“Hellllllo!” Dave Grohl screams, in an unidentifiable accent. “That was my Australian greeting. Did you get that?” The Foo Fighters frontman is just a little punchy, having spent the last eight weeks circling the globe promoting the Foos’ fourth album, One by One, and “talking about how kick-ass our band is.” It’s been a long year for Grohl, starting with the band’s performance at the Olympics in February (one of its first since drummer Taylor Hawkins was hospitalized after an OD in August 2001), continuing with a nasty legal battle over Nirvana with Courtney Love and taking a sidetrack for a summer tour with Queens of the Stone Age. Then there’s One by One, which Grohl scrapped after four months of work and then rerecorded. The result is a noisy one, though Grohl denies the heaviness is angst-driven. “Everyone considers this more aggressive, which leads people to believe that it’s angrier,” he says. “That’s not it. It’s aggressive because we were so into making it.”
You’ve always played aggressive music. What were you raised on?
When I was really young I listened to the Beatles, the B-52s, Devo and Rush. Then I discovered punk — the Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat, bands like that. Once I discovered how to use a bong, I started listening to Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
So you were always the kid with the cool taste in music?
I was surrounded by a lot of cool people. My sister had everything from Tears for Fears to David Bowie, and so I listened to those albums at night after everyone went to sleep. I never fell into terribly dangerous territory, although I do have a soft spot for things like Shakira and Pink.
Do you have an earliest music memory?
When I was two, I saw the Jackson 5 at the Ohio State Fair. We got front row. I was still in my stroller. Whenever anyone asks me about my first concert, I tell them Jackson 5, and it fuckin’ wins much points.
Do you remember your high school prom theme?
I dropped out before I made it to prom, buddy. It was probably “Under Cover of the Night” or some shit.
Are there songs from your past that you identify with a specific time and place?
Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” was a big one. That was the first album in our house. It was on a K-Tel compilation we bought at the drugstore. We didn’t have a stereo, but my mother would bring home the public-school record player from work. Rush’s 2112 changed my life. My cousin played me that — it smelled like the incense that he used to burn in his room to hide the pot. I thought that was cool.
When did the metal fascination come in?
When you’re thirteen and listening to punk, the aggressive nature of music can sway you to the dark side. I went over to my friend Jimmy’s house one day and found out he’d been listening to Iron Maiden. I was pissed because he had deserted me on our new mission of punk rock. But it opened up a new world. We discovered Metallica, Motorhead, Slayer. Plus, it was kind of fun to pretend you worshiped the devil.
What do you listen to in the morning to get your day going?
Usually, I wake up, throw half a pack of bacon on the fryer, a couple of eggs, smoke a cig, listen to some My Morning Jacket or the new Beck. Maybe Coldplay. I’m really delicate in the morning, so I need a ballad to get my day going.
Have you found that your taste has changed over the years?
Not really. I’ve always been a fan of melody and emotional melancholy, whether it was Rites of Spring or Tears for Fears or Neil Young. If I hear a song that has a sweet melody, I’m a sucker for it, whether it’s Linkin Park or Little Richard.
Do you like hip-hop?
I like the Missy Elliott “Work It” single. She’s a fuckin’ genius. And thank God for Timbaland. I think he turned a lot around. The Neptunes do a lot of cool shit. For the most part, the hip-hop thing is played out . . . but then there’s Kool Keith.
If you made someone a mix tape, what would you put on it?
Such a schizophrenic range of music that you’d throw it away. That was the thing: When you were a teenager and you had a crush on a girl, you’d make her a mix tape. You don’t want to have to talk about yourself, you figure, “Maybe in this Jane’s Addiction ballad she’ll know how I feel.” But my tapes usually made people never talk to me again.
What’s your driving soundtrack?
I have the most kick-ass stereo, which is actually stuck in a BMW M5. I have a six-CD changer, with ELO’s Greatest Hitson CD-1; CD-2 I got Slipknot’s Iowa, I can’t remember what’s in three. . . . Oh, yeah, three, four, five and six are all me. .”