Grohl Speaks

Visions 2000
Translated from German by Stef

What are your memories of school? Were you any good?
"As far as I can remember, I was quite okay. It was always enough to progress to the next year anyway. I didn't really want much more than that, I didn't have any ambitions to be the best, I just didn't want to be the worst. Once I took up playing the guitar, my interest in school obviously deteriorated even more."

How old were you then?
"Ten. I've been obsessed with music ever since, nothing else came close. School was something I wanted to get over and done with as quickly as possible. "

And what was your very first encounter with music?
"I think it was in 1971, at the Ohio State Fair. Every US state has got something like that, it's a mix between a fun fair and a festival. The Jackson Five played in 1971, although I don't really remember them, because I was only two, but they were my first musical encounter. So maybe subconsciously, I want to be Michael Jackson" (laughs)

When was the first time you experienced music consciously?
"The most important experience as far as music is concerned, was the first time I saw a band play live, because for the first time, I became aware of the energy music had and I realized that music would play an important role in my life. It was more than just listening to music on the radio."

What was the band called?
"It was 'Naked Raygun' and 'Rights Of The Accused' in Chicago, and apart from a few high school bands, I had never been to a live gig. I was 12 or 13, and I went to see some relatives in Chicago with my parents. My cousin Tracey had just become a punk rocker, she was wearing bondage trousers and had her hair shaved off. I was very impressed, because I only knew punk from watching TV. The show was great, and since then I knew that a live gig should always be in a small club. The band and the audience should be so close together that you don't need a mic to communicate. My first real rock concert came a lot later, when I was 18 or 19. I was at 'Monsters Of Rock' featuring the Scorpions, Van Halen, Dokken and Metallica. Metallica were fucking great, it was just before they released '...And Justice For All'. Well, it was impressive to be standing amongst 50,000 people, but apart from that I didn't really like it: The bands were unbelievably far away and it took 3 seconds for the sound to reach the audience from the stage."

Your musical taste is very varied. When you look at the strange assortment of cover versions, that the Foo Fighters play live, you sometimes have to wonder. Do you seriously like stuff like Third Eye Blind, Shania Twain, Backstreet Boys and Journey?
"Oh, many songs we play live are meant as a joke. If there are any technical problems, we'll just noodle something we've heard on the radio that day to fill the gap. That also goes for 'Nookie' by Limp Bizkit and it was great fun. The audience went bananas, obviously they must have liked it more than any of our own stuff. Covering songs from the charts is simply a fun way to pass the time."

Supergrass can feel honoured that you played 'Richard III', because the Foo Fighters are one of the very few US bands that Supergrass think are great.
"That's really flattering. They make great records and are really nice guys. We took them with us on a US tour, but unfortunately, they didn't really become famous. That's because they're all about the music and don't have a ready-made image, are not glamorous or big mouths. Simply making great music isn't enough in America, only very few people are interested in that."

Still, the Foo Fighters are an example that it can also work without any sort of false image. But when you started learning the first chords on your guitar, success was still a long way off. Were your parents supportive of your passion, although your school marks were suffering?
"My mum was a teacher, so she couldn't be all that happy about my attitude. My dad is a journalist, and back then, he would have certainly wished for me to do something else, too. All parents want their kids to do brilliantly at school. Still, I dropped out of high school pretty early, because I'd just joined Scream and they were just about to go on tour. Why should I have stayed at school and learn things I wouldn't really need later, when I could do something I really loved and wanted to pursue with all my energy: Music. I've educated myself, and I think that the experiences I've had travelling around the world are worth more than what I could have learned in a stupid classroom. But of course I've been very lucky. I know many people, who just stagnated after leaving school, and who are now stuck in a very narrow mindset."

If success hadn't come to you, would you have given up your musical dream in the end?
"I think that I would still be making music, but I would probably have a 'normal' job too. Incidentally, even today I go through phases, when I wish I had a completely normal job. I was 18 when I started touring with bands, and I'll soon be 32. When I've been on tour for a whole year, I sometimes long for the world outside, outside of the routine of a hard-working band. Just as many people envy me for being able to travel to Germany with my band, I envy those people for sleeping in the same bed each night. That's a luxury to me."

What else do you miss in your rock 'n' roll life?
"Many people don't like their homes and feel trapped. Unfortunately, these people forget that a home also represents some sort of security, a foundation in your life. We've become used to not having this, I don't feel homesick all the time, but home, to me, symbolizes normality I often long for. I don't necessarily mean a certain place or building. I miss my family more than my house. Sometimes, I have my family flown in, when I'm on tour. As soon as they're with me I feel at home."

In an interview three years ago, you told me that you're someone who always has to be in a relationship. As soon as one has finished, you're rushing into the next one.
"That's true. You're always searching for the right person, with whom you'll have reached your aim, at last."

And you haven't found this person yet?
"Mmm, could be, but I'm not completely sure. This person should make you feel good, make life seem beautiful to you."

Being on the road so much, do you even get the time to find out whether the current relationship is the perfect one?
"Frequent Flyer Miles help a little. The most important thing in a relationship, for me, is understanding. Everyone is looking for the perfect partner, but you often forget that you do need other people in your life, too. That often causes difficulties. Searching for the perfect partner, a lot of the time, you want to see things in a person, that aren't really there. Then you need a lot of understanding, and the realization, that perfection is a lot to demand. And the ability to communicate and be honest to each other. You can only be honest to yourself, if you can be honest to others. It's a permanent learning process, as far as this is concerned, I'm still a student. In the school of life."

If your family is that important to you, you'll surely want some kids of your own one day, is that right?
"Definitely! I've not got any definite plans, but I do hope it will happen before I'm 49. Having kids is something I'm already looking forward to. When you're in a band and you're constantly on the go in your limited kind of cosmos, there's a time when you lose sight of the big picture. Every day is the most important one ever, every show the most important show of all, all this overinflated stuff. But then , I open my eyes and see the world as a whole and I think: Fuck that! The most important thing in life is happiness, contentment, family, and to have as many experiences as possible. When I was very young, I just couldn't imagine to be old one day. Now, I can a bit better, sometimes I already feel quite old."

But that's normal, nearly everyone goes through that.
"That's right. You only start thinking about getting old when you've discovered your first grey hairs, which happened to me recently. When I was 15, I thought I wouldn't ever be 18, at 18 I never believed to be 21 some day, then 25. I just couldn't imagine myself being 5 years older than what I was at the time."

But your character is so completely different from your former band mate Kurt Cobain. You always seem to be a funny, life-affirming person, not a depressive nihilist, who longs for death or, at least, thinks about it all the time.
"It's not death. I just have a problem imagining the future. I think many people of my generation feel like this in America. Ten years before me, people automatically took the normal career path, whereas my generation didn't aim for proper jobs, but took on some job or another. Nobody I know has gone through heaps of training. You leave school and look for some opportunity to earn some money to buy all the essentials. I didn't have a concrete idea of what I would become one day. Even music I only did for fun, I never knew what would come out of it."

Do you have an explanation for the fact that you regard this as a specific problem of your generation?
"I recently talked to my dad about this. When I reached the teenage years, Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. The relationship with Russia was very strained at that time, and we grew up with the awareness that a nuclear war could break out at any moment, after which nothing would remain. Reagan fuelled this paranoia and used it for his own propaganda. To us kids, this propaganda of paranoia conveyed the certainty, that some day the world would just cease to exist. I often dreamed of the apocalypse, especially after watching this film about WWIII."

You mean 'The Day After'?
"Yes, that's what it was called. I was so frightened watching this film I nearly shit my pants. I can't believe you remember the film."

Well, I'm part of your generation, too, and the Cold War was very noticeable in divided Germany as well. Luckily, this threat doesn't exist anymore. What are you frightened of today?
"My biggest fear is that I'll be on the road for the rest of my life"(laughs). "Every year, I tell myself I'm gonna stop or at least limit the amount of touring we do. I want out - but they won't let me!"

Words:Dirk Siepe

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