Learnt To Fly
Metal Hammer 2005
Being in the Foo Fighters is like bunking off school to go smoke weed and jam. At 36, you'd think Dave Grohl should know better by now, but the most grinning man in rock is just getting started.
Dave Grohl is metal as fuck. There's no way around it. When Hammer walks into studio 606 - ("it's called that cos it's our lucky number") - he starts extolling the virtues of the new Six Feet Under album 13 in that stereotypically hyper way of an American high school metal fan, shortly before confessing that they're currently his favourite band.
Now Six Feet Under are a hell of a long way from anything the Foo Fighters have ever done, but Grohl's love of all things heavy and metal has been often documented, none more so than by the man himself with the Probot project.
At 8,000 square feet and a constant 72 degrees, Studio 606 must be considered the ultimate den for any musician. Nirvana and Foo Fighters platinum albums wallpaper the Foos inner sanctum. Grohl's metal past is hinted at every turn. There's a toy version of Motley Crue's drumkit in pride of place above the mixing desk. Manowar, Scorpions and Van Halen DVDs are on a loop upstairs in the hangout area. Led Zeppelin wedding present photos line the walls. A Motorhead air freshner dangles from the rear view of his BMW above an overflowing ashtray. The man has metal bones.
Tap him about his metal past and Grohl will happily rant about "all that badass underground shit that was around back then". As Taylor Hawkins is quick to point out; "Of course Dave was a metal kid, he's got Zeppelin tattoos!" - Grohl has Zep tub thumper John Bonham's logo inked at various places around his body.
But he's grown out of it now, right? "It's kind of sad for a 36-year old to compare it to bunking school, hanging out with your friends and jamming, but that's what it is," explains Grohl. "When I was young, I would rather bail school, smoke a joint and play with friends than do anything else. And now I'd rather record and jam with the band than work in a drugstore."
So no regrets?
"I wish I'd fucked up twice as hard when I was a kid 'cos it just doesn't fucking matter. Also I should've listened to my friends and dumped the bitch," he says referring to now ex-wife Jennifer Youngblood whom he divorced during the recording of 1997's 'The Colour And The Shape'.
"But everything else was kind of smooth..."
he ponders for a moment. "...actually, I kind of wish I'd
found the time to learn to shred but I think it's too late
now, I can't do it, I'm a chord guy, I wish I'd learned a
lead guitar part or two though. I think I maybe quit
smoking weed too early, but shredding's definitely
When David Eric Grohl was drumming with a then
little known band called Nirvana - before they
changed the world that is - he was busily and secretly
working away at home, recording his own songs that
never saw the light of day. Well, most of them didn't,
except a smattering of tracks he recorded post-'Nevermind' in Washington DC for his contribution to
the Pocketwatch demo tape collection, of which he
named his 'Late!' (around £70 on ebay if you can find
it), Grohl had started to hone his songwriting chops at
the age of 18 with DC band Scream, a Bad Brains style
melding of punk rock and reggae, whose album
'Fumble' featured some of his songs, and his first stint
as lead vocalist on 'Gods Look Down'. From there on in
Nirvana took hold and carried Grohl off around the
world, but he still kept writing and recording his own
stuff whenever he found some downtime.
In 2005, 10 years on from the inception of the Foo
Fighters and their eponymous debut - all of which
was written, played and sung by Grohl - the new
album 'In Your Honour' neatly ties everything up right
back to those early days. The acoustic half of the
album features a Grohl penned song called 'Friend Of A Friend' which he began writing 15 years ago
when he shared a house with Kurt Cobain and Krist
Novoselic. lt's taken this long for him to get it right,
and finally he's happy now, "it works", But it's not the
only song on the album that's reared up from the past.
"There's always that stray song from eight years
ago, and it's usually the same one
- 'Seven Corners'. It's a
great riff but its not a
great song, It could be
though. But I've spent years
trying to figure it out. I'm
sure it'll come back out for
the next album, Today we're
recording the last song for
the record, and we've tried
using the middle section of that song loads of times. It just never fit anywhere
before! It's got this Gary Numan death vibe to the riff.
It's rock and heavy, but that was written even before
'The Colour And The Shape: That's old as shit.."
Grohl admits that after awhile he just knows which
tracks to prune. He knows which ones make sense,
which ones people identify with and which ones fit the
sequence of the record in question.
"You go into the studio with a bunch of shit and after
a while you just know what fits. You can't be attached to
anything too much. The other tricky thing is that most
of the demos are instrumental. I may have an idea of
the vocal but I don't have any
lyrics, so even if I come up with a
killer instrumental arrangement
but the vocals are like diarrhoea,
then it winds up in the trash. Like
after I put vocals on 'Free Me' I
just knew it was good. At the end
of the day, if there's a song that I
whole heartedly just don't like
then it's not going on the record,
even if the other guys are all,
'Yeah!' about it."
Now if you didn't like the Foo Fighters before. you're
probably not about to start with 'In Your Honour: If you
didn't think that 'Monkey Wrench' was a bad ass good
time rock song, then you won't think 'Free Me' or 'No
Way Back' are either. But the rock half of the album -
there's two discs, 10 rock tracks and 10 acoustic - is
definitely the most rocked-out-with-hellfire-devil-horns
the Foo Fighters have ever got.
"That was pretty conscious and we knew we could do it,
'cos we were making the aouble record, so both acoustic
and rock dynamics had to be extreme. We wanted them
separate so we went as far as we could in each direction.
After we'd recorded the acoustic record, we realised it had
kept getting bigger and bigger, so we had to push the
rock stuff even more rock to keep that distance between
the two of 'em. We even went back into the studio with
the rock record to make the rock stuff more rock!
I've always had this self-conscious thing of what Foo
Fighters should sound like, but this time with a heavier
song like 'In Your Honour' or 'Free Me' I thought, Why the
hell not?' It's still the same four guys playing it so it just is
a Foo Fighters song, whether it sounds like Carcass or
fucking Ry Cooder."
The Foos last album 'One By One' was, well, a bit shit.
Half shit to be exact, A fact Grohl is now all too aware of.
"With that record. we were like, 'Fuck man, we need
something. Just put these on there'. That's basically how
we did the second half of that last record, 'cos we just
needed another half of an album! So yeah I guess I do
kind of regret that, 'cos I knew that we were capable of
"With this band, most people are like, 'The Colour And
The Shape' man, landmark album. That's the one where
they became a band, it's got the hits, it's strong front to
back', and we had to do that again, We had to make an
album that was going to be great all the way through. I
remember when we were making 'The Colour..' that I
thought the sequence was good, the songs were good,
and that it was a strong record. Each song on there served
a purpose and I feel like that about this record too."
Is the reason they made a double album this time
around to make it up to the fans for 'One By One's piss-poor showing?
"Yeah probably. I mean after 10 years you can't rest.
You can't just assume people will go out and buy your.
record 'cos of the name, or the face, or the, 'I saw them at
Reading in '96 and they were great so I'll buy this album
and hope it's good: You can't do that. And usually when
we make records - we didn't do the last one this way
but.. - you have to go in there like you're a new band.
You can't just assume your career will speak for itself, You
have to do it like it's the first record you've ever made, to
recapture that feeling you had the first time.
Grohl pauses awhile to think about what he's just said,
before breaking into that trademark toothy grin.
"This might be someone's first Foo Fighters record, and
it might be someone's favourite," he says, "It is definitely
Words: Jamie Hibbard
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