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Life, death and rock 'n' Grohl

Dave Grohl looks back on 20 years of playing music and talks about the birth of his daughter, the trapped Beaconsfield Miners and why Neil Young is his hero.

Peter Murphy, 10 Oct 2007

You can snapshot a point in most significant bands’ careers where they play so far above their own abilities and beyond their own limitations, they’re almost unrecognisable. Actors call it being in the moment. Athletes call it the zone. Kerouac called it ‘the click’.

It went largely unremarked upon in the music press, but for this viewer, the moment Foo Fighters made the leap was during their Live Earth set earlier this summer. As ‘All My Life’ gave way to powerhouse versions of ‘Times Like These’, ‘My Hero’ and ‘Everlong’, it became apparent that the quartet had elevated themselves from stalwart festival presence to full-on rock monster capable of creaming the competition, even if that competition included Metallica and Madonna.

“Well, we had to go on after the Pussycat Dolls, so we wanted to make sure we were in top form,” Dave Grohl quips on a beautiful morning in LA. In previous encounters Grohl has tended to avoid the confessional, preferring to dazzle and distract with a stream of jokes and anecdotes. Today, for whatever reason, he seems in a more reflective mood than usual.

“We only had to play five fuckin’ songs,” he continues, “but we were a little confused with the line up: ‘Wait, so we’re going on after the Chili Peppers and Metallica? How the fuck is that supposed to happen?!!”

Nevertheless, it looked like the band had consciously concocted a Queen-at-Live-Aid show-stealing strategy.

“Well, y’know, I had this conversation with Roger Taylor a couple of days before,” he admits. “We played this little club in London called Dingwalls, we just wanted to warm up for the Live Earth thing. So we did a couple of hours and drank a bunch and sweated it out, and afterwards I said to Roger Taylor, ‘So, uh, how big is Wembley?’ and he’s like, ‘Ooooh, it’s fuckin’ huge!’ And when someone from Queen says the place is fuckin’ huge, that means it’s fuckin’ huuuuge! And I said, ‘Hey, so when you guys did Live Aid, how long did you play for?’ And he said, ‘18 minutes’ or something. And I said, ‘How many songs did you play?’ And I know they did, like, a medley, but it was fuckin’ eight songs! They squeezed all that in. And I realised that Queen, being one of the greatest live bands of all time, had the ability to shrink somewhere like Wembley stadium into a club like Dingwalls, and it was just because Freddie could collapse that venue and he had everyone in the palm of his hand. And it really just comes down to breaking that barrier from the stage to the audience and making everyone feel involved. When we go to play live, it’s important to me that we’re all connected in that way, y’know? I don’t wanna do some crazy feedback-loop-prog shit that’s gonna make everyone sit there and scratch their heads. It’s like having a toast over and over and over again.”

The band have more to toast this month with the release of their sixth studio album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, reviewed last issue. Any significance in the – unusually for the Foos – elegiac title?

“Well,” Grohl says, “it was tough to name this album. I don’t understand how bands can name an album before they’ve even recorded it, because there should be some mystery in the album-making process. And for an album like this, which was kind of diverse, it was hard to nail it down with one tag. We pieced through all of the lyrics and spent a couple of weeks trying to figure it out and we had a little board up on the wall of the studio free for anyone to give suggestions – that just turned into a fuckin’ joke! There were some good ones: The One With That Song On It, that’s what we were gonna call it.

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