It’s been quite the journey. Today the leader of the planet’s most popular garage group is here to discuss Medicine At Midnight, their imminent new album. Spacious and assured, in a pandemic-free parallel universe the group would have unveiled their 10th LP last spring with a live campaign that marked the 25th anniversary of their first-ever tour. Back then, in April and May of 1995 the Foo Fighters were on the road supporting Mike Watt, the former bassist with The Minutemen and one of the original architects of America’s deeply embedded do-it-yourself punk rock culture. Also on the bill were Hovercraft, featuring Eddie Vedder. Despite being signed to a major label (albeit briefly), Mike Watt personally booked every one of the tour’s 25 dates. After playing their opening sets, each night the two supports would form the core of the headliner’s backing band.
“To this day, no matter how exhausted, no matter how jet-lagged, no matter how sick, no matter how much you’ve blown out your voice, nothing will compare to that first American tour,” Dave recalls. Despite having sold many millions of albums with Nirvana, from North Carolina to Washington state that spring the drummer-turned-frontman toured the country in a Dodge Ram 15-seater van. Having sold even more records with Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder also traveled by similarly modest means. As his new group upgraded to a tour bus, “a couple of years” on Dave sold the ride to his friend Bryan Lee Brown, from the band Bluebird, only to buy it back almost two decades later. Compared to the deathtraps to which he’d grown used to with Scream, his first touring band, with its air-conditioned interior and power windows, the dependable Dodge seemed “like a fucking limousine”. These days eclipsed by the luxuries afforded by enormous worldwide success, the compact vehicle stands, and rolls, as a testament both to the band the Foo Fighters once were, and somehow still are.
“To me it represented more than a bucket of bolts,” Dave says. “It represented a kind of home to me because I’d spent so much time, and some of the most important times, in this van. So, yeah, as much as [last summer’s planned tour] seemed like some kind of token celebration, beyond that it does seem perfectly natural to me to just throw shit in the back of a van and pull your amp up onstage and just play. That doesn’t seem foreign to me at all. I knew that we could do it, but then I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate our 25th anniversary than to share this with everyone so that they could have some sort of perspective of where we come from?’
“That van represents the [group] just as much as a fucking fireworks display at Glastonbury,” he adds. “More so, probably. When I think of our band, I think of that [vehicle]. I don’t necessarily think of the inauguration or playing in a stadium. I think of that van.”