Every fan's childhood dream is to meet their idols - but the nicest man in rock took things a little further and made an album with a dozen of them! Dave Grohl talks all things Probot to an avid Rock Sound.
Let's face it, at one time in our lives, we've all
pretended to be rock stars. Strutting our stuff
in front of the bedroom mirror, or even on the
dance floor embarrassing our mates
with our air guitar prowess. We've all done it and all had musical heroes
we've admired. The actuality of playing
or recording music with our heroes, for
most of us, is but an unreachable
dream. If your name happens to be
Dave Grohl however this dream is reality.
Probot is the realisation of the 35-year-old Foo Fighters mainman and one-time Nirvana drummer's musical goal - to collaborate with the musicians that the young Grohl admired and drew inspiration from. For anyone who grew up in an era that covered the 80s and early 90s it's a pretty impressive line-up that will have many a metaller brushing the cobwebs off their battered vinyl and rediscovering the joys of long forgotten classics like DRI's .Dealing With It' and Venom's 'Welcome To Hell'.
After' touring in 99 with the Foo Fighters after the somewhat mellow affair 'There Is Nothing Left To Lose' Grohl had come home and realised by his own admittance, that for someone who had grown up with a love of hardcore and underground metal, while he enjoyed the music he was making, it wasn't reflective of his roots, Down in the basement studio at his Virginia home the rock legend started banging out some rock riffs - purely ror fun. Shortly after' Grohl offered the riffs to techno noise animal Alec Empire for samples. Empire ended up laying some vocals down on one track - 'Access Babylon', which eventually got recorded with COC's Mike Dean and from then on the project started to shape into what would eventually become the awesome 'Probot'.
Featuring 11 songs and legends such as Wino, Eric Wagner, Tom G Warrior and King Diamond, it is, for Dave, the ultimate album and a dream for a fan to actually record music with his musical heroes. Even the artwork has been created by VoiVod's Away - who was' responsible for all his own band's amazing artwork. While the songs draw inspiratlon from the singers' own bands, Grohl explains that only half the songs were written specifically for the vocalist in mind, while others were Songs deemed suitable for vocal tracks to be laid over the top.
Sending, the music to each singer and awaiting the final track's return, Dave explains that these blind collaborations were effective because no one was influencing anyone.
"Of course I wish I could have been there to hang out with everyone but in a way it was sort of nice to keep that distance," enthuses Grohl. "I would get a package back and it would be from King Diamond and I'd rip open the package and be really excited and listen to it 500 times! Having the tracks come back one by one and hearing those voices you've listened to 1,000 times but now paired with the Song, you'd written, was fucking great! It was like a Make A Wish foundation."
For Grohl the recording process also kept his perceptions of people in tact, as he explains.
"In a way a lot of these people I have always considered In a strange way to be more than people, because I was so into the music and it had such a big place in my life. When I think of Tom G Warrior I can't imagine having a sandwich wfth the guy, I think of him as the fucking character he is,"
Two exceptions to the recording process were 'The Emerald Law' with Wino and 'Shake Your Blood' with Motorhead's Lemmy, for both songs, Dave was present when the vocalists laid down their parts. The fact that a 15 year-old Grohl supported Wino's then band The Obsessed when he played in a hardcore band called Mission Impossible is recalled fondly. As is the first time the drummer met Lemmy. "It was in a titty bar and he was hanging out in the corner playing on the video poker machine and I thought, 'I have to go and pay my respect to this guy', so I walked up to him and said, 'Hey Lemmy, I just wanted to say your music is such a huge part of my life, you are the real deal and I have a lot of respect for You', And he said, 'Oh, thanks mate, sorry about your friend'. And I turned around and walked away and was like, 'Holy shit! Not only did he recognise me but he was cool enough to say Sorry about Kurt!' That guy fucking rules! He was in a titty bar and not looking at the tits, he was just playing video poker!"
Too Loud (For The Crowd)
Sitting alongside as Rock Sound chats is Grohl's new label boss - Greg Anderson who runs Southern Lord - home of the mighty WarHorse and Khanate amongst others.
Greg claims the record is more likely to feature a marketing sticker boasting Lemmy's involvement over Grohl's, and that echoes Grohl's own sentiments and feelings about the record.
"This record is not about me and my side-project, it is about everyone on the record and to try and explain Trouble to Some fucking Kid who works at RCA just doesn't happen. No one understood and I didn't know what to do." Southern Lord was suggested by Pete Stahl. Pete used to sing in Scream - Dave's old band way before the Foo Fighters and Nirvana. The decision really seemed easy and despite perceptions of Dave Grohl International Rock Star, when it comes to music and old times, nothing has changed despte his wealth and success.
"I am fortunate to do what I do and I love my band, they are like my family, and I love the music We make, but it's not the kind of music that I would listen to. But I dig going it and it is really fun, it is fucking great to sell out two nights at Wembley Arena, that's fucking awesome and we have a good time, but things go a lot deeper than that. There is a community of friends and there is a community aspect of what we have all done that doesn't really go away.
"If you grow up in that environment booking gigs for each other, crashing on each others floors, helping each other, if you grow up In that environment you don't lose that. No matter how successful you get you don't lose that, unless you are in it for the wrong reasons in the first place." It was the sense of community that first drew Grohl into the underground metal and hardcore scene. Driven by fanzines, tape and flyer trading, it's a scene Grohl believes that not many bands care for these days.
"Honestly, it is a perspective that not many people have any more because it has become an industry or whatever," he sighs. "Although I think the internet is bringing it back to that, that's what I think and I encourage it, I think it is fucking great! I had pen pals all over the country, when I was 14 I was a pen pal with John [Speedo] Reis from Rocket From The Crypt, he is a great guy and we would swap things back and forth. I had flyers on my wall from San Diego, California and I Just thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
And while Nirvana went on to kill bad heavy metal - "We were talking about 'Appetite For Destruction' last night and I just never liked it. That kind of stuff I never listened to" - good heavy rock was always appreciated by the grunge kings.
"I remember Kurt (Cobain) always saying that before they went to make Bleach' they had one tape in their van on tour: On one side it was Celtic Frost and on the other it was The Smithereens and that's fucking 'Bleach' right there, it is exactly what that album is if you think about it."
And just like when Grohl played drums with QOTSA and Killing Joke he is at pains once again to point out the Foos' future is still secure.
"It's funny how people have a hard time getting their heads around the idea of a musician playing in more than one band. I think people are so used to that Fab Four mentality where it is this specific combination of elements or else it is nothing and I think that is wrong," he retorts.
Into The Pandemonium
While Cathedral's mainman Lee Dorrian claims 'Probot' is the best heavy metal album in ages, any dangers that the record could be misunderstood in the light of heavy metal's current apparent popularity and 'Ironic' status.. really doesn't enter into the equation for Grohl.
"I don't even think about that sort of stuff." he laughs. "It doesn't matter to me. I had a good time making the music, I was honoured to have an these people making the record and that's as far as I go with it. I don't keep myself up at night wondering what cultural impact the Probot album is going to have!'
And nor should we - just go forth and bang thy head!
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