Dave Grohl

Under One Sky

Conde Nast Traveller, July/August 2020


Where are you at the moment?
'In my house in Hawaii. When I heard Neil Young had a house here, I had to have one, too. My entire family is with me - my mother and sister, my wife and kids - so we're able to make the best of this time in isolation. To be honest, I had been working so hard all the way up until the world hitting pause, I hadn't had a day off in months. I have a restless side that always needs to be doing something. This may be the first time that I've taken a deep breath and appreciated what I have, quietly.'

One thing you've never told anyone about your travels?
'OK, I'll give you the scoop, something that I've never told anyone. I've been using the hotel name Mr Peanut since about 1990. Creative and funny names are almost a sport in rock 'n' roll. Once Nirvana became popular and fans started calling our rooms from the lobby, we decided it was time to go under different titles. I had a Mr Peanut watch at the time, with that little peanut with the top hat and the monocle, and so it's been a great pleasure of mine for three decades to receive a call from the front desk saying, "Mr Peanut, good morning, it's your wake-up call." I'll have to change that now, but I've been ready for a change for 30 fucking years. What a relief.'

Your favourite small and secret hotel?
'The Detroit Foundation Hotel, which used to be a fire station - I love that place. It has a wonderful bar. There was also a little B&B in Shepherd's Bush that Nirvana would always stay at in London, The Dalmacia, which was run by a Croatian family. I have memories of the three of us, all in single beds, giggling as we tried to get to sleep. It was the first time I had fried toast - I thought it was the most incredible food known to man. When I started touring, we slept in the van or on the stage of the dub we'd just played, or M squats. The idea of staying somewhere that had running water was luxury. The Dalmacia was the Ritz-Carlton for me - I thought it would never get better than this'

The book that inspired you?
'There are so many amazing rock 'n' roll memoirs. I kept a journal for years. When you're plopped down in a place you've never been before and you feel like an alien, there's no better inspiration. I used to sit in coffee shops in Amsterdam when I was a teenager and smoke so much hash - I'd draw these detailed sketches of the coffee shop or street. It was this romantic renaissance period of my life when I was high all the time and soaking everything in, this tidal wave - food, language, culture. I was supposed to be in high school and I was in Amsterdam smoking hash!'

A memorable family trip?
'In 1992, my sister, my mother and I went to Ireland and spent a week driving around Kerry, the week before Nirvana played the Reading Festival. My mother is of Irish descent but she'd never been, and I finally had the opportunity to bring her over. We stayed in B&Bs all over the country, but after five or six days my mother read about a place called Adare Manor, somewhere between Dingle and Dublin. We thought: "Hey, let's go spend the night in a castle!" There was falconry and horseback riding; I went shooting clay pigeons all day. I brought her to Ireland a few times after that too, and we'd always try to find a castle'

A great little find away from the crowds?
'The Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Texas. Oh my god, it's fucking paradise, honestly - the best place to stay in one of the best cities in the world. It's a joy to visit and you'll walk away with a bigger, fuller heart. You can sit at the tiny bar and have drinks with the people who work there - Liz, the owner, is so Texas hippie rock 'n' roll. You feel you're in Gone with the Wind because of the trees and the design, but then you get to your room and there's a picture of Keith Richards and the coffee table is a flight case'

If you could have one feast right now where would it be?
'The band I was in before Nirvana was relatively popular in Italy, so I wound up learning a little of the language and had an Italian girlfriend. So my dinner would have to be in Livorno, and we'd be staying at the Castello di Segalari. There's a place nearby that looks like an outdoor barbecue, with lights strung across the rafters. They walk up to the table with a steak the size of a surfboard and you laugh because you think there's no way anybody could eat the thing-but after a few bottles of wine, it's just a pile of bones. I cook a little bit myself. It's not unlike music. If you've got a great drummer, bass player, guitarist and singer, all you need is a great song. With a great steak, it's about the wood in the fire, the temperature and timing. If there was anywhere I could spend the rest of my days, it would be on top of that hill, looking down at the vineyards and looking forward to that dinner.'

What made you want to travel?
'Opening up the sleeve of an album and seeing pictures of musicians on the road, sitting out the back of their van with their equipment. Nobody was reaching for stardom, it was just a beautiful act of making music, and starving and bleeding and laying your fucking soul down every night. I think I was 13 or 14 when I realised that I don't need much, but I need to get in the van and go and play. The fact that music has given me this ticket to the world blows my mind. It's such a simple transaction. All I have to do is get up on stage and in return I get to see another beautiful city I've never been to.'

A place you fell in love in?
'In Quebec, when I was 18, on one of my first tours. We had 11 people stuffed into a Dodge van, touring for 10 days in the winter. Everyone was in a sleeping bag, lined up like sardines. I fell in love with a girl named Kate who was the bass player of the band we were gigging with. The conditions meant you could only fall in love with the person next to you because it was so cold. The condensation from our breath froze on the ceiling of the van and fell down onto our faces in little ice chips. So I fell in love with Kate on the highway from Niagara Falls to Montreal'

A song that reminds you of holidays?
'There's this Weezer song called "Island in the Sun". It's this breezy, sweet pop tune, and one time all the family came down to Hawaii and I made a video of everyone with that as the soundtrack. I happen to think it's one of the finest videos ever made. Whenever I hear that song, it takes me back to my daughter, Harper, when she was two years old in a Hula skirt, and my kids down by the tide pools looking at sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Actually no, I've got a really good one. The number one of all time is Ry Cooder's Paris, Texas soundtrack. I remember discovering that record while I was on tour in Italy in 1988, driving along the coast. I recommend it to anybody who has a long car or train ride, because it will soothe your soul.'

The destination you want to visit next?
'I grew up in Virginia, and spent a lot of time camping and hunting in the mountains outside Washington DC, so I always imagined when this was all done, all this rock 'n' roll nonsense, I would wind up somewhere like that. I've had this recurring dream of a house for the past 15 years that I could draw a blueprint of because they are so vivid. And every time I return to the dream, I know exactly where I am in the house. I think that some day I am just going to build it.'

Words: Francesca Babb     Pic: Sam Jones

Back to Top