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Dave goes Off Camera with Sam Jones. Read, Watch, Listen in right here!

Being a bona fide badass is the price of entry for a career in rock and roll; and if you ask Dave Grohl, it’s the key ingredient for just about anything worth doing. His approach to life has fueled the Foo Fighters’ 20 year,11 album career and garnered him a following of very stoked rock fans, many of who gathered at this year’s SXSW music conference to hear Grohl’s keynote address. The hipsters, rockers, start-uppers and next-big-thing developers packing the room were no doubt curious to hear how one goes about dropping out of high school, rising to fame as the drummer in Nirvana (a small Northwest act you may have heard of), and then go on to lead one today’s few remaining true rock bands? For Grohl, the answer’s pretty simple: figure out who you are and what inspires you and don’t look back – develop that individuality by working as hard as you can at what you love. That clarity of approach drove not only his Nirvana/Foo Fighters trajectory, but numerous musical side projects like Queens of the Stone Age, and Them Crooked Vultures. And most recently, a new artistic title: documentarian. He didn’t know anything about the film making process except what he needed to know most: Passion for your subject is sine qua non; and not one to do anything without it, Grohl didn’t question himself. Nor apparently did Rick Springfield, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty, all subjects of Sound City, his fascinating documentary about the people behind the studio that launched an amazing roster of legendary music acts. For a guy who admits to still feeling like a 13 year old and dressing like a 17 year old, Grohl has something to teach all of us…and shares it with Off Camera in one of our most inspiring interviews to date. Q: All right, Dave Grohl. A: Hi. How are you? Q: Good. It’s very nice to have you here and it’s nice to have a filmmaker on this show. We’ve had musicians, skateboarders and actors, but we haven’t had a director. (Laughs). Sound City is a really amazing film, and I was impressed with how deeply you dug into everyone’s personal story. But before we go there, I was watching your South by Southwest keynote speech and realized we have all the same references. You told a story about your cousin in Chicago who was a punk rocker and you talked about coveting her record collection. I went to Fullerton High School, and graduated in 1984, and the bands that went to school with me were the Adolescents… A: Whoa. Q: Agent Orange… A: Wow. Q: And a couple of guys from Social Distortion. A: No way. That’s so crazy. I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I HAD TO DO ANYTHING THAT I WAS EXPECTED TO DO. Q: Yeah, and I don’t think it dawned on me until I saw your keynote address that the Adolescents were national. I just kind of figured it was an Orange County thing. A: That’s pretty funny. Well, that was what was so cool about the punk rock scene when I was young. There was this underground network that was run by kids. There were people making fanzines and people trading tapes and people with record companies who didn’t even have their driver’s license yet. I knew people who were 13 or 14 years old who’d already published their own little magazines, and they would sell them outside of clubs at shows. They’d already released like, two records and played a show in another state and printed their own t-shirts and things like that. There was this real sense of independence and a sense that anything was possible. By the time I was 13 or 14, I knew this: I’m not going to be a doctor. I’m not going to be a lawyer. I’m not going to be an astronaut. I’m not going to be a firefighter. I’m going to do whatever I want to do. I’m going to figure out how to survive, because I didn’t believe you had to just join the stream. I didn’t believe that you had to go to college to eat food and survive and live, you know? I didn’t feel like I had to join the military. I didn’t feel like I had to do anything that I was expected to do. It might seem like a shitty attitude, but I didn’t think of it that way. It’s not that I didn’t want to go along with anyone, I just wanted to find my own way to do stuff, and that’s what that whole [punk rock] scene represented to me: kids writing their own songs about things and feelings that were their own and starting a band with people in the most natural way. Just to play music with another person and then to do everything yourself seemed so exciting – there wasn’t any real career aspiration. It was like, imagine if you put together a band with your friends, and you actually wrote a song, and then you went to a studio and recorded it, and sent it to this place where they pressed it into singles. It was worth having just one of them, you know? Like, “Holy shit, look what I just did.” Q: I totally agree. When I was a kid I just wanted to make something. I remember the first time I folded a piece of paper into the shape of the cassette case and put it into the cassette case, and it became the real thing to me. Like, “Hey, we made our own cassette!” I also had the whole skateboarding thing too, because you know, you had to make a ‘zine because your friend had a backyard ramp and someone knew how to take pictures, so someone took pictures on the ramp, and then that was your cover. A: Yeah. Q: I think that was something great about that generation, in terms of all that stuff being so new, and kids all over the place were figuring it out on their own. There was no YouTube video on how to make a ‘zine or how to start a band or anything. A: Sure, yeah. Q: One fascinating thing about Sound City and all great documentaries is that you managed to get so much of yourself into the story. It wasn’t about you, but you managed to tell your own story about what was really important to you through the story of the studio. What did you take away from that experience as a director and filmmaker? Will it influence the way you make you make your next record? A: I don’t know. I never imagined that I would direct a movie. I’ve done videos and stuff like that, and I love it. It’s so fun, but it’s me and the Foo Fighters. They’re my best friends, so it’s always fun to say, “Hey Taylor, put on that dress and walk across the screen.” But I made Sound City because the story meant so much to me. If I had to do a documentary on Hormel Chili, it would fucking blow because I don’t care about Hormel Chili. Sound City was a place that was really, really special to me and represented something very specific. The studio was all about music and musicians and the work that was done in those rooms; it really didn’t have anything to do with what happened outside of the studio. It was a place where you would go to focus on capturing a moment and making it real. Once you left Sound City, it was a whole other story. To me, that’s what music is all about. So Sound City was kind of a platform for me to talk about something that I really believe in, which is the sound of human beings playing music and people collaborating, and the effect of things that you don’t necessarily take into consideration, whether it’s the runners that worked at Sound City or the owners or the people that started the place 40 years ago. If it weren’t for those people, you wouldn’t have Fleetwood Mac, the way we have it now. You wouldn’t have Nirvana’s Nevermind. You wouldn’t have Rage Against the Machine. You wouldn’t have Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes. Those people made those albums happen, and to me it seems like the process is so much deeper than just the rock star in front of a microphone. It goes way beyond that; so as I was trying to tell the story of the studio, I was also trying to explain the importance of factors that most people might not consider, like the board or the room or Paula the studio manager or Nick the runner. If it weren’t for those elements, none of those albums would have sounded the same. It humanizes the whole deal. Music’s a big fucking deal, so I guess for me, it’s important that everyone feels the way I feel about music, you know? It’s such a luxury in life that everybody has music available to them. You don’t have to be a judge on The Voice to fucking sing a song, you know what I mean? You can sing. Most people do. They sing in traffic, they sing in the shower. Be yourself. Respect and appreciate your own voice, and it feels good. So the movie, as much as it was the story of the studio, it had layers and sub layers of things that seemed to make sense together. Q: Well, you did a great job because that sentiment really comes across. What was one of the more surprising things that you didn’t know about directing films before getting into it? A: There were plenty of technical things I just had never imagined or considered. When we started the project, it was my friend Jim Roda and I – that was it. I was buying the studio’s [mixing] board and I thought that I would make a short film, like a YouTube clip, and just put it online for people to see the history of this board that I was now putting in my studio right around the 20th anniversary of Nevermind, the Nirvana record that was recorded on that board. So I called Jim, and said, “Hey, I want to do this on the cheap. It’s just a short film. What do you think? Can we use your camera? Can you edit it?” He agreed, and then I asked the people at Sound City for a list of all the people that had recorded there. They kind of laughed and said, “You know that’s like 20,000 albums.” I said, “Well, then give me the short list,” and the short list was ridiculous. It was like a rock and roll hall of fame induction ceremony, so I got phone numbers and email addresses of each one of these people – Rick Springfield, Lee Ving, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty – and I just started calling and writing, saying, “Hi, my name’s Dave. I’m going to make a movie about Sound City.” Q: [Laughs.] Who’s this Dave guy? Foo Fighters? What? I JUST WANTED TO FIND MY OWN WAY TO DO STUFF, AND THAT’S WHAT THAT WHOLE PUNK ROCK SCENE REPRESENTED TO ME: KIDS WRITING THEIR OWN SONGS ABOUT THINGS AND FEELINGS THAT WERE THEIR OWN AND STARTING A BAND WITH PEOPLE IN THE MOST NATURAL WAY. A: Believe me, it happens. But everybody agreed to do it, I think because they appreciated the studio for all the same reasons I did – what it represented and how cool it was. So the project sort of blossomed into this bigger, meaner film. The first meeting I had was with a couple of people from my management company and my friend Jim Roda. I said, “Look, I don’t want any fucking Hollywood movie people involved at all. Because I’ve never done this before, the last thing I want to happen is for someone to tell me, ‘Actually that’s not how you do it.’” Because great things happen when you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s like evolution, you know? Q: I guess the same goes for making a first record, right? A: Exactly. I recorded the first Foo Fighters album in five days by myself, and I didn’t have a producer. I just had these song ideas; I’m not the greatest drummer or guitar player or singer in the world, but I just needed to get this shit off my chest. So I went down to the studio and did it there, and it turned out okay. Q: What would have happened if there was a guy there telling you what to do? A: It would have sucked. It would have been terrible. I would have hated it. I needed to purge. I needed to do it for myself, by myself. Q: So you approached making Sound City in the same way? A: I approach everything in life that way. I never took drum lessons. I learned how to do it on my bed by listening to Rush records and punk rock. Actually, I took one drum lesson, and the teacher was like, “How do you hold your sticks? Yeah, you know that’s not how you’re supposed to hold them.” I’m like, “Okay, I don’t have $30 an hour to sit there and re-learn everything that I’ve learned…” And it was the same with guitar. I took a couple of guitar lessons, and then I wound up just figuring it out on my own. And I play guitar my way– I don’t really know what any of the chords are, but the way I look at a guitar is like a drum set. I look at the lower strings like they’re kicks and snares, and I look at the higher strings like they’re cymbals, so when I play, it’s almost like a kick-snare pattern. I accentuate a riff like it’s a kick or snare pattern. Q: It’s so funny hearing you say that, because it makes total sense from a drummer’s perspective how your riffs come about. A: If I want to ring out the higher notes, it’s almost like when I’m playing the drums: In a verse, I’ll play tight on a high hat or on a ride or something like that, but when the chorus comes and I want to open it up, I’ll wash on a cymbal just to make this whoosh. It sounds like waves or washing a cymbal. I do the same thing on a guitar when I let the strings ring out on suspended notes. But nobody ever taught me how to do that. I just sort of thought, “Oh that’s good.” It’s like if I go to IKEA and buy a shitty fucking chair that I need to put together. I don’t really want to look at the instructions. I want to just figure it out, because at the end of the day when I’m sitting there in my shitting IKEA chair, I feel proud that IKEA didn’t tell me how to put it together, you know? It’s the same with Sound City. I honestly believe that if you’re passionate, and you’re driven and focused, you can accomplish anything that you want to do. And it’s to your standards, which should be okay or enough. My mother was a schoolteacher. She taught high school for 35 years, and when I dropped out of high school, she was okay with it. Q: What do you think she saw in you that made her say, “He’s going to be okay?” A: The ability to learn, because that’s what school is for. School isn’t supposed to be there to give you information that you’re expected to retain for the rest of your life. For instance, when is the last time you did long division? Q: Exactly. A: I’m just saying. You busted your fucking ass to make that test and hopefully passed it so that you could move on to the next level. School is supposed to teach you how to learn. It’s not supposed to teach you specific things. Of course, I’m probably talking out of my ass right now. Who knows? I’m a high school dropout – what the fuck do I know? But I think that if you see that ability to learn in your child, or my mom saw that in me, she thought, “Okay, he’s not going to become the president of the United States of America, but he can probably figure it out.” So when I look at my kids, I think the same thing. I look at my daughter Violet. She’s fucking brilliant. She has an aural memory where she can hear something once and repeat it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the entire chorus of a Green Day song; she’s got it. She can imitate someone’s accent. She can see a pattern and she has this ability to solve problems and retain information in a way that makes me think, “Okay, she’s got it.” Q: It’s nice to know that this far along in your career, you still are connected to the approach you learned as a kid, and that you trust yourself enough to follow your gut and try something, say, in the edit room. A: Well, one thing I didn’t understand was the dynamic of the relationship between an editor and a director, because I’ve never had to deal with that before. Q: How was that? GREAT THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE DOING. A: It was okay, but I had a pretty specific idea of how I thought things should be. When I first came up with the idea for the film, I wrote it down in this journal. I outlined the film and all the things that I wanted to achieve in each one of the three acts. I found it a few months ago as I was cleaning out my garage, and it was exactly the film! I was so happy that I actually achieved what I set out to do. But there were times when I really had to explain my vision and just cross my fingers and hope that everybody either had my back or was going along for the ride. Like, “Are we seeing eye to eye on this? If we are, awesome. If not, then we should sort of figure that out.” When I had that first meeting, I told everybody I wanted to keep it tight, that I didn’t want some big movie studio production. I didn’t want a bunch of people that have never been to Sound City. I didn’t want a bunch of people that don’t understand what it’s like to pick up a guitar and get in a room with someone and jam. So we had this really tight crew of likeminded musicians and music lovers. I think on a typical shoot day we would have about nine people on set. Q: That’s really small. A: It was great, man. Q: But it’s still more people than you have when you’re making a record, where you have a producer and an engineer, and those are the only people outside of the artist. Was there a learning curve involved in figuring how to deal with the crew and all that? A: Well, I don’t really know what other directors do, but to me, it seemed like 99% of my job was being a cheerleader and trying to get everyone as excited about this as I am. I was trying to share this enthusiasm and at the same time explain my specific vision or idea for whatever we were doing at the time, and it was great. Everybody trusted it. It’s funny. In the Foo Fighters, I write basic ideas of the songs and then I go to our drummer Taylor. He and I sit down and record demos and sort of determine the dynamic of the song. Is it a fast song? Is it a slow song? We’ve got the melody. We’ve got the basic idea of the core of the song, but where are we going to take it? Then we go to the other guys and say, “Okay, here’s where we think we want to take it.” Then everybody sort of grabs ahold of it and pulls it in his own direction, which ultimately makes it a bigger song. So as much as I might seem like the leader of the band, it’s more like a benign dictatorship. But with directing the film, I really felt like I was in charge, and it kind of freaked me out. I’ve never had a job like that before. Q: Where everyone looked to you. What are we doing next? Where do we put the camera…? A: I’m so used to having a boss that it was funny for me to be the boss. A: It was similar in the feeling that it’s done when it feels right, and if it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. I don’t always know why. I’m not such a musical person that I can explain to someone why that particular scale doesn’t work or why that time signature feels a bit jumpy, because I don’t know how to count time signatures, and I can’t read music. I can just tell you if it feels weird. It was sort of the same with making the film, because what the fuck do I know? I don’t know any of the terminology. I don’t know any filmmaking lingo. I could hardly turn a camera on, so I’d have to say to people, “It just seems that’s not there yet. Let’s do it again. Try this and maybe that’ll work.” But at the same time, I know that’s part of working with people. Q: Have you landed on a method of working with people? A: Well, collaboration depends on consideration. You have to extend your hand to the person you’re working with. You can’t shut it down and say, it is fucking my way or the highway. You can’t do that. When I first met with Paul Crowder, the editor, and Mark Monroe, the writer for the film, I said, “Okay here’s what I think we should do, but I want you guys to give me your opinion, because I’ve never done this before. Tell me if I’m crazy.” You have to be open to doing that. It’s one of the great things about being in the band – if someone has an idea you just have to try it; you can’t really just shut something down and say it’s not going to work without hearing it. So collaborating with the people on Sound City was kind of like being in a band. You just had to make sure that everybody was on the same track. I LOOK AT A GUITAR IS LIKE A DRUM SET. I LOOK AT THE LOWER STRINGS LIKE THEY’RE KICKS AND SNARES, AND I LOOK AT THE HIGHER STRINGS LIKE THEY’RE CYMBALS Q: As you got into the stories of the individual artists that you profiled, did you uncover anything that blew you away? A: The story of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham meeting Mick Fleetwood at Sound City was a big one. I’d always thought it was legend or myth. I didn’t know if it was true. Q: It’s a convenient story. Yeah, they all met one day. A: Yeah. Mick Fleetwood came to Sound City to check it out as a place to make a new Fleetwood Mac record, and Stevie and Lindsey were runners there. They sort of met in the hallway, and Mick Fleetwood goes home. His guitar player quits. He’d heard some of Lindsey and Stevie’s music, so he calls the studio and says, “What about that guy Lindsey? He’s a good guitar player.” They told him he could have Lindsey, but he’d have to have to take his girlfriend too, and that’s how Fleetwood Mac as we know it today got together. Q: So that wasn’t legend. That was exactly how it happened. A: It was exactly how it happened. And you know, there were lots of anecdotes about cocaine and whiskey and ghosts and shit that I’d never heard before. But for the most part, the biggest surprise in making the movie was going into the studio with these legends. Stevie Nicks and Paul McCartney and Rick Nielsen – they’re all legends. They’re musical giants. These people have changed the world, and they came into the studio just as vulnerable as any other musician. You would think that because their musical history is so legendary that they’d kind of walk into the studio, pick up an instrument, be a badass and just split. But they didn’t. They came in and they worked at it, and they asked for suggestions; they’re not sure about themselves, or their part, or their voice, and I was surprised. It’s hard to imagine that this person that you idolize is entirely human and has all the same vulnerabilities that you do. Q: Maybe you idolize them subconsciously because of their vulnerabilities, or maybe the quality that drew you to them in the first place is the story that you are trying to tell: that the people who gravitated towards Sound City and made their best records there are those fallible humans who are willing to chase mistakes and be vulnerable. A: One of the things that was so great about Sound City is that they were famous for recordings that were imperfect. For example, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers going into the big room and recording Damn the Torpedoes as a live band, basically, with Jimmy Iovine as the producer. All these other bands had been recording live. Bruce Springsteen had done it, and I think John Lennon had recorded some stuff live, so they really wanted to go in and record as a band. And in order to make it sound great, you have to play great. But it’s the subtle imperfections of each performance, whether it’s the drummer or the guitar player or the vocalist, that make it sound like people. Being in the studio with these people and watching them work as hard as they can to make it sound great, but at the same time, appreciating all of those inconsistencies, was really inspiring to me. I was in this band called Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and vocals, and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin on bass. John Paul Jones is without a doubt the most brilliant musician I’ve ever worked with in my entire life. He’s just fucking genius at everything. It doesn’t matter if he’s sitting at a harpsichord or ripping a mandolin or whatever it is. He will pick up an instrument and master it [snaps] like that. And we were recording live. When we made that record, we’d go into the room, and I’d say, “Okay who has an idea?” And it was usually Josh who said, “Well I have this idea…” and we’d start writing. By lunch, we’d have a nine-minute epic fucking instrumental to end all instrumentals. But we needed a song, so we would whittle it down to maybe six minutes. By dinner, we would have it so tight that we could just hit record, do one take, and it would sound great. Usually when you’re recording that way, the most important thing right out of the gate is the drums. If you get a good drum track you can fix other things here and there. But the drums need to be tight, so we would listen to the drums. Then we’d listen to the bass, and as we listened, I’d hear these really small pick scratches or a tiny speed up in rhythm or a weird fret buzz. And John Paul Jones would listen to it all the way through and say, “Yeah, that’s cool. Sounds great.” Now, a modern day producer would hear all that and say, “No, no, no, we’ve got to fix that. That’s an inconsistency, it doesn’t sound perfect.” Ultimately, I’ve found that when you’re listening to something that’s pristine and perfect and looped or repeated, it kind of makes you tired in a weird way. I don’t know what it is, but it makes my ears tired. Q: But John would listen to the song as a whole. He could step back from it and not be the player who has to fix this and that. A: Absolutely. He could appreciate the performance. Going back and listening to his music or Paul McCartney’s music or Stevie Wonder’s music, I’m starting to realize why I can still listen to it: I discover something new in these songs every time I listen to them. I hear something that I hadn’t heard before. I don’t know if I could listen to Ace of Base’s “The Sign” as many times as I’ve listened to “Kashmir” [laughs]. Q: It sounds like what you took away from the film making experience is the importance of preserving the human element in the creation of art, whether it’s making a film or making a song. That seems to be the thing that makes other people connect with you in the long run. A: Well it’s a funny thing, expectation. How good is good enough, or how do you know when it’s good enough? It took me a really long time to accept that I am not going to sing like Freddie Mercury, ever. It’s just not going to happen, and it took me a really long time before I realized that’s okay. Q: Are you critical of your voice? I RECORDED THE FIRST FOO FIGHTERS ALBUM IN FIVE DAYS BY MYSELF, AND I DIDN’T HAVE A PRODUCER. I JUST HAD THESE SONG IDEAS; I JUST NEEDED TO GET THIS SHIT OFF MY CHEST. A: Of course. Not as much so now, because I realized how ridiculous it is to try to be something that you’re just not. I want to be a great singer. I want to be a great drummer. I want to be a great father. I want to be a great driver, whatever, but… Q: You are a pretty good driver. A: Thanks, did you see me park today? Q: Yeah – you did a nice job. A: It was good, but I don’t know, having expectations as an artist is a funny thing. Who’s to say what’s good or what’s bad or what’s right or what’s wrong? If you honestly believe that your art is a true expression of yourself, then who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Q: And are you even making art if you’re trying to make it for somebody else, or to someone else’s expectations? A: I swear to God, every musician has this conflict, every one of them. I mean the difference between seeing Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl where they’re all on their knees playing with their guitar pedals and doing the coolest light show you’ve ever seen, giving you an experience that you’ve never had and will probably never get again, versus Queen at Live Aid. They’re two entirely different experiences and can be appreciated for entirely different reasons, but it’s hard not to want Live Aid. I used to have that picture of Freddy Mercury standing in front of Wembley Stadium as the wallpaper on my cell phone. I would look at it every fucking day because I thought, “How inspiring.” It was his intention to get 75,000 people to sing a song together. When that happens, it’s fucking magical. It’s crazy. It gives you a whole new belief in life and the human race. It’s the same as when you go to a political rally where you’ve got 80,000 people all coming together because they believe in one thing and they want to make a change. That’s a really powerful feeling. You don’t see that all the time and it’s almost the same way with the song. When you have that many people grouped together by one emotion, it’s powerful. Q: That makes a lot of sense to me, because your band does that. Your songs can have that effect. We’d all love to put on our Beatles hat one day and write a Beatles song and put on our Leonard Cohen hat the next day, but you can’t do that. You have such a wide range of rock influences, from Rush and more prog-type stuff to punk rock, to Queen, and I notice those influences in your song writing. You do a verse thing with a minor chord that’s a little more edgy or bitter, which makes your choruses that much bigger and sweeter. A: It’s like a relief or a resolve. Q: Is that something that you get from your influences, or is it more of a Foo Fighters formula? YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAND IN LINE AT THE SONG CONTEST ON TV TO BECOME A POPULAR MUSICIAN. I MEAN, TO STAND IN FRONT OF SOME JUDGE WHO DOESN’T EVEN PLAY A FUCKING INSTRUMENT ON THEIR OWN DAMN RECORDS AND HAVE THEM TELL YOU, “NO, YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH?” FUCK THAT. GO BLOW PEOPLE AWAY IN FRONT OF THEIR FACE. A: For years, I wrote things that I didn’t consider Foo Fingers songs. I’d write something really heavy or something fast and aggressive, and think, “Well, that’s not a Foo Fighters song, that’s something else.” Then I’d write something acoustic, beautiful and delicate and think “Well, that’s not really a Foo Fighters song.” But I began thinking, “Wait. If it’s coming from me, and we’re playing it as a band, well then why shouldn’t it be a Foo Fighters song?” Who’s to say what is and what isn’t? I thought for years that what we do is something really specific, and I didn’t want to go outside of that because I felt like it was the perfect place to have it. About ten years ago, I thought, “Okay let’s see how wide of a playing field we can work ourselves into.” We made a double record with one CD of faster, more aggressive rock stuff, and another CD of gentle, acoustic-based music. Ultimately what that did was open this huge space to work within and call our own. I mean, I love the Ramones. I love Motörhead and I love AC/DC, but I don’t know if I could be in any of those bands, because it seems like they’ve been doing something really specific for such a long time. Motörhead has like 18 records, and I listen to every fucking Motörhead record when it comes out because I know it’s going to sound exactly like Motörhead. Same thing with AC/DC; I can’t imagine AC/DC would wind up doing an acoustic album. It’s just not going to happen, and you love them for that. You appreciate them for that. So within these boundaries [Foo Fighters] do what we do. Are we going to make a techno record? No. Are we going to do a reggae record? Probably not. But will we work within this space that we’ve created? Absolutely. There is that part of me that feels like the audience is the sixth member of the band. Q: Have you shifted towards writing a little less for an audience and little more for yourself, or is that just the maturation process of an artist? A: I’m lucky because I get to play with so many different people, and I play different instruments. I’ll go play drums on a Christine Young record, or I’ll go play drums on a Queens of the Stone Age record. And then I’ll make a Foo Fighters album. Then I’ll get asked to write songs for someone else, and then I can go do a film score, so I have all these great outlets to do whatever I want to do. Ultimately as a musician, you just want to stretch as much as you can. The more people that you play with, the deeper you feel or understand music, because each person has their own individual feel. Playing with Paul McCarty is different than playing with John Fogerty, which is different than playing with John Paul Jones. It just makes you more versatile. I’ve just started writing another Foo Fighters record. It’s in its early stage, which is just me recording things by myself to see if I can find those beautiful melodic moments that I can shape in a way that I want to shape it. I know that the Foo Fighters are capable of doing things that people have never heard us do, or that might not be what they want to hear, and I do think about that sometimes, because I don’t want to be a band that plays with its back to the audience. I don’t want to be a band that invites 80,000 people into a stadium and then challenges them. It’s like collaborating with someone on an album or a movie. You extend your hand to the listener, you know? I want you to be a part of what’s going on. I want you to be a part of the experience. I think that you can do both. I feel creative, and I feel fulfilled. When we go to play a gig and I see the entire stadium dancing or singing along to what we’re doing, it makes me even more fulfilled. I think that in early years, when we were young, we listened to so much noise. The dissonance and noise and confusion eventually weren’t the challenge anymore; the challenge was simplification and melody. In Nirvana, that was all we tried to do. Kurt’s song writing was basically a process of simplification. Q: At your keynote address you told a story about going into some A&R man’s office, and he said, “What do you guys want to do?” Kurt said, “We want to be the biggest band in the world.” It’s interesting that someone could come from such a punk rock place and totally get the idea that the whole world could follow along with this and dig it just as much as you do inside. A: Sure. Q: I first heard of you as a member of Nirvana and like everyone else assumed you were a drummer. I didn’t find out until later that you were probably a guitar player and songwriter first, and drums were a way to fill those ideas out. Was there any room for your song ideas in Nirvana? A: Why would I ever want to complicate the songwriting process? It was pretty good as it was. It’s like that famous joke: What’s the last thing the drummer said before he got kicked out of the band? “Hey guys, I wrote a song I think we should play.” Q: But your career has proven your amazing songwriting ability. Was that hard for you to have that patience and take a backseat? A: Well, that’s kind of how the Foo Fighters started. Being a drummer, and being in Nirvana, or even before Nirvana when I was in the band Scream, I had a friend who had an 8-track studio in his basement, and he’d ask me to come over and play drums on his solo material. At the end of the night I started asking him, “Hey man, do you have any extra tape? Can I just record an idea really quick?” I’d record the drums first and then put bass over it and a guitar over it, and then I’d make a cassette. I’d go home and listen to it and think, “Wow, I just made this song by myself, it’s cool.” I’d start writing lyrics, and that’s how the whole Foo Fighters thing started. In Nirvana, I didn’t really feel like I needed to be a part of that. I didn’t feel like I needed my songs on a Nirvana record, because Kurt was an incredible songwriter. And part of being a drummer, I always thought, was just laying out the foundation and being there to be the machine that propels the song. My favorite drummers aren’t fusion drummers or jazz drummers. My favorite drummers are disco drummers. They’re the ones you don’t even think about. I listen to 92.3. I don’t listen to some fucking jazz prog metal station all day long. I listen to old school funk like Zapp and the Gap Band and Cameo and shit like that. That’s my favorite drumming, because it’s like a heartbeat. It’s a simple rhythm. I can appreciate Buddy Rich or fucking John Bonham, who of course is the greatest rock drummer of all time, but ultimately I loved the idea of being a real powerhouse disco drummer in a punk rock band, and… Q: That sentence has never been said before. A: Probably not, but that was what I was trying to do with Nirvana. And Kurt was writing great songs. We were a three piece, which is a lethal configuration in any rock band – three simple elements that have room to breathe. You can make a lot of noise with a three piece. I’d come home from rehearsals or tours, and my friend with the 8-track was now living in my house, so I had it in my basement, and I’d go write songs. So the first Foo Fighters record is all stuff I wrote while Nirvana was still a band. I didn’t want to say, “Hey Kurt, you want to play ‘I’ll Stick Around’ or ‘This Is A Call’?” We had better songs, you know? I DON’T WANT TO BE A BAND THAT PLAYS WITH ITS BACK TO THE AUDIENCE. I DON’T WANT TO BE A BAND THAT INVITES 80,000 PEOPLE INTO A STADIUM AND THEN CHALLENGES THEM. Q: That tells me that whether or not Nirvana had been cut short, eventually you would have gone and done Foo Fighters anyway. A: Probably. At first the idea was that I was going to release an album and an LP and not put my name on it. Call it the Foo Fighters, release it on my own label and just let it go. Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the Police, had a band, Klark Kent. He made these solo records where he recorded all the instruments, but he never put his name on them. They sound like Police records. They’re awesome, but nobody knew it was him, and that was part of the fun of making that album. So coming out of Nirvana, the last thing I wanted to create was, “Formerly of Nirvana, Dave Grohl and his new band…” because I was terrified. I’d never been the singer in a band before. Q: And also, how are you not going to be compared to Nirvana? A: Oh yeah. Q: It’s just like when the Replacements broke up, and everyone’s waiting for Paul’s record, and then Chris Mars makes a record and Tommy makes a record. Did you figure that regardless of what you did, you were going to have an uphill battle with the comparisons? A: Oh absolutely. When Kurt died, I woke up the next day and thought, “I am lucky to be alive.” So much so that to this day, I feel that every morning when I wake up. It’s so strange to think, “Wait, that person was just here, and now they’re just gone? And I’m still here, and maybe tomorrow I could be gone as well.” It was a profound revelation that I had the day after he died, and it changed everything. It honestly changed so much about my life that I felt like the most important thing was just appreciating being alive. Good day or bad day, it didn’t really matter to me. It could be worse. Q: Do you still hold on to that? A: Absolutely. I think about it all the time. I have this conversation with my wife sometimes where I say, “You know I walk through life feeling like it could be worse. It could be worse, you know.” When I was growing up in Springfield, Virginia, I didn’t really know what anyone else’s luxury was. I had my own luxury. I had imagination, I had a back yard, I had a bicycle. I had a pet. To me, that was luxury. I had enough. How much do you really need? And it could be worse. And after Kurt died, I really felt that way. I felt like, “Okay, I’m going to try this. What do I have to lose? I’m going to start this band, and I’m going to be the singer.” I used to have this recurring dream where I was in a car driving up a hill that was getting so steep I was afraid the car was going to fall over backwards; and I would wake up right before it fell over. I had that dream all the time. When I was young, I had another recurring dream where I was on a mini bike made from a lawnmower engine, and I was going to California at 15 miles per hour like in Dumb & Dumber. I had that dream a thousand times, but I was going for it in my dream. It felt good. I liked that feeling. Q: But that other dream was like the ultimate uphill battle, right? A: I’ve always had really vivid dreams. Every day I can wake up and recite a five minute-long dream that I’ve had, and all of them seem perfectly symbolic to me. You know, standing on a two by two platform 2,000 feet up in the air as the wind is blowing you from side to side. Or walking into an elevator that turns into a fucking coffin. Or a house. I’ve had the same dream about the same fucking house for 15, 20 years. I could draw you a picture of it, but I have no idea where it is. Q: In some ways your rock career has gone in reverse. You experienced every crucible and rock cliché right at the beginning. Nirvana had overnight crazy sales. It started a fashion movement. There was every excess and issue right down to the spouse that gets in the middle of the band’s chemistry, and you went through all of that when you were really young. And then you start your own band. You must have felt like you knew exactly what you didn’t want to repeat. A: It’s exactly what it was. It was the greatest lesson in learning what not to do. Q: What were some examples of things that you wanted to avoid? A: Well, I’m definitely not going to do heroin! There are just some things that, you know… I mean, unfortunately Nirvana became too big, too quick. The band had been around for a few years before I joined them, and they’d experienced a perfectly comfortable underground punk rock existence. They had the experience of getting in the van and playing a gig for gas money and sleeping on someone’s floor. It’s not the most glamorous life, but it’s fun when you’re 19, 20, 22 years old. Bands are like families that go through uncomfortable growing pains, and if it happens all at once it’s just too much to handle. I got lucky because when the band started getting popular, I had already basically stopped doing drugs. And I really only took sheets of acid and smoked pounds of weed. I was never like a coke or a heroin dude, so when the band got popular, if I ever felt overwhelmed with what was going on, I would just go back to Virginia and sleep in the same bed I’d slept in when I was five years old and have barbeques with my friends from fourth grade. WITH NIRVANA, IF I EVER FELT OVERWHELMED WITH WHAT WAS GOING ON, I WOULD JUST GO BACK TO VIRGINIA AND SLEEP IN THE SAME BED I’D SLEPT IN WHEN I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD AND HAVE BARBEQUES WITH MY FRIENDS FROM FOURTH GRADE. Q: So you had this foundation you could go back to? A: Yes. And now being a father, I look at all of these experiences that my children are having as part of their formative years; they’re learning everything by example. The person that they are now dictates the person that they’re going to be later on in life. So fortunately, I had all of these cool experiences when I was young to fall back on or to look back on and use as perspective, especially musically. I grew up in the Washington, D.C. punk rock community and by the time I was 13 or 14 years old, that was music to me. I mean, I had a Kiss poster and Rush records and stuff, but punk rock is what music became to me. It became something real. It wasn’t show business. We were people playing music and getting together and doing it for the sake of playing music, and the reward was just doing it, you know? The reward was being badass. All I wanted to do was to be the best drummer in Washington, D.C. or to be the best band on the bill at the Sunday Hardcore Matinee. That was the reward and it was enough. Of course, when Nirvana first signed with the David Geffen Company, we just wanted to be as big as Sonic Youth. The thinking was, “Fuck, if we could only be that big, I could get, like, my own apartment.” We were still selling gear for food, so when the band blew up, I had that to hold onto. I had Washington, D.C. and I had my family and my friends, and if it ever felt like too much, I could just retreat and say no. A big part of being a musician is saying no. Q: I’ve been in enough bands to know there’s always that family dynamic. Being younger and newer, did you find there was a pecking order? Did you get beat on more? A: Yes and no. I was the fifth drummer of Nirvana, so I was just waiting to get fired the whole time. But when we played together we sounded good, and I knew we had something; I knew that had any one of us been replaced with someone else, it would just sound different. Q: Right. But psychologically, did you kind of feel like the little brother? A: Well yeah, I was the new guy. I was the youngest, and I was the drummer. Q: Bad combination. A: Three strikes, you know. Kurt was obviously the creative force behind the band and Krist [Novoselic, the bass player of Nirvana] and I were there to make it sound like Nirvana. It’s funny. Whenever I spend time with Krist, it reminds me of the Nirvana aesthetic that a lot of people never really understood. I think a lot of people imagined it to be sort of this darker, more depressive Joy Division trip or something like that. It really wasn’t. It was more like Monty Python. It was insane. There was this sense of humor that was just so bizarre and abstract and off that it was fucking hilarious. It was fun to be in that band. The later years got a little weird, but there was a lot about that band that people don’t necessarily understand. Kurt was fucking hilarious. People looked at him as this tortured, depressed Gen X icon, but that fucking dude was funny. He was funny and lighthearted, too. As much as he maybe had trouble feeling comfortable all the time, he was also funny and easy to be around. Q: I would think that there was a whole level of management making decisions that you weren’t a part of in Nirvana. And then you start your own band, and you have the ability to change that dynamic. A: That’s one of the things I talked about at South by Southwest. Having that independence as a musician is so important, and the reward of doing something yourself is so great that I encourage any musician – new or established – to just do it themselves. Obviously there are certain things I’m not going to do. I can’t do the books for the band. I can’t call around to book a tour. But with the Foo Fighters, we try to keep things pretty simple by having our own studio or making records in my garage, and working with people we consider family or within our tight circle of friends. We find that it’s the people outside of the bands that complicate things so much, you know? One of the great things about coming down here today to talk to you was that you emailed me and said, “Hey, I’m doing this thing. Do you want to come down and do it?” And I said, “Sure, I’ll meet you there at 11:30 a.m.” Now you can imagine that had this gone through any of the conventional channels, how complicated it would have been, rather than just people getting together to do something pretty simple. To me it should be that way with every aspect of the band. Q: I’ve learned that if you can go through the back channels, it’s always easier. It’s always quicker, and no one’s afraid of upsetting anybody so things just get done. A: Right. When I told everybody that we were going to make our last record to tape, [the Foo Fighters’ Wasted Light was recorded on to two-inch magnetic tape, rather than to a digital format like Pro Tools], it was because I wanted it to sound like the Foo Fighters. I didn’t want to have the option of manipulating the way the band sounds, so I didn’t want one fucking computer plugged into anything. That would give someone direct access to the sound wave and the ability to be able to manipulate it, I thought, “Okay, we’re going to make the record. Not only in my garage but also to tape.” I called someone from management and said we’re going to do it to tape, and they said, “Can you do that?” I thought, “What could be more simple than just hitting a red button and letting a tape reel fucking roll?” It almost seems too simple. Nowadays, there are only a few tape manufacturers. Tape is gone. All the old tape manufacturers are out of business. There are just a few boutique tape companies, and they don’t really make it the way they used to. It’s not as sturdy. We made a razorblade edit on the first song we recorded – cut it, taped it back together old school and wound it back. And it starts shredding, and everyone’s like, “Oh God, the tape is shredding! We’re going to have to back it up to computer!” And I thought, “Okay, so 15 years ago, if a tape was shredding or a reel broke what would you do? You just play the fucking song again.” Just play the fucking song one more time. Q: What’s the big deal? A: There was this huge panic. Everyone was so precious about the fucking tape, where to me, the most terrifying thing is dealing with something that doesn’t really exist. Like with the click of a button…I’ve done this before. I’ve deleted something with the click of a button that’s just fucking gone forever, forever gone. Something I’d worked on, and I went, “Ah fuck, apple Z! apple Z!” And nothing… I can’t get it back. Because everyone had been so precious about the tape, when we were finished making the record, I thought, you know what? I want to chop the tape up into a million fucking pieces and include one of those pieces with every record. So when you open up a copy of Wasting Light, there’s this little shred of tape. That’s the fucking master tapes. Q: No kidding? Wow. Now, thinking about where the music industry is headed — subscription services instead of downloads, and the whole idea of making money off a record really being challenged – how does that fit into your “do it yourself” philosophy? What would you tell four guys in a garage with a good batch of songs today? IT’S A FUNNY THING, EXPECTATION. HOW GOOD IS GOOD ENOUGH, OR HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S GOOD ENOUGH? IT TOOK ME A REALLY LONG TIME TO ACCEPT THAT I AM NOT GOING TO SING LIKE FREDDIE MERCURY, EVER. IT TOOK ME A REALLY LONG TIME BEFORE I REALIZED THAT’S OKAY. A: To go play it live. Just play live. Honestly, if you’re good at what you do, people will recognize that. I really believe that going out and playing good songs live as a great live band will make you successful, and it doesn’t matter if you’re at the shit hole down the street or you’re on the side stage of Bonnaroo or you’re headlining Lollapalooza. If you’re a great band with great songs, people will notice it. That’s it. It’s that fucking simple. Fuck product placement and fucking labels and A and R people and all that bullshit. It doesn’t fucking matter, I swear to God. And if you back that up with the idea that just playing those great songs in your great live band is enough reward for you, then you’re fucking set. But you’ve got to be badass. You just have to be really good. As a drummer, I never felt like I was going to be on the cover of Modern Drummer magazine because I’m the best fucking drummer in the world. I just knew that if you put me on stage without a fucking PA or floor monitors in a small club, that I would beat the fucking shit out of my drums so much that people would go, “Damn, did you see that fucking drummer?” And I’d walk away from every show like, “There you go. I just beat the fucking piss out of those things, and people saw it.” So, by my thinking, at the end of the show I was a successful musician because I had achieved what I wanted to achieve. I know lots of musicians that went down to South by Southwest and heard my speech and said, “Well, it’s easy for you to say.” I’m like, “Man, I was in the same fucking position you are in 24 years ago.” I worked in a fucking furniture warehouse, and I wanted people to like my music. So I played out as much as I could. And I really believe that if you are honestly passionate and driven and focused in what you do – if you’re really fucking good at it – people will take notice. That’s basically it. I don’t understand the industry. I don’t understand where music is headed. I don’t really understand technology. I just know that when you walk into a club and you see a band that blows you away, you are going to follow that band. You’re going to either buy that CD, or you’re going to find them online. Or you’re going to see them the next time they come to play, and that’s what it takes. You don’t have to stand in line at the song contest on TV to become a fucking popular musician. I mean, to stand in front of some judge who doesn’t even play a fucking instrument on their own damn records and have them tell you, “No, you’re not good enough?” Fuck that. Go blow people away in front of their face. I honestly believe it’s that simple. Q: You say you don’t understand technology or the business, but you made a film to go along with your last two records. You attached a media event to your records, which was a pretty savvy move. Was that just something creative that you wanted to do, or did you think it was necessary to make the record reach a larger audience? A: It’s both of those things. The Foo Fighters documentary Back and Forth came about…well, I had watched the Tom Petty documentary, which is amazing. Q: Great documentary. A: It’s four hours long, and it could be eight and I would still watch it. I thought, “Oh God, we should probably do something like this before we hit our 20th anniversary. So maybe if we do it now and tell everyone our story and explain the last 15 years, they’ll understand why we’re doing it in the garage to tape. So we told the story of the band, and it turned out really well. The director focused on the relationships between the people in the band more than the specifics of where we made an album or what this song was about and crap like that. It was more about the bond between the five of us, and how that’s kept us alive for so long, which anybody can relate to – even people that may not like the band. But what I found after that movie came out was that people had this new appreciation for what we do because they’d never really heard the back story. They’d never really cared. I realized that if you give the music or the artist or the album some sort of context and back-story, people become more emotionally invested in the song or the artist or the album. It’s almost the same with Sound City. I tell the story of the studio and these albums that were made there and give it some sort of depth, so you have this new understanding of Fleetwood Mac, or “Refugee” by Tom Petty or the first Rage Against the Machine record. Now you get some sort of context, so you’re hearing the music in a different way. A great example of what I am talking about is your Wilco movie. I never knew anything about Wilco, and after seeing it, and seeing what they went through to make that record, then hearing the album knowing everything that they went through just so that you could fucking have it, I appreciate it more. Q: Did that open up Pandora’s Box for you where now you have to think of a different way to put each record into context through a film or an app or something? Do you want to do that again? A: Yeah, it’s just an exciting or entertaining way of doing it again. I honestly believe that it’s the environment or the atmosphere of making an album or film that determines the outcome. If I were just to take the band to the nicest studio in town and park my car in that space every day and go use all of the coolest, newest shit, and make a record under florescent lights, it would sound like that. Rather than going into my garage and duct-taping things together and trying to get a guitar part recorded as my kid is poking my shoulder because she wants me to go swimming. That’s what that album [Wasting Light] sounds like to me; it’s a month-long memory for me. Every time I hear it, I remember every single fucking day that we made that record; I’m reminded of it by every single instrument on the album. I believe that the atmosphere or the environment determines what you’re going to wind up with, so why do the same thing again? Do you just want to go sell some t-shirts? Go sell some fucking t-shirts at the gig, you know? Go play another European festival run. But why not make it an experience? I know what I want to do for our next record, and it’s not going to the nicest, newest studio in town. It’s not just doing it again, so you can peddle t-shirts and CDs all over the world. It’s to make it an experience. It’s all I do. I don’t really do anything else other than shuttling kids around in minivans and stuff; this is what brings me excitement in my life. Q: I think there’s a dividing line between some classic rock artist that rolls out the big tour every five or six years and fills up the coffers versus a band that is relevant and pursuing new ideas. Foo Fighters kind of has their own little space carved out, and not a lot of bands occupy your space. You can do giant rock arena tours, but you’re making records that people still look forward to buying. I don’t know what happened to rock, but there aren’t many people competing for that space. Do you ever think about that? HONESTLY, IF YOU’RE GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO, PEOPLE WILL RECOGNIZE THAT. I REALLY BELIEVE THAT GOING OUT AND PLAYING GOOD SONGS LIVE AS A GREAT LIVE BAND WILL MAKE YOU SUCCESSFUL. IF YOU’RE A GREAT BAND WITH GREAT SONGS, PEOPLE WILL NOTICE IT. IT’S THAT FUCKING SIMPLE. FUCK PRODUCT PLACEMENT AND FUCKING LABELS AND A AND R PEOPLE AND ALL THAT BULLSHIT. IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER, I SWEAR TO GOD. A: I remember reading an article about our band that called us a “populace rock band,” and thinking, “Wait, is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I don’t know. Some people might consider that to be a bad thing. Maybe it’s a good thing that people like us. I think that there’s always been a part of our band that wants to share ourselves with the audience. Something happened along the way where it became uncool or not okay to write a really catchy hit rock song that comes from a real place. I think there was maybe some sort of punk rock backlash or guilt that happened after a lot of the underground bands of the late 1980s or early 1990s became popular. We were all raised in this punk rock scene where anything commercially acceptable was considered bad or wrong. Commercial success definitely was not the intention or the goal of any band back then. But it’s the simple catchy songs that always get me, whether it’s a Beatles song or a Motörhead song or an AC/DC song or a disco song; and those kinds of songs are the biggest challenge to write. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube trying to figure out how to write a song like that. It’s not as easy you think it is. To me it seems a lot easier to make fucking noise, you know? Q: It’s interesting that in the 1960’s and 1970’s the great song craftsmen happened to be in rock bands. Now there’s you guys, but I don’t know if there are that many others these days. I think that now really great songs are coming from some other source. I just don’t see a lot of bands with the ambition to write big songs that can live in that rock world. A: I think it might have more to do with the rock than the songs. We’ve been a band for almost 20 years now, and we’ve watched music go through all of these weird phases. When the Foo Fighters first started, it was perfectly acceptable to have two distorted guitars and some melody. It’s been a really slow climb for the last 15 or 16 years of just locking the basement door and doing what we do, and eventually I started to realize that we represent something. We’re a rock band. About ten years ago we started to realize that we were getting asked to perform on these awards shows because they needed a rock band. It was almost like, “Okay we need a rock band… Who’s a rock band? Oh Foo Fighters? Yeah, get them.” So it would be us, and then a bunch of singers with choreographed dancers and shit, and we’d think, “Why are we even here, really? We’re not that popular.” But now when I look at our audience as we’re playing, I’ll see a 55 year-old dude with a mustache with his kid, and the dad is the one with the Foo Fighters shirt, and the kid has the Nirvana shirt on. When the fuck did that happen? But there’s still plenty of rock bands that would blow us off the fucking stage and blow your mind in an arena any night of the week. But for whatever reason, they haven’t. Q: It’s so inspiring to sit here and listen to your philosophy on the art you create. It’s really affirming that you are a champion of finding your own voice, and I see that’s of one of your great secret weapons: You understand the importance of simplicity and that your own voice is your greatest asset. I’m truly inspired by your whole story. A: You know, the thing that bums me out is just as you wouldn’t want someone else to come in and manipulate or change your idea, I have to keep myself from doing the same thing. To appreciate an imperfect performance or an off-the-cuff idea or a lyric that might seem unfinished or so simple that it doesn’t seem sophisticated enough. The concept of self-editing and and controlling that output is kind of strange to me. When I watch Keith Moon play the drums, I can’t imagine that he had choreographed his performance beforehand, you know? It’s manic and crazy and exciting, and it’s exactly why everybody knows who Keith Moon is. So I think that should go for pretty much every part of the process. Q: That’s what I like about seeing a real band play on stage. There’s an element of danger and an element of something that could go wrong. It’s a high wire act, and that little edge during a performance or the recording of a song is what I gravitate towards most. A: I don’t know when perfection became so important. Being a good player was something everyone strived for I’m sure, but perfection just seemed unattainable. It seemed like a put off, and it didn’t seem cool. You don’t really want to control or contain it. That’s what people like to see, and it feels good. It’s like being sent out on a slingshot or something. Q: It seems like perfection’s kind of the opposite of taking chances, and if you’re too worried about being perfect, you don’t take chances. You seem willing to take chances and access the inner 13-year old who sat in your room listening to records. You don’t seem too far from that guy. A: No, I’m not. There are times where I feel a little guilty that I dress the same way I did when I was 17 years old. It’s kind of ridiculous. At what point do we have to become old? Q: I guess the secret is maybe we don’t. A: Shit, I hope not. http://offcamera.com/issue-covers/#dave-grohl
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You must hear Kurt Cobain cover The Beatles, because it's bliss
We’ve seen the trailer for HBO’s Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck, and, in a word, it’s intense. The film, which comes to HBO on May 3, is being touted as the most intimate look at the Nirvana frontman’s life, and includes many previously unreleased songs from Cobain’s archive. One of them is his cover of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her,” and if you’re already tearing up, we don’t blame you. The original song is jaunty, but with a sadness underscoring its plaintive lyrics. The Fab Four, led by Paul McCartney’s doe-eyed vocals, lay their feelings out bare, backed up by Ringo’s bongos. Cobain’s cover, which is included in the film’s soundtrack, has made its way onto the Internet, and turns the polished love song into a rough but tender lullaby. The audio is coarse, but the depth of his voice cuts through, even when it dips into the lowest end of his register. It’s an instant classic cross-genre cover, but one that had remained hidden until now, unknown even to Cobain’s family: While Cobain is quoted as saying, “I like the Beatles, but I hate Paul McCartney” in his lifetime, it appears that when it came to the music, he was able to put his personal feelings aside. Though plenty of people have tried to understand Cobain’s life and death, it seems that there’s still plenty to absorb from one of rock’s most enigmatic figures, decades after his life was tragically cut short. (Image via.)