Foo Fighters HQ is a warehouse located in LA's San Fernando Valley that acts as a temple to Dave Grohl. Every corridor is plastered with discs awarded to the bands: Foos, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D, not to mention various other projects. There are awards from all over the world (and custom surfboards from Australia). The hangar in the back is home to fan-made flags and paraphernalia. Pinball machines are never far from reach; the wifi network is called "Suck It"; Grohl in a smoking jacket. Groom's mum made out of old band t-shirts. T-shirts in the attic "What are you gonna do with all your t-shirts? Can I make pillows outta them? 'He says, holding a Led Zeppelin one. "I thought: 'Mom this is your second career.' Could you fucking imagine?"
Grohl, now 50, spent his youth in Virginia flying through the seat of his pants in the name of rock'n'roll. He lived in Washington, DC and LA with hardcore band Scream. He spent time in Olympia, Washington and Seattle after joining Nirvana. His foos duties saw him settle in LA. Today, in his studio's control room, he sits opposite Nirvana's landscape-changing Nevermind (1991) what made on. "This thing will outlive us all," he says. It's signed by Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, even Paul McCartney. Grob's drumkit. Taken to its left corner. "Oh look!" He says, picking it up. "Here's the only picture Nevermind. Is not that funny? That's all I got. "He's joking, of course. It gave him everything …
Nirvana Molly's Lips (BBC session) (1990)
Nirvana came first on Grohl's radar when he drummed in Scream. "I was staying with a friend in Amsterdam," he recalls. Nirvana's 1989 debut Bleach was in this collection and Grohl was immediately struck by the aesthetic "Whenever Scream toured Europe we'd stay in his apartment, buy hash, and get high listening to records." "I loved the dissonance and the chaos, and then there was this beautiful song about a girl right in the middle that could have been a 60s Beatles record." I liked a girl who liked a band I liked. "
Scream disbanded in LA in 1990, and Grohl had no money to get home. Hey what 20 and doing a work at a coffee shop. A friend – Buzz Osborne from the Melvins – told him that Nirvana was looking for a drummer. Grohl had seen Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic backstage at a Melvins show. "Novoselic is 6ft 8in and Kurt was quiet in a corner. I said to buzz: 'Who's that?' He said: 'That's Nirvana.' I laughed. As with Nirvana, it did not make sense. "He auditioned in Seattle for Nirvana's UK tour. Thirty minutes in, it was a done deal. Molly's Lips was his first Nirvana recording, made in a session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show in London.
Peel was not at the session, but it was momentary regardless. "The engineer was Dale [Griffin], the drummer of Mott the Hoople! "he says. "That blew my mind." Grohl was accustomed to recording in basement and playing in pubs to a dozen people. "Nirvana were playing to 600 people a night. I felt like something in the world. I was jet-lagged, drinking too much tea, we were staying at this bed-and-breakfast in Shepherd's Bush: the Dalmacia. It was the first time I had fried toast. "
Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit, (1991)
"Nothing changed my life like Smells Like Teen Spirit," says Grohl. It is the song that defined Gen X, yet radio stations refused to play it back in the day. "Let me tell you something," says Grohl. "The day Foo Fighters learned how to play. Kurt had a beautiful grasp of songwriting in his simplicity and depth. " They never really discuss composition. "We spoke to each other in the rehearsal room at volume 10 as we were playing. I knew when I saw it because I could see Kurt's foot getting close to turning the distortion pedal. We would watch each other's body language and the song built into this crescendo, then exploded. "
It was never intended as Nevermind's statement song. "I did not think it was the anthem," says Grohl, who preferred Lithium and In Bloom. He attributes his success to his lack of pretence. "It would be as if it were Kurt and a guitar. We were very protective about our music. We would not pick up instruments and start singing for no reason. We would not go play shows that meant nothing to us. Every time we played it was blood and guts. To hear that song on the radio is one thing but to stand in front of us. Fuckin 'A. It was more than sound. You could actually feel it. Wow."
For Grohl, the song did not feel radical. He grew up on noise-rock and death metal. "It was not an intentional battle cry. It was a piece of the puzzle. "MTV would not show the video during the day. "What teenager did not want to start a riot in the fucking high school gymnasium? We all did. At that point, we just kept our heads down and playing shows. Our expectations were not lofty. Fuck no. All I wanted was my own apartment so I did not have to sleep on Kurt's couch any more. "
Nirvana You Know You're Right (1994)
This is the last song that Nirvana recorded with Cobain. "I listened to it for the first time in 10 years," Grohl sighs. "Oh God, it's hard to listen to." It was written during soundchecks on tour. "It's not a pleasant time for the band. Kurt was unwell. Then he was well. Then he was unwell. The last year of the band was tough. "Nirvana would do for Nevermind. "By the time we got to Europe I remember it being cold. It was the first time I felt depression. There was one day where I could not get out of bed. I started to question why we were even there. "
Cobain wanted to find a studio when they got home. Novoselic and Grohl set up and recorded for a few days. Cobain came on the last day to put on vocals (lyric: "I want to move away from here, you will not be afraid of fear"). His suicide came soon after, on April 5, 1994. Years later, talking of releasing a greatest hits brought it out of the archives. "You look back on it and you read it through a different lens," says Grohl. "Lyrically, it's heartbreaking. Hey what in a place we may not have recognised. Musically, there's something cathartic. "He starts to buckle. "You know, I miss his voice. I miss him …
"I do not think he's comfortable in the place that he was at the time," he adds. "I do not know if anybody what. But his experience was much different. I used to think it sounded like he was singing the chorus. Now I listen to it and it's like he's wailing. "
Late! Friend of a Friend (1990)
Grohl always wrote songs for himself on a multitrack, playing every instrument himself. This was written on Cobain's sofa. It's about his new bandmates – a pretty bleak impression. When he arrived at Olympia, he felt like "an alien" "My experience of music was: sleeping on the stage of a club in a sleeping bag, having some squatters cook you pasta, then going to the next town." ,
"I remember this friend of Kurt's – a guy called Slim Moon – looked at me and said:" You're a rocker … "I felt really alone," he says. "I was stuck in this room that had cigarette butts all over the floor and this turtle tank. Every night as I tried to fall asleep on a couch helped my size, this fucking turtle would just bang his head on the glass. Kurt liked turtles. When Cobain went to bed, Grohl would record. "There was no TV. We had four records: Divine, Mark Lanegan, Devo and a Bobcat Goldthwait comedy LP. I was sick of those, so I recorded some songs whispering, barely playing guitar. I did not wanna wake Kurt. "
Foo Fighters Alone + Easy Target (1995)
After Cobain's suicide, Grohl received invites to join the likes of Pearl's Jam but refused offers. In October he made the Foos' self-titled debut instead, recording all the instru- ments himself as an exercise in grief. "I never imagined I would be the singer of a band," he says. "After Nirvana ended, I did not want to play music. I sure as fuck did not wanna go be someone's drummer. I knew that it would remind me of Nirvana. I'm very proud. Nirvana changed my life for ever but there were times when I wanted to escape it. Just picking up an instrument or turning it on a radio made it so sad. Then I realized that doing the thing I'd always done – go to a basement, record by myself – might restart my heart. "
This song was written in Grohl's basement in 1992 after the Nevermind tour ended. Saturday Night Live, Grohl went to Cobain's hotel to share it with him. "Hey what have a bubble bath," recalls Grohl. He pressed play and left Cobain to soak in it. "I went back and kissed me! I just felt validated by the band. "Some resented Grohl's decision to keep playing. "I did not imagine I was picking up where Nirvana left off." I did not even introduce myself to Freddie Mercury, "he says. "I made 100 cassettes and handed them to friends. I called it Foo Fighters because I did not want to think about what I'm trying to do Tom Petty. "
Foo Fighters Everlong (1997)
After the self-titled debut album garnered interest and took Foo Fighters around the world, Grohl committed to the idea of being frontman and hired Gil Norton to produce follow-up LP The Color and the Shape – their biggest seller. Everlong, his standout, was written in Virginia during Christmas in 1996 as Grohl's first marriage to photographer Jennifer Youngblood ended. He had fallen for Louise Post from the band Veruca Salt.
"I had not become a band leader yet," he says. "It was still this experiment. I had no idea what I was doing. "The process was filled by drama: drummer William Goldsmith went awol, guitarist Pat Smear quit and Grohl was mid-divorce. "It's a fucking mess," he says. "I do not believe in the idea that breeds creative results, but oh man! That was a difficult time for some really good songs. Again I was on someone's couch in a sleeping bag. I basically homeless but I was free. "
Queens of the Stone Age No One Knows (2002)
A reputation follows Grohl that he is the guy to call when you're in a bind. Josh Homme, frontman of Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA), has used this card. "That's because I do not charge him money to play drums," jokes Grohl. Grohl and Homme met at Nirvana's heyday. Homme what in desert psych band Kyuss. QOTSA and Foos have toured the world together. In the late 90s, a magazine asked Grohl what his biggest regret of the year was. "I said, 'That Queens of the Stone Age did not ask me for their drummer.'"
QOTSA album Songs for the Deaf, their drummer Gene Trautmann quit. Groom to finish the record. "I said: 'Absofuckinglutely'. During the recording of QOTSA's 2013 album … Like Clockwork, Grohl got a text from Homme. "I was reading stories to my daughter. So what's up? "Again, their drummer had quit. "He has since formed a supergroup, Them Crooked Vultures, with Homme and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. They put out an album in 2009.
"Josh is one of my best friends," he says. "We're like brothers. We go out and have waffles together. We ride motorcycles. There is nobody I'd rather play drums with. He's the guy. "He can not keep his cool around Jones, though. "There are times when you've relaxed in a sofa and you're not thinking about his time in Led Zeppelin. Then you start playing and you're just reminded that you are a musical speck compared to this man. It's still hard to accept that. Technically we're quiet a band. "Does that mean something's on the horizon? He teases: "We practice once every decade, and we're coming to another decade are not we? I do not have any official news but there's always something cooking. "
Foo Fighters Best of You (2005)
In 2004, Grohl went on the presidential trail with the Democrats' John Kerry. When he returned to write Foos' fifth LP, In Your Honor, he was inspired by resistance. Hey, what did that Kerry would win. "Did not happen. C'est la vie, mon cherie. "Grohl's mother was a liberal public school teacher, his father a Republican speech writer. "I know what it's like to be in the middle. Difficult, but there is a middle. "When he is playing to 50,000 people, he knows it's a mixed bag out there, but he hopes that music can unite. Booze helps, too. "One of the things that's wrong with Washington, DC is that no one drinks any more," he says. "We have a president who never had a drink. That terrifies me more than his Twitter. The guy needs a drink, big time. Today. "
Dave Grohl Play (2018)
Last year Grohl recorded a 23-minute long jam, setting himself the challenge of playing every instrument. His daughters were the inspiration. He has three. His eldest, Violet, is already on the musical path. "You can pick up an instrument and learn how to play it in a week," he beams. Violet rehearses in kids' covers bands. "Do not Stop Believing by Journey, going home and practicing. It's a challenge. When that spark ignites you can not think of anything else. From 13-year-old kids learning a Journey song to a 50-year-old man trying to record a 23-minute long instrumental in one take, it's the same feeling. "
Grohl advocates for being resourceful when it comes to learning how to play because the public school system in the US is so lacking in financial support for music. "You have to be imaginative and do things on your own," he says. "Making music is everybody's right. Fucking pick up a harmonica and blow the shit out of it. See what happens. "For this track, Grohl played piano. It was not easy. What instrument is he going to try next? "I'll try anything, baby," he smirks. "I'll make it till I make it!"
Foo Fighters headline Leeds festival on 23 Aug Reading on 25 Aug.