A few days after the Roswell show, sitting in the band's state-of-the-art studio and rehearsal space in Northridge, California, Grohl opens up about his three-and-a-half-year stint in Nirvana. When he speaks about Cobain, his words slow down and his voice grows somber. Sitting in the house that the Foo Fighters built, Grohl is clearly more comfortable talking about his band, not Cobain's band. And there's good news: In Your Honor — the half-rock, half-acoustic double album that features guest spots from Norah Jones and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones — has sold more than 310,000 records in its opening week, the Foos' best debut ever. "At this point in our lives, after ten years, I couldn't have imagined making another record, another twelve songs to further the cycle," Grohl says. "And rather than make what I imagined as being our last, which is the way I always looked at it, let's make a record that opens up another ten years of albums. Why not make records forever? Because now I feel like we can do anything."
Who do you blame for your sense of humor?
My father. He's a great storyteller. His e-mails are fucking epic, man. After doing the journalist thing, he became one of the principal speechwriters for the Republican National Convention. He's got a way with words. Whether it was being lectured or just getting a story about Niles, Ohio, in the Sixties, it would become like a State of the Union address. It was unbelievable.
As someone who toured with John Kerry last year, you must've butted heads with your dad.
We never really discussed politics. I was listening to [the hardcore band] MDC when he was writing for the RNC. But when I went out on the Kerry campaign, I wondered what my father would think of it when he eventually found out.
How did Kerry inspire the album title, "In Your Honor"?
Well, for the rock record, I wanted there to be anthemic, fist-pumping singalongs. Not some "Pour Some Sugar on Me" bullshit. I spent last summer going to political rallies, playing acoustic music for people. We went through the Midwest in a motorcade of buses. We'd pull into these tiny little towns, and thousands and thousands of people would come out to be rescued by this man — you could see it in their faces. The front row was World War II vets, wheelchairs and school teachers, not Foo Fighters fans. I was playing "My Hero" for people that were over eighty. But it was such a powerful emotion, feeling this collective energy. It's like watching the strength of human will, seeing that sometimes people do things for the right reasons. Or honorable reasons. It made me wanna fuckin' cry. I came back from that and started writing songs.
For someone with Zeppelin tattoos all over your body, it must have been nice to eventually see John Paul Jones in your studio.
We tracked him down, and I got on the phone with him. There's a song on the acoustic record that needed Mellotron, and he's the king. So I explained that to him — I tried not to gush and seem like a cheap whore. We talked for about forty-five minutes, and I hung up the phone and thought, "Holy shit. I can't believe it!" I grew up worshipping Zeppelin like they were church. A couple of weeks later, he strolled in. He brought his mandolin. I tried not to jump straight up his ass with Zeppelin questions, but Taylor didn't seem to have a problem with that. He played on "Miracle," but when he sat down behind the Mellotron he started playing "The Rain Song." Taylor, Chris and I were fucking drooling. Then he starts playing "Kashmir." So I get behind the drums and we start playing together, and [farting noises] I have a full diaper. I slipped in a couple of [John] Bonham fills at the end, and he says, "Well, fancy footwork you have going there."
When you were eighteen, you toured with the D.C. punk band Scream. That must have been a learning experience.
I'd never been past Chicago, and it was a good two-month tour. Everywhere from Fender's Ballroom in L.A. to the Botanical Center in Des Moines. It was seven dollars a day per-diem. Whether it was learning how to perform live, how to live within the fucking confines of a Dodge Ram or learning how to fucking score chicks, I learned everything. I'd dropped out of high school, but I always knew I'd be OK. You don't need much to get by. It seemed so simple. I learned how to play the drums without a drum set. I didn't have a car until I was in Nirvana. Cigarettes were cheap, and Taco Bell was everywhere.
Do you remember the first time Kurt dived into your drum kit?
It was on the first tour I did with him in England. Before I joined the band, I'd only seen Nirvana play once, and I didn't even watch them. I saw the first few songs and wound up outside talking to an old friend. Danny Peters from Mudhoney was playing drums — this is the day after I flew up to join the band — and I was told not to tell anyone why I was there, because they didn't want to freak out Danny. He's amazing, but I think they wanted a different kind of drummer. So the first time I really watched Nirvana was when I was auditioning for the band in a gnarly rehearsal space we shared with Tad — I didn't know Kurt had a habit of diving into drummers. So in England, he jumped into my drum kit like some sort of Evel Knievel shit. It looked so painful. I mean, it's like diving into a pile of sheet metal. Kurt said once that he aspired to be a stuntman, so whether it was putting firecrackes underneath his shirt to look like he was being shot or jumping off the roof of his house with a cape, he had no fear and a high tolerance for pain. Launching yourself into a set of drums fucking leaves marks. It's crazy.
How often did he do that?
Special occasions. I think he did that just to get the pain medicine [laughs]. I'd always heard that he would dive into Chad Channing's drum set because he was upset with Chad. So sometimes I thought it was cool, sometimes I thought, "Uh-oh," like I was getting reprimanded for something I'd done wrong. "Is that a good thing?" I didn't know.
What look did he have on his face before he took the leap?
At that point I was fucking high-tailing it out of there.
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