"I meet people and I can tell in two seconds whether they’re a rocker or not": Across 40 years playing music, here are 10 life lessons Dave Grohl has learned

Dave Grohl in Studio 666
(Image credit: Foo Fighters/YouTube)

That expression 'Don't judge a book by it's cover'? An important life lesson, one which Dave Grohl learned when he first saw his future Nirvana bandmates Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic.

"I remember being in the same room with them and thinking ‘What? That’s Nirvana? Are you kidding?’ Because on their [Bleach] record cover they looked like psycho lumberjacks! I was like ‘What, that little dude and that big motherfucker? You’re kidding me. No way...’"

Here are ten more important things that Foo Fighters' frontman has discovered during a lifetime in rock and roll.

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The best rock music makes you want to smash shit up

"A big rock 'n' roll moment for me as a teenager was going to see AC/DC's Let There Be Rock movie. That was the first time I heard music that made me want to break shit. There was four people in the audience, me and my friend Larry Hinkle and two people smoking weed in the back. After the first number in that movie, that was maybe the first moment where I really felt like a punk. I just wanted to tear that movie theatre to shreds."

There are only two types of people in this world - rockers and non-rockers

"I meet people and I can tell in two seconds whether they’re a rocker or not. It’s like, ‘Have you ever broken into a car? How many times have you been in jail? How many hits of acid have you taken? Okay, you’re allowed to be in a rock band.’ When you look someone in the eye they’re either an outlaw or they’re not."

Drugs aren't for everyone

"My drug career was limited to heavy hallucinogenics and mountains of weed. I never did coke, I never did heroin, I didn’t fucking need speed… But also, in Virginia, none of us had any fucking money to buy drugs anyway. It was like ‘How am I gonna get high?’ You got any lighter fluid? Okay, put that on a fucking rag…', that kind of shit. Even if we could have afforded heroin I can’t imagine us affording the fucking needles."

Fronting a band isn't for everyone either

"Never in my life had I ever considered becoming the front man of a band: I was perfectly comfortable being the drummer and I didn’t ever aspire to being the person out front in the spotlight. But when the Foo Fighters started I realised I’d been thrown into that position and it was incredibly uncomfortable for me: I might be something of a jackass in real life, and love to be the life of the party, but the responsibility of being someone larger than life seemed too much for me."

It's okay not to love everyone

"I don’t consider myself a loner, but it’s just not important to me to be everyone’s best friend. Maybe it’s a kind of defence mechanism. I’m a horrible fucking pen pal, I never answer my phone, I would much rather stay at home and hang out with my daughters and mother and wife than go out to a bar on a Friday night."

Don't believe everything you read

"It’s nice to be called The Nicest Man In Rock. But it’s funny to me because the guys in my band would probably tell you otherwise. Certain things make my claws come out, and turn me from the trademark ‘Nicest Guy In Rock’ to a fucking very difficult person. Because I do have borders and boundaries. There’s certain things where I’m like, Man, don’t even fucking go there. I have no problem walking up to a paparazzi and saying, Are you fucking kidding me?"

Everyone looks like a cock sometime

"There was one Foo Fighters gig we played in New Zealand where I jumped up on the drum riser to rock out with Taylor [Hawkins] and I caught my foot in a lighting cable, and I fucking smacked so hard into the stage, face first, that I cracked my guitar in half. The concert was probably 118 decibels, but you can hear the roar of laughter above the PA. Not cool.”

 'Cool' is a relative concept

"My version of being cool is probably different to other people’s versions of being cool. I have my own heroes and my own version of bad ass. Being ‘cool’ in suburban Virginia was like how big of a bong hit you could take. It didn’t matter what hair cut you had, or what car you had, or what pants you had on, but if you could burn a whole bowl in one bong hit, you were fucking cool."

Real men wear their hearts on their sleeves 

"I got the two red, tribal symbols on my arms when I started playing drums with Queens Of The Stone Age, and at the time I didn’t think too much about it. But I think I had these tattoos done because I was getting my arms back. There’s a reason why I’m here, and it’s not my voice, it’s because these arms taught themselves how to play drums by listening to punk rock albums and Led Zeppelin. And so in a way it’s like I have these tattoos as a way to say ‘Don’t forget what you’re here to do!’"

The future is unwritten 

"I can't even imagine where to go from here. Like, honestly, with all the things I've accomplished on my own and with different bands... it's overwhelming sometimes. I never thought any of this was possible."

This interview originally ran in [now closed] British music magazine Q.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.