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Dave Grohl Speaks,… But Not To Us

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Dave f…ing Grohl

I don’t know if you are watching Dave Grohl’s documentary on HBO, ‘Sonic Highways’ but I do and I am actually enjoying the series. ‘Sonic Highways’ not only documents the Foo Fighters’ attempts to record an album in eight different studios around the US (the first plan was to record it in 8 different countries!), but the series tells the stories of music scenes in the different cities. The episode about the hardcore scene in Washington DC was good, he interviewed the Bad Brains – so I have at least one point in common with Dave Grohl. The last episode was about Nashville, nothing really special and a bit too much of Zac Brown for my taste, but it was enjoyable. 

I always wonder how Dave is doing everything he does, he seems to be everywhere, on every front, at the top of everything, and omnipresent. The Guardian has an interview with Grohl, which brings at least one answer: he is a workaholic… I like when people say this, because it can be quite laughable at some level, I (like almost everyone) can be a workaholic if I get the rare chance to make a living of one of my passions! So Grohl is no exception, music is his passion and he has the enormous privilege to make an excellent living out of it, why wouldn’t he be working all the time? I would! That said he probably never rests, eats or sleeps.

So what else do we learn in this article-interview? Dave is nice, very nice… Nothing new there, although I have never appreciated the Foo Fighters’ music I find it is practically impossible to dislike him,… but you know what, I believe there is such a thing than being too nice. One example? After all the dirt and venom that Courtney Love has spit on the poor guy’s reputation for years, he fell into her arms at Nirvana’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! What was that? I wanted to punch him in the face at this moment

He is the ‘Nicest Man in Rock’, ‘he is warm, charming, funny and abundantly, Tiggerishly enthusiastic about everything’ and this means everything: the Future Island’s Frontman, Psychic TV, his daughter singing Katy Perry’s hit ‘Roar, and only the last one sounds right to me. Being nice has its advantage, Grohl is well connected and has played with everyone in the business: he got to be drummer for Queens of the Stone Age, and has worked with Garbage, Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, the Prodigy, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, Lemmy, Stevie Nicks and the Swedish metal band Ghost. And this nice predisposition has always been the case: ‘I was the one punk rock kid in my high school, but rather than be an outcast, I was everybody’s friend. I could hang out with stoners and nerds and jocks, I didn’t have a problem with that. People are people, I don’t give a shit. You could be Demi Lovato or the fucking drummer from Pantera – I don’t care, let’s have a drink!’ This says a lot about you Grohl, just be careful to not hang out too much with Hitler.

Being Mr. nice guy doesn’t prevent him to be ‘one of rock music’s most dedicated, gleeful and indefatigable swearers’. I had noticed! But you know a ‘fucking/fuck’ loses a lot of its effect when it rides every word of every sentence. Another trend? With Grohl, everyone is ‘man’, even Barack Obama whom he met when the Foo Fighters performed at the 2012 Democratic Convention…

He grew up in Washington DC and obviously felt at home during the episode about DC punk scene whose camaraderie he kind of misses, Dave is no fucking rock star: ‘There really weren’t too many musicians or bands that imagined life outside of the Washington DC music community. There was no music industry there, there was just this sense of camaraderie, everyone knew each other. Now you have famous musicians locking down a backstage area at a festival so they can go up onstage. It’s like a power trip or something. I’ve written letters to musicians before after I’ve got stuck in their fucking lockdown, like: ‘Dude, come on, we’re all in this together.’ Maybe people just don’t understand that there is an alternative to what you would imagine a rock star to be. You don’t have to have a needle hanging out of your arm, you don’t have to fucking lock down a festival backstage. Why not just go fucking knock on everybody’s door with a bottle of whisky and say: ‘Hi, I’m Dave, how are you? Nice to meet you,’ and see who’s going to fucking join the party? That’s the first thing I do.”

‘You don’t have to have a needle hanging out of your arm’? Of course, Grohl is nice and does not touch drugs – how could he while doing all this work? If Nirvana was into misery, angst and anger, the Foo Fighters have never sounded like Nirvana to me and it even took me a while, back then, to even make the connection. But how does Dave answer the critics who necessarily make the connection:

‘Oh God, there were times where I’d get questions that were just … questions you’d never ask a total stranger, someone that you’d just met, who had been through something really terrible – it’s just not fucking polite. There were a few years of that, and then it quieted down.’ He has long resigned himself to never quite escaping the shadow of his former band – “it’s always an anniversary of something’ – but seems tickled that at least some younger members of the Foo Fighters audience seem to have missed the connection: ‘It’s started happening that kids go, ‘Aren’t you the guy from Foo Fighters? How did your band begin?’ ‘Well, I was in this band before, called Nirvana.’ ‘You were in Nirvana?’’

With all this work Grohl is fucking rich but he has ‘a funny relationship with money’. ‘Before I had any fucking money, I didn’t care about money. Once I got money, I didn’t care about money. When I was young … I don’t know if I’ve ever told anybody this, but when I was 12 years old, my mother had a stroke, as she was doing her taxes. And, you know, we were in such a tight spot financially, because she was a public school teacher, raising two kids, and one night she was in the living room doing her taxes and the next thing I know she’s in her bedroom, and we had to call an ambulance. She had a stroke, she had to stay in hospital for weeks. And I remember coming back to the house that night, alone with my sister and looking at the piece of paper she was writing to the IRS on as she started to have her stroke. And it left this indelible mark on me, that was ‘Money will kill you’, that people spend their lives dying inside because of money’.

He has tons of ideas and offers, ‘Sonic Highways’ was actually his second documentary – his first one was Sound City, about the history of Los Angeles studio, and he wants to continue: ‘I’m getting asked by everyone and their brother. You know, I’m getting offers to do, like, fucking commercials and that.’ The thing is, he laughs, he has literally no idea how to direct a film, at least technically. ‘Can I tell a director of photography how to frame a shot? No. But my biggest job as a director is to just sort of excite and cheerlead a group of people to find that one common goal or vision. I can convince people. I can convince people to do lots of things.’ Yes, I say, I get the impression that’s the kind of thing you’d be good at. Fuck, yeah’.

I guess we are far from being done with Grohl.

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