Edmonton Journal

Foo Fighters frontman reflects on Nirvana

Foo Fighter reluctant to let broken leg slow him down


The Foo Fighters were supposed to be playing to 70,000 noisy rock fans on the second of two sold-out dates at Wembley Stadium earlier this month. Then, the American rockers were set to headline the opening night of Glastonbur­y Festival.

Frontman Dave Grohl was looking forward to it. And then, as Grohl himself put it: “The funniest thing happened to me in Sweden.”

On June 12, in Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium, roaring through Foo Fighters’ second song, Grohl charged forward and took a tumble, falling guitar-first from the stage and landing down in a pit. As his bandmates peered down in shock, Grohl, yelled into his microphone: “I think I just broke my leg!” to the 52,000-strong crowd. “I’m going to fix my leg and then I’m going to come back.”

Minutes later, as promised, Grohl was carried back on to the stage in a chair and pretty much picked up from where he had left off, performing a whole set with his injured right leg stretched out in front of him and paramedics hovering around. “I may not be able to walk or run,” Grohl declared, “but I can still play guitar and scream.”

The next day, he flew to London, where he was photograph­ed out with his family, on crutches. The day after that, he underwent surgery, and six metal screws were inserted in his leg.

Then — as debate raged among the band, managers, doctors and lawyers — came the moment to decide whether the show could go on. Word from inside the Foo Fighters camp was that Grohl, medicated on morphine for the pain, wanted to continue. Medical opinion was firmly against it: doctors advised that the injured leg should be kept elevated to reduce swelling and prevent any possible infection or complicati­on that could do long-term damage.

A decision was reached: all Foo Fighters’ remaining European shows would be cancelled.

“I’m really so sorry, guys. You know I hate to do it, but I’m afraid it’s just not physically possible for me at the moment.”

At 46, Grohl has been world-famous for more than 20 years, played in two great American rock bands, collaborat­ed with a roll call of the biggest stars of our age, and has amassed an estimated fortune of $350 million US. Yet he appears unaffected by the trappings of fame.

Grohl embarked on his rock ’n’ roll career as a teenage drummer in the Washington D.C. punk scene in the late 1980s, and was recruited by Nirvana just before they recorded their second album, 1991’s Nevermind. The Seattle trio’s emotional grunge rock gave music a vital shot in the arm, and Nevermind went on to sell 30 million copies worldwide. Following the suicide of singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain in 1994, Grohl turned down opportunit­ies to join establishe­d bands as a drummer .Instead, he formed Foo Fighters and reinvented himself as a frontman.

Gradually, over 20 years, Foo Fighters have establishe­d themselves as one of the most popular bands in the world, playing expansive heavy rock that embraces the explosive dynamics of grunge, the anthemic melodies of classic pop rock, the brutal sonic crunch of meta land the emotional depths of blue-collar roots music.

Their old-fashioned brand of American swagger first found popularity in Britain, which remains for Grohl “the one place in the world I can’t walk down the street without getting recognized.

“I think that people everywhere still love the idea of rock ’n’ roll,” said Grohl. “There’s some romantic idea it represents, an old pair of jeans and whiskey and smashing windows on the way home from the bar and listening to AC/DC on 11 as you pass out in your basement. But, for years, the climate wasn’t right in America. It’s finally happening now. Now that we’re too tired to do it!”

Grohl lives in Los Angeles with his second wife, Jordyn Blum, and their three young daughters. He has described himself as a workaholic and in the past two years alone has produced and directed an acclaimed documentar­y film, Sound City, and an eight-part television series, Sonic Highways, while writing and recording a Foo Fighters album of the same name.

He only bristles once in the interview, when he takes exception to a question about whether rock is still creatively relevant. “Dude, we just sold out two f---king shows at Wembley Stadium. You think I should retire?”

The sour mood doesn’t last, though. “I was raised by a very hard-working public school teacher mother with a good sense of Southern etiquette and an outgoing personalit­y, and she set a great example for my sister and me,” he says of his generally sunny dispositio­n.

Since their tragic ending, Nirvana have become synonymous with angst, viewed throught he prism of Cobain’s torment. Yet there was always also something joyous about their incendiary spirit.

“I think more than angst and gloom and doom there was catharsis,” says Grohl, “and that’s what made the band, the engine that drove the entire thing.”

It is interestin­g that it took the arrival of Grohl, this bighearted drummer with a thunderous­ly physical playing style, to push Nirvana from indie obscurity to global phenomenon. When the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grohl set up in a rehearsal space with Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselic and guitarist Pat Smear and started running through some of the band’s old songs. “I hadn’t heard that sound since Kurt died,” says Grohl. “When we played together, it sounded like Nirvana.”

Foo Fighters are very much an extension of Grohl’s personalit­y — upbeat, enthusiast­ic, occasional­ly verging on the cheesy in their commitment to rock ’n’ roll ritual, but underpinne­d by genuine passion.

“We love to do what we do. The greatest thing about making music is standing on stage in front of a crowd of 100,000 and they are all singing along. And I’m changing the arrangemen­t on a whim because I’m feeling it right now, and I look around at my friends and I know we can take it anywhere and bring it back home to the chorus. There’s nothing more rock ’n’ roll than that.”

 ?? ERIK ABEL/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl performs in Sweden earlier this month. Two songs in, he fell off the stage and broke his leg.
ERIK ABEL/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl performs in Sweden earlier this month. Two songs in, he fell off the stage and broke his leg.

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