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Dave Grohl On 20 Years of Foo Fighters, ‘Sonic Highways,’ & The State of Rock ‘n’ Roll

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“I miss you, because I feel like if 6 months go by and I don’t talk with you, my career is over. So I’m glad that we’re talking right now.”

Those were the first words out of Dave Grohl‘s mouth when he called in to The Kevin & Bean Show earlier this morning. With the Foo Fighters‘ new HBO series debuting later tonight and the band’s new album dropping in just a few short weeks, Grohl’s career is anything but over.

“The crazy thing is October 17th is the 20th anniversary of the day that I went to the studio down the street from my house in Seattle and started recording the first Foo Fighters record, which I didn’t think was going to be a record because it wasn’t even a band. I just went down the street to record these songs and it was kind of the first thing I did since Nirvana had ended. It’s hard to believe that the last 20 years have gone by and that we’ve landed where we are today.”

RELATED: Listen to Foo Fighters’ New Song “Something From Nothing”

“I started playing guitar when I was about 9 or 10 years old, so that’s my first instrument. I played guitar in bands when I was young, but the drummers were always kind of, um, crappy. I don’t know how to say it. So I finally said to one of the drummers, “Hey give me those things. Let me try this.” I started playing the drums and had a knack for doing it, so I was the drummer from then on. But I always had a guitar with me on tour wherever I was and always wrote songs, and I would record them by myself, but I never let anyone hear them because I didn’t think they were any good and I didn’t think anybody would want to hear them. Being in Nirvana it’s like, you don’t want to confuse the songwriting process when you’re in a band like that with the greatest songwriter in the world and all I had to do was beat the hell out of the drums and have Nirvana. That was great, but then after the band was over it was the one thing that I realized was going to help me get on with life, to try something new and to challenge myself rather than just become a drummer of another band.”

“I’ve always felt that musicians – it doesn’t matter if they’re on their own, on their couch at home, or in a rehearsal space, or in a stadium – most musicians just want to play. I just want to play. I’m still that way. I wake up in the morning wanting to do it. I knew that at some point in my life I was just going to have to get it out of my system. So the last 20 years you have to think about it like a marriage. Five dudes married to each other for 20 years. You have to keep this alive by doing things you’ve never done before. This whole concept basically came from that. The last record we made in my garage, and we just used tape machines and no computers. That was to sort of challenge the band in an environment that was outside of our comfort space. This whole project is an extension of that idea, like instead of just going to my garage and recording a record, let’s record each song in a different studio, in a different city. Let’s film it for a documentary series where we tell the story of the music from each city and the regional relevance of all these places by interviewing all the most recognizable musicians in the country, but then also rather than just show up with a song, let’s show up with an instrumental and then as I’m interviewing these people throughout the week, the very last day of the session I take all the transcripts from those interviews back to my hotel room with a bottle of wine, lock the door, and I read through those transcripts and picked out phrases and sentences and words. I take those and put those on the left side of my journal, on the right hand side of my journal I have an outline of the song and I fit those phrases and sentences and words in to make a song that will tell the story of the entire episode. The finale of this episode is a performance of the song where the lyrics come up on screen and you recognize all the lyrics from all the stories and interviews you’ve just heard.”

“The environment should influence the outcome of the music, whether it’s recording in a garage or whether it’s the rain in Seattle, or the humidity in New Orleans.”

“A lot of these places that we recorded at, some of them weren’t even studios. The place we recorded in New Orleans is this tiny 200 year old building call The Preservation Hall, where The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays 3 shows a night, they play traditional New Orleans jazz in a room that’s like the size of my bedroom when I was a kid. There’s no microphones. There’s no PA system. There’s just church pews and a jazz band, and they pack it every night. This is in the French Quarter. There were bars to the left, to the right, and across the street. There were times where Taylor would do a drum track, then he’d have to walk across the street and pull me out of the bar to come listen.”

“The great thing about a place like New Orleans is the music is such a big part of that city and it’s culture. Every Sunday they have a jazz parade, I don’t know if you know what a jazz parade is, but in New Orleans they have a jazz funeral. During segregation the African-American families had to be buried way outside of town, so what they would do is they would march the dead out to the cemetery. In front of the family there’d be a jazz band playing music, they’d play this slow dirge, then they’d bury the dead, turn around, and on the way back into town they’d play jazz and dance all the way home. People come out of their houses and join in on that parade. You got people dancing on cars. You got people dancing on sign posts and drinking and celebrating life with this jazz band, just following them down the street. By the time you get back to your neighborhood there could be a thousand people behind you. They still do that every Sunday.”

Bean then asked Grohl why there is so little rock being played, cared about, or even made in popular culture.

“There’s lots of rock being played and lots of rock being cared about and being made all over the world. I think popular culture works in cycles. Think about where music was just before Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and all those bands that blew up. We were kind of in a place where it almost seemed untouchable. There were a lot of bands that were really heavily stylized and heavily produced. It was really fun and it was fun to party to, but there are some times that you get hungry for something that’s real. I want to see a dude sweating blood over his instrument he just smashed on the ground. Everybody has that in them sometimes, and I just think it sort of works in these cycles. For me it’s my air, it’s my food, it’s my lifestyle. It’s just what I do. My band is my family and the music we make is our voice. It’s never going to disappear. When I step out at a Foo Fighters gig, either in an arena, club or stadium full of people singing ‘Everlong’ or ‘My Hero’ or ‘Pretender,’ rock and roll is alive and well in my house. I’m sorry that some people might feel starved for it.”

“I’m not a kid anymore. Rock ‘n’ roll is a young man’s game. Basically at this point my mission in life is to get those instruments into those kids’ hands. Watch the episode about Buddy Guy. Watch the episode about Steve Albini, or Chuck D, or Dolly Parton, or Seattle and like, put an instrument in your hand and start playing. Because then it’s only a matter of time. Nobody’s going to look at me and think ‘Dave is so cool and new!’ It’s not going to happen. We’ll bring the party. You want to come out? We’ll bring the party. Otherwise, we’re going to make a project like this with the intention to really inspire people to be inspired.”

The Foo Fighters’ HBO series Sonic Highways debuts tonight (10/17) at 11pm. The Sonic Highways album will be released November 10th.

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