Dave Grohl on Foo Fighters anniversary plans, his worst fears, and listening to Fiona Apple
This year was supposed to be a victory lap for Dave Grohl: a months-long, meticulously plotted jubilee to mark 25 years of his band Foo Fighters with a new album, a globe-trotting redux of their 1995 tour, and much more.
But like so many others whose best-laid plans were quickly unlaid by COVID-19 — albeit one with all the advantages, of course, that come with being an international rock star — he's learning to drastically readjust, and even lean into the strange.
The frontman, erstwhile essayist, and freewheeling Instagrammer talked to EW via phone about his worst fears, his hopes for the future, and his chili recipe (Cincinnati style, or go home).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There was so much planned for this anniversary. How has it been for you to just watch all that sort of fall away?
DAVE GROHL: I try not to think about it too much, because we put about a year’s worth of work into this year — meaning we started preparing multiple projects all to release now. There was a documentary, there was another secret project that we were so excited about, there was a tour, there’s a new album, we made a video... I mean, all of these things are just waiting to be released, and I was really looking forward to all of them to come out together for the anniversary.
Now that being said, all of that went out the window when the pandemic became what it is now. I forgot about the band, I forgot about the album, I forgot about the documentary and the video and I focused on my family — just as I’m sure everybody else did.
Right now I’m in such a daddy-domestic headspace that even just calling to do an interview is strange, because what is there to talk about really? But we do have this arsenal of material ready to f---in' dam-burst all over the world, and it’s just a matter of figuring out when the world is ready because I think that’s a little more important than the Foo Fighters. [Laughs]
But it's also fair to say that music is getting a lot of people through this right now, and that's what you do.
Yeah no, that's true. I mean, thank God for the new Fiona Apple record! It’s beautiful, and it’s been a long time coming. But for the first four weeks of this quarantine, I didn’t even have a guitar, I didn’t want to touch a guitar, I was so focused on the family and the country and the world and the news that I just kind of backed out of music. And slowly I’m starting to fool around with things again.
I decided I wanted to start an Instagram page, and listen, this is my obsession right now. I wake up in the morning and I’m like, "Ooh, is it gonna be the Joan Jett story or the Iggy Pop story?" It usually takes a couple days for me to kind of pick through and chop up and spit them out, but right now the most important thing to me is that people find a little bit of hope and joy in life instead of just going down like a dark spiral.
You must have been hit up so many times over the last 30 years by publishers — your mom even has a book. Do you think you'll ever sit down to write a proper memoir?
Oh absolutely. You know years ago I was at a barbecue and I met a book agent, and he said, "Have you ever considered writing a book?" and I said, "Well, of course, someday." And he said, "It’s really easy — you’ll do four or five hours of interviews and someone else will write it in your voice and it will be great." And I thought, "F--- that!"
I come from a family of writers, and granted I’m a black sheep but I’m not that bad, my God. So I figured you know if I were to ever write a book, it would be in my hand. I've considered it for f---in' years but A, I never had the time, and B, I never felt like I was ready because every day something happens that I’d love to write about, and I’d hate to write sort of a typical autobiography. So years ago I thought, "Well maybe it will just a collection of anecdotes — maybe instead of it just being my life in 300 pages it could be just funny stories."
I mean listen, most rock musicians are great storytellers, this is true. Because most rock musicians have spent more than a few hours in the back lounge of a bus spinning yarns, swapping stories about all the different people they’ve gotten wasted with or jammed with. So there aren’t too many rock musicians that are short on great stories.
Nikki Sixx I think has three books, so you could at least squeeze out one.
[Laughs] Oh yeah. It will be a series for sure. Like a volume of encyclopedias.
I know you've spent the last year looking back a lot to prep for this anniversary. Are you the kind of artist who's super critical of themselves?
I don’t like watching footage of myself at all. I remember even before the Foo Fighters started, I was on my own in a basement studio recording these songs and never let anyone hear them because I didn’t like the sound of my voice, I didn’t like the lyrics, I didn’t think I was a great guitarist... The list is long.
So I just kind of kept those songs to myself and used them as some kind of exercise in therapy, and then when the band started and we started performing, of course I wanted it to be great. I wanted the audience to see and hear a band that was worthy of the ticket price, so I would basically listen to recordings and see how I could improve and I put a lot of thought into making the band better — still raw, but I personally wanted to be better.
And it drove me insane – like if we were to play on late-night TV and I'd watch it would break my heart. It took years and years for me to realize, you know, who am I trying to be? Why am I beating myself up here? It’s the best I can do and that’s that. And I think once I started to relax and realize that one of the most important elements of being an artist is to be yourself, it got better — or at least I felt better, I don’t know if it ever actually got any f---in' better. [Laughs]
And now with quarantine, there's the whole thing of performing for wide audiences from home, which is so unadorned.
Well you know first of all, when it comes to modern technology I’m practically Amish, okay? I can barely use a laptop or an iPhone. I really am so analog it's ridiculous. But I’m getting a crash course in it right now. I mean I’ve been doing some Zoom, I’ve been doing some Cisco Jabber. [Laughs]
Just the other week I got the call that BBC was going to put together an all-star group of musicians to perform “Times Like These” and I was so flattered you have no idea, I almost cried. I mean for them to use a song that I had written on a f---ing napkin at a difficult time in my life where I was scared but I was also hopeful, for them to use that song for such a good cause and then to bring together all of these amazing artists, I was f---ing humbled you know?
So they had already started the process of people filming themselves singing verses and choruses. And they didn’t necessarily ask me at first to sing the whole song but they were like, "If you’d like to sing a verse or a chorus, we’d love to have you." So I’m watching these performances come in and these people can f---in’ sing — our version is like Motörhead at a dive bar down the street, and this is beautiful.
But anyway they told me "Just make sure you film yourself in landscape," and of course being the old guy, I don't even know what landscape is. So I just sent them the up and down version, it was mortifying.
I do want to let you go because it sounds like you have homework to get to.
[Laughs] Yeah that's my daughter. [Muffled] I'll be right there! Listen, I've got homework, I’m making Cincinnati chili tonight, I’m going to the store. I’m gonna make the chili, it’s f---ing delicious.
So one last question. The idea of live shows and festivals and big crowds seems so foreign and far away right now. But do you have hope that the music industry can come back from this?
It will come back. I honestly believe that at some point, people will come back outside into the sun and want to share music together — I mean it’s human nature I think. Who knows how long it will be but f---, we’ll be there. I know that.