The Inventory: Dave Grohl

FT mag - January 30th 2021

Dave Grohl, 52, was the drummer for Nirvana before founding Foo Fighters — the group celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020 and has won multiple awards, including 11 Grammys and five Brits.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
To be a famous soccer player.

Private school or state school? University or straight into work?
I was a terrible student. I was a total joker, all I wanted to do was entertain everyone — my grades were terrible. I left school at 17 to start touring, to the great dismay of my father — a conservative Republican speechwriter. My mother, who was a teacher for 35 years, knew that I wasn’t an idiot, but that I wasn’t going to move forward in life if I was stuck in my failure in school.

Who was or still is your mentor?
I was raised by a brilliant, compassionate, generous, kind single mother. Her life was devoted to raising two children on a teacher’s salary. She taught me to work for the things I wanted. And when I was 12 or 13, my cousin Tracy became a punk rocker. When I saw her leather jacket, shaved head, chains and spikes, she became my first hero. She was so empowered by her individuality. I wanted that. Musically, I have a long list of people I’ve played with and listened to over the years.

How physically fit are you?
You wouldn’t imagine that going on tour keeps you in shape, but it actually does. At 52, I feel pretty good. It’s when I come home I get soft. I hate gyms, I hate working out, I hate yoga.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
Ambition and drive. Talent has, unfortunately, only a little to do with it. I’m not the best drummer, I’m not the best guitar player, I’m not the best singer — but when I do any of those things, I do it like it’s my first day on earth. Also being able to work with others. You have to be able to collaborate and co-operate.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I have never, ever been a material person — I think because I was raised with very little. What I love to collect are memories, and those I can hold for ever.

How politically committed are you?
I’m always up to speed with what’s going on. I always vote. Voting is not only a blessing and right, it’s important for everyone to feel connected in that process. A lot of change begins locally. I try to do my best to help out. I just wish there was more compassion and connectivity in the world.

What’s your biggest extravagance?
My family. I feel blessed to have the resources to take care of them.

In what place are you happiest?
With my kids — the time we spend swimming, or riding bikes, or playing video games I don’t understand, or watching Harry Potter.

What ambitions do you still have?
My obsession that I’ve had for 30 years and never revealed to anyone is that I want to become a really wicked tap-dancer. I can’t dance, but there’s something about the rhythm and the patterns I understand. This year I got a pair of tap shoes and it’s going to happen.

What drives you on?
I am addicted to achievement. I cannot sit down and relax. I can’t turn off.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
My kids. I’m such a dad! Each of my three daughters is a tornado, they’re amazing. Musically, my proudest achievement is just survival. I’ve watched a lot of people I know and love not make it, in terms of staying alive. Music is a tricky road.

What do you find most irritating in other people?
I don’t understand how someone can intentionally want someone else to hurt or to feel pain.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
That I should have thought a little more about my choice of tattoos.

Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
None. Guitars, you play them, they become your best friend or worst enemy, then they disappear and that’s OK — there’s songs to remind you they existed.

What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Having hope. Believing in life, in love, in the goodness that’s within us all.

Do you believe in an afterlife?
We just don’t know. It’s presumptuous and cocky to think we can understand the universe.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

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