As he headed into 2020, Dave Grohl’s plans did not include memoir writing.
The Foo Fighters frontman was putting the finishing touches on last year’s “Medicine at Midnight” and planning to “tour the planet” on a 25th Anniversary Van Tour set to launch on April 12 in Phoenix – until COVID-19 intervenes.
“All of a sudden, I have nothing more to do,” he recalls finding out that his touring plans had failed. “And me never I have nothing to do.”
So he created an Instagram page.
“Which is a little ridiculous,” he recalls, laughing. “But I started this Instagram page called Dave’s True Stories.”
Once he realized the pandemic was going nowhere, he found a more constructive way to pass the hours.
“I thought, okay, here is my opportunity to finally write a book, something that I had considered before but honestly, I just didn’t have the time,” he says.
“Being creatively restless – or hyperactive – and having a lot of free time, I just dove head first into writing the book.”
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Grohl is a first time author
He had done a bit of writing before settling into the process of putting his memories down on paper for “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music”, a gripping column published by Dey St. in early October that dominated New York City. Times bestseller list.
“Both of my parents were not just musicians but writers,” he says.
Her mother was a public school teacher in Springfield, Virginia, who taught creative writing and coached the debate team, her father a conservative journalist and Republican speechwriter in nearby Washington DC.
“We were doing articulation exercises at the dinner table, where my mom would give us a topic and we had to talk about it for three or four minutes without saying ‘um’ or ‘like’ or ‘you know'” Grohl recalls .
“So there was this appreciation not only for the written word, but also for the storytelling.”
There was a point when he and his father, with whom he had a strained relationship for many years, started exchanging emails while Grohl was on the road.
“Of course, since most father-son relationships go away, I wanted to impress him,” Grohl recalls.
“After a month or two he sent an email and said, ‘You are becoming a great writer. Your writing packs a punch. Punch is power. “It was such a huge validation of life that I realized ‘Maybe I could do it someday.'”
Writing memoirs, says Grohl, “was all about writing in my voice – being able to write something that can be read as if I were sitting next to you in a bar telling you my story over a cocktail party. . ”
Kurt Cobain wasn’t the only friend Grohl lost
Remembering the stories was the easy part.
“I can remember all of these experiences with clarity,” he says. “All I had to do to paint a living picture of an experience was play the music I was listening to at the time and those memories just came back.”
Some memories were obviously harder to relive, from the divorce of his parents at age 6 to the death of his childhood friend Jimmy Swanson, whose passing shares a chapter with a loss that looms much more in the life story – the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994.
As Grohl acknowledges more than once in “The Storyteller”, he will always be remembered in the context of Cobain – as “that guy from Nirvana”, his explosive drums having played a key role in the most electrifying moments of their revolutionary album. who inaugurated the alternative of the 90s, “Nevermind”.
This despite the fact that the Foo Fighters have won 12 Grammys, are set to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – in their first year of eligibility! – and might just be the most consistently successful rock act of the post-Nirvana era.
Vivid memories of meeting rock icon Little Richard
Among the most intriguing aspects of the book are the connections the author so easily makes between the events of childhood and the natural extension of these formative events as they unfold years later.
That’s just how he always looked at life in real time.
“As I stand in front of Little Richard, the one person I really wanted to meet in my entire life, I have these flashes of the first time I heard rock and roll,” he says. .
“As I shake his hand, looking him in the eye, I realize he’s the initiator. He’s the innovator. Without this man, we wouldn’t have rock and roll. . And without rock ‘n’ roll, you wouldn’t have got me. “
He did, however, make new connections between life events during the book writing process.
“I went to therapy, but I think I accomplished a lot more by writing this book than I ever did sitting on a couch with a therapist,” he says.
“As I sat there writing about my strained relationship with my dad, I found myself forgiving him things that I might have held onto for a long time. Writing about Kurt and Jimmy, I had revelations or epiphanies that I had never had before. “
The B-52s let him know it was OK to be weird
In the introduction, he talks about the “little boy with a cheap guitar and a stack of records, training alone for hours on end hoping to someday break out of the limits and expectations of my existence in the suburbs of Virginia Wonder. Bread “.
In many ways, this existence of Wonder Bread is what drove him to be successful.
“I realized early on that I felt different from the rest,” he says, recalling a pivotal “Saturday Night Live” appearance by the B-52s.
“When I saw the B-52s on TV, I was so excited by their eccentricity,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, they’re not afraid of being weird. So maybe I shouldn’t be afraid of being weird either.'”
At the same time, he had been raised by a mother who often worked two or three jobs in addition to teaching in public school to keep the lights on and feed the family, a work ethic that definitely rubbed off on her son.
“I wanted to have a blast and be myself and play music, but I didn’t want the heat to go out,” he says. “I didn’t want the lights to go out. It’s just so deep within me.”
He still talks to his mother every day.
“I feel so lucky to have been raised by my mother because as a teacher in a public school, she had a better understanding of how a child’s mind works,” he says.
“Beyond selflessness and her patient, caring, loving and generous nature, she appreciated children and the idea that no two children are the same. If I was ever at a crossroads and that I needed some advice, I would turn to her first. “
His father reinforced his mother’s values when Grohl rose to fame with Nirvana in 1991 following a groundbreaking single titled “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll while boosting sales. from “Nevermind” to over 30 million worldwide. .
“My dad said, ‘You know, this isn’t going to last, is it?’ I said, ‘No, of course not.’ He said, ‘You have to treat every check like it’s the last you are going to write.’ “
How Grohl handled conflicting feelings about Nirvana’s success
Growing up on the DC punk scene, Grohl was well aware that music like Nirvana’s was not meant to sell these kinds of numbers.
But his love of punk has always been more about music and the independent spirit than the school of punk-rock ethics that would regard Nirvana’s breakthrough as a surrender.
“We bonded with the independence of the underground,” says Grohl. “But unfortunately Kurt’s songs were so (expletive) good that millions of people started to like us.”
Rather than struggling to find an audience, he chose to focus on the good that came with this success.
“I was delighted to be able to buy my mother’s house for her, to be able to have my own apartment, to be able to feed myself or my family,” he says.
“But that’s just me. I can see how damaging this can seem to other people who buy into this ethically stifling punk mentality.”
Grohl manages to capture all of these feelings in “The Storyteller”, from the inner conflict and excitement of Nirvana’s breakthrough to the devastating realization that Cobain was truly gone and the sense of purpose he found in making his own music. .
“When Nirvana ended, I just put all the instruments away and wasn’t sure how to continue,” Grohl recalls.
“I didn’t want to just go back to the drums. I knew sitting on the stool would always remind me of losing Nirvana.”
He even turned down a gig as Stan Lynch’s replacement in Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, putting aside his drumsticks to record an album of his own material.
“I had never done this before,” he says.
“I had never been the singer of the group. I had never been the songwriter, the leader of the group. I didn’t know if I could do it. And that’s why I did it. , here’s something I don’t know I can do. Maybe the challenge will be the driving force. ‘”
Foo Fighters is more than just a band for Grohl
He already knew what he could do behind drums (and he eventually returned to drums on various projects, from a David Bowie birthday gig to Killing Joke, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures).
“But this new thing, I wasn’t sure,” he said. “And that’s what kept me going.”
Released on Independence Day in 1995 as “Foo Fighters” because “I couldn’t imagine Dave Grohl Experience was a name that would make people run into record stores,” he sent three singles into Billboard’s Top 10 Alternative Rock Charts.
Twenty-five years later, Foo Fighters remains a staple of alternative radio, headlining stadium and festival dates in support of a 10th album that has already sent three singles to the top of the grand rock charts. Billboard audience.
“This Foo Fighters group is more than just a group for me,” says Grohl. “It’s kind of this continuation of life that gave me something to look forward to again.”
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