“My throat closed. My stomach dropped. My butthole turned into a Star Wars trash compactor. An audible ‘gulp’ and whimper were the only sounds I could manage to produce.”
In his hellaciously-entertaining blog, Dave Grohl used these very words to describe his reaction when he received word that his band, Foo Fighters, would precede Ozzy during their one-and-only Ozzfest appearance. It was 1998 and Ozzfest, then in its third year, was making its UK debut at Milton Keynes Bowl. The line-up uncorked a legion of metal heavyweights, including Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Soulfly, Slayer, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Entombed and Neurosis.
Originally, Korn were on the bill, acting as a buffer of sorts between Pantera and Foo Fighters. At the very last minute, the Bakersfield nu metallers pulled out of their only UK festival appearance that, so that guitarist Brian Welch could be present for the birth of his child. Therapy? gamely stepped in, meaning everyone else on the original bill was bumped up one slot higher. Foo Fighters would now be following Pantera.
The cavernous stylistic disparity between the other Ozzfest bands and the Foos was not lost on Dave, who wrote, “Ozzfest? The Foo Fighters? The mother of all metal festivals, the meeting of all Marshalls, the most tyrannical thrash-apalooza known to man was requesting… the Learn to Fly guys? The smiley, smirky, candy commercial dorks? The rock and roll Revenge of the Nerds? Shit, some of us even had hair ABOVE our collars! This made no sense. This must be some kind of practical joke.”
On arrival, Dave noted, “Pulling into the backstage area, I peered out of the tour bus window to see if I could catch a glimpse of some of my heroes. Tom Araya! Scott Ian! Tony Iommi! Max Cavalera! There they were, all wandering about like us mere mortals. And in the light of day, no less! I had always imagined (hoped) that these dark figures only came out at night after hanging upside down like rabid bats in their mausoleums. Nocturnal creatures refusing the sun, just waiting to terrorize us all with their evil anthems beneath a full moon. I think I saw a few of them in shorts holding soda pops, but whatever.”
Fortunately, MTV was there to capture the iconic backstage moment when the Foo frontman meets Slayer for the very first time. A youthful, spindly Dave, decked out in a Bluebird t-shirt and cargo shorts, marches purposefully toward Tom Araya and Kerry King. Though no introduction is needed, Tom nonetheless introduces himself and Kerry to Dave, who shakes everybody’s hand, including the cameraman (“Nice to meet you, cameraman!”).
“I know who y’all are!” says Dave with 'aw, shucks' reverence, before introducing himself to the camera. “Hi, my name’s David Eric Grohl. I’m 29 years old, I’m a Capricorn, I was born in Warren, Ohio and I play guitar and sing for the Foo Fighters.”
There’s often a point in introductions where the conversation runs out of steam and devolves into small talk until the parties can figure out a graceful way to move on. That juncture is here.
“You were out really late last night, huh?” asks Tom with a knowing grin, possibly hoping for a few lurid details.
“Kinda,” Dave offers, “I was trying to get over jet lag,” he continues while hoisting a beer bottle in an exaggerated, party-hearty pose.
It’s got to be impossible to have a real conversation when a privacy-shattering television camera is two feet away, beaming your impromptu conversation out to millions of homes across the globe. So it’s hardly surprising that the meet-up ends as quickly as it begins, with Tom saying, “Well... cool. Alright, man. Have a good time. Enjoy your show.”
“Nice to meet you,” says Dave, realising that the conversation has reached its conclusion.
“What time are you guys on?” asks Kerry from off-camera, breaking the unspoken rule that once goodbyes are said, no additional questions should be asked.
“Uh... 6:45,” replies Dave, who begins to jump up and down, seemingly overcome by an abundance of kinetic energy.
“Cool,” says Tom.
“Bye,” says Kerry, and with that, this historic summit comes to a close.
Watch it all go down here: