It’s MTV ‘Cribs’ time”, says Dave Grohl from his new hacienda-style mansion in the Los Angeles valley. “I basically had nowhere else to put my truckloads of platinum.” Even though he won’t have too much time to get cozy by his new pool, Grohl is jacked up about kicking off the Foo Fighters‘ nine-week U.S. run on May 25th in Chicago. “It feels good when you’re stomping around, sweatin’ balls,” he says. “And it’s gotten to the point where we can write a set list of twenty songs that everybody knows. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to step out on the stage when people are singing ‘All My Life’ and ‘My Hero’ louder than the PA.”
What song reminds you most of the summertime?
The theme from Meatballs. [Sings] “Are you ready for the summer? Are you ready for the good times?” That was the shit. When you think of something like Lollapalooza or the Sanitarium Tour, it seems to me just like Meatballs on wheels. A traveling summer camp.
Are you bummed that you’re not gonna be on one of those Meatballs tours?
No, I’m actually kinda psyched. It’s been so long since we’ve done our own headlining tour. We’re playing bigger places than we ever have.
What’s your most important tour accessory?
We got the ping-pong table on the road. You know, there’s nothing wrong with a little zhing-zhang now and again. We’re big on it. There’s no better way to warm up for a show than a nice five- or six-game tournament. It gets your hand-eye going; you break a sweat.
Did you go to outdoor festivals when you were a kid?
No. The first big show was the Monsters of Rock festival with Metallica, Dokken, the Scorpions and Van Halen, in 1988. There were, like, 50,000 people there. I remember Kingdom Come played first, and the drummer did a solo that I was capable of doing. That’s when I realized arena rock was a hoax. I thought, “If I can do that, then this is retardo.” But it was fun. I got a sunburn. I lost my weed and spent the next three hours trying to buy more.
At Foo Fighters gigs, what do fans throw onstage?
Actually, in Birmingham, Alabama, first song, I get hit with a pair of Risky Business sunglasses. Second song, I get hit with a can of Copenhagen dip. Third song, a pack of Marlboro Lights. But if you’re doing an outdoor summer gig, it’s inevitable that the kids will be trampling each other, and they’re gonna lose a shoe. What better way to send the shoe to the lost-and-found than throw it at my fucking face? At least they don’t throw Mentos anymore. That’s sooo 1995.
You chew gum throughout your set. What’s the deal?
It’s just to keep my throat and mouth lubricated — so when I scream balls, I don’t choke and vomit. The best time for the gum is just before getting onstage. Onstage I need a minty-fresh microphone. There’s no gum that keeps its flavor for more than twenty minutes. I need flavor. I like me some Dentyne Ice. I just know the colors: black, blue or green.
Do you have any special moves to get the crowd going?
I can’t do the “everybody say ‘fuck you’ to the band,” because that’s retardo. I can’t do the “this side say ‘hey,’ this side say ‘ho’” I can’t start a wave. Basically I just play music, then between songs I talk shit and embarrass people. That’s kind of my trip. Sometimes when I’m talking about eating pussy, I’ll use hand gestures. It’s important to show these kids what to do. One day I’m gonna have a legion of thankful young men.
What’s the biggest crowd you’ve ever played for?
Rock in Rio — quarter of a million people.
What goes through your mind at that point?
After about 10,000 people, it stops being an audience — it just turns into a riot. When you bust into a song like “Breakout” and you see a hundred thousand people jumping up and down, it’s like tribal warfare. When you hear that many people who don’t even speak English singing your song, it makes you want to shed a tear. There’s been moments where I’ll say good night and be super choked up.
Have you ever wept openly onstage?
No, I never have. The closest was at the Bridge School Benefit a couple of years ago. I was playing “Everlong,” just me with an acoustic guitar, and when I ended the song, I got this standing ovation. I was just about to start crying, and I turned and saw David Crosby and Neil Young on the side of the stage looking at me like, “Thattaboy. You really go ’em.” So I walked right past them and made it to the dressing room before I went [choked up], “Uhhunhun.” The guys in the band were like, “What’s wrong with Dave?”
What do you remember most about playing summer festivals with Nirvana?
I remember meeting Danny Peters, from Mudhoney. I asked, “What’s the biggest audience you’ve played in front of?” He said it was 35,000 at the Reading Festival, and I almost shit my pants. I said, “How could you fucking handle that? I’d faint, I’d puke, I’d die.” So I remember the few days leading up to playing Reading in 1992. I was so afraid I was going to have a panic attack and die in front of 35,000 people. It was horrifying, but it was awesome all the same.
This story is from the June 12th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.