for newyorker.com, | October 13, 2021

Dave Grohl on Kurt Cobain, the Birth of Foo Fighters, and Gratitude

Dave Grohl talks with Kelefa Sanneh about a chance encounter with a hitchhiker that led to the creation of Foo Fighters.

Read at newyorker.com

[upbeat music]

In your book, you talk about those years

and how you go from playing with Scream in DC

to suddenly you're in a big band.

And your relationship with this punk rock world is changing.

You're conditioned to reject anything, any conformity,

any sort of, you know, popularity or whatever it is.

Nirvana came from that same scene,

but there was a problem is that Kurt's songs

were so fucking good that it's like, you know,

we never expected that we would become as big as we did,

but it was almost inevitable with his songs and his lyrics

and his voice, you know?

Was there any trepidation or were you guys just like,

this is amazing, let's do it.

There was once when we were meeting with

all the record companies in New York,

long before anybody really knew who Nirvana was.

And we were in the office of this guy named Donnie Ienner

and he goes, What do you guys want?

And Kurt goes, We want to be the biggest band

in the world.

And I thought he was fucking kidding.

[laughter]

Did you ever second guess yourself and wonder

whether this was what you actually wanted to do?

So after Kurt died and the band was over,

I did a bunch of soul searching and I actually,

I decided, okay, I'm gonna disappear.

I'm gonna go to the most remote place on earth.

I'm just gonna get away from everything

and figure it out.

So I went to the Ring of Kerry in Ireland,

where I've been before, it's so beautiful there.

And you really feel like you're just

at the end of the earth and there's nothing,

so fucking serene and it's so beautiful.

And I was driving around in my rental car

and on a country road, and I saw this hitchhiker kid

and I thought, well, maybe I'll pick him up.

And as I got closer to him,

I saw that he had a Kurt Cobain t-shirt on.

And it was Kurt's face looking back at me

in the middle of nowhere.

And I realized like, oh, I can't outrun this.

So I need to go home and fucking get back to work.

And so I did.

I went back and I started recording these songs by myself

and with really just with the intention of

just continuing life.

That's what I needed to do to survive.

And it helped a lot.

When did you realize, like, oh, these songs

that I was kind of maybe nervous to share,

like, people really liked them.

So I went, I recorded the first record by myself

in like six days and I made a hundred cassettes,

cassettes,

and I was so fucking stoked that I could go to this

cassette duplication place.

And like, I designed the insert, like I picked the font.

Did you give yourself credit in the liner notes?

Unfortunately, my name is nowhere in that

fucking thing at all.

I called it Foo Fighters because I didn't want people

to know it was me because of the baggage

that came with that.

And then someone from a record company called and said,

hey, we want to put out your record.

I'm like the cassette thing?

Okay. All right.

I had offers to go play drums with other bands.

A singer songwriter named Tom Petty.

Yes, I went, I played with him on Saturday Night Live

and then was asked if I would consider joining the band.

And 11 year old you is like, hell yes.

Oh dude.

I was flipping out, but I got the call to play with Tom

while I was in the studio recording the first

Foo Fighters thing.

And so it was a crossroads, you know, it was like, okay,

should I do something that I know I can do?

Or should I do something that I don't know that I could do?

And I decided to do the thing

that I was unsure, that was a challenge.

I'd never been the singer of a band before.

I never, I played guitar, but like so I was afraid to do it.

And that's why I did it.

But it's also more spotlight, right?

You can imagine a different version of your life story

where you're like, you're just the guy behind the drums

for Tom Petty or whoever.

And you're a working musician,

as opposed to the guy in the center of the stage

with the spotlight on you and a guitar singing the songs

and the whole stadium is singing along.

Well I was kind of born with a drummer mentality,

which is just like,

keep the beat and keep the people moving.

And it's a comfortable place to be.

And I still, to this day, love being the drummer.

Like if I go to go record with someone,

I don't walk in there like, I'm Dave Grohl.

I'm gonna fucking play like this.

I walk in and I'm like, what do you need?

Tell me what you want me to do.

And I like that.

Like I like facilitating someone else's boogie, you know?

It's fun. It's cool.

As a front man, dude, it took me for fucking ever

to get comfortable with doing that.

A decade at least.

Now it's great.

I walk out on stage. I'm like, come on mother fucker.

Everyone says yeah.

So many books about music, books by musicians

make it seem so complicated and so difficult

to live this life of a creative person.

And I'm sure in a lot of ways it is.

But one of the things I loved about your book

is that it captures the simple joy of it.

Well, shouldn't it be?

I mean, I can only speak for myself.

I just feel really grateful that I can be here.

And the reason why I'm here is because I play music.

To me that's very simple.

I never thought it would happen this way,

but I really appreciate all of the shit that comes with it.

A lot. I had money to eat.

I'm like, oh shit.

And then I like bought my mom's house.

I was like, yeah.

Then I gave her a fucking car

with a bow on it for Christmas, the whole fucking deal.

I can't believe that that kind of stuff happened.

And then also to, you know, travel the world

and have these incredible experiences

and then meet all of these people that I consider my heroes.

I don't take one fucking moment for granted.

I think it's really cool.

[audience clapping] [audience cheering]