Foo For Thought
The rock/comedy nexus: underexplored missing link or colossal bad idea? How the hell would we know? We asked bigtime rocker/nascent video director Dave Grohl and bigtime comic/actress Janeane Garofalo for their thoughts on this and other issues.
Janeane: Well, lets get going 'cause I have a puppy training class as 2:00. So, for the first question, let's mix movies and music right off the bat; Mr Dave Grohl, you did music for the Touch soundtrack, which was a movie that I was in.
Dave: I did.
Janeane: How did that happen? Did Paul Schrader get in touch with you?
Dave: Yeah, I just got a fax and it had the list of big stars and it just said he was doing a movie and it was Christopher Walken, Bridget Fonda and you....and it didn't mention Father Guido Sarducci's cameo.
Janeane: Right. And Skeet Ulrich and Tom Arnold, all the heavy hitters.
Dave: Exactly. I figured, I can't pass this up.
Janeane: So then, do they send you a copy of the film and it's up to you to be inspired?
Dave: Yeah, do you know how it works? Have you ever seen it done or anything?
Janeane: I don't know anything about it; you've gotta tell me.
Dave: Well, I had never done it before, so I hadn't the slightest idea what I was doing. I thought it would suck. We'd been on tour for about a year and a half, and the last six months were really grueling and I just wanted to stay at home, and I just started thinking, "God, I'd love to just get back in the studio and record things on my own." Then I started thinking about going down to the art institute or something and putting up a Xerox: "Help wanted: musician will score your short film for free," just so I could start doing it. It seemed like the greatest way to make music and not tour, actually. That was what was on my mind.
Janeane: I love that song. That's my favorite song on the soundtrack: that song that you did was really good.
Dave: It turned out pretty cool: the whole thing was really fun.
Janeane: I've been bugging the producer for a soundtrack album for about a month now, and no can do.
Dave: You can't get it? You want me to kick some ass?
Janeane: I don't know who you gotta blow to get a CD around here.
Dave: When I first went to see the movie, I went to a private screening thing which I've never done before. So I sat
there with a couple other people, and all I really laughed at was you and Christopher Walken.
Janeane: Oh, thank you.
Dave: You're very welcome. I think they thought it was okay because I was laughing in all the right places.
Janeane: I thought Tom Arnold was fantastic in it.
Dave: Tom Arnold was amazing! You know what? The whole thing was fuckin' cool. I was really into it.
Janeane: It was a great movie. It's really too bad there was zero publicity for it.
Dave: Yeah, what happened?
Janeane: It was in and out of the theaters in a minute-and-a-half 'cause no one knew it existed.
Dave: But anyway, I didn't know what the fuck was going on. I had no idea what I was doing and I faked it and it worked.
Janeane: Would you do it again?
Dave: I would love to do it again, but I don't have any time.
Janeane: If you had to pick a genre you'd want to do music for, a cinematic genre, what would it be?
Dave: Hmm... I would love to do another score for E.T... actually. I would love to do, like, a speed-metal score for E.T.
Janeane: And what do you think that would lend to it?
Dave: I think that I could change the movie forever. I think that I could turn that thing right around.
Janeane: You could make it a hit.
Dave: 180 degrees difference .. .it was such a flop!
Janeane: It was like the Heaven's Gate of the extraterrestrial sci-fi genre, if I can use the word "genre" twice. I'm gonna use the word genre three times, now, I'm gonna hit you with genre again: What's your most hated genre of film?
Dave: (long pause) Christ -
Janeane: So, religious films? (laughs)
Dave: You know what I hate? You know what I fuckin' hate?
Janeane: I'd like to know.
Dave: Well, I hate Sharon Stone. I hate anything with Sharon Stone.
Janeane: Is that a genre of film?
Dave: Well, to me it seems like, oh, I don't know. I don't really know.
Janeane: Can you elaborate on why you hate her?
Dave: I just think it's ridiculous that this woman opens her legs for a camera and she becomes an overnight success.
Janeane: You can blame the ticket buyers, not the lady.
Dave: Tell me that she doesn't suck.
Janeane: I actually think she's a confident actress. You know who sucks? [Joe] Eszterhas.
Dave: Don't know her.
Janeane: It's not a she, it's a he: it's the script writer.
Dave: Don't know him.
Janeane: He's responsible for some of the worst misogynist-type writing. He did Showgirls, he did Basic Instinct... he's a hack. You can blame people like Eszterhas for the twats in your cinema.
Dave: Okay, I will. What would be your most hated genre of film?
Janeane: My most-hated genre? I tend to hate romantic comedies, which I have unfortunately participated in. I blame myself: I hate myself in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, and I hate the genre. And, I tend to dislike action
films. I don't like spectacle movies: I don't like movies where the special effects are the film, like Twister. I like to
watch conversation films, like an Albert Brooks film or a Woody Allen film. I enjoy no camera trickery, just a conversation. I like movies that are just devoid of artifice like Breaking the Waves that may be difficult to get through, but are so worth the journey. I don't find movies like Twister or Mission: Impossible worth my journey. I don't feel that the characters are developed: the dialogue is lazy and it asks nothing of the viewer.
Ray Gun: What did you hate about yourself in The Truth About Cats and Dogs?
Janeane: Everything. I thought I was terrible in it and, like I said, I don't really like the genre where people kiss at the end and everything is good.
Dave: What about the genre where there's phone sex in the middle?
Janeane: Phone sex in the middle is even worse. If I never have simulated phone sex again in front of Local 357, it will be too soon. But enough about me. So what would happen, Dave Grohl, if you were in a movie... are you looking
to be in a movie?
Dave: I'm not looking to be in a movie.
Janeane: And video making? Video directing?
Dave: You know, video directing is kind of a scam. It seems ridiculous because all you have to do is come up with an idea because you've got a director of photography, your DP, who basically lines up all the shots. So you come in and
say, "Wow, I've got this dream that we're playing in this red room and we're all wearing black.
Janeane: Well, there's nothing like a good DP, that's for sure. I like that imagery, in your [Grohl-directed] video for Monkey Wrench, where they're pushing on the other side of the door while you're singing.
Dave: Thank you very much.
Janeane: I thought that was very good.
Dave: Well, you know, we're just at war with ourselves here.
Janeane: Do you feel that as a video director, you're holding up a mirror to society and forcing us to take a good, long look?
Dave: No, that was just sort of a little scam, 'cause we were getting treatments that just didn't work for the video. We listened to it, like, 15 times trying to come up with some interesting imagery and, of course, nothing. And then I had this dream, and I wake up and write down the dream and that becomes the treatment for the video.
Janeane: Well, I think it's good. I've got no problem with the Monkey Wrench video. I've got no critiques for you, no criticism.
Janeane: I don't think Verhoeven could've done a better job.
Dave: This is the problem: rock musicians and acting - bad.
Janeane: It can work.
Dave: Does it ever work?
Janeane: Dwight Yoakam kicked ass in Slingblade.
Dave: But you know what? I think that Bon Jovi was really good in that Whoopi Goldberg movie [Moonlight and Valentino], although I didn't see it. I saw the trailer and I thought. "Man, maybe he can act."
Janeane: You thought he was good in the trailer?
Dave: I thought he was great in the fuckin' trailer, 'cause all the trailer was, was him painting the side of the house and someone going, "Nice butt," and he says, "Thanks."
Janeane: Yeah, I guess he's got a nice butt, although I find that Bon Jovi-sized butts are just a little too small. A lot of these rock guys are just a little too small.
Dave: A little too small?
Janeane: Yeah, they're on the small-and-lean side.
Dave: I know what you mean.
Janeane: I am not attracted to lean people - guys or girls.
Dave: Lean? Skinny? Skinny little fuckin' strung-out rock stars?
Janeane: Skinny actors, actresses and rock stars don't appeal to me sexually.
RG: How's your butt. Dave?
Dave: My butt's really skinny.
Janeane: Skinny-ass motherfucker.
Dave: I've got a little skinny ass. Anyway .... No, but rock musicians and acting: bad, not good.
Janeane: You know what, though? Sometimes rock musicians and comics can pull off quite the coup.
Dave: That's weird, and it's also scary when the comics come to see a rock band, when you realize that your sort of hip following is made up of 10 to 12 different comedians.
Janeane: Well, comedians want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be funny.
Dave: This is true.
Janeane: I find that to be true, that they want to cross over into each other's territories. And sometimes they can do it successfully. You know who are very funny? The Barenaked Ladies.
Dave: Don't know 'em.
Janeane: Canadian band.
Janeane: Make me laugh. "The Gravel Pit."
RG: They've got that song, "Be My Yoko Ono" or something like that?
Janeane: Yeah, and "The Gravel Pit" is funny. Um, I'm trying to think of who else is witty.
Dave: Trent Reznor?
Janeane: Trent Reznor is a barrel of laughs. He's a hoot, that one, but sometimes you'll see a front man who's quite witty. But the worst is when a front man tries to be funny. And that's not good at all.
Dave: Right. Hey, I've been there. No, it's tough, 'cause you end up getting hit in the side of the face with a set of keys or something.
Janeane: Right, exactly.
Dave: Well, you know, there is Greg Dulli, from the Afghan Whigs.
Janeane: Is he funny?
Dave: He's pretty funny, but I think he's more interested in making films.
Janeane: You know, I am a huge Afghan Whigs fan. I love the Gentlemen album and I also love their cover from Jesus Christ Superstar, what's that song? I'm a big Afghan Wigs fan. I think Dulli's got it in him to be a good actor.
Dave: I think he does, too.
Janeane: He seems to have that kind of gravity.
RG: And he doesn't have a skinny butt.
Janeane: And he doesn't have a skinny butt. But he fluctuates: he's a yo-yo dieter. I have to say. Now let's move on to the Cannes film festival.
Janeane: It is all that is wrong with movie making. It is such a flagrant display of excess and hubris, arrogance,
showing-off all the bad things. So let's hear about your Cannes experience.
Dave: We arrived; we checked into our Best Western -
Janeane: Best Western Cannes? That's the best one.
Dave: Well, it was up in the hills and stuff, that's the thing. And there was nothing. We went down and played on this TV show then went out to dinner, and then went out to some huge party in the hills with a bunch of black tie people coming back from some movie premier, and we drank champagne, and then we went back. My mom was there, so I sort of had to make sure Mom was having a cool time.
Janeane: That's a nice, grounding thing to have at Cannes is your Mom.
Dave: Right. I just figured I'd bring my mother to Cannes so she could, you know -
Janeane: Well, how do you respond to that? It goes on in rock circles and Hollywood circles, that kind of showing off.
Dave: I just don't get it. In rock circles, I don't think I've ever been to anything as ridiculous as the Cannes festival in my life. And it seemed like there was really nothing happening. It seemed like there were a million people crowding the streets for absolutely nothing. You know, my favorite thing about the festival was Bruce Willis premiered this new movie that he filmed -
Janeane: The Fifth Element.
Dave: - and I think he got slammed.
Dave: Yeah, I think everyone was pretty down on Mr. Willis and crew and he sort of snapped back at some press conference and said, "Fuck the reviews: no one reads anymore and reviews are going the way of the written word and everyone watches TV so it doesn't really matter."
Janeane: That's the refuge of people who make lazy films.
Dave: There you go.
Janeane: Musicians do it too, all the time. Hey, 30 million people can't be wrong. Fuckin'-A, man, the masses have never been arbiters of taste; they're always wrong -
RG: I like to call that the Corgan Fallacy.
Janeane: What's that?
RG: The idea that if you sell billions of records -
Janeane: It justifies you.
Janeane: That's the biggest load of crap. The sadness of it is that movie makers and musicians will fall back on that. They'll say, "Hey, the crowd is what matters and I didn't fill Madison Square Garden with mediocrity", but, yes, you did; that's how you filled Madison Square Garden. Wait, you're at the Chateau Marmont, that's a Hollywood movie-type thing.
Dave: Oui. mademoiselle.
Janeane: You got a good Chateau Marmont story?
Dave: No, when I'm done doing my stuff I go to sleep.
Janeane: I've actually lived at the Chateau Marmont periodically and I don't have one story.
Dave: Oh, which room?
Janeane: Um, different ones, but mostly 429 I think.
Dave: Oh, 429? Wait!
Dave: 429! That's where I was when I shit my brains out from food poisoning!
Janeane: Oh my god! I've shit my brains out there millions of times! If I had a dollar for every time I shit my brains out there -
Dave: That's amazing!
Janeane: - I'd have $17.
Dave: You know, I requested 429 but they gave me 837, and I have a balcony, but there's nothing like 429.
Janeane: Yeah, 429's the best.
Dave: Ew, you slept in that bed?
Janeane: Isn't that amazing? I'm assuming they've changed the sheets since I was there.
Dave: I should hope so.
Janeane: So ... let's move on to another question. Let me ask you this:
Dave: Hold on, did you write these down? You're cheating.
Janeane: I didn't write these down. Yes I did.
Dave: You're fuckin' totally cheating.
Janeane: Why is that cheating?
Dave: We're supposed to be having a conversation.
Janeane: Okay, I'll put them away then.
Dave: Oh, no, no, no, no.
Janeane: Okay, let's see. I was going to ask you this question about movies. Dating back from the first film, let's cal it Birth Of A Nation, if you could have been in any film as any character, which one would it have been?
Dave: Oh my lord ... you know, this is ridiculous, but I think my dream character would be Hy in Raising Arizona. That is one of my favorite fucking movies of all time.
Janeane: Any Coen Brothers movie, I'd like to be in.
Dave: The first time I saw that movie was in Amsterdam with a bunch of Dutch people who hadn't the slightest idea.
Janeane: But I thought laughter was the universal language?
Dave: Not in Holland.
Janeane: I see. Not in Amsterdam: space cakes are the universal language.
Dave: Let's talk about drugs.
Janeane: Actually, I don't know anything about them, so I can't discuss them.
Dave: Oh well.
Janeane: So, how many times have you been through Europe now.
Dave I don't know....probably 20 or 25.
Janeane: Jesus. How old were you when you were first there.
Janeane: Jesus! You were little Tommy Stinson; you were the guy from Hanson! Let me ask you, Dave Grohl, who's your favorite Spice Girl?
Dave I don't really have a favorite Spice Girl. But I would say the least offensive one is Victoria, the posh Spice Girl.
Janeane: I was just about to say that.
Dave: I think that she may be the least obnoxious.
Janeane: I think Baby Spice needs a spank. I think Jim Greer's going to have to go spank Baby Spice.
Dave: Baby Spice and crew were in Cannes the day after us and they were on the same TV show we did. After we were done playing, they announced, "Okay, and tomorrow we have the Spice Girls!" and all these people lined up on the beach watching us playing were like, "Boooo".
Janeane: I didn't see them, but I heard they were horribly bad on "Saturday Night Live."
Dave: I actually heard they were good.
Janeane: Oh really? This I got from the cast. I can't imagine they'd be good live.
Dave: I think that they're lip-syncers.
Janeane: How do you know if anyone's good anymore? You don't have to be a good singer to be successful, obviously.
Dave: Actually, I don't know. I think that you might be wrong. I think that you do have to have something - whether it's annoying or not. whether it's considered good or not - there has to be something for people to latch on to.
Janeane: Do you mean voice quality?
Dave: Not necessarily in the quality of the voice, but there has to be something there. I think it's all in the presentation.
Janeane: Oh yeah, I'm not denying that; I'm not arguing against presentation, I just think you don't have to have a good voice.
Dave: Well, what's a good voice? I think that I have a horrible voice. I don't like to sing, so it's weird.
Janeane: I think you can sing. I think that a lot of people who can't even carry a tune are being tweaked in the studio.
Dave: Look at rap music.
Janeane: I'm lookin' at it.
Dave: There's no singin' going on there, is there?
Janeane: No. It's rappin'.
Dave: It's rappin', but it's quite popular.
Janeane: Is it popular? I didn't know that.
RG: It's catching on.
Janeane: What is rap? I'm unfamiliar with that term, Is that a type of music the kids are into?
Dave: That would be popular music, Janeane.
Janeane: I see. So that would be popular contemporary music that the kids are into, then. I don't know what you're referring to. I have not heard of rap music.
Dave: Wait. are the Hanson brothers rapping at all? The Hanson brothers, what the fuck! That's the hockey people.
RG: Yeah, I get that confused all the time.
Janeane: No, the Hanson brothers! You know; "Mmmbop!" (she keeps singing) I can't understand what they're saying.
Dave: It would have been so great if they called themselves the Hanson brothers.
Janeane: Maybe they used to.
Dave: Another wonderful movie: Slapshot.
Janeane: Slapshot was a fantastically great movie when I was a kid. Do you wish you were in Slapshot? And if so, what part?
Dave: Well, I would have been one of the Hanson brothers; the one with the glasses, kickin' asses.
Janeane: What's your favorite sport?
Janeane: What an appropriately catchy answer. Either bowling or luge.
Dave: But that hurts, and bowling doesn't hurt. and you can drink beer while you do it.
Janeane: Alright. Dave-O, got any questions for me?
Dave: Oh, I guess I should ask you music questions, shouldn't I?
Janeane: If you'd like to.
Dave: Umm, let's see...are you a rock fan?
Janeane: I like to rock; I have been known to rock.
Dave: Have you been known to rock to horrible '80s heavy metal?
Janeane: I don't know if this is heavy metal, but you know what is a guilty pleasure of the '80s for me? Def Leppard.
Janeane: I love the song "Photograph" and I love the song "Animal". I love it. That's a guilty pleasure, But I do not like hair band rock in the '80s from LA. I never responded to it. I don't like it. I don't like the look of it. I don't like the sound, I don't like the idea behind it. I don't like the videos....that's not my cup of tea.
Dave: Waht about punk rock music?
Janeane: Punk rock is okay. I'm a fan of guitar pop; I like any kind of pop. I like power pop: like it. My perennials for many years, now, have been Buffalo Tom and Sebadoh; they've been on maximum rotation on my turntable more than anything, and Elvis Costello.
Janeane: And the Foo Fighters.
Janeane: But I would say the things that consistently I keep replaying would be those bands I just mentioned. And I love Matthew Sweet. I really like Pavement a lot. I like the Ramones, Joe Jackson -
Dave: Okay, comedians who want to be rock stars: have you ever, ever been caught in front of the mirror trying to be a rock star?
Janeane: Yeah. I would give my right arm to be a bass player in a band.
Janeane: I would love, love, love to be in a band like the Breeders or Jawbox; or anything like that. I'd love to be in Veruca Salt.... I just wanna rock with a bass.
Dave: And have you ever been inclined to pick up an instrument?
Janeane: Yes, I tried to learn how to play bass but I hurt my fingers, so I gave up.
Dave: You hurt your fingers.
Janeane: I hurt my finger pads.
RG: You have to get through that; that's the whole thing.
Janeane: I know I do; that's the problem with me is that I have no tenacity.
Dave: Okay. Janeane: Depeche Mode.
Janeane: I'm not really a fan, although I like the song "Blasphemous Rumors."
Dave: Uh, what's that?
Janeane: Uh, that song by Depeche Mode, "Blasphemous Rumors."
Dave: I'm not a fan; I just pulled that one out of thin air.
Janeane: I don't really like them that much but I do like "Blasphemous Rumors:' Going back to your original question, rather than being a stand' up comic, I would love to be in a band. I think that's an incredible way to express yourself and best of all, you're not alone; you've got your band mates. It seems like it'd be more fun to travel the road like that than traveling on the road alone as a comic.
Dave: You know, one of the things that's so strange, whenever people try to make the move from one to the other, from an actor or actress to a musician or vice versa, it seems so weird. The two professions are so incredibly opposite. As a musician you spend a lifetime or a career tryinq to establish yourself as an individual. Whereas actors and actresses, of course, spend their lives beinq other people.
Janeane: Right. But a lot of times actors and actresses don't get to express who they are. They're just hired guns in films, whereas the musician gives you who he or she is.
Dave: Okay, so what do you prefer? Do you prefer the humble, down-to' earth, just walk on stage, "Hi, I'm me" musician? Or the David Bowie Space Oddity-type?
Janeane: "Hi I'm me, hi I'm me"; I have had this discussion with people all the time. I cannot stand movies that are event movies; I do not like event shows like the U2 PopMart tour. That means nothing to me, I get no connection, I don't feel anything from it -
Dave: Actually, I didn't read your name on the list of famous people in every fucking review that I've read for their show in Las Vegas.
Janeane: No, I don't have any desire to see big arena shows. I like to see the John Q or Jane Q public and their band at a smaller venue.
Dave: Hey, how do you become a comedian?
Janeane: You just start doing it.
Dave: I don't get it.
Janeane: You just do an open mic. and then eventually you keep doing it and you hope to get paid for it, and you hope to become a headliner, eventually.
RG: How did you decide that that's what you wanted to do?
Janeane: I just decided in college that that was what I wanted for my career.
RG: Who did you used to admire?
Janeane: I've always admired Alan Brooks, George Carlin, Sandra Bernhard, and then the SCTV cast... I was just interested in it and then I started doing it, and just never stopped.
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