(From United Press International wire service, 27 May 2003.)
Foo Fighters Area 'Fluke'
by Gary Graff
But in rock 'n' roll, not
many flukes can boast three platinum albums, a fourth headed that way and more
radio hits than many longer-lived groups have enjoyed.
Nevertheless, Grohl claims incredulity when he considers that his band has accomplished during the past eight years.
"This wasn't supposed to be anything," says the former Nirvana drummer, who plays guitar and sings lead for Foo Fighters.
"This started out as a demo tape, something I recorded on my own, down the street from my house in four or five days. It was just a tape I copied for a bunch of my friends, and it circulated and then it became an album and then it became a band and then it became a...career."
For Grohl, it was a tremendous rebound from the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994. Within a year, the drummer-turned-frontman himself was back on the radio with his first single, "This is a Call," while the first Foo Fighters album was skying its way into the Billboard Top 30.
Grohl has gone on to shepherd the band through several lineup changes -- only Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel has been a constant -- and a succession of releases that have filled modern rock radio playlists with loud but melodic fare such as "Big Me," "I'll Stick Around," "Everlong," "Stacked Actors" and "Learn to Fly."
Foo Fighters' fourth and latest album, "One By One," has sold nearly 800,000 copies while hitting No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 -- the group's best showing to date.
"The cool thing," Grohl says, "is that we've never begged for anything. We've never asked Please, please, can we have this?' or Can we have that?' People have always asked us first. It's like being the hot chick in high school; you've always got some proposition, and it's pretty easy to say 'no' when you don't want to do something."
One of the things Foo Fighters has never wanted to be, Grohl says, was an arena rock band. Even after its record sales dictated it could play large facilities, Grohl and company stubbornly stuck to theaters and clubs, wavering only for the occasional large festival or for a special engagement opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2000.
But this year Foo Fighters are taking the arena plunge. And Grohl says he's finally coming to terms with the idea of performing at that level after so many years of adhering to a punk rock aesthetic that shunned the sheer size and spectacle of rock stardom.
"At first I thought, God, you've got to be (Queen's) Freddie Mercury or (Guns 'N Roses') Axl Rose to fill up a room that big," explains Grohl, 34, who played in the District of Columbia punk band Scream before joining Nirvana in 1990.
"Then, after I did it a few times, I realized 'Hey man, it's just a band playing on stage. It's so easy and natural, and I don't feel like I have to pretend to be someone else, or be something that I'm not.
"It's really pretty cool, to be honest. It's fun. It's pretty cool when you can command an audience by being a total geek."
And even at this juncture, Grohl say's he's still stunned to hear audiences of 10,000 or more singing songs that he wrote.
"When we first started touring eight years ago, we could only play for 43 minutes 'cause that's as much as we had," he says. "Now there's four hours worth of stuff to choose from.
"And the funniest thing now is hearing people sing along, 'cause they've heard the songs so many times on the radio. People pretty much know every one of the songs -- which in turn makes you feel old and like a radio whore."
Grohl says he likes to stay rooted by working with other groups and artists. He contributed to Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi's 2000 solo album and played drums and toured during 2002 with Queens of the Stone Age. Most recently he played drums on the new album by the British band Killing Joke.
"The great thing about being a musician is being free to jam with other musicians, and as with any musician you learn from each other," Grohl says.
"So just as I learned a lot about guitar from the guitar player in my band when I was 18 years old, I learned a lot about drumming with Queens of the Stone Age and I learned a lot about recording with Killing Joke and I learned a lot about laughter with Killing Joke.
"You spend time with these people, and in one way or another they rub off on you, and it's great."
And Grohl hopes that the integrity and independence with which he conducts Foo Fighters is something that resonates with the group's fans and with other musicians.
"The greatest thing about this band is everything we do is hand-made," he says. "It's all built from scratch. We pretty much do everything on our own, partially because we want to protect it but also because we're very proud of it and it creates a lot of personality and vibe.
"When a band takes control of every aspect of what they do, whether it's with the videos or the music or the live shows, their true personality shines through. I wish every band had total control because you wouldn't have such a load of homogenized c... flying around."