Dave Grohlís Quest For Heavy Metal And the Birth of Probot

Stance 2001

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Dave Grohl just recorded a metal album. He played all the instruments himself and sent the songs to his favorite metal singers. The result isnít old metal or nu-metal - itís just plain metal. Itís Daveís personal dedication to something he loves. You see, Daveís a metalhead and he owes it all to his friend Jimmy. We recently flew to Virginia to talk to him and Jimmy about Probot and their shared love for heavy metal.

Tell us how you first got into metal.
Dave: It all started when Jimmy and I started listening to hardcore when we were like thirteen or something. Jimmy was into Iron Maiden before me....
Jimmy: I was into the heavy, but I was looking for fast and heavy. I saw a little tiny ad for a mail-order catalog called End Of The Rainbow that had all this metal. I got Kill ĎEm All by Metallica and Melissa by Mercyful Fate. I played the first ten seconds of 'Hit The Lights' and called Dave.
Dave: We lived like a block away from each other so he called me and said, "Get up here! Get up here now!" So I went up and we listened to the whole Kill ĎEm All record and we were like, "Oh my god!" The closest thing we had heard was Motorhead, but this was like, times ten. So from there on we just found more and more.

How long did this all-metal phase last?
Dave: Jimmy kept turning me on to bands like Trouble, Mercyful Fate, Dark Angel... then I started playing in a hardcore band and Jimmy came on the road with us. We were into hardcore and death metal at the same time. A lot of hardcore bands were crossing up, too - like Corrosion Of Conformity and D.R.I.

When we heard about the Probot album and your love for metal, we were really surprised.
Dave: A lot of people were into it (metal), even Kurt (Cobain) and Krist (Novoselic) from Nirvana. They were totally into Celtic Frost. They would listen to Celtic Frost and the Smithereens, and thatís what they imagined themselves to sound like.

If I go back and listen to Nevermind by Nirvana now I can hear a lot of metal in your drumming.
Dave: Really? Wow! Well, those were my favorite drummers, man. The guy who played drums for Mercyful Fate, the drummer of Trouble, Dale from the Melvins. Even early Motley Crue, that drumming was like, "Whew!" - red hot. Did you guys see that Motley Crue book? Ten times as disgusting as you can possibly imagine. Itís fuckiní so good and I donít read.

What gave you the idea to record the Probot album?
Dave: I had just recorded the Foo Fighters album, and when it came out, I went on the road to support it. I was playing the song 'Learn To Fly' all over the place. It was the most fuckiní middle-of-the-road pop song I had ever written. After a while I started to go nuts. Iím thinking, "What am I doing, man? Some of my favorite bands in the world are completely into Satan and fucking play a thousand miles an hour. This is ridiculous." So I came home and started recording this heavy stuff for fun. Then we had this idea that we should send it to different singers. Iíd sit there writing riffs looking at Jimmy - in front of the TV at night, the amp between the couch and the chair. Iím sitting there playing, and when I had a riff I thought was pretty good Iíd peek over at Jimmy. If he was just watching TV, then it sucked, but if he was looking over, then I knew it was a keeper.
Jimmy: Judgement night.
Dave: Thatís right - judge and jury. Then weíd finish a track, and Jimmy would come down and say, "Thatís all right." Or "Fuck yeah, thatís great!"
Jimmy: I was the meter.
Dave: Then we sent tapes out to all these singers, and I didnít think any of them were gonna do it. I thought most of them were gonna say no because a lot of them havenít done anything in a while. Everyone was really psyched. King Diamond and Eric from Trouble were really excited about it. Mike Dean from C.O.C., he was stoked. I talked to Matt from Sepultura while we were mixing it. He was doing his vocals in Arizona and was like, "I like it. Itís really heavy, it reminds me of early Sepultura, like Chaos A.D. Sepultura, so Iím going to have it be more political, like about war and chaos."
I was like, "Perfect." I didnít have to give any of these people direction at all. I just said do what you fucking do, and they did and it turned out great.

You have to be pretty psyched for this thing to come together, huh?
Dave: I canít wait, I really canít wait.

You did this all on your own?
Dave: Yeah, itís pretty easy when you have a studio in your basement. You record it for free then you call up a bunch of people and say, "Hey, if I give you money to go into a studio will you sing on this?" "Sure." You send it to them, and they send it back. We donít even have a label for it yet. Basically itís just an excuse to have the most fucking kick-ass record-release party youíve ever been to in your life. Just have everyone there completely trashed, and each person performing their song onstage.

Thatís gonna be amazing.
Dave: Yeah, itís gonna be fun.

Who are you going to put together as a band?
Dave: Iím hoping Pantera will back us up. I asked them about it last time I saw them, and they said, "Yeah, fuck yeah!"

Are there any people you wanted to get on the Probot album that didnít work out?
Dave: We never worked it out with Lemmy (from Motorhead). We talked about it, and he said he was into it, but.... thereís no rush. I think we could still get it together before too long. There were a lot of my favorite singers who were Scandinavian/Norwegian.

Those guys are hard to find these days?
Dave: Well, no. We found out that a lot of them were.... Nazis.

Ooh!
Dave:
Yeah the whole Norwegian thing is, you know, pretty hardcore. So we decided to leave them off.

What do you think about the current state of metal?
Dave:
Well, thereíre still a lot of bands that are making good old-school death metal, but I think most people are focused on the nu-metal, which is mostly tuned-down rap music. Some of it I can appreciate, but the rest Iím just not into. One of the good things about all the old metal bands like Trouble or Mercyful Fate or Metallica or Voivod... those singers, even though they were really dark and heavy, they had a really good sense of melody. Especially Trouble, these guys wrote great songs.
Jimmy: 'Into The Pandemonium' by Celtic Frost.
Dave: Yeah, those songs all had a great creepy melody.

It seems like weíre back to where we were about ten years ago - the boy bands and girl bands need to go.
Dave:
Yeah.

Do you think metal could have a big comeback?
Dave:
Well it sounds like it is, with Ozzfest being so huge and people being so into the nu-metal bands and Sabbath. Itís still there, but I donít think the Britney Spears fans are gonna be converted. I think now thereís space for all kinds of music to be equally infused. As time goes on things get more and more extreme, but I donít know, we went down to Long Beach (California) recently for the Pantera and Slayer show and there we eight - to ten - thousand screaming Long Beach metalheads. Slayer is still killing it, and bands like Pantera, even though theyíve been around for ten years, theyíre kind of like the new school. Then you have the new Sepultura record that just came out, and itís fucking killer. Bands like Soulfly - even Cradle Of Filth, they made a great record and insane songs - itís like a satanic opus. Theyíre great. Itís probably bigger now than it was when we were fifteen or sixteen years old. Bands like Slipknot can go out and sell a million records - that wouldíve never happened in 1985 when Ride The Lightning was almost gold.

If you could be in any metal band throughout time what would it be?
Dave:
If I could have played drums in any band it would have been Metallica. Theyíre the granddaddies of it all. They made some amazing records.

Even in Jamesí mullet years?
Dave:
After the black album? I have a lot of respect for Hetfield. More than anybody, heís my idol. If he asked me to play in the band Iíd probably get a mullet, too.

Words:Ted Newsome & Michael Ballard

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