'Foo Fighters' politics should be no surprise by now'

Daily Telegraph, February 1st 2021

Foo Fighters had to scrap their 25th-anniversary tour, but their 10th album is ready and they're preparing to deafen America again

Last month, Dave Grohl's band Foo Fighters performed at President Biden's inauguration. "It was an incredibly emotional day. It still hasn't sunk in yet," says the 52-year-old American rock star. Grohl has supported Democrat campaigns since going on the road with Senator John Kerry, who ran for the US presidency in 2004.

Nevertheless, he insists Trump supporters are welcome at his gigs. "It should be no surprise where the band lands, as far as our politics goes," he says. "But I'm an eternal optimist, I try to inject a little bit of hope into everything I do. Music is something that can bring opposite sides of the spectrum into the same arena for a few hours of relief. That's where I'd rather be."

The band had to pre-record their inauguration appearance because of Covid restrictions. "Washington DC is my hometown," says Grohl. "So seeing all these ceremonies and fireworks on streets I used to walk to find the local punk rock club was weirdly nostalgic.

"A part of me still considers our band to be a garage band, so to see us included in something so historic is strange. Especially if I'm watching it on TV, sat on a couch with a beer and a tie-dye T-shirt."

You can feel the energy coming off Grohl, even on a computer screen via a Zoom call from Hawaii. He bounces up and down, shoves his face into the camera lens, wags a finger, sometimes bellows at the top of his voice as if addressing a crowd.

"It's been a bit of a shock to the system," he admits of a year in which he has been unable to ply his trade as an all-action, guitar-toting, drum-thumping stadium-rock frontman. "I miss the adventure, I miss people. But I try to keep the big picture, and not get lost in the weeds."

The Foo Fighters completed recording a new album, Medicine at Midnight, last February, and should have spent 2020 on a worldwide 25th-anniversary tour. Instead, like so many others during this past year, Grohl has spent much of his time home-schooling his children. "I sit with them and encourage them and try to keep their attention to the screen, while they know full well I'm a high-school dropout and the worst student that anybody ever knew."

Grohl and his wife Jordyn Blume, a TV producer, have daughters aged 14, 11 and 6, and it's the latter who occupies most of his time. "She's like a Tasmanian devil, so I do my best to wrangle and entertain her." The family were on vacation in Hawaii in March when the pandemic lockdown struck, and there they have remained. There are, clearly, worse places to be marooned.

"It's kind of paradise," he admits. But with the Foo Fighters' 10th album at last due for release this week, he has been flying regularly to Los Angeles to rehearse and film videos and promos with his bandmates. "We show up in the parking lot of our studio, we take a rapid test, no one even enters the front door till they get the all-clear. We also do a PCR test, the real brain scrub, every day. It's just testing, testing and testing, then basic hygiene, which is not something we're famous for, but we're learning."

This is the longest Grohl has gone without performing since he dropped out of school in 1986, aged 17, to play with punk band Scream. He achieved global fame as the powerhouse drummer of grunge superstars Nirvana in the early Nineties. Then, following the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994, Grohl managed an extraordinary second coming as a guitar-playing singer and songwriter. Over the course of 25 years, the Foo Fighters have become one of the most popular live rock bands in the world.

The band headlined Glastonbury in 2017. Recently it was announced that Covid had forced the festival to be cancelled for the second year in a row. "I know what Foo Fighters' plans are for the rest of the year, and some of those plans include live shows," says Grohl. "And I'll be there, if it's safe for everyone to attend.

"Unfortunately, you have to take that into consideration, no matter how much everyone wants to kick down the front door and run to the nearest rock concert, there are some things that are beyond our control. It's heartbreaking. But of course it's not the last Glastonbury! I don't think a pandemic can stop Glastonbury! It might hold it back a little while, but sh--!… I want my kids to see bands at Glastonbury, whenever that show happens again, and it will."

Grohl radiates positivity, but he admits it's not the whole picture. "Am I like a f---ing sitcom all day long? No, of course not. I wake up at five in the morning, and I list the crises, and think: how do I wipe away the black cloud today? I try to approach problems one at a time, rather than be overwhelmed by all of them and have a total nervous breakdown."

Grohl's lyrics often hint at a darkness one might not associate with his persona. The Foo Fighters' anthemic new single, Waiting on a War, draws on anxieties about escalating political conflict. Another album highlight, Shame, Shame, is a fierce groove exploring the insidiousness of negative emotions.

"I think one of the reasons why I'm so optimistic and hopeful and have the energy that I do is because I have somewhere to put vulnerability, insecurity, the darkest corners, rather than just bottle them up," he says. " I reserve a lot of my innermost feelings... for everyone to hear!"

He laughs with infectious gusto. But I got a rare glimpse of his other side the last time I interviewed him, in 2015, when my suggestion that we were witnessing the last days of the rock era seemed to drain all the energy from the room.

"That was YOU!" bellows Grohl, when I remind him. "The thing that I was most offended by was when you said the instrumentation we use could be considered obsolete. I took it personally, because I would hate to walk on stage and feel like I was doing something useless. And that's the way you made me feel."

Words: Neil McCormick    

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