to work long evenings and weekends to provide for him and his sister, Lisa
  Aside from the usual guidance a mother provides her son, Virginia would end up giving Dave one of the most useful pieces of career advice he would recieve.
  "My Mother advised me to join Nirvana. Thanks Mom! I think that counts as pretty good career advice. If anyone just starting out in a band asks me for advice I usually tell them that music shouldn't be a career decision. When I joined Nirvana, being in the biggest band in the world was not an option. I joined because I fucking loved music and I wanted to be in a band. If you're not satisfied with playing musoc and nothing else, then you kinda shouldn't be doing it.
"Expectations for kids starting in bands these days are pretty high, 'We're going to have to make a video someday', 'Imagine if we were on a tour bus', 'I hope we have a platinum record'. But if you really love doing it, the main focus should be on making music for yourself - don't worry about record deals and all that sort of stuff."
  Dave says he wasn't much for 'book learning' and continually played truant from school. Instead he poured all of his time and effort into music. He got his first guitar when he was just 12 - a 1960s Silvertone with amp built into the instrument case. There was always music playing in the Grohl household (his mother had been the singer in a group when she was younger), and pretty soon he had learnt how to playa bunch of guitar-kid standards like 'Smoke On The Water'.
  It turned out that the schoolboy Grohl had an uncanny knack for playing by ear and soon he was in demand - asked to play guitar in a covers band doing songs by The Who and The Stones.
  It wasn't long before he became aware of nearby Washington DC's hardcore scene and when some local punks heard of his guitar skills he was asked to join Freak Baby. It was around this time Dave decided he wanted to be a drummer. Now he didn't have a drum kit at home, so he improvised by bashing pillows in his room with a mighty force so he could hear the beats as he played along to the ,radio. It was this everything louder than everything else attitude that formed the armour-piercing drum approach he is famed for today.
  After stints in several other hardcore bands (including the improbably named Dain Bramage) Grohl called up Virginian post-punk legends Scream and persuaded them to let him audition. He had to lie to the band telling him he was 20, rather than 17, as he thought letting them know that he had been expelled from school for being, "so stoned I didn't know what I was studying," might not swing it his way.

Dave Grohl is disarmingly open about nearly every aspect of his life. Family, relationships, hardships, music and drugs: "One of the hardest lessons I've learnt is the one about drugs. I quit doing drugs when I was 20 and I'm 36 now. I didn't damage myself, but I stopped because it was starting to freak me out a little. But I've seen too many other people learn about drugs the long, hard way."
  Of course, he is still a rock'n'roll guy and when we ask him what his poison is now, he grins, runs his hands through his mop lazily and says: "My thing these days is whisky. I'm a Crown Royal guy. It's a Canadian blend which is pretty fucking sweet. It goes down great with a little bit of coke but just a couple of ice cubes is fine by me. It comes if) a killer purple, felt bag. Pantera got me into it."

As well as the uptight punk rock that would inform both Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, Grohl was also deep into another form of music that would shape his career: heavy metal. From the punishing dynamics of Corrosion Of Conformity to the heavier than a skip full of cannon balls riffage of Slayer, Dave loved it loud and lairy. He would finally get to pay respect to his metal heritage with his 2003 side project Probot.
  Grohl is keen to prove his metal credentials are legit, and they go much deeper than a bit of casual long-haired midsummer moshing.
  "I always liked bands with a harder edge when I was younger," says Dave. "Bands like DRI and Corrosion Of Conformity. Dave Lombardo from Slayer was a fucking hero, man - a fucking champion and I was inspired by his band and their music so I grew up a fucking pot head, Motorhead, punk kid. It's when I meet people like Lemmy from Motorhead that I really go, 'Yes!' When he agreed to do Probot with me I was amazed. He's a fucking champion - he's a hero and he walks it like he talks it. I realised that I'd never met a real rock'n'roller untililtlet Lemmy - and 1 don't think I'll meet anyone like him ever again. He was walking around drinking JD and coke and smoking Marlboro red. And it was fucking noon. It was great."
  After a few minutes discussing the heaviest records we can think of including 'Gluey Porch Treatment' by The Melvins ("That is a heavy fucking record") and 'Roots' by Sepultura ("It's a fucking crazy record, sonically - nothing like that had ever been done before with all that Brazilian drumming"), Hammer wonders if everyone in Nirvana felt the same way about this sort of music.
  "Kurt and Krist loved Celtic Frost as well as me. It's weird, because people only really know Nirvana from 1991 onwards," explains Dave. "Nobody realises that the people who made 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' were totally into Flipper and the Butthole Surfers. That was the music we grew up with and it didn't necessarily surface in Nirvana's music, but the spirit of it was there. We all grew up listening to the same stuff. It was one of the first conversations that I had with Kurt. From Celtic Frost to Neil Young to Public Enemy, we all loved the same music."
  It was with DC hardcoreniks, Scream, that Grohl first learned what it meant to be a jobbing musician - busting your balls lugging gear in and out of crappy vans, sleeping on floors, living on nachos and fresh air and being generally skint and unappreciated. After returning from one of these immense jaunts round the globe, half of the band found eviction notices in their mail and decided it was time to quit.
  For Grohl, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After being tipped off about the vacancy by mutual friend, Buzz Osborne of Seattle grunge legends The Melvins, Dave made a pitch for Nirvana's drum stool.

Fifteen years on, Grohl couldn't be in a better position. He married his girlfriend 18 months ago ("About 200 friends and family were there and we had some good food and good music. We had this tribute act called The Fab Four who fucking look and sound exactly like The Beatles. It was amazing. If you want to have a good party, book The Fab Four. In the middle of the gig I was shouting, Where's Yoko?"'), He's just released the fifth and arguably the best Foo Fighters album to date, and as a drummer he has never been in more demand.
  Over the last two years he has provided his services to Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Cat Power, Queens Of The Stone Age and Garbage among others. Of all these groups, his work on the last Killing Joke album is the most impressive - Grohl's gargantuan tribal rhythms underpin the veteran UK post-punk group's best work in nearly 20 years. And he agrees.
  "It was great working with them, it really came together. Nirvana had a song called 'Come As You Are' and the riff was pretty similar to this Killing Joke song called 'Eighties: It was pretty close. They were sort of pissed off about it and there was potential litigation, but it never came to that. But you know it was 14 or 15 years ago and I totally forgot about it. The first night I met Jaz (Coleman, the singer with Killing Joke) it was in New Zealand and we went out and got fucking trashed. I was sitting in a hotel bar thinking I've seen photos of him, but not for years, and I was wondering if I was going to recognise him. Then in comes Jaz in a fucking priest's outfit. We sat at the bar and got fucked up and talked about UFOs, the oil conspiracy and the World Bank. It was fucking amazing. We walked to another bar and I had to stop him from getting into fist fights the whole way. He was in traffic screaming at cars, 'George Bush is a fucking murdere~ It was amazing but then someone mentioned the 'Come As You Are' thing and he just went for my throat. I had to run off down the road. But someone calmed him down and we ended up laughing about it. Eventually,"
  Some of us often feel like congratulating ourselves if we can manage to get out of bed during the hours of daylight. So how the fuck does Dave manage to be in so many bands at once?
  "Well, I, don't really,consider ,what I do a's notllke I'm going to do this for 20 years and then move to Hawaii. I feel like I'm on vacation all the time. At the moment I'm focusing on the Pro-Tools system but I'm not going to make a Ministry record or a house record or anything. When I'm in the studio, I prefer to work with musicians who know what they're doing and don't need a computer to edit them. But I want to stay current. I don't want to be that 45 year old guy in the studio who's like, What the hell does that do?'"
  Of course we can't really ignore talking C about Foo's new album, 'In Your Honour', the double record that has the fairly unconventional format of having a heavy side and an acoustic side. Or a, "rock and a non-rock side: as he puts it himself. He recently told Hammers sister paper Classic Rock: "We've finally established ourselves to the point where we can play an hour-and- a-half set and make 50,000 people sing all the words. That's fucking cool."
  But this in turn made him question where the band should go next. "We toured so much for the last record and it was a fucking blast, but it was gruelling. I'm 36 now and I've been doing it for 18 years and I thought, 'Is this what I'm supposed to do with the rest of my life? I don't know. Maybe it's time to have the band take another left turn.'"
  Inspired by Tom Petty's solo work on 'She's The One', Grohl considered doing a soundtrack. "So I started demoing all this acoustic music with that in mind. After an hour or two of listening to it, I thought, 'why can't this be a Foo Fighters record? Maybe we should do this kickass mellow acoustic record: And then I thought, 'no, I have to have loud rock music in my life somewhere:" After mulling it over for some time, the solution slowly became dear: "Why not make two CDs? I eventually want it to get to a point where, when people ask me what kind of band I'm in, I say, 'I just play music: It's not one specific genre of music, it's not one specific style. I'm just a musician. I can play all these different instruments, I can write abossa nova, I can write a thrash tune. Its such an incredible freedom. Thats the point of this album."

But we have to be thankful that we have the Foos at all. Grohl was still relatively young, at 25, to have to deal with the height of Nirvana's fame and then his friend's suicide. He sighs and says: "I was really guarded and journalists were warned, 'just be cool: Every once in a while you'd get that rogue journalist that would ask, 'how did you feel when Kurt died?' I remember I was in France - at that point it was only a year since he'd been gone - and I replied, 'imagine ifone of your good friends killed himself and I've just met you. I wouldn't ask you about that. Thats rude. And then you go and tell everybody. Thats even worse. So get the fuckout of here!'
  "Mind you, this was 10 years ago. Now I can sit down and tell people how I felt. It doesn't bother me any more. After Nirvana, I wasn't really sure what to do. I was asked to join a couple of bands as a drummer, but I just couldn't imagine doing that. Every time I sat down at a drum set, I would think of Nirvana. And other people would think of them as well. I thought, what do I do? Do I even play music any more? I don't know. Maybe that was it. Maybe its time to do something else. Maybe real life starts now. At that point I had been touring since I was 18 and I'd seen the world and got to be in this huge band."
  So, 18 years after the beginning, can he pick one song as a personal favourite?
  "I'm very proud of'Smells Like Teen Spirit: says Grohl. "Because it touched so many people - even though it became this cartoonish, Gen-X anthem that spread around the world like fucking ebola. But when we first played it in front of 300 people at the OK Hotel, the place went off. And that was amazing." .

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