ackstage at rock festivals, Dave Grohl doesn’t spend a lot time in his dressing room. “I’m all the time that man banging on all the opposite artists’ door saying, ‘Let’s do a shot of whiskey!’ then inviting them to hang around in conjunction with the stage. I like to really feel related to the musical neighborhood. Enjoying dwell is a large a part of what the Foo Fighters are about.”
So releasing the band’s tenth album – Medication at Midnight – into the “f***ing void” of a pandemic feels bizarre to him. And he discovered it “heartbreaking” that Foo Fighters’ participation in Joe Biden’s inaugural live performance by way of pre-recorded distant hyperlink prevented him from high-fiving Bruce Springsteen and Katy Perry within the wings. Whereas his emotional supply of “Occasions like These” was broadcast, Grohl mentioned his telephone “was filling up with texts from pals calling me an asshole for not telling them I used to be on the town. I needed to inform them: ‘I’m not on the town. I can’t be on the town!’”
However, on the telephone from his dwelling in Encino, California (the place his publicist assures me he’s already on his fifth espresso of the morning), the frontman says that it was nonetheless a “big honour” to be a part of an occasion that he describes as “a beacon of sunshine and hope”. He believes “so many People had develop into desensitised to quite a lot of the disaster we’ve been in for the previous 4 years. We grew calloused to the day by day disasters. It will have been simple to lose sight of hope and the concept of how good issues could possibly be.”
With its lyrics about “feeling divided” however wanting in the direction of “a model new sky to hold the celebrities upon tonight”, “Occasions Like These” captured the nationwide temper. Grohl wrote it again in 2002 for the band’s fourth album, One by One. It was impressed by disagreements throughout the band that are rumoured to have been so intense that they virtually broke up after Coachella. They have been resolved after Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins took a stroll collectively and determined to “simply jam” once more. Hawkins tells me it was throughout this time he remembered that “my position within the band is all the time to make Señor Grohl giggle… and to batter out a f***in’ superior drum solo on the finish of that tune.”
It was additionally the tune that thrust the band into the political enviornment. Because the son of a Republican speechwriter and a Democrat-voting main college trainer, Grohl by no means wished to get entangled in politics. However when George W Bush began taking part in “Occasions Like These” on the marketing campaign path, the lifelong Democrat voter was “so personally offended” that he started taking part in it dwell for Democratic candidate John Kerry’s marketing campaign. Final 12 months a gaggle of British artists (together with Paloma Religion, Ellie Goulding, Dua Lipa and Bastille) gathered of their houses to cowl “Occasions Like These” as a response to the pandemic. Coordinated by BBC Radio 1, The Dwell Lounge Allstars model turned the primary ever Foo Fighters tune to prime the UK singles chart in April 2020.
Residing as much as his popularity as “the nicest man in rock” (a tag he says we would rethink “for those who catch me on a foul day!”), Grohl prefaced his inauguration efficiency with a shout out to academics, together with Dr Jill Biden and his personal mom, who spent 35 years working in public faculties.
At this time he cringes on the reminiscence of a current Zoom name with Jill Biden and his mum. “I used to be so proud watching my mum. However then when the dialog ultimately turned to me the primary phrases out of Dr Biden’s mouth have been: ‘Dave, I hear you have been a horrible scholar.’ I used to be like, ‘Oh my God! I’m 52 years outdated now and that’s the popularity that also precedes me!’”
In actuality, Grohl’s difficult childhood behaviour – and the sensible manner his mom dealt with it – has all the time been a central a part of his public narrative. Recognized with Consideration Deficit Dysfunction, Grohl tells me he nonetheless has the report playing cards to remind him he was a “distracted and disruptive” presence within the classroom. He was typically so stoned he didn’t even know what topic he was meant to be finding out. “I didn’t really feel like everyone else,” he says. “I don’t know easy methods to clarify it.” His outlet was the punk rock music he found between the ages of 10 and 13. “We had a terrific underground scene in Washington, as soon as I discovered the channels,” he says.
At this time he reminisces concerning the “Rock Towards Reagan” live shows he attended “proper on the mall, in entrance of the Lincoln Memorial, 1 / 4 of a mile from the place I’d someday be invited to play at Obama’s first large ‘occasion’ on the South Garden. They occurred every Fourth of July. A whole lot of hundreds of individuals from the suburbs would come to observe the nationwide firework show. And proper smack within the f***ing center of it was a punk live performance with bands just like the Useless Kennedys and the Unhealthy Brains. There have been police on horses with f***ing batons. It was nuts. I’d get overwhelmed by police and rednecks. But it surely was the appropriate place and the appropriate time for that, underneath Reagan’s suffocating conservative administration.”
His father – a sharp-suited jazz lover whose nine-to-five job was “making Reagan sound like Abbie Hoffman” – was deeply upset. Grohl senior, who divorced Virginia when their son was 9, would punish the rebellious boy by banning him from taking part in music. In response, little Dave would play guitar in his thoughts and drum solos on his enamel – he likes to joke that his dentist has been unimpressed by the results. In a chunk he wrote for The Atlantic throughout lockdown, Grohl recollects the day when he lastly picked up a purple pen and wrote his dad a letter “unleashing 16 years of fury as my tears hit the web page in blurred stains. I rejected his narrow-minded life-coaching and chastised him for his lack of religion in me.” The fervour the 16-year-old put into this letter pressured his dad to concede that: “Your writing has punch, David. Punch is energy!”
James Grohl died in 2014. His son has carried these phrases with him. However he offers many of the credit score for his profession to his mum. “I did not slip between the cracks as a result of I used to be raised by a girl who knew that no two youngsters study alike. She had religion in me, perhaps not as an mental, however as an impressed individual. She taught me easy methods to love and he or she gave me the liberty to be who I’m.”
In her guide, From Cradle to Stage (2017), Virginia Grohl writes concerning the leap of maternal religion it took for her to permit her son to drop out of college at 17 and tour Europe together with his first band, Scream. “Are you able to think about?” says the father-of-three. “Your child’s telling you: ‘I’m going to Europe with a band for 3 months. I’ll be sleeping in squats and touring in a van with eight different folks.’ Have you learnt I solely despatched one postcard dwelling?”
To Virginia, a fan of musicals and acts like The Manhattan Switch, it sounded as if her son’s first band have been “simply screaming their heads off”. She was “fairly certain they weren’t going to switch The Beatles”. However issues took off shortly when her boy joined Nirvana in 1990. Their 1991 album Nevermind topped the Billboard chart in January 1992, promoting roughly 300,000 copies per week. Regardless of Kurt Cobain’s well-publicised heroin habit, Virginia was extra involved that Madonna would “snatch up” her son.
After Cobain’s suicide in 1994, Grohl tells me he “wasn’t certain I’d ever play music once more. I turned the amplifiers off. I used to be misplaced.” Over 1 / 4 of a century later, he nonetheless relives that loss in recurring Nirvana goals. “They all the time give me this preliminary burst of happiness and pleasure, as a result of Kurt is all the time in them. It’s like: ‘Oh! he’s nonetheless alive!’ There’s by no means any rationalization for that. Simply that pretty feeling. Then all of it goes mistaken once we go on stage. There’s nobody within the viewers and my drum sticks stretch to the dimensions of phone poles.”
Grohl says, “I truthfully consider there’s some vitality or interconnectivity that makes these encounters extra than simply goals. I’m not a psychic or something like that. However I do consider there’s an vitality to these goals that makes them greater than hallucinations.”
And if Grohl’s first response to Cobain’s demise was to place down his devices, he tells me his second was to select them again up and “document these songs I’d written on my own, as a type of purge or exorcism, to only f***ing DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING. It was simply one thing to sit up for. I’m a hopeful individual and I would like a purpose to rise up and get excited every morning. I had no thought that may flip into 1 / 4 of a century of a profession… However for the previous 25 years I’ve been locked into this similar cycle. We document a document, we go around the planet three f***ing instances with it and say we’re by no means doing that once more. We’re exhausted. We by no means need to see an instrument once more. Two weeks later, I’m on the sofa writing one other document. That’s been my life for many years. Having it cease has been… exhausting.”
With a eager sense of historical past, Grohl had felt “an enormous expectation about 2020. I knew it was our twenty fifth anniversary, our tenth document. I believed we might trip off into the sundown with some acoustic dirge, or we expect: f*** that, make a celebration document. I imply, I do know rock’n’roll is a younger man’s sport. I all the time seen it was worse for girls. F***ing horrible sexist ageism for them. But it surely occurs to males too, to a lesser extent. No one ever put my age in articles. I by no means learn a sentence that ran ‘Dave Grohl, 28’. Now I’m all the time ‘Dave Grohl, 52, simply barely with us…’ I checked out this document as a brand new starting. I wished to take issues up, convey back-up singers, the grooves, the occasion.”
Extra impressed by funk and pop (Grohl names David Bowie, Sly & the Household Stone and Prince as influences) Medication at Midnight is a gloriously danceable document. Taylor Hawkins laughs about his resistance to together with some drum machine beats, however says he quickly discovered to flip his signature cymbal smashes and stick twirls into the perky new combine. Hawkins tells me that the upbeat “Love Dies Younger” is his favorite observe on the document. “Songs like ‘Disgrace’, Dave had collectively earlier than we met up. However that one actually grew organically. Dave wished a distinct beat – just like the beat to “Everlong”. However I stored listening to Stage 42 – Phil Gould is an unbelievable drummer – and once I tried it that manner Dave was: ‘Oh, yeah, that works!’”
Grohl thinks that, in drawing divisions between genres, folks “too typically confuse instrumentation with intention”. He explains that it’s not all about guitars and quantity: “After I discuss rock’n’roll, I imply the whole lot from Little Richard to Billie Eilish, who I feel is impressed by the identical factor as me. Typically folks mistake industrial success for cultural relevance. There are quite a lot of big pop artists however that does not essentially solidify into cultural longevity. I have a look at my 14-year-old daughter, Violet [who sings on this record], and her pals and so they’re all about guitars and drums, Bowie bootlegs and Etta James. That’s not from me, that’s the stuff they’re discovering themselves, no matter is on A-list radio rotation.”
Grohl’s center daughter, Harper, impressed the brand new tune “Ready on a Struggle”. In a Twitter publish, he defined that: “As a toddler rising up within the suburbs of Washington DC, I used to be all the time afraid of warfare. I had nightmares of missiles within the sky and troopers in my yard, almost certainly introduced on by the political rigidity of the early Nineteen Eighties and my proximity to the nation’s Capitol. My youth was spent underneath the darkish cloud of a hopeless future.”
He continued: “Final fall, as I used to be driving my 11-year-old daughter to highschool she turned to me and requested, ‘Daddy, is there going to be a warfare?’ My coronary heart sank in my chest as I seemed into her harmless eyes, as a result of I realised that she was now dwelling underneath that very same darkish cloud of a hopeless future that I had felt 40 years in the past.”
One other observe – “No Son of Mine” – is a tribute to his outdated buddy Lemmy Kilminster, the Motörhead frontman, who died in 2015. At this time he tells me he first met Lemmy “at a strip membership in LA. I used to be strolling again to the bathroom and noticed him, by himself, distant from any of the women, on a poker machine within the nook of the room. I imply, he was simple to identify. He’s a f***ing intergalactic cowboy. I mentioned to myself: right here is one in every of my heroes. I’d be remiss if I did not pay tribute. So I walked over and mentioned: ‘I don’t need to trouble you, however I do have to let you already know that your music modified my life.’ I advised him I used to be in a band referred to as the Foo Fighters. He seemed up, into my eyes and mentioned: ‘I’m actually sorry about what occurred to Kurt.’ Out of the kindness in his coronary heart he shared an actual beneficiant emotion with a fellow musician. I’m certain he had by no means heard a f***ing Foo Fighters tune. But it surely made me need to be his buddy for the remainder of his life. And I used to be.”
After the Foos completed recording Medication at Midnight they have been all set to make a giant splash of it. Then the pandemic hit and Grohl says that “the folks involved with the enterprise facet have been telling us this wasn’t a great time to launch a document. However we pushed again. I mentioned: ‘Actually? As a result of I think about folks might use a little bit of escape proper now, don’tcha suppose? I think about folks need to dance!’”
Grohl says the occasion that tipped the stability was his on-line drum battle with British drum prodigy Nandi Bushell – who was simply 10 years outdated on the time. “At first I believed: ‘That’s humorous,’” he explains. “My pals advised me to do it. After I noticed her, I believed: ‘Clearly, that child goes to kick my ass.’ She’s an excellent drummer, filled with this recent vitality and enthusiasm and I’m like two footwear in a f***ing laundry dryer. When the movies went viral, I realised that the one objective of the band is to convey pleasure. That’s it. Proper? The battle with Nandi introduced happiness and launch to the hundreds of thousands who watched it at a time when happiness was in brief provide. Watching this nice child kick my ass lifted hearts from the f***ing doom for 3-4 minutes. I knew we needed to put the album out.”
Bushell’s movies have additionally seen some on-line pundits predicting a resurgence of rock music, which hasn’t gained as a lot traction with fashionable teenagers as in earlier generations. After I ask Grohl if he thinks this would be the case, he laughs. “You’re asking the mistaken man! From the place I get to face, on the lip of the stage watching lots of of hundreds of followers sing our songs, I haven’t been in a position to detect any drop within the pulse of rock’n’roll. It’s not going anyplace and I’m actually not going away. I absolutely intend to be doing this for so long as I can. I imply, subsequent time we come to see you guys, I hope some folks will present up!”
Medication at Midnight is out on Friday 5 February