Dave Grohl Biography: How the Rocker Went From 'Grunge Ringo' to Foo-Fighting Frontman
"It's funny, but if you go back to the time right before that first Foo Fighters album came out in 1995, a lot of people in the U.K. press were mocking Dave. They were calling him the "grunge Ringo." So the expectations for Dave and the Foo Fighters weren't that high," Brannigan tells Noisecreep. "But I still remember the first time I heard 'This Is a Call' on the radio and being blown away by it. People just weren't ready for the Foo Fighters' to be that great."
Brannigan isn't kidding. Just last night, Feb. 12, the Foo Fighters won four Grammys, including Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance and Rock Album.
Throughout the years, the author has interviewed Grohl many times, and runs into him at least a couple of times a year. "No matter how huge he's become, he's always remained the same, down-to-earth kind of guy. I think that comes from his younger years in the Washington, D.C. punk scene. In that world, there was never an expectation to make a living playing music, or anything like that. It wasn't even a possibility in that scene's eyes.
"Dave was a regular, blue collar guy back then. He worked as a laborer, a furniture warehouse, a waiter – whatever it took to pay his bills. There's a Jawbreaker song called 'Boxcar' that has the line: "I was passing out when you were passing out the rules." That sums up Dave's teen years. He was busy taking bong hits and taking acid with his mates, when the metropolitan elite of the D.C. scene were debating the rights and wrongs, and rules of punk rock [laughs]. Yeah, he's a millionaire now, but he's still sort of like the guy next door."
In 2004, Grohl wrote, recorded and released a straight-up metal record under the name Probot. The eponymous album found the Foo Fighters star working with such greats as King Diamond, Max Cavalera and Tom G. Warrior. Although the project took a lot of the mainstream press by surprise, Grohl's history with heavy metal goes back to his teens.
"Dave was a metaller before he got into the punk scene. He friend Jimmy was a big metalhead, and they both discovered Metallica in 1983. Before that, they had been listening to DC101, which was the classic rock station in the D.C. area. Anyway, they managed to get a copy of 'Kill 'Em All' in 1983 and it really opened the door for them to that extreme world of metal.
"They started listening to underground bands like Voivod and the crossover groups like D.R.I. and Corrosion of Conformity. He also had bands like The Obsessed living in that D.C. area that he loved. He was totally a teenage metalhead. But there was one point where Dave and Jimmy decided they were going to become punk rockers. So one day, Dave catches Jimmy listening to Iron Maiden in his bedroom and yells at him: "What are you doing? We're punk rockers now!" It's a funny story," laughs Brannigan. Before he found huge success with Nirvana, Grohl was played drums in seminal D.C. hardcore punk band Scream.
"It really annoyed me when people would say that Nirvana was out to wipe out heavy metal. It's part of the Nirvana story that has been told many times. The truth is that all three of the guys in that band grew up on heavy metal. Kurt Cobain was very concerned about what was considered cool and what wasn't. So when metal wasn't deemed cool by his indie friends, he shied away from it. But the guys in Nirvana really loved that kind of stuff."
'This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl' is available now from Da Capo Press.