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
The two songs that represent this musical emancipation in extremis are ‘Statues’ and ‘Home’, which co-opt influences as unlikely as Todd Rundgren, Paul McCartney and Neil Young. Plus, the lyrics are clearer and more coherent than before.
“Well, you know, for this album I sat in a room in the back of the studio for about two weeks,” Grohl recalls, “I wanted to demo lyrics before beginning the record. That’s something I’ve never really done before, because I’ve always been afraid if it, y’know? It’s a funny thing, having to write your innermost personal thoughts and put em on a fuckin’ CD package that millions of people are gonna read, that’s not necessarily the kind of guy I am. But this time I sat in the back of the studio and just wrote every day for about 14 hours a day. And I think that confidence I was talking about helped me with that, because I used to be afraid to say anything too revealing or anything too personal, it put a lot of roadblocks and speed bumps in those songs. I’d almost get to the point. This time I wasn’t afraid to do that.”
Presumably becoming a father had a lot to do with that?
“Oh absolutely, yeah. I mean, anyone that has a child knows that age old cliché is true, that everything changes when you have a baby. If I had a fuckin’ nickel for every jackass that said that to me before I had a kid, I just kept hearing it over and over and over again, and y’know, you consider the logistics, changing diapers 20 times a day…I wasn’t worried about the lack of sleep ’cos I’ve been jet-lagged for 20 years, so that’s totally fine, but what I didn’t consider was the emotional impact that it has on a person.”
It’s certainly funny that such tiny creatures can make a grown man feel so raw. You think they’ll turn you into an overprotective chainsaw-wielding maniac, but really they just reduce you to emotional pulp.
“This is true. I mean, just when I thought I’d felt love at its deepest, just when I thought I’d seen the world at its brightest, Violet was born, and I realised that I’d been standing on the tip of this iceberg, and that everything was so much better than I ever imagined. And also, y’know, I’ve handled some responsibility in life, but realising that it’s my responsibility to provide for and protect my daughter and help her survive just made me feel stronger in a lot of ways. Things that I’d been afraid of before, phobias I’ve had, just melted away because there’s nothing more important to me than her, so all of the little worries and fears that I had before, I just let go of, because I feel like nothing can stop me now. I don’t know, I just feel like a fucking Viking when I’m with my daughter, she makes me feel like… it’s hard to put into words, but I think that all of the reservations or fears that I had musically disappeared when she was born.”
I’m reminded of one of Dermod Moore’s Bootboy columns, in which he maintained that children are good for men because the responsibility keeps them from devouring themselves. It’s why so many fathers go into a spiral if they experience an acrimonious divorce and are not allowed to see their children.
The other thing is, when people blather on about the gang mentality of a band being incompatible with domestic responsibility, the argument can be silenced with two words: Neil Young.
‘Y’know, it’s a funny thing,” Grohl considers, “when I was young, I loved buying records and listening to music. I had my Beatles songbook and I had my Beatles albums and I had my Silvertone guitar with the amp and the case, and I would sit down and play along with all of these songs, not because I wanted to be in The Beatles or because I wanted to be a rock star, it was just my favourite thing in life – to sit down and play my guitar with this music. And then inevitably I had a Kiss poster and started getting into this fantasy world that was rock ‘n’ roll.