“It’s important to break out from behind the fucking dunce throne they call the drum set and do things that are challenging.” Dave Grohl, no dunce he, is referring to his soundtrack for Touch—which starred Dave doppelganger Ulrich—but he could just as well be talking about his hands-on involvement in all things Foo, including his bow as a video director with the clip for “Monkey Wrench,” the bracing first single off Colour. Grohl has always monkeyed around with his own video camera, making silly short films whenever he’s bored on tour and alone in his hotel room, but this is his first official stint handling the mise-en-scene.
Right now, however, on the second afternoon of a two-day shoot at a Culver City soundstage, there’s very little mise and not much scene. The high point thus far has been killing time watching Hawkins’ spot-on impersonations of various bass-playing styles (the John Deacon-type ’70s session player, the Sid Vicious-like aggressive punk, the Level 42-British funk guy, and even Mendel, who sat completely oblivious a few feet away, reading Don Quixote), while Grohl’s directing has mostly consisted of rounding up the wandering Foos. Finally, after hours and hours of sitting around leafing through magazines—”Here’s my co-worker!” exclaims Smear at one point, holding up a Cindy Crawford Revlon ad—the band gets the call to “play” in the “apartment” set, a tiny room painted a glaring shade of crimson.
As a tape of “Monkey Wrench” blasts across the soundstage, the band pick up their instruments and commence “rocking out.” Mendel rolls his head on his shoulders in a trance-like state, while Hawkins tosses his mop of hair frenetically from side to side, obscuring his infectious grin behind a bottle-blond blur. Smear hops up and down in his high heels, vamping for the camera in a skintight black velvet ensemble while throwing punches at his six-string in a matching pair of black velvet elbow-length gloves. Grohl is an even bigger ham than Smear, jumping in the air, kicking up his feet Pete Townshend-style, falling to his knees, playing the guitar between his legs, and opening his mouth so wide that the camera can see his tonsils.
Watching from the next room, I can hardly tell that Grohl is lip-synching—the pantomiming is delivered with the ecstatic sincerity of a teenager playing air-guitar riffs in front of a full-length mirror. Or, say, an ex-drummer beating the dash to Black Sabbath in his Chevy mini-van. “I’ve covered a lot of ground,” Grohl readily admits, flashing an impish grin, “but I still feel like a pathetic 17-year-old dropout. My spirit is still young.”