There's A Little Bit Of Evil In Everyone. Halloween Is A Chance To Endulge That
He may be known as 'The Nicest Man In Rock', but inside Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl there's an evil spirit just waiting to bust out...
Walking around the bowels of the empty Los Angeles Forum is enough to scare you rigid at any time of year. It's an old, musty, decaying venue in one of the city's less glamorous neighbourhoods that used to play host to the local basketball and hockey teams and was once the definitive west-coast music venue. Creeping among the echoing corridors that seem haunted by the infinite number of legendary gigs and now-dead rock stars, NME is feeling seriously
spooked. The last thing we need to see is a snarling bearded guy covered in blood. wearing devil horns and holding severed heads.
Yes, of course we know it's Dave Grohl in make-up posing for our Halloween issue, but he doesn't half take to playing Beelzebub with some vigour. "It's fun to be someone else for a day," he says, still wearing his horns between snaps and looking eerily comfortable in them too. "As much as some people would like to imagine themselves as angels all the time, there's a little bit of evil in everyone - Halloween is a chance to indulge that." Like most kids growing up in suburban America, the young Dave couldn't wait for October 31 - for one thing, it was the one time of year that taking candy from strangers was actually encouraged. "I grew up in a pretty pleasant neighbourhood where you could go door-to-door without fear of being abducted," he recalls. "There weren't many cases of razor blades in apples or ecstasy in your chocolate bars - that came later! I remember one Halloween,
I came back from Trick Or Treating, laid out on my mother's bed with all my candy spread out around me and watched The Exorcist on TV. Man, I was absolutely horrified. The levitation scene was so intense, and that subliminal image of a face that makes you wonder if you're possessed ... Oh my god."
He pauses, dearly a touch unsettled by the memories. "My whole life
I've had a fear of ghosts. Nothing scares me more than being followed by a ghost - I'd have dreams about that sort of thing when I was young.
When I lived in Seattle from 1993 to 1996 there was a ghost in my house ... FOR FUCKING REAL!" Another pause. Such is his reputation. even people who Wouldn't know a Foo Fighters song if it kneed them in the groin have still heard about David Eric Grohl being as genuine as they come. So when he's not being his usual chatty self, you know something's up. And, as Dave mumbles through memories of his haunted house, it's clear that he's not yanking anyone's chain on this one.
"A bunch of different people felt the same when they were downstairs in this house. They felt like someone was right behind them and almost chasing them up the steps. There were so many freaky things going on...
I would hear footsteps in the kitchen and there'd be no-one else home, I'd see things out of the corner of
my eye, sometimes I would even be lying in bed and it would feel like someone was breathing against my face, I kept dreaming about the same woman in a blue sweater and the same scruffy, dreaded hair... I get the fucking chills when I think about it."
NME's supply of underpants is severely limited for our brief visit to LA so thankfully it's not all ghost stories and fake blood today. Foo Fighters are actually holed up in this aircraft hanger to have a final practice for their November UK tour, Yet despite being their first real outing since the release of sixth album 'Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace' there are no nerves to speak of. In fact. the dressing room atmosphere is as laid back as you like. Bassist Nate Mendel quietly ambles around talking to technicians and training for his entry into the
2008 World Mild-Manners Championship, while drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Chris Shiflett swap tales of past Halloween pranks. Meanwhile, the mainman is the dictionary definition of the doting father. In the early afternoon, his beautiful lady wife Jordyn brings the couple's firstborn Violet Maye to visit Daddy during a hard day at the office, Watching Dave as the family guy is almost as life-affirming as watching him scream through 'All My Life' or 'Monkey Wrench' in front of a rammed stadium. First he feeds her a spot of lunch, then plays her specially written lullabies on the guitar and, at one point. even duets with the toddler, It seems that Grohl Jr has developed an early appreciation for Amy Winehouse and after hearing her dad sing "They try to make me go to rehab and
I said...", she cheerily babbles the "... no, no, no" part in response, It's such a precious moment that every bottom lip within earshot begins to quiver, and a communal desire to peruse the latest Argos catalogue for good-quality baby strollers descends on the room. "I'm sure people imagine rock stars living this glamorous life where they don't have to deal with vomit all over their neck and shit all over their fingers." says daddy GrohL "But for me,
it's a joy, Last year at Halloween we dressed her up as a witch, It was so much fun, but we haven't decided what to make her into this time around."
Us Brits really need to get into the Halloween spirit a little more. For the vast majority of the UK, the most ghoulish night of the year usually involves having Corrie interrupted by some 14-year-old scally in a tracksuit knocking on the door and mumbling, "Trick or treat?" in a half-arsed attempt to score a Kit Kat. But in the US it's part and parcel of the Halloween experience to have everything from pumpkins the size of small cars, to over-the-top parties planned by ekmilitary personnel. Dressing up babies as witches is practically low-key, It's not just a kid thing either: if anything, it gets even more fun when you're older, "When I was in Nirvana, we played a show on Halloween of 1993 in Dayton, Ohio and everyone decided to wear a costume," remembers Dave, "Kurt decided to wear a Barney costume. He could get whatever he wanted at that point. so instead of going to a drug store and getting a silly $5,99 costume, he got a proper Barney costume. which was fucking enormous, It was so heavy that at one point, he leaned back too far and almost lost his balance, I remember he took the tail and taped it between his legs to make it look like a dick!
Pat [Smear, Foos live guitarist and briefly the second guitarist in Nirvana] dressed up like Slash from Guns N'Roses and looked exactly like him, and they had a guitar duel at the start of the show! Kurt had a bag of fake blood in his stomach and, at the end of the duel Slash killed Barney with his guitar by stabbing him. It was so funny - I think Krist [Novoselic, Nirvana bassist] still has it on video."
You mentioned feeling the presence of the lady in your old house, but have you ever felt the presence of Kurt?
"Well, I still dream about Kurt every now and again. Every time I see him in a dream, I'll be amazed and I get this feeling that everyone else still thinks he's dead. It always feels totally real probably because I'm a very vivid dreamer. But in my dreams, Kurt's usually been hiding - we'll get together and I'll end up asking him, 'God, where have you been?'"
You'd be forgiven for not realising, but Foos' latest album only came out a few weeks ago. Surprising given we've all been feeling the Foo Fighters' presence since the start of the year. First off. the LA quartet became a worldwide talking point without lifting a finger in February when Prince covered 'Best of You' at a jaw-dropping Superbowl show (Dave: "I was beyond flattered"). Then in the summer - still a good two months before 'Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace' hit the stores - they appeared at Live Earth for a monolithic 20-minute set that has already installed itself into Foos legend. It made such an impact that immediately afterwards, 'Best Of You're-entered the UK Top 40 some two years after its original release, and was trailed by a plethora of other past singles peppering the Top 100. "I realised that, when you play a set as short as that. you have to involve the audience," he continues. "You can't just play your songs with your back turned to the crowd and walk away - you have to turn it into a choir. The idea was to blow Madonna off the stage... and I think we got pretty close. We didn't meet her, but why would I want to? What would I say? Truth Or Dare [aka In Bed With Madonna] was awesome!' I got to meet Ricky Gervais that night. though. That was 1.000 times more important to me than meeting Madonna."
With all that run-up, the actual release date seemed to pass unnoticed, but those who have spent some quality time with the Foos' latest work will know that it's their most varied to date. Everything from top-drawer stadium pounders ('The Pretender') to Beatlesy piano ballads ('Home') get a look-in on 'Echoes...'. It'd be
a bare-faced lie to claim it's their best album, but
Dave's attitude to that viewpoint is of the c'est la vie variety, "I know that album got mixed reviews but
I've noticed that everyone has a different favourite song, and I like that. The intention with the acoustic side of 'In Your Honour' was to buy Foo Fighters another 10 years of playing rather than being one of those bands with four guys playing rock songs in the same way until everybody's bored. I think that's why 'Echoes..' covers as many bases as it does. I like that about it and I'm proud that there are so many sides to us now. At first Foo Fighters were almost like an excuse for us to still be in a band, and we didn't expect it to last this long. But now, I think we could keep Foo Fighers going on for as long as we feel like making it last."
Say what you will about the album. but live, this year has seen Foo Fighters become one of the best bands in the solar system. They smoked Wembley Stadium in 20 heart-stopping minutes, and on the evidence of their rehearsal, it seems like they've already found the next level- thanks partly to the re-enlistment of Pat Smear and a handful of extra musicians. Even as a four-piece, they still seem like they're breathing fire. And, as the band run through a version of 'Everlong', NME is genuinely choked at how colossal it sounds... in soundcheck. If that's the effect of listening to it in an empty auditorium surrounded by thick-set blokes talking about cables and gaffer-tape, just imagine what it'll sound like when there are tens of thousands of people singing it in unison inside places such as the Glasgow SECC. "We've got a real back catalogue of stuff now. There are six albums with three or four singles off each, so that's more than enough to make up a killer show. But it's also down to what's between us as four people. It took us a while to get there but Chris, Nate, Taylor and I have this kind of ESP relationship, and we know that almost anything could happen onstage and it will turn out
alright. I think a lot of that comes from being treated as a big festival band in the UK almost straight away. We definitely learned a lot of our chops there." Just believeus when we say that. when the Foos bring those chops back to cook in the UK. it's guaranteed to be terrifyingly good.
In the meantime, Dave's macabre memories continue to provide a thrill of the more unsettling kind. "You know the thing about The Exorcist is that I grew up in Georgetown, where the film was set," he continues, lowering his voice as though he were rock'n'roll's version of Vincent Price. "Those stairs behind the house where
the priest dies are exactly where all the punks like me used to drink and get high in the '80s. Knowing that shit happened right there used to freak us out when we were wasted." Be afraid, be very afraid, because we're freaking petrified...
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