An Audience With: Dave Grohl


The most celebrated drummer in rock discusses tattoos, beards UFOs - and why Nirvana "wasn't a nickname kinda band"

Dave "I'd like to grow old gracefully like Paul Weller," says Dave Grohl, as he thumbs through Uncut's recent Weller special issue. "That guy seems to have his shit together." But there doesn't seem to any danger of the grand master of us alt.rock growing old anytime soon. At 38, he's played a pivotal role in two of the biggest rock bands of the past 20 years, and he shows no sign of running out of steam. In fact, with the sixth Foo Fighters album, Echoes, Silence, Patience And Grace being hailed as the band's best ever, Grohl seems to be coming of age only now. What better time to subject him to an Uncut-style grilling? You wanted to know about movie roles, carbon footprints and drumming on pillows. In return, Dave asked the Live Earth cynics outside, found the hidden link between Kaiser Chiefs and Pantera, and revealed the musical love of his life. Clue: it isn't Kurt Cobain.

Did any other bands approach you to play drums after Nirvana ended? - Andrew Burns Williamson, via email
Danzig wanted me to be his drummer at one point. But I think I was too tanned and I didn't have enough muscles! Soul Asylum wanted me to play drums for them ... Tom petty wanted me to come play drums for him. But I didn't want to jump back into being the drummer in a band again. After Nirvana was finished, I wanted to do something different. And I'd never been the singer in a band.

Have you ever Googled yourself? - Mary White, Cardiff
There have been some fan sites that were pretty hilarious, of people that have made websites professing their love for me. Or even their hate for me. Its funny, I look at the internet like it's this massive bathroom wall where anyone can go graffiti. I don't spend too much time in the internet. There's a much bigger world out there. Am I on Facebook? Nah, I don't know how to do most of that stuff!

Will you be wearing an orange jumpsuit in solidarity with the Impeach Bush campaign? - Wayne Kramer, The MC5
Absolutely. That's the least anyone can do, wear an orange jumpsuit! I hope that our president is relieved of his duties as soon as possible. There's an old Russian saying that a fish always starts stinking from the head, and I think that can be said of our government for sure.

I loved your performance as Satan with Jack Black in Tenacious D In The pick Of Destiny. Can we expect to see a bigger Dave Grohl film role? - James, London
No. I always swore that I wouldn't be in a movie because I didn't like it when rock musicians wandered on the screen in the middle of a film. It completely distracted me, and burst the fantasy bubble. But Tenacious D I had to make an exception for, a) because they're Tenacious D, and b) because I got to play Satan! It's kind of a dream role for any rock musician to play the devil in a Tenacious D movie. Plus you couldn't really tell it was me. How did I research the part? I listened to a lot of death metal. And it took seven hours to put the make-up on, it was a long time. So I would sit in the chair, drinking Jagermeister and listening to old school metal! So by the time I got the whole outfit on I felt totally evil.

Are you still a UFO nut? - Daniel Woodruff, via email
I'm interested in them -I always have been, ever since I was a kid. When I was 10 or 11 and a science fiction freak - I had this romantic idea that there was something outside of the world we know that might be more interesting. I've always done my own little investigations here and there. I've never been visited by aliens or had any sort of close encounter, but I've had a couple of dreams that are really vivid, dreams where the sky implodes and it's the dawn of this new era where we learn to live in the same world as things from other planets. I remember having this dream, sitting in the front yard looking up at the night sky and realising that I was staring at this massive mirror that was the underside of this UFO and I could see my reflection in it...

When we toured America together, you gave us a great tip about our intro tape. But did you learn anything from us? - Nick Hodgson, Kaiser Chiefs
They had a horrible fucking intro tape ... well, they had a great intro tape, they just walked on at the wrong time! I love those guys, they were so much fun to tour with. They party like they're in fucking Van Halen - they're like Pantera backstage. All they wanna do is drink and go nuts. I couldn't wait. Every day when I walked into a venue to find Ricky and start drinking. or start playing the show and then drink afterwards. They have a sense of cool about them... there's something very Monty Python about that group. They had a swagger, like they couldn't give a fuck about anything. And that to me is what a rock'n'roll band should be about.

If you were locked in a room with only your daughter's toys to entertain you, which would you play with first and which would you destroy? - Jane D, via email
I'd probably spend most of my time with her toy piano, because that thing sounds amazing. It's this tiny baby grand, pink toy piano that has metallic keys and makes this really eerie sound. It's kind of creepy. But if I could destroy anyone of them, it would have to be the Elmo doll that sings the same song over and over and over again. It's touch sensitive, but it's so sensitive that if you walk past it, it will sing this song about how Elmo loves you so so much, yes he does, please give Elmo a hug. It makes me wanna fucking throw it out the window!

There was a lot of controversy over bands using private jets in order to play Live Earth. What's your take on that? - Gary Lightbody, Snow Patrol
The idea is to try and balance your emissions, and to do everything you can to reconcile the energy that you use, whether it's with Future Forests - the organisation we work with when we release albums - to try and balance the amount of energy spent in manufacturing, or alternative methods of transportation on tour, or just doing things at home. I think Live Earth was a great event because it attracted a lot of interest to the cause. But there was a lot of cynicism - there were some people who almost wished it would fail, which to me is insane. I'm a father now, I have a daughter who's 16 months old. She's going to live a lot longer than I will. And I pray that she'll get to experience a world like I did when I grew up. So anybody that has a problem with me playing an event like Live Earth has a problem with me doing something for my daughter. And that really pisses me off. It makes me wanna smack them. My greatest concern is what happens in the future for my family, and anybody who has a problem with that can fucking say it to my face.

Is it true you learnt to play the drums on a pillow? Was it difficult? - Nicole, via email
The house that I grew up in was pretty small, so we didn't have room to put a drum set anywhere, and I didn't have enough money to get a drum set for myself. But I knew the configuration of a drum set, so I'd set up a pillow between my leg as a snare drum and I'd use my bed as a tom and a chair as a high hat, and I'd just play along with the records all day long, 'til there was sweat dripping from my windows. I was so into it. And I wasn't playing along with Beatles albums or AC/DC records, I'd play along with these really fast hardcore punk rock albums like Bad Brains and Minor Threat. It was great. And it was cheap. But I never learned how to do press rolls - because you don't have the response from a pillow.

Did you and Kurt Cobain have nicknames for each other? - Matt Jenky, via email
No, Nirvana weren't a nickname kinda band. There wasn't a whole lot of cutesy chatter going on. There wasn't a whole lot of chatter going on! And what chatter there was wasn't very cute. ln Foo Fighters? Nate we call Ned. Taylor is called T. They call me Disco. And Shiflett we either call Shifty or Shitty. Usually Shifty, because he doesn't like Shitty so much.

I think your tattoos are great. But whats your personal favourite? - Bob DeVos, by email
My self-made Black Flag tattoo that I never finished when I was a kid. I saw that David Bowie movie Labyrinth, and there's a scene where the girl takes a sewing needle and wraps thread around the end and dips it in the ink and gives herself a tattoo. I decided I was going to give myself a tattoo, so I started on this Black Flag thing. I've considered covering, it up, but I don't want to. It's so horrendous, like a prison tattoo. I love it, but I wouldn't advise anyone to give themselves a tattoo.

How did you react to n online reports of your death last year? - Luke Pritchard, The Kooks
Oh, I got a message from someone on my cell phone who was leaving a message for my wife, offering her condolences. Which I thought was kind of strange. So I called my friend who thought I was dead and I was like "What the fuck are you talking about?!" She's like, "Oh my God you're alive!" I guess you haven't really made it until there's rumours of your death on the internet. So I was really flattered.

Do you think you'll work with [Queens Of The stone Age's] Josh Homme again? - Brett Telford, California
Josh and I have known each other for 15 years now. And to me, Josh and I playing together, that's the musical love of my life. Foo Fighters are like a family - we do what we do and we do it well but musically, when Josh and I get together to do something, it's always really special. We run in the same circles, but we're at different cycles, and we talk about all these projects that we wanna do... I can't go into too much detail, but most of them involve me playing the drums and him playing guitar! He's the only guy that I wanna play drums with. I'll make records with other people, but if I step onstage playing the drums, it would only be with Josh.

Ever had sex to your own music? - Damon Smith, via email
Yes, when I was a teenager, to something I recorded in my friend's basement studio. And I didn't request it, the girl did! It was a little uncomfortable, but it was pretty hot.

Steve Albini said in Uncut recently that every single person around Nirvana towards the end was evil. Was he right? Name witheld, via email
That's Steve for you! There were some people around the Nirvana camp that maybe didn't have the best intentions, but one of the great things about Steve is his loyalty to the artist. When you record with Steve he doesn't play the standard industry bullshit games. He does it like a plumber: "Here's how much money it's going to cost to record with me." You record with him, you mix and then you leave. And he helped us make an incredible record.

Your beard is amazing. But who has the greatest beard in all of rock? - Beardy Dave, Leominster
Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. That's the beard. He's been growing that thing for fucking 25 years, so just imagine what's in there. Of any band, ZZ Top are most famous for their beards. Apart from the drummer, who has no beard.