Rarely in the history of rock has a musician switched bands and instruments simultaneously with such a high degree of success as Dave Grohl.
Born on January 14, 1969, Grohl grew up in Washington, D.C., teaching himself to play drums and guitar. While still a teenager, he joined his first real band, independent D.C. punkers Scream, and toured the world as their drummer. After Scream broke up in the late ’80s, Grohl relocated to Seattle and tried out for a little-known band who had a drum vacancy – Nirvana.
Immediately after Grohl joined the group in late 1990, Nirvana guitarist/singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain presented the band with the songs that would appear on the group’s major-label debut in 1991, the classic Nevermind. Grohl also found time to write and record several demos around this time (playing all the instruments and singing himself), titled Pocketwatch, but more on that later. As we all know, Nevermind rocketed Nirvana to superstardom, as Grohl turned heads with his simple yet hard-hitting drumming style. During the sessions for the group’s follow-up, 1993’s In Utero, Grohl was allowed to contribute some of his own songwriting when he earned a co-writing credit for the heavy riff-rocker Scentless Apprentice and also recorded an original song, the quietly melodic “Marigold,” which would appear as a B-side on the British “All Apologies” single.
Then, Cobain’s much-publicized suicide promptly ended Nirvana in April of 1994. Instead of sitting around depressed, Grohl began working and playing with others, lending his drumming talents to the Backbeat motion picture soundtrack and Mike Watt’s Ball-Hog or Tugboat release (as well as serving as Watt’s touring drummer for a stretch of time), plus backing Tom Petty on a Saturday Night Live appearance. Later in the year, Grohl dusted off some of the songs he recorded for the Pocketwatch demo and began writing and recording some new tracks, again playing all the instruments himself. Not sure initially if these songs would ever see the light of day, he eventually decided to issue them under the name Foo Fighters, and promptly formed an ad hoc band consisting of ex-Germs/Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear and ex-Sunny Day Real Estate members William Goldsmith (drums) and Nate Mendel (bass), while Grohl surprisingly put his drumming days behind him in favor of guitarist/singer duties. The band’s self-titled 1995 release became a hit, as the band’s sound was similar to his last full-time band — hard-edged punk rockers mixed with melodic mid-tempo pop rockers.
While its lineup solidified with the arrival of ex-Alanis Morrissette drummer Taylor Hawkins, a revolving door policy still applied to the other Foos fighting alongside Grohl. Nevertheless, the group widened their fan base with each successive release. 1997’s Colour and the Shape became the first truly collaborative Foo album, and a worldwide hit; two years later, There is Nothing Left to Lose dropped to widespread acclaim, and further distanced Grohl the songwriter, singer, and guitarist from Grohl, the ex-drummer of Nirvana. In 2000, he took a quick break from his main gig, contributing drum tracks to metal hero Tommy Iommi’s self-titled solo record. Early the following year, the Foos threw eager fans a bone, streaming stomper “The One” from their Web site. But Grohl’s past came back to haunt him in late 2001, when famous Kurt Cobain widow and mouthpiece-about-town Courtney Love sued he, Krist Noveselic, and Universal Music Group for control of Nirvana’s master recordings. The lawsuit would drag on for almost two years. Grohl and his band kicked off 2002 with a performance at the Winter Olympics. He then surprised fans and observers again with his emergence as the touring drummer for underground hard rock outfit Queens of the Stone Age. Grohl gigged with the band through the summer, and also played on the breakthrough Queens LP Songs for the Deaf, issued that August.
Near the end of 2001, the Foo Fighters returned to the studio to work on their fourth album. After four months in the studio, with the sessions “finished”, Grohl accepted an invitation to join Queens of the Stone Age and helped them to record their 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. (Grohl can be seen drumming for the band in the video for the song “No One Knows”.) After a brief US tour with the band and feeling rejuvenated by the effort, Grohl recalled the other Foo Fighters to completely re-record their album at his studio in Virginia. The effort became their fourth album, One by One. While initially pleased with the results, in another 2005 Rolling Stone interview, Dave Grohl admitted to not liking the record: “Four of the songs were good, and the other seven I never played again in my life. We rushed into it, and we rushed out of it.”
Grohl and the Foo Fighters released their fifth album In Your Honor on June 14, 2005. Prior to starting work on the album, the band spent almost a year relocating Grohl’s home-based Virginia studio to a brand new facility, dubbed Studio 606, located in a warehouse near Los Angeles. Featuring collaborations with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Norah Jones, the album was a departure from previous efforts, and included one rock and one acoustic disc.
Foo Fighters’s sixth studio album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was released on September 25, 2007. It was recorded during a three month period between March 2007 and June 2007, and its release was preceded by the first single “The Pretender” on September 17th.
During the early 2000s, Grohl spent time in his basement studio writing and recording a number of songs for a “metal” project. Over the span of several years, Grohl recruited his favorite metal vocalists from the 1980s, including Lemmy of Motörhead, Conrad “Cronos” Lant from Venom, and Max Cavalera of Sepultura, to perform the vocals for the songs. The project was released in 2004 under the moniker Probot.
Also in 2003, Grohl stepped behind the kit to perform on Killing Joke’s self-titled album. The move surprised some Nirvana fans, given that Nirvana had been accused of stealing the opening riff of “Come as You Are” from Killing Joke’s 1984 song “Eighties”. However, the controversy failed to create a lasting rift between the bands. The Foo Fighters made a habit of covering Killing Joke’s “Requiem” during the late 1990s, and were even joined by Killing Joke singer Jaz Coleman for a performance of the song at a show in New Zealand in 2003.
Grohl lent his drumming skills to other artists during the early 2000s. In 2000, Dave played drums and sang on a track, “Goodbye Lament”, from Tony Iommi’s album Iommi. In 2001, Grohl performed on Tenacious D’s debut album, and appeared in the video for lead single “Tribute” as a demon. He later appeared in the duo’s 2006 movie Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny and performed on its soundtrack. In 2002, Grohl helped Chan Marshall of Cat Power on the album You Are Free. In 2004, Grohl drummed on several tracks for Nine Inch Nails’ 2005 album With Teeth. He also drummed on the song “Bad Boyfriend” on Garbage’s 2005 album Bleed Like Me. Most recently, he recorded all the drums on Juliette and the Licks’s 2006 album Four on the Floor and the song “For Us” from Pete Yorn’s 2006 album Nightcrawler. Beyond drumming, Grohl contributed guitar to a cover of Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting For You” on David Bowie’s 2002 album Heathen.