Grohl Pays Homage to His Punk Roots

Salt Lake Tribune 2003

The Foo Fighters now play three weeks on the road, then spend two weeks home.

A lot of dreams were realized and fantasies lived out during the 2002 Winter Olympics, even for bands who played at the Medals Plaza on those frozen nights.
  "I don't think I've ever been that cold. I don't think I've even been outdoors in that kind of weather before," said Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl in an interview from his balmy Los Angeles house. "We were pretty nervous, knowing that a) it was the Olympics; b) there were 10 billion people watching; and c) we couldn't feel our hands."
  It was also the band's first large gig after a break that included a stint in rehab for drummer Taylor Hawkins. The band, Grohl said, was feeling "pretty creepy" just before the show started. Then, like a rock 'n' roll episode of "Touched by an Angel," Grohl got a cell phone call that put everything right.
  "Right before we went on, Jim Craig, the famous goalie from the U.S. hockey team in 1980, I talked to him on the phone," Grohl recalled. "Jim Craig was, no doubt, the biggest hero in my life when I was a kid. When I was young, I played hockey, I played lacrosse and stuff, and for some reason, the Olympics that year when the U.S. team won, he in particular made such an impression on me. He's the only person I remember being like a hero to me when I was young.
  "So, I talked to him on the telephone and he gave me this pep talk that, I swear to God, changed my life. I can't remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of, 'Well,' in his Boston accent, 'tonight you'll do what the U.S. hockey team did in 1980.' It was so awesome! Unreal."
  Grohl's voice was genuinely giddy recalling that night nearly 18 months ago. It's clear that even a guy who has been in two of the biggest bands of the past 15 years -- as Nirvana's drummer, then leading the Foo Fighters -- can still get a buzz from meeting a childhood hero.

Even with those commercially successful and mainstream bands on his résumé, the 34-year-old Grohl is still a punk-rock kid at heart. While the Olympics gig was his last visit to Salt Lake City, his first was as a teenager in Scream, the Washington, D.C., punk band he played in pre-Nirvana, opening for the Circle Jerks at the Speedway Cafe.   "I dug the Speedway, that place was awesome," Grohl said. "A lot of cities used to have things like that. That must have been like '87."
  "One by One," the Foo Fighters' fourth album, is arguably the band's best, with Grohl, Hawkins, bassist Nate Mendel and guitarist Chris Shiflett creating one bruising, straight-up rock record, despite scrapping the whole project at one point and starting over. Considering the strength of the final product, it was probably a good decision.
  Even though Grohl would not call himself a punk at this point, and songs like "All My Life" and "Times Like These" are already mainstream hits on radio and MTV, he did use one aspect of "One by One" to pay homage to his punk roots.
  The cover of "One by One" and several pieces in the CD booklet are the work of Raymond Pettibon, a legendary punk artist of the early '80s. He designed fliers and covers for the likes of Black Flag and The Minutemen, among others, primarily for acts on the seminal SST Records label started by his brother, Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn. Pettibon's cartoonish, satirical imagery became synonymous with the independent American hardcore scene of Southern California.   "I was playing a show with Queens of the Stone Age [last year], and he came out to the show with [ex-Minutemen bassist] Mike Watt," Grohl said. "Watt was like, 'Hey, Dave, this is Raymond.' And I said hi, and noticed he had paint all over him. A little while later, I asked Watt, 'Is that Raymond Pettibon?' And it was.
  "It's a really crazy scene. He still lives with his mother, he's like 46, he's really tall and he's socially inept. No social skills at all. We call him Rainman. He invited us to come to the gallery where he keeps most of his shit , and we went down there and it was, like, 10,000 pieces of Pettibon stuff, just stuffed into boxes! We're going through all of it, and you'd come across something like the original [Black Flag] 'Jealous Again' single cover, and I'm like, 'Oh my God!' So I figured we had to somehow pay tribute to Pettibon as a hero, because his stuff, those images just stuck with me my whole life."

The Foo Fighters' current tour, stopping in Orem Thursday, is part of the band's new-style scheduling, as Grohl puts it. After spending almost seven years of its eight-year existence on the road, the band is doing three weeks on the road, then two weeks home, off and on all summer as it tours America.
  "We're kind of weaning ourselves off of being the 365-day rock machine we were before," Grohl said. "[Constant touring] made us a better band, and we're tight like a family now; we're much more confident and comfortable onstage. When we first started playing shows in '95, we were spooked. I'd never played guitar and sang in a band before."   Grohl has come a long way since he was organizing local punk shows at D.C.-area Knights of Columbus halls. One gets the feeling, though, that he doesn't necessarily see the life of a well-paid rock star as any better than when he was just a drummer in a small scene. Just different.
  "That's what I try to explain to people now," Grohl said. "Back then, everything was so independent because there was no industry interested in what we were doing. So when it came to playing music, it wasn't a career decision, it was just something to do to escape.
  "People ask me all the time, 'What's your best advice for a musician who's trying to make it?' And I'm like, 'Man, I don't know.' Because that was never my intention. I was just playing for fun and still am. I tell kids, 'If you're trying to play music as a career decision, then you're fucked. If you're playing because you really love doing it, then there you go, you've already found success.' "

Words:Dan Nailen

back to the features index