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Dave Grohl Reflects on Foo Fighters at 25, Being Nirvana’s ‘Fifth Drummer’

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06: Dave Grohl of 'Foo Fighters' performs on stage during Cal Jam 18 at Glen Helen Regional Park on October 06, 2018 in San Bernardino, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Foo Fighters‘ debut album turns 25 on July 4. The self-titled record began a long run of success for Dave Grohl — one that seemed impossible in the wake of Kurt Cobain‘s death a year earlier.

To mark the big anniversary, Grohl spoke with Apple Music’s Matt Wilkinson in a wide-ranging conversation. Grohl revealed that he was worried about being axed from Nirvana because, at the time of his joining, he was the band’s fifth drummer.

“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,” Grohl said. “So when I joined the band, I didn’t know Krist and Kurt 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.”

Grohl reflected on the days after Cobain’s death, what he did after that, and how he coped with the loss.

“So 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,” Grohl recalled. “And then I did a little bit of traveling. I remember going… I took a trip to the UK. 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.”

He also explained what it was like to face scrutiny when he made music for the first time on his own after being in one of the world’s biggest bands — if not the most important of its time. Grohl said that it was his only choice to move forward.

There’s some journalists that are just like, ‘How dare you played 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,” he said. “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.'”

Grohl also told Wilkerson about the biggest adjustment that was necessary to go from behind the kit to behind the mic.

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,” he said. ‘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. 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.’”

Watch the full interview below.