Dave Grohl joined Matt Wilkinson on Apple Music to reflect on the 25th anniversary of the debut self-titled FOO FIGHTERS album (originally released on July 4, 1995). Grohl talked about joining NIRVANA as the group's fifth drummer and initially being insecure about being fired, despite the members' immediate musical connection. He also recounts the days following Kurt Cobain's passing and picking himself back up to make music again, reminisces about the making of the debut FOO FIGHTERS album, and shares who he'd dedicate the album to if he re-wrote the album's linear notes today.
On joining NIRVANA and being insecure about getting fired
"Well, I mean, I joined NIRVANA. I was their fifth drummer, right? They'd had a team of drummers before me and some of them were more, I don't know, more in the band than others. So when I joined the band, I didn't know Krist [Novoselic] and Kurt [Cobain] at all. And when we first met and started playing, it was clear that when we got together to play that it worked really well, and we sounded what most people know now to sound like NIRVANA. We sounded like that. But you just meet these people and then it wasn't long... It was almost exactly a year from the time I joined to the time 'Nevermind' came out. And then once it came out, it was like things happen so quickly. The band got really big.
"But every band I'd been in before then was with friends that I'd known for a really long time. And so there's some security in that. So when you join a band where you don't know anyone and you're just starting to get to know each other, and it sounds great when you play music, you're just starting to get to know each other, but there's not a deep personal connection. And then the band becomes really huge really quickly. You're just so nervous that you're going to either get fired or it's going to stop. I didn't want to get fired, basically. And so I was doing my best to keep this thing from going away. So there was this real insecurity that I had: 'I'm not good enough. They're going to find somebody else.'"
On the days following Kurt Cobain's passing:
"After Kurt passed away, there was a period of everyone just hiding from the world and our whole world was turned upside down. So there was grief, there was mourning. We all rallied together. I remember hanging out with Krist Novoselic and the two of us making sure that we were okay. And then I did a little bit of traveling. I remember going... I took a trip to the U.K. I don't know — I just did a lot of driving around and thinking. And eventually, I started getting calls from people to ask if I wanted to play drums with them or join another band, and I just didn't see that happening at the time. And I'd always come home from tours and recorded songs by myself, but that feeling was gone. I didn't really want to write or even listen to music, much less join a band and play in one. So it was strange, when your life is just pulled out from under you like that. I don't think anyone really thought much about what came next. You were stuck in that moment. So eventually, I just pulled myself off the couch and thought, "Okay, I've always loved playing music and I've always loved writing and recording songs for myself. So I feel like I need to do that just for myself."
On whom he would like to dedicate FOO FIGHTERS' debut album to if he was re-writing the liner notes today:
"I mean, it should be a lot of people. But I would dedicate it to Krist and Kurt because still to this day, the NIRVANA experience was probably... I mean I don't want to say... I have children. I can't say it's the most important event in my entire life. But it's safe to say that we wouldn't be here right now talking about this if it weren't for my time in NIRVANA. And I had learned so many lessons from Kurt, I learned so many lessons from Krist. It was such an honor to be in that band and it was so devastating when it ended. But we have that catalog of music that we made together and that experience changed not only us, but a lot of the world that we lived in. So I think that that was probably my life's most formative period. I went from being a messy teen to then being in this band that was huge. And then it all ending and trying to build life again with the lessons that I had learned through all of that. And I was really young, I was 24 or 25 or something. So I would dedicate it to Krist and Kurt because I owe so much to those guys for sure."
On the pressure and scrutiny of making music after NIRVANA:
"There's some journalists that are just like, 'How dare you play music after NIRVANA.' I'm, like, 'What am I supposed to do?' We tried really hard to do it right. Instead of jumping on a tour opening up for some massive arena band at the time, we thought, 'Okay, well let's get in the van and let's do it like we've always done it. Let's start the way we always started,' and that felt comfortable to us. And in doing any promotion or press, we didn't make a video right out of the gate, we tried to temper all of that stuff because it was scary in a way. I knew that I was walking the plank on this. I knew that I was going to be scrutinized and I knew that there was going to be comparisons and things like that. And yeah, I mean it was tough. But it wasn't that tough. I mean it was like if someone gave you shit, you just say, 'Fuck you, motherfucker.'"
On having to adjust to being a frontman:
"Coming out and standing, I mean, fuck, I'd been sitting on a drum stool for so long that, 'Oh my God. Now I have to stand in front of people.' And, 'How does my body move? What do I say in between songs?' These are the things that go through your head, and if you're not feeling it or you don't have that connection or confidence, it can be fucking terrifying. And, I mean, it was for eight years or 10 years or so. It took a long time for me. I mean, now when I walk out on stage, it's just, like, 'Hey. Okay, let's go.' But a long time ago, even doing interviews, I was shy. I was just insecure, self-aware. I just felt like I wasn't used to being put in the forefront like that and I can not even watch interviews from those days back then."
Listen to the full conversation this Saturday, July 4 at 7:00 a.m. PST at Apple Music.