10 things we learned from Dave Grohl’s BBC Reel Stories interview
This weekend, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl sat down with loveable TV host Dermot O’Leary for the latest episode of Reel Stories. The premise is simple: play famous musicians clips from their career, and discuss. Which must be a nice change of pace for Dave, as he isn’t one to get nostalgic.
“I don’t sit around watching footage of myself,” he laughs at the beginning. “It’s a fucking miracle that any musician remembers anything from the last 25 years of their fucking life!”
Over the course of 45 minutes, the pair – Dermot in London, Dave in Los Angeles – watch clips of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and other pieces of Dave’s personal musical history.
They cover a lot of ground, but here are 10 things we learned from the interview…
He met his childhood hero in his daughter’s assembly
Growing up, Dave says he found an entire other side to rock music (basically music that wasn’t The Beatles) through his mother’s boyfriend Chip, but it was through an older cousin that his discovered KISS, instantly thinking “this is rock’n’roll”.
Fast-forward four decades, and Dave is standing shoulder to shoulder with KISS frontman Paul Stanley. Not backstage at some festival or awards ceremony… but at school.
“I’m taking my daughter to school, and who’s there in assembly? Paul Stanley. As much as I tried to seem unfazed and like another dad in assembly as the kids are singing kumbaya, I was standing next to the man whose face was a poster on my wall growing up. If it weren’t for this guy, I don’t know if I’d be playing guitar right now.”
His mother influenced his strong work ethic
In 1988, Dave was touring America in his band Scream for not a lot of money. “I was making seven dollars a day, [and I’d] come home from tour with $120 in my pocket and a lifetime of memories.”
So, he realised he had to get a job, and found himself doing shifts at pizza restaurants and furniture warehouses. Laying about was simply not on Dave’s agenda, thanks to the dedication and drive of his mother.
“Being raised by a public school teacher, their pay is like, nothing. It’s a crime,” he says. “So I would watch my mother just go from paycheck, to paycheck, to paycheck, to paycheck. Our heat would get turned off, the phone would get turned off, the electricity would get turned off. There were some nights when it was like, ‘What’s for dinner?’ And she’s like, ‘Umm, we have two eggs… scrambled egg sandwiches!’ So this work ethic is instilled in you, where you realise that in order to survive, you have to work.”
Even when performing with Nirvana on TV, it still didn’t feel real
Nirvana’s TV debut was on iconic ’90s British show The Word, where they performed the soon-to-be anthem of a generation Smells Like Teen Spirit. Dave remembers the day well, but couldn’t comprehend what was happening at the time.
“It didn’t seem real,” he says. “When you’re young and your parents go away and you’re home alone, and you ‘play house’, in a strange way it was us ‘playing ‘rock band’.”
He goes on to reveal that the band felt like they could take on the world, and that whenever a camera was put in their face, they’d ask, “How can we destroy this?” alluding to the hilarious miming during their Top Of The Pops set and not playing the agreed song on the Jonathan Ross show.
Dave had to recalibrate his entire life after Kurt died
When discussing the death of Kurt Cobain, Dave mentions that “hindsight can be a blurry lens”, and that it’s important to keep the memories you have from the time, instead of what’s being focused on years later.
But when he found himself in a world without one of his closest friends, he was something of a lost soul, admitting, “I didn’t really have a plan. When everything’s sort of turned upside-down, and shaken up like that, you just wake up every day thinking, ‘Who am I, where am I, what am I doing?’
“I remember the day after Kurt died, how strange it felt to wake up knowing he wasn’t with us anymore, and that I had another day. Like, ‘Okay, so what am I going to do with today?’ I believe it was then that I started to realise, ‘Oh okay, you have to do everything once again.’ Meaning, like, I have to make a pot of coffee and this is my first pot of coffee since Kurt’s gone. I have to go upstairs and get dressed. This is the first thing I’ll wear since Kurt has been gone. It goes like that.”
A trip to Ireland inspired him to continue music
Following Kurt’s death, Dave headed to Ireland to escape the world around him. While driving his rented car “in the middle of nowhere” he saw a hitchhiker wearing a Kurt Cobain T‑shirt, which came as a powerful shock to the Nirvana drummer. And it was on the journey home that Dave came to the realisation, “I need to do something, I can’t be stuck in this place for the rest of my life… I needed some continuation of life.”
The Foo Fighters were kicked off TFI Friday
In the ’90s, Chris Evans’ TFI Friday was one of the must-watch shows for music fans. Over the years everyone from Slipknot to Napalm Death to Metallica performed on the Channel 4 staple, but when the Foos took to the stage they ended up being kicked off the show.
“They wanted us to play one song, we wanted to play this other song, big miscommunication,” says Dave with a smile. “And I [thought], ‘Okay, I’m going to get up front of the mic and say nothing but ‘fuck, fuck, fuck’ the whole entire time.’ ”
Which, er, didn’t go down well pre-watershed.
“We did the performance and were escorted out by security, [middle] fingers flying, it was insane.”
Foo Fighters took a page out of Queen’s book at Live Earth
In 2007, climate change awareness megashow Live Earth took place in various cities across the world, including at London’s Wembley Stadium. This would be Foo Fighters’ first-ever performance at the UK’s premier stadium. Playing alongside everyone from Beastie Boys to Spinal Tap to Madonna, it was quite the showcase.
“I imagined we’d be first on the bill because we were the least popular of any of the bands,” says Dave. “I got there and looked at the schedule and we were on after Metallica, after Genesis, after Pussycat Dolls!
“They only give you 25 minutes onstage so we looked at each other like, ‘Okay, let’s do that thing that Queen did at Live Aid, just play the songs that people know.’ ”
If you haven’t seen the life-affirming performance of My Hero, watch it below.
At the end of their set, Dave joked that they’d be back again, thinking his band would never play to this many people by themselves. The following summer, they headlined Wembley Stadium twice.
It took years to get over his insecurities as a frontman
Rising to fame behind the drum kit in one of the biggest rock bands in history, it’s quite a change to step in front of the mic for another world-dominating group. And while the Nicest Man In Rock might look like the most confident person in the room, he hasn’t always felt like it.
“For years, I was so self-conscious onstage, like, ‘I know I don’t sound good, but how do I look? How do I hold my guitar? Do I do it like this? How do I move?’ ” he remembers.
“I wasn’t ever in the moment, I was just so afraid. And then something clicked, where I was like, ‘You know what? I’m not wasting this moment on being nervous, or scared. I’m gonna walk out there like Julius fucking Caesar.’”
Seeing the Rockin’ 1000 video was a big moment
In summer 2015, 1,000 musicians in Italy came together to perform Foo Fighters’ supermassive hit Learn To Fly. If you haven’t seen it, watch it below. One thousand drummers, guitarists, bassists and singers performing the Foos in unison in a bid to get Dave Grohl and co. to play the city of Cesena.
“I remember the day this came out and it was a hugely emotional moment. You just don’t think of these things when you’re writing these songs with your friends,” Dave remembers. “One of the cool things about this experience was that it was a direct connection and request from people to the band… I thought that was really beautiful they’d come up with such an insane idea and plan.
“These moments show you the reach of music and the connection that it has with people you’ve never met thousands of miles away. It took my breath away.”
As you’d expect from such a bloody nice bloke, the Foos played a whopping 22-song set in Cesena later that year.
Dave’s daughter is more impressed by Dua Lipa
Last year, various artists including Biffy Clyro, YUNGBLUD, Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Royal Blood and Zara Larsson came together under the banner of the Live Lounge All Stars to cover Foo Fighters’ Times Like These, raising money for WHO’s COVID-19-Solidarity Response Fund. The video – which has since been viewed over 14 million times on YouTube – also features Dave and Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins.
“I was blown away. They started sending me the vocal takes, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, these people can sing.’ In our version we sound like Motörhead in a pub down the street, now I’m hearing all of this and it’s amazing. The funny thing is I watched with my daughter who is a fan of all these people and I’m like Gandalf The Grey,” he laughs.
You can watch the full 45-minute interview now on BBC iPlayer.
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