Dave Grohl opens up about his broken leg and the Foo Fighters' future
Broken leg be damned! Despite his fall from a Sweden stage last month, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters have soldiered on for a star-studded 20th anniversary show in Washington D.C. on the Fourth of July and subsequent tour. On an off-day while touring in Canada—and with a seriously worn-out voice—Grohl opened up to EW about his crazy new stage throne, why his June accident has led to some of his favorite Foos shows ever, and the future of the band. (Hint: They’ll stick around.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You sound like you’ve had better days.
DAVE GROHL: I’m having Lemmy do all my interviews today, that’s what I’m doing. It’s Lemmy from Motorhead.
You’re already back on the road with the Foo Fighters. How’s that going?
The shows we’ve been doing lately are some of our favorite shows we’ve ever done, and I’m not f—ing kidding. We talk about this after every show in the dressing room: What seemed like some sort of set back at the time has turned into this beautiful blessing in disguise, where this throne and these crutches and these audiences make us play longer and harder than we ever have. It’s this whole new energy in the show. My ankle is doing great but the shows are three hours long, so on a day off it sounds like this. Crazy!
When you broke your leg in Sweden last month, you still finished the show. How bad was the pain?
When it happened, I didn’t feel a thing. I tried to get up and walk and my ankle collapsed under my weight. I just fell back to the ground and looked up at my road crew and said “It’s broken. It’s gone.” The band didn’t know what was happening, so they kept playing. I looked at [my foot] and it was just hanging there, because it was dislocated and my leg was broken. But it still didn’t hurt. One by one the guys in the band stopped playing peered over the edge of the stage. I was just laughing. I couldn’t believe it happened. It was in the second song too, that’s what was such a drag.
Our setlist which was supposed to be 26 [songs] and it was a beautiful night and there were 52,000 people, so I grabbed a microphone and I told everyone that I was going to fix it and come back. I didn’t know if that meant in 20 minutes or a month, but I wanted to keep playing. They pulled me to the side of the stage and the doctor said, “Your ankle’s dislocated and I have to put it back into place right now.” They put this roll of gauze in my mouth and I screamed and bit down on it and they put my ankle back into place and then everyone was quiet for a minute. The Foo Fighters were onstage playing a Queen song or something and I looked down and said, “OK, can I go back on stage now?” Because it didn’t hurt. My paramedic doctor said “I have to hold your ankle in place,” and I said, “Well, then you’re coming on f—ing stage with me right now.” And he did.
It didn’t hurt until I wound up on my couch in my hotel room, with a beer in my hand. They gave me some really strong painkillers—I never take pills, but within half an hour I was like, “Get me the f—ing Oxys right now, man!” It was pretty painful. And then I thought I could just get up and do a show a week later after surgery, but I literally could not get out of bed for about six or seven days. It was so f—ing painful. I had never experienced anything like that in my life. But then every day it got a little bit better, and that’s when I started thinking, “OK, I’m not going to be able to get onstage this week, I might not be able to get onstage next week, but I’m not missing that Fourth of July show, and if that goes OK then we’re just going to keep going.” And at the Fourth of July show, when the screen dropped and I was sitting on that f—ing throne and 50,000 people’s jaws dropped, I thought, “OK, we’re going to stay on tour, this is going to work.”
You celebrated the band’s 20th with a huge show in Washington, D.C., on July 4. How was it?
I’m from there and I grew up going to see the fireworks down on the Mall as a kid. The 20th anniversary of our first album was the Fourth of July so I thought, “This is the perfect opportunity for us to play a stadium in America,” which we had never done. The lineup mirrored the Sonic Highways series. We thought this was a great way to celebrate American music with all of these American heroes—Joan Jett, Buddy Guy, LL Cool J, Trombone Shorty, Heart—and then to celebrate our 20th anniversary as well. It was a dream come true. Afterwards [promoter Seth Hurwitz and I] looked at each other and we said, “We’ve gotta do this every fucking year.”
So, Foos on the Mall in 2016?
Well, a broken leg’s not going to stop me, so… [laughs] Every year Willie Nelson has his Fourth of July picnic in Texas, and it’s become an institution. It’s somewhere you can go and have a beer, have a joint, watch good music. At the Foo Fighters Fourth of July show, we gave people somewhere to see fireworks and hear music and share it together. When I was young we would get a cooler, put sandwiches and some beers in it, get a picnic blanket, and sit up on the grass on the Mall and watch the Beach Boys or whoever was playing. I look at what we did as a smaller version of what I grew up experiencing on the Fourth of July, which is great.
How will you top the insanity of that show with the rest of your summer tour?
The spontaneity of this situation we’re in right now brings out a smile in everyone. The idea of the throne is f—ing ridiculous, especially for a band that has never relied on any kind of production—we usually just put the amps on the stage, turn on the lights, and play. Now we’ve got this throne that shoots lights and smoke out of it and looks like a f—ing UFO with guitar necks stuck in it. When it first rolls out on stage, people light up. I’m restricted to this chair and there’s a seatbelt on that thing so I don’t fall off, that’s how hard I’m f—ing rocking out!
You told the D.C. crowd you were “high as a f—ing kite” when you designed it.
Four or five days after surgery, I thought, “We’re going to do that Fourth of July show and I can’t just sit on a stool like Paul Simon or whatever, I have to make it look cool.” I picked up the hotel stationery and made this primitive drawing that had arrows and descriptions, had the Foo Fighters logo, and said “lasers and s—.” I wanted it to pick up and fly, but [my lighting guy] said, “Look man, you already have one broken leg. Let’s not fly it around yet.”
With such a landmark year for the band, do you want to keep going?
The band is more than a musical group. It’s a family and it’s become a way of life with us. We love each other. When the Foo Fighters show up to the airport and there’s four SUVs waiting to drive us away, we all get in one SUV, still, to this day. It’s how we f—ing roll. For 20 years we’ve been on our own record company, we license and distribute our stuff through major labels, but we’re the record company and we have our studio, so we’re the studio. We just do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it, whether that means taking a break or going on the road for two years. As long as we can do whatever we want to do, we’ll do it until we die. I love my job. I mean, f—, I’m out there with a broken leg and a plate and pins in a bone and I can’t even stand up, but I still want to get on stage and play, with my family. We’re not breaking up anytime soon, that would be like your grandparents getting a divorce. Too weird.
Any plans to bring your HBO music-documentary show Sonic Highways back for a second season?
We’ve been talking about doing it again. I’m sure we will. One of the great things about the show’s concept is it doesn’t always have to be the Foo Fighters and it doesn’t always have to be in America. You can work within the concept, the framework of the idea, and change it every time. It was an incredible experience and the response was overwhelming. People were so excited to learn about the history of music, about the history of their city, about the stories of these heroes—Dolly Parton, Buddy Guy, Willie Nelson. It was my pleasure and an honor to facilitate this idea so that people could appreciate music in a new light.
Which Foo Fighters hit is most meaningful to you?
Oh, God—that’s a lot of f—ing songs. We have our staples, the ones that make the place go bananas. For me, there was a song off [2011’s Wasting Light] called “These Days,” that’s one of the most meaningful songs I’ve ever written. Every night I sing it I still get choked up. But I could say the same thing about “Times Like These,” you know? The songs I really enjoy playing the most are the ones that the audience sings with me, because it’s that connection that makes for a magical experience. That’s one of the reasons we’ve never had the fireworks and the pyrotechnics and the elaborate stage show, because we’ve always felt like the audience is the show. When we sing those songs and they sing along it makes for an incredible experience.
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1373, on newsstands Friday, July 17.