It's midnight, and 30,000 feet above New Mexico, with his back facing the cockpit of a private plane, Dave Grohl kicks back in his plush leather seat and takes a celebratory sip of Crown Royal. The smoke from a Parliament in his left hand wafts through the small cabin, where a Police compilation pipes through the speakers. Four days after the release of their double album In Your Honor, the Foo Fighters — Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins, bassist Nate Mendel and guitarist Chris Shiflett — are winding down an ambitious promotional tour, and Grohl ought to be exhausted. This morning the band flew to Roswell, baked all day at 100-plus degrees in an airplane hangar — near the alleged site of a UFO crash that many believe happened in 1947 (the band's name refers to Forties Air Force slang for UFOs) — to perform for hundreds of fans and contest winners chartered in from around the country. To Grohl, sleep is unproductive, and he's riding high on tonight's performance, carrying on conversations about the fact that he hasn't done drugs in fifteen years, about the greatness of Stewart Copeland, and he laughs about the meager sum at the bottom of his latest Nirvana royalty check.
Like many of the Foos' special trips, the journey from Los Angeles to Roswell is a family affair: Grohl's wife of two years, Jordyn, hangs out in the back of the twelve-seat Cessna with Hawkins and his fiancée, Alison Williams; Virginia, Grohl's mom, is plopped down in the back lounge. "My parents worked really hard to raise me," Grohl says. "So if I can return any of that favor, I do. Most of our parents are retired, so if we go to Reykjavik or Japan or some place they've never been, better to do it with us than some crusty fucking tour group that gives everyone diarrhea."
Independence Day marked the tenth anniversary of the Foo Fighters' first release, recorded in less than a week and played entirely by Grohl except for a Greg Dulli guitar part on the song "X-Static." "The first record was such a fluke," he says. "Had I taken it more seriously, I would have spent more than five days making it." But Foo Fighters eventually sold more than 1 million copies, and the Foos' next three albums — The Colour and the Shape and Grammy winners There Is Nothing Left to Lose and One by One — have improved on that first success. "I knew that I'd love to play music for the rest of my life," says Grohl, "but I never thought that it would keep the same name for ten years, that it would become what it is now. I had a profound revelation the first time we headlined the Reading Festival [in England in 2003], as I was staring at my mother and my sister on the side of the stage: that I wrote a song on the back of a fucking AM/PM receipt, and now 60,000 people are singing it. I honestly felt like the luckiest guy in the world."
Grohl's parents — both from Ohio — met doing community theater. His mother had a beautiful voice, and his father, James, was a classically trained flutist. "He was a child prodigy," says Grohl. "In the Fifties he was really into jazz, so he had this beatnik side to him. If you mention early jazz or Kerouac or any of that shit, my dad will start telling you how Ginsberg hit on him." When Dave was born in 1969 — three years after his sister Lisa — James Grohl had become a journalist for the Scripps Howard News Service, getting a ringside seat to the Watergate hearings when the family moved to Virginia in the early Seventies. "Growing up in Springfield, Virginia, you're fifteen minutes from chicken farmers and fifteen minutes from the White House," says Grohl. "You could go drink Robitussin and inhale lighter fluid all week and then go into the city and see hardcore bands on the weekends." His family could never afford a drum kit, so pillows acted as drums and record sleeves were cymbals while he studied and played along to Minor Threat's Out of Step, Bad Brains' Rock for Light and Rush's 2112. His heavy-handed drumming style was born because the only sticks he had were as thick as his arms, better suited for a marching band. "When I sat down on somebody's drum kit, I'd break everything," he says. "I'd beat the shit out of it." He painted houses one summer to earn money for his first kit. Though he still owns some of the drums, most were destroyed after Kurt Cobain repeatedly dived into them.
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