New Again: Dave Grohl

By
Photography Martin Mayo

Published April 22, 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Brett Morgen’s documentary currently screening at Tribeca Film Festival, is the first fully authorized documentary about Kurt Cobain and his career as the frontman of Nirvana. To humanize the story of the iconic musician, Morgen compiled home movies, little known recordings, artworks, journal entries, and photographs, but given the strained relationships between Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, and surviving members of the band, securing interviewees proved to be the most difficult part of the process. Although Morgen succeeded in capturing many of Cobain’s close companions, Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer, remains absent from the film.

Under Cobain’s command, Nirvana went through a series of drummers before settling on Grohl for the band’s second and third studio albums, Nevermind (1991) and In Utero (1993). Following Cobain’s death, Grohl then went on to found The Foo Fighters, for which he continues to serve as the frontman and primary songwriter. When Morgen first approached him about the film, Grohl was too busy promoting his latest album. Eventually, however, Morgen did interview Grohl for the film, but by the time he was available, the documentary had already circulated through Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival, and Morgen did not include Grohl’s segment in the final cut.

A week before Morgen’s documentary is released nationwide, we’re reprinting an interview with Grohl from our May 1997 issue. When distilled to its simplest form, the conversation is by and large a tribute to music—the art form and first love that Grohl and Cobain will always share. —Savannah O’Leary

A Few Good Foos from a FOO FIGHTERInterview by Ray RogersIllustration by Martin Mayo

Striking a balance between the hard and the soft, the dry and he sweet, the Foo Fighters’ loudmouth pop is rock-‘n’-roll’s version of the perfect martini. Interview talks to head Foo man Dave Grohl.

RAY ROGERS: Now that you’re a Foo Fighter, are you enjoying just being in a rock band, as opposed to being in Nirvana, which came to be seen as a group of so-called generational spokespeople?

DAVE GROHL: I do. Being in Nirvana was amazing an experience that will never happen again for me. And I look on them as some of the best and worst times of my life. But we’re in this band, the Foo Fighters, making music for the love of music. We all came from bands that had disbanded, and we were drawn to each other because we missed playing—we missed getting in the van, loading our equipment, and watching it break down in the middle of a show. And that feeling hasn’t gone away. There’s nothing I’d rather do than make music. It’s the love of my life.

ROGERS: When you look back with your time in Nirvana, are you amazed by it all?

GROHL: The perfect answer: Yes. That whole experience changed my life forever.

ROGERS: What do you feel is Nirvana’s legacy?

GROHL: Oh, I hate to talk about shit like that, I was just the drummer. I hate to flatter myself to even say we could have our own legacy.

ROGERS: But you do have one.

GROHL: Ask someone else, not me.

ROGERS: So, tell me, how did you switch from being the guy behind the drum kit to the frontman?

GROHL: My first instrument was actually the trombone, but that didn’t last long. Soon I was playing guitar in bands from the time I was 11 or 12. I was in one band where the drummer played bass and wasn’t really that good a drummer, so I offered my services, and I just stayed behind the drums for years. But I always loved writing songs—writing for myself and demo-ing songs, really with no intention of ever letting anyone else hear them. Finally the Foo Fighters stuff happened when I just went to the studio down the street from my house and recorded some stuff in about five or six days, and all these people wanted to release it as an album. I wanted to release it on my own, with no photos and no names on it.

ROGERS: Why did you want it to be anonymous?

GROHL: I hate the solo artist aspect of rock-‘n’-roll. I don’t have enough personality or charisma to be a solo star. To me the most important thing is getting into a studio and making an album that is 12 or 14 amazing songs, getting up onstage, and making people happy by livening the rock.

ROGERS: But you do have a lot of charisma. Do you realize that now?

GROHL: When something good comes your way, you better feel fortunate, because it doesn’t last forever. For me, when it comes to making an album I take that very seriously. I am meticulous, overworked. That’s my time to put everything under the microscope. With this record [The Colour and the Shape, released this month on Roswell/Capitol], I started taking the lyrics more seriously. This is a very personal album.

ROGERS: What did you discover about yourself while writing these songs?

GROHL: Well, I think I’m scared a lot. I’m scared of almost everything. And I’m constantly trying to work my way through each obstacle, whether it’s a present, past, or future relationship.

ROGERS: And you are married, right?

GROHL: I was married.

ROGERS: Did you recently get divorced or separated?

GROHL: Yeeeees, and so…it has a lot to do with that. There’s almost a theme to the album that runs from the beginning to the end. In the first song I’m singing about how I’ve never been so scared. At the end of the album, in the last song, I realize I’m not scared. It’s almost as if we edited a film. We are working on the artwork right now, and I was joking that the cover should be a photo of a therapist’s couch.

ROGERS: Is songwriting a form of therapy for you?

GROHL: Definitely. But I think actually singing the words is more therapeutic than just sitting down to write them, because then you are letting it out, and it’s coming from your gut. That’s quite a release and it’s something that I never experienced until the last two years.

ROGERS: Can I ask you what made you want to cut your hair?

GROHL: I had long hair since I was 17 years old. It was time for me to let go. I hated being the guy at the wedding in a suit with a ponytail. [laughs]

ROGERS: I like the make out song, “Everlong,” on your new record.

GROHL: Oh, the make out song! You gotta have a make out song every now and then. This album is gonna come out right before summer, so I’m really anxious for stories of kids making out on a beach blanket at night with the surf washing up to their feet as they listen to it.

THIS INTERVIEW ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE MAY 1997 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW. 

New Again runs every Wednesday. For more, click here.