10 Things We Learned Hanging With Dave Grohl
“We all love sitting around and telling stories – well, listen to these, because they might make you fall in love with music,” Dave Grohl says in our current cover story, talking about his HBO documentary series, Sonic Highways. There wasn’t enough room to fit all of the tales the Foo Fighters leader, his bandmates, friends and mother Virginia told me in more than 10 hours of interviews about the road to Sonic Highways and the group’s new album of the same name. “He likes to talk,” Foo Fighters producer Butch Vig says of Grohl in the story, noting that there is always “an hour or two” before band rehearsals and recording sessions for everyone to shoot the breeze. “You just get caught up in the life and times of Dave Grohl.” Here’s more.
1. He was sent to the school shrink for trying to kill Loverboy.
“In my neighborhood in Springfield, Virginia, there was a guy, Jimmy Swanson – we were like brothers. We both fell in love with the guitar when we were eight or nine years old. But eventually our interests split. I discovered the B-52’s and Devo; he was going off to Loverboy and Def Leppard. We would draw comics in class to each other. I’d draw Devo killing with Loverboy with laser guns. I got sent to the school shrink for that.”
2. Grohl never expected to leave Springfield, Virginia.
“I was a manual-labor worker, doing masonry and working at a furniture warehouse. I worked at a nursery breaking fucking rocks. There were not a lot of career opportunities for me. At one point, I thought, ‘I know how to play drums. I’ll learn to read music, become a session drummer and from that money, I’ll put myself back through school.” I wanted to have a kickass job downtown, in Washington, D.C. But that wasn’t going to happen. In Washington, D.C., you’re either in the Army or the government. I was too skinny to be in the Army and too stupid to be in the government – or too smart.
“I had this conversation with the school shrink that time I got sent in: ‘What are you going to do with your life?’ I said I’d like to do something in music. And her first reaction was, ‘You only want to do that because you know where the drugs are.'”
3. He plays guitar like a drummer.
“I was never taught how to play the guitar. I don’t know what the chords to ‘Everlong’ [on 1997’s The Colour and the Shape] are. I only know what happens when I put the fingers there. But that riff is a good example of how I look at the guitar.
“The low E string is the kick drum. The A and D strings are snares. The G, B and high E are the cymbals. So you have a kick-snare relationship in the riff. Then when the chorus comes around, you wash all the high strings as you would wash a cymbal. It makes it percussive, and it gives that dynamic. It’s why I play those Trini Lopez-model guitars – you can play them real soft. And you can beat the fuck out of them. They have that range.”
4. Producer Butch Vig broke Grohl’s heart during the sessions for Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Vig: “It was the night we were recording ‘Lithium.’ It wasn’t sounding right. It kept speeding up. It wasn’t Dave’s fault; it was the whole band. But I said, ‘Have you ever tried a click track?’ That was like a dagger in the heart for him. He went back to the hotel that night, freaking out a bit. He had a sleepless night, then came in and slayed it in one take [without the click]. It was perfect.”
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