"Are you guys getting drunk?" asks Dave Grohl, presumably rhetorically, as he inches his way down a narrow corridor jammed with gape-jawed and guilty-looking NME staffers backstage at the O2 Academy Brixton. "Are you gonna misbehave in front of the boss and get yourselves fired? It's like me whenever I go to [Sony chief] Clive Davis' house. He's my boss, and I always end up having a few too many and making a fool of myself!"
We find this difficult to believe. If ever a man were unsackable, it is David Eric Grohl, frontman with one of this generation's biggest and most influential rock bands, drummer with the biggest and most influential rock band of the previous generation, and - oh, yeah - recipient of the Shockwaves NME Awards Godlike Genius Award. The man clearly never need fear a P45 again.
Predictably, however, Rock's Nicest Man (it follows his name like a PhD) is nothing if not modest tonight.
"The whole thing is kind of funny for me," he admits. "I mean, I totally appreciate the award, but you have to realise that I just don't think of myself as being godlike. Or a genius. I just feel like I normally do..."
And' how is that?
"Oh, you know," he sighs, before flashing that trademark shit-eating grin. "Like a Godlike Genius!"
If this were Dave's awards ceremony, he says, tonight's biggest gong would be going to, "Little Richard. Or maybe Lemmy. Or John Paul Jones. I got to play in a band with John, and he's the most talented individual I've ever met."
Except they're not Dave's awards, they're ours, and because we love him, because of his decade-spanning brilliance, his body of work, and the fact that he's cool enough to keep Paul McCartney waiting, we've chosen him for the ultimate accolade. But before that, there's the small manner of a fannish inquisition by famous friends, musicians and collaborators. And naturally, they need to know whether godlike geniuses opt for boxers or briefs...
JULIETTE LEWIS Was there an artist or band that changed your young life? And who was it?
"Well, The Beatles definitely changed my life. That was really my musical foundation from day one. I'd heard the radio and I'd heard the songs, but I never really understood the concept of a group, and how the combination of four different players makes for a specific sound. So they were probably my first, and then when I discovered punk rock - bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains - that really changed my musical life."
DEV HYNES (Lightspeed Champion) Although this last recording experience with Krist Novoselic must have been amazingly nostalgic and fun, what session really sticks out In your mind as a special experience?
"Krist and I have always been really close friends. We share a lot of things in common, good things and bad things. So going through the Nirvana experience together, we're sort of bound by that for the rest of our lives. I think that connection is just so incredibly special, the music is almost like a bonus. The personal and simple emotional connection is the most powerful - and then we get to make music."
NICK BROWN (Mona) We have been listening to the Foo Fighters for years and are really big fans, but the name Foo Fighters - where does It come from, and do you ever regret naming the band that?
"I was reading a book about UFOs at the time, it was all about military WWII sightings. And I learned that Foo Fighters was a nickname for UFOs during the war, and at the time, when I was recording this tape by myself, I didn't want people to think that it was just me, I wanted people to think that it was a band. So I just called it Foo Fighters because it was... plural! (laughs) That's it!"
STELLA MOZGAWA (Warpaint) Dave, boxers or briefs?
"Ummm... both, to be honest. I'll do boxers when I'm just lying around the house, but if I have to do a gig, I'll be wearing briefs."
FRANKIE FRANCIS (Frankie & The Heartstrings) Do you think Wesley Snipes will ever be President?
"Wesley Snipes? For President? God, I hope so. We can only be so lucky. Yeah, he's got some tax issues, but I'm sure all Presidents do, right? They can get past that."
SIMON NEIL (Biffy Clyro) You have been involved In many classic records; is there any album you would have loved to have been a part of, and put your stamp on?
"Oh God. I would have loved to have been in the studio when The Zombies recorded 'Odessey & Oracle'. It's such a simple record, it's such an amazing album, but the sounds are really primal and raw because of the technical limitations of the time. So yeah, probably that."
BEN BRIDWELL (Band Of Horses) You've collaborated with so many musical legends, is there an artist you've always dreamed of playing alongside but narrowly missed the opportunity?
"Ummm... maybe Little Richard. I was doing a soundtrack for a movie about The Beatles' early days in Hamburg called Backbeat in 1992. Don Was assembled a bunch of musicians to play the music for it - it was me on drums, Thurston Moore and Don Fleming from Gumball on guitar, Mike Mills from REM on bass, and Greg Dulli from The Afghan Whigs on vocals. So we were doing a cover of 'Long Tall Sally' and somebody said, 'You know, if we want we could probably give Little Richard a call and get him to come down and jam with us.' He was living in a hotel just up the street from the studio, so we decided to give him a call. And he said he wanted $10,000 just to come down and jam with us. So we were all like, 'Well, I'll put in $2,000...' but in the end we just decided, 'Nah, fuck it.' And I wish we'd have done it."
TIM WHEELER (Ash) You once told me how you almost moved to Belfast when you were a kid. It probably wasn't the most desirable place in the world to live at the time. What was the attraction, and can you imagine how your life would have ended up?
"When I was young, my mother was a public school teacher and she applied for a teacher exchange programme and got accepted to go and teach in Belfast. It was right around the time that I discovered punk-rock - where I lived in Virginia, I was the only punk-rock kid, everyone else was listening to classic rock and shit like that. So I just imagined, like, 'Wow, Belfast, I bet they have some fucking amazing punk-rock bands there.' But it never worked out, the family we were supposed to switch with backed out."
HUW STEPHENS (BBC Radio 1) Dave, you've spoken before of your love for Reading Festival; what makes It so special for you?
"The day I joined Nirvana, I flew up [to Seattle] to be in the band and I didn't know Krist or Kurt at all. But that day they had a barbecue, and Dan Peters from Mudhoney was there, so I asked him what the biggest crowd he'd ever played to was. And he said, 'About 35,000 or so. In England there's this festival called Reading, and it's really cool.' And it was totally unimaginable. And after we finished 'Nevermind' we got our itinerary for the summer tour, and Reading was on it. I was scared for a month. And it really, for want of a better phrase, broke my cherry. To me, it's always represented... me, I guess."
BOBBY GILLESPIE (Primal Scream) How was It playing with Josh Homme and John Paul Jones in Them Crooked Vultures?
"It was incredible. To be included in a rhythm section with John... I mean, I learned how to play drums by listening along to Led Zeppelin records. They taught me way more than any teacher ever could. So to sit with John and be in that rhythm section... I can't compare it to anything."
JOHN PAUL JONES (Led Zeppelin, Them Crooked Vultures) When are we going to make the next Crooked Vultures album?
"John who? Oh, you bastard! Whenever John's done with the opera. When John's done with that, I'll do the Vultures record!"
PAUL McCARTNEY When are we going for pizza again, Dave?
"I'll check my schedule! (Laughs) I'll let him know! His girlfriend called my wife and said, 'Hey, you wanna go on a double date?' So my wife called me and was like, 'Babe, we're gonna go to fucking dinner with Paul and Nancy.' So I was kinda nervous, I was like... 'Hmmm, how does Paul go out for dinner?' And it turns out he goes out the same way that everybody else does. We had a wonderful dinner, he was such a sweet guy and Nancy is wonderful and cool, and he wanted to give my wife and I a gift for my newborn baby. So he brought some baby clothes along. And we noticed that they were from a store that's kinda near where we live, so next time Jordyn was in the store she said, 'You know what, Paul McCartney ordered some stuff for our kid from this store.' And the guy behind the counter was like, 'No, no, no, Paul came in and he picked it out by himself.' So our kid's not allowed to wear those clothes, ever! We framed 'em, she's not getting 'em!"