Dave Grohl Interview


So, here I am, walking up the stairs of Dave Grohl’s house. As you do. My internal monologue is vaguely attempting at keeping my shit together by humming the theme tune to Dad’s Army. It’s not at all awkward because I totally did not wake up to the ginormous Nirvana poster that was pasted on the ceiling above my bed throughout the nineties, and also I have not watched the Fresh Pots video 999 times online.
  He gives me a tour of his mansion. It’s how I’d imagine a standard LA rock star pad to be, there’s a light Spanish theme running throughout; in the garage there’s his studio – complete with natty Persian rug functioning as a drum matt and a fridge full of beers. Upstairs is a mixing suite – he’s been recording the Foo Fighters seventh album, Wasting Light up here with Butch Vig, the force behind Nevermind. He concludes his tour with ‘and that’s Brian May’s underwear, we hang it above the door like mistletoe.’ Right. He’s super funny and charming and inclusive and cool. His long hair flops over his shoulders like Jesus or Lemmy – maybe he’s like a combination of the two. He’s like the best boy in any band ever, the epitome of the fun guy drummer in constant motion at the back of the stage, but of course, he’s also the guy at the front with the guitar. I perch on the black leather sofa underneath some guitars. I immediately have to stop myself from touching them.

Which do you prefer, being at the front or playing the drums?
I prefer both. When I'm tired of being the front man of the band and playing in front of thousands of people I go back to being the drummer and the guy that isn't at the front of the band. They are both the biggest responsibilities in the band. Without a great drummer you don’t have a great band, without a great front person you don’t have a great band. Imagine Queen with a different lead singer. Would I have their guitarist’s underwear hanging on my wall? Probably not. What if Led Zeppelin had a shitty drummer? It’s unimaginable.

The definition of rock and roll has changed a bit since then though.
There aren't so many rock bands now, I don't think. For a long time we just considered ourselves a band. We played our instruments, it was loud and I would scream sometimes. But then over the years we became a rock band because I don't know what else to call us. I don't think that what we are doing now is much different from what we were doing fifteen years ago but they didn't call us a rock band then. I remember we wanted Elastica to come out on tour with us and they said, "sorry we don't tour with grunge bands". And I was like, 'oh maybe we're a grunge band'. It's weird, about ten years ago whenever there was an award show and they didn't have a rock band they'd call us. We'd wind up at the MTV awards and there would be us, Puff Daddy and Christina Aguilera and we just felt a bit like the redheaded stepchild. I think people wanted something to believe in but after a while there was this overdose of cynicism and irony and it made it hard to know what you were supposed to believe in.

Dave Grohl Well the 90's were full of optimism and the future but then you know there was the millennium bug and then in the last decade it was the realisation that actually everything might be a bit shit.
For a rock band, the 80's were pretty silly. So then the nineties we took things a little more seriously but at the same time, we were still hungover and afraid of the 80's creeping back in. Now it seems like it's hard again to believe a lot of what's going on in music. I kind of feel it's gone full circle and we are right back where we started in music - where reality set in and people started appreciating things for what they really are.

For the past couple of years rock seems to have slipped down in people’s esteem…
Yeah. When you listen to music, I don't feel like it's people making music anymore, it's hard for me to listen to a vocal that's been slammed through an auto tune processor and it's hard for me to believe that there's a person behind that. And it's hard for me to believe that a band that jumps up on stage with a bunch of instruments and that has Bill Gates behind the curtains playing three fourths of it. It's that kind of shit that I think makes it hard for people to appreciate a proper rock band.

I mean, anyone can make them-selves a famous musician, all you need is a kazoo and youtube…
Right. If anything, technology, that is a big part of why we are recording this record in my garage, onto tape. When we were kids and we wanted to make a record, we would go to our friends studio down the street and then we'd record something and we'd get a test pressing back and it would be cool and then we'd get them all back and stuff them into the sleeves and then we'd take them to the record store. The challenge was distribution; we could only drive it to DC and Baltimore. The other challenge being recording, we had to go to a studio. So now it seems like such a great time for musicians to celebrate that independence - you don't need a studio to make a record, you need a laptop. You don't need to hire a distributor to ship singles everywhere - you can do it on youtube. I don't have a problem with downloading our music; I've always been really vocal about that. The human experience is much more important, if you're really into it, you'll go and see a band. Because it's different every time. And that's the best part I think.

What does it feel like to stand in front of 85,000 people?
It's pretty great. Yeah. It's a very powerful feeling. I don't feel uncomfortable in front of 85,000 people who are there to see our band. I was born in front of an audience. It's true actually. When my mother was giving birth there was a class of doctors there watching the birth. So when I came out they all applauded! Ahahahahaha that's true too. And then I became a drummer. When I was the drummer of Nirvana I could walk in the front door of a Nirvana concert and no one would know who I was. It was fucking great. I never got recognized.

What were you like when you were a kid?
I was a little punker. A little punk. I was a happy kid, I lived in this small suburb outside Washington DC, and it was great. Having had such a good relationship with my family, I just always imagined I'd have a family myself one day, I just couldn't see it happening while I was playing in a band and going on tour and being a working traveling musician and then it dawned on me that you can do both. But I really struggle with the fact that I am raising two beautiful girls in Los Angeles who's father is a fucking well known rock musician and they are growing up in the San Fernando Valley. It's terrifying. To me that's a recipe for disaster. The relationship I had with my parents was ideal - we all had a lot of appreciation for each other - both my parents were musicians so they understood my passion for it, although not so much my taste. I left school when I was 17 years old to start touring and that was without any sort of career opportunity, it was basically just escape. I wasn't going on the road to become a famous musician. Hardcore punk rock in the 80's wasn't going to pay the rent, but you could survive in a band with 4 other people on $7 a day. Also, when you're 17 you don't need much.

This is true. Do you think you’ve changed a lot?
It's a different life that I'm living now. The world might change and you might become more of a person, but the parts are still the same, then it doesn't really feel that much has changed. That was one of the funny things when Nirvana became popular. It was hard to imagine that we were selling millions of records or topping charts or what ever because we weren't doing anything any differently, we were doing the same thing that we were doing before anybody gave a shit. So it always sort of felt that everyone else changed and we were exactly the same. The musical climate wasn't necessarily ready to host a band like ours; we didn't fit into the equation. We just wanted to pay our rent by playing music - in that sense we were the perfect model of a band that didn't compromise but survived. Well, we didn't survive but…

What about musically?
Well, the songs are about one girl instead of five! A lot of these songs are about time. We're making this record with Butch Vig. I haven't made a record with Butch Vig for like, twenty years, it's been a long time. I feel like we're the same people that we were in 1991. When you look at everything that's happened in the last 20 years, it's a lot. So a lot of the songs are written from that perspective - who am I now, and who was I then?

Did you have to do a lot of soul searching?
Not really. I don't feel like I needed to get into a particular headspace or anything when I'm doing vocals, I guess. It's just a part of what I do. When we started writing all of this stuff, our bass player Nate sent me this email that said 'I really love this music that we're writing but I want you to know that it's ok to not take everything so seriously all the time’. I don't think that most people consider the Foo Fighters to take ourselves too seriously but sometimes when you're making an album, it's hard to feel light hearted about anything because it's the most important thing in your life at the moment. So, he said ‘you know there are songs that you've written that I really love that are kind of funny. You don't have to sit down and try to write Blood On The Tracks or Imagine every time, and it was nice, it really lifted the weight off of my shoulders. There’s this song called White Limo. White Limo used to be sort of text code for getting really fucked up - that song's about nothing at all. I love it. There's a line in it that says 'what ever happened to dayglo thongs' and that's why it's easy to scream because I don't feel like I have to write a love letter to myself. Actually there was a song that was gonna be on this album that we've been trying to record for thirteen years.

Do you think it's time to put it down?
Well we kind of thought that if we didn't put it on the record this time then it wouldn't come out.

Do you want it to come out?
No. That's why we haven't put it on the record. Do you like how we’ve hung Brian May's underwear over the door like mistletoe?

Brian May's Underwear I've been star struck twice in my life, once was when I saw Brian May and his wife Anita Dobson in the lingerie department in Selfridges and the other time was when I walked into Robert Plant after I'd interviewed Die Antwoord.
I love Die Antwoord! I can't believe that Robert Plant star striked you! He's got amazing hair. It's incredible. It's like a plant. I was sort of star struck when I went to see Die Antwoord about a month ago, we've been obsessed with them for months I guess, the week that their record came out we were so fucking excited. We went to their show and you know every guy has this weird pixie/fairy crush on Yolandi? So afterwards I asked her for a picture and she was like 'ooh ok' and I was like ‘YES!’ So I did it on my iPhone like, you know, that guy, and I walk away all excited. When I looked at it and it was just of my finger. So I go and ask her again and she was all like 'ugh didn't you already get one?' She's hardcore man. I didn't get a chance to talk to either of them; I was fucking wasted. I really wanted to. I mean I've been youtube-ing all of their interviews for a while too. We were mildly stalkershly obsessed with them for a while. And it's too bad because that night I got so fucked up that I couldn’t listen to their music anymore without feeling like I wanted to throw up. You know like, if you have a bad night with tequila? Well, I had a bad night with Die Antwoord. When I listen to In Your Face I'm like beeeugh. I mean. I think they're great. What else is like them?

I like that they think that they are pop music and they aren’t really…
Not so much.

And visually they're so insulting.
Ahahahahahah! They are! Oh yeah, so Brian May, he came to play guitar on our fourth record, Taylor, our drummer - is a Queen fanatic. Like, a walking Queen encyclopedia. It's fucking annoying. He knows more about that band than this one.

And there's nothing wrong with that - they were a great band!
They ARE a great band!!!! I actually have two Queen fanatics in the band, Taylor and Pat Smear. Pat was like, stalking Freddie at the Sunset Marquee in like, 1975. So Brian came down to play on the record, he shows up at the studio, he's wearing these running shorts and black socks and sneakers and he has two huge bags, from Amoeba records. So. He puts the bags down and says, I'm going to change my clothes, and he comes back in, in these like MC Hammer pants. And he plays the lead, and he hangs out and then he had to split. He called like, an hour later and said 'you guys, I left one of my bags in the room, just leave it in there, I'll come back and get it.' So I was like ‘OK’ and hung up the phone and looked in there.

They're clean right?
They are now! He never came and got his bag… I might have to frame them and give them to Taylor.

I mean that would be the best gift a man could give another man.
His underpants back? Or I could hold onto that shit for another twenty years and give it the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. You know?