Dave Grohl on overcoming a devastating leg injury – and rethinking ‘Sonic Highways’
Dave Grohl was lost in a fog. It was mid-June, a few days after he had toppled off a 12-foot-tall platform during a Foo Fighters gig in Sweden, breaking his right fibula and dislocating his ankle. The damagewas significant, requiring surgery and sixmetal screws inhis leg. “Aphysical therapist told me it was like my ankle got into a 40-mile-per-hour car crash,” Grohl says. “It’s like my ankle got its ass kicked by Ronda Rousey.” Worst of all, the Foos had to cancel the rest of their European tour, sevendates inall. Their North American tour – including a 20th-anniversary concert in Washington, D.C., on July 4th – was in jeopardy as well.
Now, as he sat in an OxyContin induced haze in London, Grohl had a mystic vision that saved the Foos’ summer plans. Reaching for a stack of hotel stationery, he sketched a “ridiculous, primitive drawing” of a fantastical, guitar-adorned throne that would allow him to prop up his bum leg in concert, and he had Foo Fighters’ lighting guy build it. “When I saw that thing, I just fucking cracked up,” Grohl says, laughing. “It was exactly what I wanted it to be – and it worked!”
Thanks to the throne, Grohl was onstage for the July 4th show – and for every Foos gig since. For a guy who’s used to prowling the stage, sitting down for an entire show has been a challenge. “I’ve got my leg up on that thing, but the rest of my body is like fucking Joe Cocker up there,” he says. “It’s insane.” Grohl has been opening shows by playing the riff to “Everlong” from behind a giant curtain, which pulls away to reveal him sitting, leg outstretched, to the elated laughter of fans. At the Foos’ gig at Boston’s Fenway Park, Grohl brought out his orthopedic surgeon to help the band cover the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”. Grohl says the outpouring of support from fans has been overwhelming: Every night when he takes the stage, he looks out and is met by crowds of people wearing T-shirts emblazoned with an X-ray of his broken leg. “It’s really weird,” he says.
The Foo Fighters tour runs into November, with some short breaks, but the band is already beginning to focus on the second season of its HBO series, Sonic Highways. Grohl hints that the premise of the show – the Foos travel to different cities and write and record with local heroes – might get tweaked this time around. “I have a pretty good idea of what I’d like to do,” Grohl says. “It doesn’t always have to be the Foo Fighters. It doesn’t always have to be America. I’ve already contacted a ton of musicians to see if they’d be interested in being involved, and every single one of them said yes.”
In the meantime, Grohl can celebrate the debut album from Teenage Time Killers, an all-star punk band featuring Grohl as well as current and former members of Slipknot, Fear, Dead Kennedys, Lamb of God, Minor Threat, the Germs and Alkaline Trio, among others. The group was spearheaded by Reed Mullin, drummer for hardcore-metal vets Corrosion of Conformity, a longtime friend of Grohl. “Reed was my drumming hero when I was 15 or 16,” he says. “I’ve stolen so many of his drum riff s from COC’s Animosity over the years.”
Grohl assumes an unlikely role in Teenage Time Killers: bassist. The group simply asked the Foo singer if he wanted to play the four-string on a number of songs. “It’s probably my favourite instrument to play standing up,” Grohl says. He handles bass on 11 of the 20 songs on the group’s newly released debut, Greatest Hits Vol. 1. “I knocked out my parts in a day or two, and it was so much fun,” says Grohl. “It was like hardcore karaoke with a bass.”
Mullin is also organising a Teenage Time Killers concert in L.A., to take place with as many of the album’s participants as possible – including Grohl. “Oh, my God, I need to learn those fucking songs again,” Grohl says about the prospect. “Those are hard.”