Dave Grohl Interview: Foo Fighters’ Hall of Fame Induction
Dave Grohl has had a lot of memorable Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nights during the past decade. In 2013, he donned a kimono and blond wig to induct Rush and rock out with them on “2112.” The next year, Nirvana entered the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility and he played their music with Krist Novoselic for the first time since Kurt Cobain died in 1994. The year after that, he jammed with Joan Jett and got stoned out of his mind with her and Miley Cyrus afterward.
October 30th will likely be another unforgettable night for Grohl when the Foo Fighters are inducted. Like Nirvana, they’re entering the Hall in their very first year of eligibility. Hours after the news broke, Grohl called up Rolling Stone to talk about the big news and the band’s plans going forward.
Thank you very much.
Who told you the news?
My manger, John Silva, who I’ve been with for 31 fuckin’ years. [Laughs.]
What was your first reaction?
Well, I was surprised and, of course, very appreciative. The last few months I’ve been writing this book. I’ve been looking back at the last 30 years. As I write about my childhood in Virginia leading up to joining Scream and beginning to tour the world, and then joining Nirvana, I kind of gloss over the Foo Fighters. [Laughs.]
I don’t know why, to be honest. I just recently realized it’s been half my life since I’ve been in this band. I feel, in a way, that I’ve almost neglected how much we’ve done in the past 25 years. I think because I’m always working in a forward motion, I don’t spend too much time sitting down and looking back at what we’ve done or reflecting on our past achievements. I just kind of look forward to the next thing. So today has been a bit more reflective than before.
I was just sitting down and writing a story about the time we built a studio in my basement in Virginia to make the third record. I realized, “Fuck, that was 22 years ago.” [Laughs] It’s nuts.
I’m mostly happy for Pat [Smear] and Nate [Mendel] and Chris [Shiflett] and Taylor [Hawkins] and Rami [Jaffee]. I don’t think any of us ever imagined that this would happen.
Did you guys talk today?
There’s been a group text. There’s a text chain. It’s been very joyous. We released a statement about a member of the Germs being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Then I realized there are two members of the Germs. Belinda Carlisle!
That’s crazy. I just talked to the Go-Go’s and they are psyched.
Yeah. Pat’s excited that the Go-Go’s are being inducted as well. As he said, “I’ll have someone to hang out with.” But also, the list of artists inducted this year is very important, and encouraging. Tina Turner, obviously, deserves everything that she’s been awarded with. And Carole King is a big one, and the Go-Go’s. To see so many women inducted this year is impressive and encouraging.
You entered the club of the double inductee.
I did. That’s funny.
You’re one of the youngest double inductees ever, but Eric Clapton beat you by a few years. He was 48.
Well, at 52 years-old, that’s quite a compliment. I still get carded for cigarettes. But yeah, it’s a lot to take in. It really is.
Your first induction was an incredible evening, but you had to figure out how to actually perform and it was very emotional. This will be more of a celebration, I imagine.
Yeah. Nirvana’s induction was obviously bittersweet. But we were honored to be there, mostly to honor Kurt’s amazing music. This will be a different vibe, for sure.
When you made that first little Foo Fighters tape, I imagine you never thought it would get you into arenas, let alone stadiums, let alone the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Had I imagined that it would have become a career, I probably would have taken it a lot more seriously, way more than just six days in the studio with my friend Barrett Jones. Those are the things that I look back on.
But also, if there’s one common thread that’s run through the last 25 years of being in this band, it’s that everything just falls in our laps. It really does, like having the band begin with a simple demo tape, which was finished right around the time Sunny Day Real Estate was breaking up, and Pat Smear hearing the tape and offering his service.
Then we made our second record and were let out of our contact due to a “key man clause” because Gary Gersh was the president of Capitol Records. He was the man that signed Nirvana to Geffen. And we had a clause that said if he were to leave the company, we were free to go as well. So he left the company and we were free to go. Then we weren’t obligated to be a band. We decided to continue because we loved being a band. We built a studio in my basement, not knowing what we were doing, nailing fuckin’ sleeping bags on the wall for soundproofing.
And then coming out of that, winning Grammys … I don’t know. It just seems like this band has been in the right place at the right time for the past 25 years.
During much of that time, there are almost no other rock bands getting radio hits. It’s like you’re fighting gravity so much of the time.
It’s funny. There’s never been a boardroom full of people discussing any career direction or decision. It’s the same fuckin’ eight people for 25 years that follow our gut instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, we just don’t do it. It can be something as ridiculous as a music video or something as important as knowing when to say no.
I don’t know. We’re blissfully unaware of a lot of what’s going on in the industry and popular music because we built this little fortress around us where we have our own studio and our friends produce our records.
Something like meeting Greg Kurstin. I just saw him at a restaurant. I didn’t even know he was a producer. I only knew he was in the Bird and the Bee, like my favorite fuckin’ band. I went up and star-fucked him in a restaurant. I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m a huge fuckin’ fan. You’re a genius.”
I don’t know where we’d be today had I not run into him in that restaurant. I feel that way about so many different things. Headlining Wembley for the first time … we played the Live Earth benefit at Wembley Stadium. Because much bigger bands had to fly off and play other shows, we were put near the top of the bill with Madonna. We had the stage lights and we only had 20 minutes, so I was like, “Let’s do the Live Aid thing and only play songs people know.”
I joked onstage, “We’ll be back next year to headline a couple of nights here at Wembley.” And the next year, we were back headlining a couple of nights at fuckin’ Wembley! Things like that, on a day like today, where we’re given such an incredible award, I look back at the last 25 years and just think it’s dumb luck. [Laughs.]
Are you thinking yet about the ceremony itself? Are you hoping to play with the Go-Go’s or anyone else?
I was born not too far from Cleveland, Ohio. When I think about going back to Ohio, I think about my family and the little town of Warren where I was born and my grandparents that used to live in Youngstown.
I haven’t really thought about the master jam. I’m just looking forward to taking my mother and sister back there so we can hang out with my uncle Tom.
Standing at the podium with your whole band will be a pretty great moment.
I predict that my speech will be the shortest since I have such a big mouth. It’s time for those guys to speak.
I really hope they get Tina Turner there.
That would be awesome. God, who else? We’ve got Todd Rundgren, of course. We’ve got Jay-Z. But oh, my God, to be onstage with Tina Turner or Carole King? Can you fuckin’ imagine? [Laughs] That would be so huge.
I think the ceremony works better in Cleveland. And you were there with Joan Jett just a few years ago.
I just remember being there and going upstairs … the ceremonies can be painfully long. Fortunately, Joan Jett’s performance was at the top of the show. We performed and after a few hours, I went up to the dressing room to drink and wound up smoking a joint with Joan and Miley Cyrus. [Laughs.]
I came back downstairs … and I rarely smoke weed. I remember looking over, staring at Jerry Lee Lewis and just being … I don’t even have the words to describe it. I was tripping fuckin’ balls. And then at the end of the show, Ringo got an award. A producer was running around looking for me to sing the finale of “With a Little Help From My Friends.” He ran up to me and was like, “Dave! Dave! You’ve gotta be onstage in the next two minutes! We’re doing the big finale!” I couldn’t imagine being onstage. I walked out there so high that I hid behind Stevie Wonder. [Laughs.]
That’s incredible. You’re up there with two Beatles, Bill Withers, Green Day, Stevie Wonder …
I mean, it was a lot to take in! [Laughs] I won’t be doing that this year, that’s for goddamn sure.
You must be looking forward to playing again. I know you just did that big event in L.A. the other week.
Oh, yeah! We’ve been getting together for the past six or seven months, rehearsing and playing and recording and filming. We’re ready to go. But the other night was more than just strapping on instruments and playing our songs. It was finally being able to share it with people again. We’ve been playing for our road crew for the past six months. I’m so fuckin’ sick of it.
To stand on a stage and see the excitement and the joy of an actual live audience … there were people in that audience that I guarantee had never heard the Foo Fighters before, but they were dancing around like we were their favorite band, because we were back in a tangible, communal setting where people could share it together, which is what I think music is for. It was an amazing feeling.
And of course, we walk offstage wanting to immediately do it again. And we will. I know what our schedule is, and there are shows. I predict that the feeling will be the same as it was that night at SoFi Stadium.
Back to the Hall of Fame, they’re also bringing Randy Rhoads in. That’s a chance to do a pretty cool tribute to him.
Oh, yeah. I wish I could play those guitar solos, but unfortunately, someone else is going to have to do it. I saw that and I felt really happy for Ozzy. I’m sure that Ozzy is having an emotional day.
You’re on the Hall of Fame nominating committee. Who else are you really advocating for going forward?
If I have to pitch Bad Brains one more fuckin’ time. [Laughs] I enjoy the process of all the board members getting together and sharing their knowledge and opinions. I walk away from every one of those meetings having learned something new. I consider every voice on the committee a legitimate voice. And it’s very diverse. It’s not just a bunch of rock musicians sitting around discussing whether your favorite Eighties hair-metal band should be in or not. It’s fun. I like doing it. But of course, there’s a logjam of artists that I think should be inducted right away.
I keep thinking about Devo.
Dude, I’ve made more than a few Devo pitches. My Devo pitch is basically, “When your band name becomes a derogatory term that is being screamed at you while you’re being chased down the street by a pickup truck full of rednecks, then you deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” That was my pitch. Listen, c’mon, do you know how many times I’ve been called fuckin’ “Devo” in my life as a fuckin’ little punk-rock kid in Springfield, Virginia? It was like, “Fuck you, Devo!” So I’d vote for Devo.
That sums it up. I guess I’ll see you in Cleveland. It’ll be a pretty great night.
Yeah, man. When is it, October?
Well, that’ll be here before you know it. Lots to do before then, my friend!