How were the VMAs?
Fuck, it was good, dude. We played in a hotel suite on the twenty-sixth floor with forty beer bongs. We just put them in boxes all over the room as party favors.
Did you hit one?
It was my idea! I was carrying the bottle of Jägermeister around. Ended up in the pool with all my fuckin’ clothes on.
Nice. “The Pretender,” the first single off the new record, went to number one. I have no idea what that song is about, but catchphrases like 'I’ll never surrender' are irresistible. Is being a little vague the secret to writing stadium anthems?
There are songs that are very specific, and there are songs that are written with a very general emotion in mind. Sometimes I’ll write a song that’s so vague that an audience will sing along for 16,000 different reasons. I’d hate to exclude someone from a song because it’s about someone they don’t know.
From your first rehearsal with Nirvana to the band’s last show, I heard you got no encouragement. True?
I can remember all the compliments — there were two. The first tour I went on with Nirvana was with L7 in England in 1990. I had been in the band for a month. I remember being at some underground disco with the L7 girls, Kurt [Cobain], and Krist [Novoselic], and we were all downstairs drinking and dancing to bad ’80s new wave. Kurt came up and said, “I’m so glad you’re in this band, man. I’m so glad.” And I was like, [assumes dork voice] “Wow, that was really nice of him! Holy moly!” It was two and a half years before the next compliment. [laughs]
What was it like when you went from being three dudes in a van to being the biggest band on earth?
It happened really quickly. When Nevermind came out, Kurt and I shared a hotel room and we were still rolling our own gear. And then the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came out. Eventually, we got a bus. I was like, “Holy shit! It’s like a van with a bathroom and a TV!” They kept the generators running so there’d be power inside. I remember Novoselic saying, “Dude, you’re single-handedly destroying the ozone layer with that fucking generator. Turn it off.” All these other buses were pumping all this shit in the air, and we were sitting there in complete darkness because we felt guilty.
When you started Foo Fighters, were you worried that it might change the perception of your role in Nirvana — because your own music is so different?
Those are deep thoughts that I didn’t necessarily have. The day Kurt died, three years of total insanity just turned off. The last thing on my mind was music, and I didn’t even want to see the word Nirvana. I didn’t do much other than travel — I was kind of trying to run away from it. I remember being on the Ring of Kerry, in Ireland, driving a rental car on tiny little roads, getting stuck behind flocks of sheep. Then I passed a hitchhiker who had on a Kurt Cobain T-shirt. I thought, Goddamn. Where do I go? Later, someone from this band 7 Year Bitch wrote me a card that said, “We know you can’t even think about playing music right now, but eventually you will.” And that card saved my life.
Your new song “Statues” has the line 'Time will turn us into statues eventually'. When you were writing that line, did you think someone might actually make a statue of you one day?
[laughs] Oh, my God. You think I mean that someone’s going to make a statue of me someday? Interesting perspective. That song is about my wife and me. To me there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the headstones of a husband and wife side by side in a graveyard. It doesn’t have to do with the Nirvana Statue. Whatever!
So you’re not getting cremated?
We’ll see. I’d rather have one of those massive mausoleums you can see from the expressway.