2015 – the burning questions: how did Dave Grohl build his throne?

Actually, he didn’t. His lighting director, Dan Hadley, did. And this is how…

When you took the job, did you ever expect to have to design a throne made of guitars?

No. But expectations are never realistic anyway. You can never predict what you’re gonna have to do in this job. This probably takes the cake though.

Dave said he designed the throne while “high as a kite” on morphine. What were your first thoughts when you saw his sketch?

We were waiting to see what was going to be happening. I’d already been looking at every sort of seating arrangement; I was looking at more low-profile things. But Dave made the very good point that if we’re gonna go for it, we need to go all the way. So at that point it was: “Okay, let’s go.” And I’d already started making some drawings which weren’t completely out of the realms… I mean, there’s not a huge variation among thrones.

How did you make Dave’s sketch a reality?

Dave sent me two drawings. There’s the one that says “lasers and shit” on it, which became a T-shirt. And then there was another one that was a little more detailed – Dave’s not a bad artist, he can draw a bit. So the second one had more perspective – he wasn’t quite as high so it was a bit more realistic! So I put those two together and I put them into a CAD/3D drawing program so I would have something to send with dimensions to the staging company that was gonna make it. And from there we made a few changes based on size and how we were gonna make it sensible for transport and trundling up and down the stage.

Did you explore other staging ideas?

There were other ideas as well. Us never having done a show with an immobile Dave before, we had to explore every option of getting him out into the crowd. So there was talk of him flying out above the crowd in a chair, then there was talk of having the throne on a giant robotic arm. But the transitions were very inelegant and clumsy. It would’ve taken an amount of choreography that you just can’t put into a show because they [the Foos] go ‘off book’ so often. The setlist goes… into question after the first half or so!

What was Dave’s initial reaction when he saw the finished throne?

He was stoked. Yeah, he was quite stoked. We had it in place for him to walk onstage in Washington DC, but he’d seen pictures, so it wasn’t ‘Here you go! This is what you’re stuck with, like it or not!’ We didn’t do that to him.

How long did it take to build?

They had it built in five days. It was built in Las Vegas, which is where the staging company is who makes all our custom video screens and things like that.

How many guitars are actually on the throne?

There are nine on each side, so there are eighteen in total.

Did the Vegas guys scour guitar shops for them?

That part we did ourselves. We had them build the whole thing then we said: “We’re gonna do some more decorating and attach the lights ourselves.” So we could make the call on that, because we had to think about arranging the guitars in relation to the monitors. We had Fender send us a bunch of spare and, I guess, defective necks. And we also went and got the cheapest guitars from a bunch of pawn shops.

So no ‘famous’ guitars involved?

No, none of them were the necks of vanquished enemies – no ‘ahh, this is from the gig in Portland where Kim Thayil fell…’ Take shitty guitars out of the market and leave the good ones to be played.

What happened to the one Dave was playing when he fell off stage?

It had a small scratch and it was still in tune. We texted Dave when we pulled it out, and he said, “Keep that fucking thing away from me.”

Are you a fan of the Game Of Thrones TV show yourself?

No. I fucking hate dragons. And I hate vampires. I think they’re stupid. But I love Dio, so there’s wiggle room in there. I’m not an absolutist.

Classic Rock 218: Features

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.