For the second time in his career, drummer-turned-frontman-turned-drummer Dave Grohl has become a reluctant arena rocker. The former Nirvana timekeeper and his fellow Foo Fighters just completed a U.S. tour that rivals his old band’s 1994 ”In Utero” tour in scale. The milestone comes as the soon-to-be-married 34-year-old is busier than ever with side projects, including drumming stints with Queens of the Stone Age, Cat Power, and arty ’80s rockers Killing Joke. Grohl, whom EW recently dubbed the It Rock Renaissance dude, tells EW.com about playing arenas, faking his musical talent, and sharing a love for lingerie with Jack Black.
Most people rank you among the best rock drummers. Are you overrated?
Yes! I’m a total minimalist. I just play the drums as someone that’s holding the beat for the band. I don’t get flashy or showy, I just kinda do my thing. But when it’s time to shine, I polish that motherf—er nice. [Laughs].
What’s it been like playing arenas with the Foo Fighters?
We were kinda freaked out at first in arenas. When you stand onstage in a room that big, you have to summon the spirit of Freddie Mercury in order to put on a decent show. You have to understand the first concerts I ever saw were punk rock shows in clubs, and that’s how I thought shows should be. Even in Nirvana we never imagined anything like that happening.
How’d you get so good at multitasking?
Well, I actually think most people are able to do more than one thing; they’re afraid to because people see band members as ingredients to a recipe or the cast members of a sitcom. When I went to play drums for Queens of the Stone Age, people were somewhat perplexed: ”Wait a second, how can he go play with another band when he’s in a band already?” Which seems ridiculous to me. The idea is to be considered a musician, not a singer or a guitar player or a drummer. I could pick up a f—in’ recorder and fake it. I am not an accomplished musician, but it’s fun to jump around and try different things here and there.
Anything you regret taking on?
Probably the new video for our single ”Low.” [Laughs] It’s the best video we’ve ever made, but it’s a horrible career move: It’s basically just Jack Black and me drinking liquor and wearing lingerie.
Um, right. So…how’d you wind up on the new Killing Joke album (in stores July 28)?
I’ve been a huge fan of Killing Joke since I was 13. It was the first punk rock T-shirt I ever bought. They had these tribal rhythms and very simple, almost trancelike drumming, and I think I mentioned that they were one of my favorite bands in an interview and they called and asked if I’d play on the new record.
You’re 34. Will you rock into your 40s?
I used to say I’d say I’d quit at 33, but that came pretty quickly. I don’t want to be the guy bouncing around on stage like he’s 18 at the age of 42. At some point the welcome mat just gets pulled out from under you.
Anything else coming up before then?
The new project on the horizon is full-on instrumental à la Gone [Greg Ginn from Black Flag’s instrumental band]. Me and [Foo’s drummer] Taylor Hawkins and our producer Nick Raskulinecz are just gonna write 30- to 40-minute opuses and play Mexican restaurants and sports bars in the Valley. [Laughs]
Like the intro to Rush’s ”2112” or something?
Yeah, but times 10. [Laughs] 2112 times 10 — what’s that, 2 million? Maybe we should call it ”21,120”!