Published Mar 14, 2011Dave Grohl has never been known to play coy, even if it means being frank about what he doesn't want to talk about. But 20-plus years into his career, the former Nirvana drummer turned Foo Fighters frontman is particularly open. On the phone from Berlin in the midst of a European promotional tour for the upcoming Foo Fighters album, Wasting Light, he tells Exclaim! that time and perspective have eased his reluctance to talk about the now-mythical era of his musical life.
"There [were] so many negative connotations that came with Nirvana. People wanted to know just about death," Grohl begins to explain. "The last album that [the Foo Fighters] made [2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace] was the first one that I made as a father [he now has two daughters]. There was something about having children that made me lose a lot of that ridiculous fear.
"'I don't want to sing this lyric because people are going to ask me if it's about Kurt.' Or, 'I shouldn't do this because people are going to think it's associated to Nirvana.' I finally lost that, because I thought, this is my life. I should be able to do whatever I want to do. And if I feel compelled to do something that might invite some of that speculation or whatever, fuck it."
It is inevitable that, to many, Grohl's career will forever be divided into the whirlwind few Nirvana years and what came after. Even Grohl himself, with acceptance and not a hint of defeat, acknowledges, "that's just my life." But it was a brief part of the bigger picture and now; he's getting set to release the seventh studio album by the very accomplished Foo Fighters, his primary project for 16 years now.
Wasting Light is possibly the most anticipated Foos release yet. The album was recorded in the garage of Grohl's Los Angeles home using only analog gear for the live takes. It features the full-time return of one-time Foos guitarist (and, yes, one-time Nirvana touring guitarist) Pat Smear, as well as a guest appearance by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Plus, it was all put to tape by the producer behind Nirvana's iconic Nevermind (not to mention countless other influential records), Butch Vig.
"In order to maintain some sort of longevity, you have to challenge yourselves, and do things differently. We worked with Butch Vig last summer, recorded a couple of songs for our greatest-hits record. I hadn't recorded an album with Butch since Nevermind. And I thought, you know, maybe it's time."
The romance of it is, of course, not lost on Grohl. "It turned into something that was a lot more full-circle conceptual. It just started to read like poetry.
"I'm surrounded by my band, who are like my brothers, and I'm doing this at home, so my children are running around my feet... and [Krist] and Butch and I hadn't been in a studio together for 20 years, and so there are all these things that are more than musical that made for a really special experience."
Perhaps fittingly, during the recording of Wasting Light, the Foo Fighters were also making a documentary. Directed by Academy Award winner James Moll, it spans the band's career, from Grohl's initial solo foray into the studio to the band's sessions that for Wasting Light. Plans for a theatrical release will follow its premiere at this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin.
"After we had finished recording, and after I had seen the first cut of the movie, I looked at the lyrics and looked at what we had done, and I thought 'I think I just wrote an album about the last 20 years of my life.' Inadvertently, without really knowing it, I was just kind of just channelling all of this energy that was going on around us."
Though he's clear (and happy) about the fact that his hectic life prevents too much reflection for "counting trophies," Grohl does admit that this project -- one of a new approach that is, in a variety of ways, intensely personal -- is especially gratifying.
"The response to the record is kind of the best we've ever had... When I listen to this new record, I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that this is our best record.
"I'm 42 now and I still feel fucking 26 years old. To sit down and look at the last 20 years is just a fucking trip."
Wasting Light will be available on April 12 via via Roswell/RCA.