News Column

Goliath of rock 'n' roll

July 9, 2014

DAMN that DJ Fresh, |damn him. These are my thoughts as I pace my hotel room on Durban's beachfront, totally ignoring the magnificent sunrise over the Indian Ocean.

Big Concerts' PR has just phoned to tell me that the interview with Dave Grohl and DJ Fresh is running late. How dare this DJ |who specialises in that house music stuff take my time with Dave Grohl. He is my Dave Grohl. After all, I am one of the original grunge rockers.

We head-banged to Nevermind and Bleach in glee when they were first released because we had never heard music or lyrics like that before. We cried when Kurt |Cobain shot-gunned his head off.

Then a year later we rejoiced when Dave Grohl gave us something completely new. In the beginning we were a tad dubious - a drummer moving to a frontman after our hero had died. No one can top Cobain. Well he did, and so much more.

Dave Grohl -the drummer from Nirvana, the frontman for Foo Fighters, two of the greatest rock acts in the history of the planet.

Over the past three decades Grohl has lived by that real rock |'n' roll ethos to always be true |to your art, always say what you really think.

He did not choose the Bono or Sting sanctimonious routes as he has aged. Foo Fighters' live shows are legendary for their powerhouse adrenaline. Since the days of Nirvana he has let his humour shine through, which has endeared him to his fans. He really is gen-|uinely funny which I discover when he finally phones me. It was as if he was alwayspart of my rock crowd.

A few days later, I am with Fresh in Umlazi for the South Africa Music Conference. "You stole some of my Dave Grohl time," I growl at him. Fresh opens his eyes wide and replies: "Dude, it wasn't my fault. He wouldn't stop talking. We even got cut off and he phoned me back!"

True, that. I asked Grohl just one question and that was it - "where are you at the moment?"

"I'm in Washington DC. I have an office here and I am working on my second doccie which I have for the past two years. My last one, Sound City, was such a great experience."

It certainly was. Sound City told the tale of a sound desk in a down and out studio called Sound City where Nirvana recorded the album Nevermind.

The sound desk has a rich history of rock artists recording |on it including Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young. The documentary includes interviews with all the greats who have recorded in it. When the studio went belly up, Grohl bought the desk and invited those artists to record songs with him.

There are people such as Butch Vig, Queens of the Stone Age, |Trent Reznor and Paul McCartney recording. It is such a beautiful journey and emotional idea, but most of all it reflected the depth of soul that Grohl has. The irony is that it was not his intention. He |was just doing it for the love of music. It went on to win a few awards. Now he has embarked |on an even bigger project.

The band visited eight cities rooted in US music where Grohl interviewed some of the musicians who shaped those sounds and |then wrote songs inspired by that experience for Foo Fighters' next album. It is going to be turned into an HBO series. The album is set for release in late November.

The band will then tour the US before leaving for South Africa for two tour dates on December 10 and 13 in Cape Town and Joburg respectively. South Africa is the |only territory outside the US they will play to promote the album |this year. They will embark on the rest of their world tour in February. So, outside of the US, we get first dibs on the band.

In the meantime, Grohl continues with his story: "For this documentary which is yet to be named, I didn't want to just record |a documentary. So we recorded in eight musical cities from Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago and LA and |I let each city tell a story. We got deeper with the interviews and each song is about an episode. It's been an incredible and huge challenge. The project is overwhelming."

So how did he get into making documentaries?

"I don't have any formal training on the drums or guitar. I dropped out of high school. My parents were classically trained musicians. My father was a studied flautist and my mother had a beautiful voice. I was surrounded by music growing up. She taught me how to harmonise. |I loved finding harmonies with her. It was beautiful. I had a Beatles songbook.

"I listen to music and it becomes shapes in my head whether it be Brian Eno, Bob Marley, Public Enemy or Pantera. I love music. I shouldn't love it because it's a guilty pleasure. F**k it, it's just a pleasure."

He recently participated in The Beatles' 50th celebration and it is clear he loves their music. Most hard rockers prefer the Rolling Stones while The Beatles are considered the fathers of pop.

"At school I was friends with jocks, stoners and nerds. I was |the skinny, weird dude and it's the same with music. For me there is |no Beatles or Stones and no Lennon or McCartney. I am neither. I can listen to Reign in Blood and Band |on the Run." (That's Slayer and |Paul McCartney and the Wings respectively).

"The first time I spoke to Kurt was over the phone when he was interviewing me for Nirvana. He asked me what I liked and I replied Neil Young, Celtic Flowers and Abba and he replied 'me too'. We both loved Abba."

Abba! Abba? Woah, dude, |you're destroying the myth right there. Stop saying "Abba".

Grohl starts laughing: "Everyone thought Nirvana was a younger extension of Black Flag, but Kurt loved both NWA and Abba. Ab-sa-f***ing-lutely."

How does he come to hit his drums so hard?

"I didn't have drums when I first started. I used pillows as a drum kit. I would practice to Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys and I had these huge, fat drum sticks. The music made me play really hard and fast. I would beat the f***ing s**t out of them.

"Before I joined Nirvana I was in a band called Scream. We travelled around in a van touring, but we had no monitors and my drums were not hooked into the PA so I had to play really hard. Then, when I joined Nirvana, we had all those things and I thought to myself, 'now, I am really gonna beat the crap out of them!'"

And finally - South Africa?

"I don't know a lot, but we almost went there last year. It is one of the few places we have never been and|I am itching to go somewhere I have never been."

Cape Argus

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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)

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