"If the number one song is about your butt, thatís a problem!"

Red Bulletin, December 2014

After almost three decades of rock Ďní roll, Dave Grohl is still rocking hard, making movies and TV, and trying, he says, ďnot to sound like a boring old fartĒ. Our exclusive interview proves such a thing is impossible.

Dave Grohl became world famous in the 1990s as the drummer for Nirvana and has remained stellar every since. Heís the lead singer of Foo Fighters (eight albums, 11 million copies sold, many awards and huge world tours) and has worked on musical projects with, among others, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Nine Inch Nails and Queens Of The Stone Age. Last year he produced his first film, Sound City, a documentary about the titular Los Angeles music studio.

Now heís driving Sonic Highways, an ambitious project merging the eighth Foo Fighters album, out in November, with an eight-part TV series in which Grohl shows the band recording the album in studios across America and interviews artists associated with those studios, including Dolly Parton, Joe Walsh, Chuck D, Willie Nelson and Rick Rubin. Thereís also a sit-down with Barack Obama. When he met The Red Bulletin recently, the 45-year-old swapped the questioning for answer duty.

How many security men were behind the camera when you interviewed the President of the United States of America?
Hereís the thing: The White House is a really relaxed and comfortable place, because you canít get in there unless they know that youíre cool. So once youíre in, youíre in and itís relaxed and not creepy or scary. The President had some really great things to say about our country and about specific musicians. I wanted to talk to him about not only the history of music in America, but America as a country where thereís the opportunity to do great things. I mean, Iím well aware that there are a lot of things going terribly wrong, but America still holds the freedom that you can be someone like Buddy Guy.

Guy carved out a career in music despite having no education and no money. Echoes of the Dave Grohl story?
Buddyís the greatest ever as far as Iím concerned. He made his first guitar from wires in his screen porch and wood. Iím a high-school dropout from Springfield, Virginia. I never graduated school and I never had enough money for college. I worked manual jobs and played noisy punk rock music. Now Iím in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and I get to sit and talk to the President about music. Iím not saying what a great guy I am, but I want everyone to imagine that same opportunity is possible.

So what does it take to make it big in America, if not the world?
I believe that if youíre focused and driven and passionate enough about something that you can do it. Donít screw everybody elseís expectation, just do it the way you do it. Why do it like somebody else?

Has that actually worked for you?
Sure. For example, I havenít got a clue how to direct movies and TV, I just do it the way I see fit. Thatís the same way I play the drums and write songs. Iím sure that by some other peopleís standards, what I do is complete garbage, but screw them. It leads to great things. Itís the only way.

Did you pass that piece of advice on to President Obama?

Red Bulletin, December 2014
I think heís got the worst job in the world. The day I interviewed him, he gave a press conference and announced he would be sending more troops to Iraq. Then he gave the Congressional Medal Of Honor to a solider who was badly injured saving another soldier. Heís got the economy, heís got international conflict and then he sits down with me to talk about Stevie Wonder and The Rolling Stones.

So President Grohl is out of the question?
Ha ha ha! I could never get past the first step of becoming a politician. Iíve done so much stupid stuff in my life. Who would vote for me?

But the glasses youíve started wearing recently make you look very serious.
Oh yeah, well Ė age. I am deaf, dumb and blind.

So the White House is temporary, but you were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame this year as part of Nirvana. Why did you only have female singers for your performance at the ceremony?
Because Kurt [Cobain] was a feminist. And someone suggested Joan Jett. I mean, Joan Jett sheís the first lady of rock íní roll. Sheís the one. Then it was like: ďWhat about Kim Gordon?Ē She and Kurt were great friends, they loved each other and Sonic Youth were our heroes. ďYeah, letís get Kim.Ē

And you had Lorde from New Zealand.
Lorde was my idea. Her song Royals is its own little revolution in the sea of bullshit.

Is that sea what you referred to recently as Ďstripper popí?
Pop music in America right now is so superficial. Itís fun to listen to, to turn up in your car when youíre in traffic, but thereís no substance at all. Itís devoid of any meaning. Iím not just saying that as a 45-year-old rock musician, Iím saying that as a human being. If the number one song is about your butt, thatís a problem. So when I heard Royals in the middle of all of these other songs, I thought, ďThank God! Someoneís singing something that actually has a little bit of something.Ē

As an old-school rock band, do Foo Fighters struggle in a digitised world?
Sad but true. People have forgotten what itís like to really rock out because they spend all day in front of a freakiní computer, which they hail as the new god. And they seriously think technology can make them rich, if they stumble on something new. But Iím telling you: technology might make you rich, yet it will never make you happy.

Isnít it easier to be happy if youíre rich?
Theyíre two different things light years apart. Happiness or luck or a good feeling Ė whatever you want to call it Ė is based on interaction among humans, on making other people happy, giving them something dear to their heart. Music is a perfect medium for that. What could be more human than writing a song with bass, drums and guitars? Thatís as feel-based as it gets.

What do you do with all your money?

Red Bulletin, December 2014
It goes straight into my bank account, where it turns all mouldy and smelly.

No investments, nothing like that?
I donít waste my time thinking about how I could make more when Iíve already got enough. Iím not a banker, Iím a musician. However, at the same time it buys me freedom, of course. It allows me to do what I want to do and not having to worry about anything at all.

No houses, no big, fat cars?
I drive a family car Ė not a monster SUV, but a family car that fits five people. Iíve got a house that is just big enough, too. My only status symbol would be 606, my studio in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Iíve invested a fortune to make it look exactly like Abbaís legendary Atlantis studio. Iím not kidding: thatís what I was after and it cost me a lot to have that dream come alive.

Is making music the analogue way becoming a lost art?
I hope I donít sound like a boring old fart here, but letís be honest: it never hurt nobody to practise your instrument, to develop an ear for rhythm and melody.

So what do you think of EDM?
What the heck are you talking about? Donít speak in riddles, man!

Electronic dance music. Skrillex, Deadmau5, etc.
Thatís what that is called? Itís simply not my kind of music. Whatís more, itís nothing new. Artists like Suicide or Atari Teenage Riot have been doing it for decades and are still doing it way better.

What do your kids listen to? [Grohl has three daughters, aged eight, five and three months.]
Iím damned lucky on that front. The worst thing they impose on me is Katy Perryís latest album.

Katy doesnít make you happy?
No, not at all. Her music is a real test in terms of loyalty towards your kids. But at the same time I can still make them listen to good stuff. I got my eldest two, Harper and Violet, a turntable and The Beatles box set. So they listen to Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album. Give a six-year-old a turntable and all of the Beatles records and I guarantee that within one hour they will be doing what you did when you were six years old, too. Records on the floor, dancing, singing; itís great.

What kind of relationship do you have with social networking?
Honestly, I havenít got a clue. Iím not on Facebook or on Instagram and itís because I donít care. If I want to talk to people I just call them up or text them. Yet, for my 75-year-old mother, it makes perfect sense, simply because she doesnít have too many people to talk to anymore, she hardly leaves the house and she is lonely. Sheís like, ĎYouíre living in the past, dear. Let me show you how to Twitter.í Maybe if I reach her age then Iíll launch my first personal website, by Dave Grohl, retired rock star.

Courtney Love wants to make a Nirvana biopic. Who should play Dave Grohl?
I guess Robert Rodriguez would be my favourite, just because heís so cool, but I just donít think itís going to happen.

Words: Marcel Anders    

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