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Dave Grohl's Teenage Obsessions - Guardian 14th Jan

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/jan/14/dave-grohls-teenage-obsessions-i-learned-drums-by-arranging-pillows-on-my-floor

Dave Grohl's teenage obsessions: 'I learned drums by arranging pillows on my floor'

14th Jan 2014


Punk rock

Before I was a teenager, I started playing music in my bedroom by

myself. I fell in love with the Beatles, then began to discover classic

rock. I went from Kiss to Rush to AC/DC, but in 1983 I discovered punk

rock music through a cousin in Chicago. My world turned upside down. My

favourite bands were Bad Brains and Naked Raygun; I listened to Dead

Kennedys and Black Flag. My introduction to live music came when my

brother took me to a punk show in a small bar in Chicago. I didn’t have

that festival/stadium/arena rock experience; I just saw four punk rock

dudes on the stage, playing this fast three-chord music, with about 75

people in the audience climbing all over each other. It changed my life.

One of the most prolific scenes in hardcore American punk rock was in

Washington DC, just across the bridge [from Grohl’s home town of

Springfield, Virginia]. So I started going to see bands like Minor

Threat and Fugazi. By the time I was 14, I was cutting and dyeing my hair

and wearing leather jackets. All I wanted to do was leave school, jump in

a van and tour shitty basement clubs with my punk band.


Virginia Grohl

My mother was a teacher at the high school I went to. She spent her career

dealing with rebellious little assholes like me, but she was known as the

cool teacher. She understood that every child learned differently, and

having a difficult time at school doesn’t necessarily mean that a kid can’t

learn. I think I was her most difficult student, but she saw the passion

in my musical obsession. So when I hit that stage of rebellion, I just

glided through it. My mother was entirely supportive, and she was

encouraged by the independence and creativity of the underground punk

rock scene, because everybody did everything themselves. There were no

record companies helping anyone: you just started a band, wrote a song,

played a show, got $50, went to the studio, recorded something, pressed

your own vinyl and put out your own record. To see your kid that

passionate about anything at that age must have been very inspiring.

It’s always the things that you most want to do that you do well.

Really, all I did was listen to music.


John Bonham

At 13 or 14, I had a narrow-minded vision that everything could only be

punk rock all the time. I scoured the record shelves for anything

dissonant and subversive – death metal, industrial music – anything that

wasn’t on the radio or seemed rebellious. By the time I was 15 or 16, my

friends and I had already made records, played shows out of town. I had

learned to play drums by arranging pillows on my floor and my bed in the

formation of a drum set and playing along to Bad Brains. We discovered

Led Zeppelin just as I started progressing as a drummer and I became obsessed

with John Bonham: what he played and why. It’s hard to explain, but his feel

and sound is unmistakable and undefinable. Anyone can take the chart of

what he played, but it would never be the same because it was as unique to that

human as a fingerprint. I became like a monk, listening to these records

and memorising them. It was like poetry to me. I became so obsessed that

I gave myself a three-interlocked-circles John Bonham tattoo on my arm

with a fucking sewing needle and some ink. I was branded for life.


Travelling and touring

Like most musicians playing punk and underground music in the 80s, I

didn’t have aspirations to make a career of it. When. When I was in my

later teens, the reward was just some sort of appreciation from the

audience. At the most, I hoped that some day I wouldn’t still have to

work in the furniture warehouse that I was working in back then, and

would have my own apartment. Going on the road at that age [with the

Washington punk band Scream], it’s such a beautiful time in anyone’s

life. You’re discovering identity, finding some freedom and you’re

becoming who you are. So it was the perfect window of time to leave home

and start wandering around the planet. I started touring at 18: carrying

my stuff in a bag, sleeping on floors, and if I was lucky, I’d get seven

dollars a day to budget on cigarettes and Taco Bell. I was open to experience.

If we were playing a squat in Italy, I’d be learning about their sense

of community, their political ideas and language. Then Amsterdam and

ending up in a coffee shop every night. I saw America for the first time

through the window of an old Dodge van. It was John Steinbeck shit. I

had a five-year plan: to learn music and become a studio drummer, then

with the money I made go to college and become a graphic-design artist.

When Nirvana got popular, all that shit went out of the window. I still

can’t read music.


Free-thinking weirdos

In later life, I’ve realised how fortunate I was to be surrounded by

really amazing creative individuals as a teenager. I wasn’t locked into

any high-school social scene. I was hanging out with people in the

Washington music and arts scene: photographers and writers or musicians

who had labels of their own. In reconnecting with them in more recent

years, I realised that they all went on to do such great things. One of

my oldest friends from the Washington DC punk scene became head of the

Sundance TV channel and worked with BBC America. Another one became a

chef in Brooklyn. Another became an editor of Bon Appétit. Everyone went

on to do great things, I think, because we were raised in the community of

free-thinking weirdos that decided we weren’t going to follow the straight path.

We were cool when we were young.


Home recording

In my teens, I also realised that I could record music by myself. When I

was about 13, I figured out how to multitrack things with two cassette

decks. I would record songs with my guitar on my little handheld

cassette, then take that cassette and put it into the home stereo, then

hit play as I was recording another cassette on the cassette recorder.

So I would add a vocal. I could multitrack that way.

Eventually, I became close friends with another musician who had an

eight-track in his basement, so by 17 or 18 I started recording songs by

myself, playing the drums first, then adding guitars then the vocal.

Really only as an experiment. I never played the songs for other people,

but it was wild. I could do this and 15 minutes later I would have a

song that sounded like a band but was only one person. I learned to

write and record, and that turned into Foo Fighters


• Foo Fighters’ album Medicine at Midnight is released 5 February on

Roswell/Columbia Records

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