Foo Fighter Dave Grohl Struggles With Leadership Role

Ex-Nirvana drummer explains why he is now the quintessential anti-frontman.

MELBOURNE, Australia -- From the loss of original drummer William

Goldsmith to the more recent blow of guitarist and longtime bandmate Pat

Smear's

sudden departure, Dave Grohl has seen Foo Fighters through a lot in a

short

period.

In the few years since he built the band from the ashes of what was the

grunge beast Nirvana, the 29-year-old drummer-turned-frontman has

developed

a reputation as the ruler of the Foo Fighter regime.

But now he's here to say that the comings and goings and changes in his

bandmates have not necessarily been by his choice. In fact, he said, the

Foos are as much about the rest of the band as they are about him.

"The thing that makes me feel uncomfortable is this popular

misconception

that I'm the leader of the band, that just because I was in Nirvana

means I

somehow rule this band with an iron fist, which is absolutely untrue,"

Grohl said a day after a recent gig at the Festival Hall here.

As leader of one of the most high-energy bands in the business, Grohl is

almost the archetypal anti-frontman with his uncoordinated stage moves,

gum-chewing nonchalance and laid-back stage patter.

Witness a moment in Monday night's show as Grohl tried to discuss the

relative merits of Hobart (the band's next tour stop), all to loud

heckling

from an over-hyped audience member, who finally yelled for the singer to

shut up. Some rockers would have spat at the heckler or directed the

nearest bouncer to remove him body and spirit. But Grohl mildly

countered,

"OK, I'll shut up. I don't really have anything much to say anyway," and

counted in the next song.

Hoping to shed light on his new role as frontman, the former Nirvana

drummer talked about his ongoing struggle with playing spokesperson and

public face for the band: "It's totally collaborative. As far as being

the

frontman, there's definitely times where I feel like I'm not charismatic

enough or I haven't really said enough funny things to the crowd --

maybe

their expectations are that you'll be more like Ozzy Osbourne or David

Bowie. But there's no point in trying to live up to those -- you'll just

end up looking like a fuckin' idiot."

The show Monday was the largest for the Foos thus far on their

Australian

tour and despite the fact that both band and crowd seemed to oscillate

between bouts of extreme manic energy and a curiously tentative

stand-off,

Grohl seemed pleased. Interviewed after the show, drummer Taylor

Hawkins

chalked the weird energy up to the fact that the event was being taped

by

national network Triple J for broadcast later in the week.

Whatever the reason, Grohl was on high energy that night, playing his

part

of the anti-frontman to a T. Opening with Grohl and Hawkins drumming

along

to the theme from "Shaft," Grohl leapt off the kit and strapped on a

guitar

for the set-opener "Monkey Wrench," which pummeled along at breakneck

speed. This was followed in swift order by a majestic "Hey, Johnny Park"

and a ferocious rendition of "Alone + Easy Target" from the band's 1995

debut.

New kid on the block Franz Stahl has none of the imperious stagemanship

of

predecessor Smear, but he has the chops, and his steady-as-she-goes

demeanor contrasts well with Grohl's puppy-off-the-leash enthusiasm.

It's

this kind of chemistry that keeps the Foos going, Grohl said. "When

every

band begins, you're making a great noise, having a blast, and it's a

commitment -- if any one leaves, then the band breaks up. Every fucking

band says that," Grohl said. "I just felt with both William and Pat

leaving

that there was too much potential, too many good songs and too many

great

shows to let it all turn to shit. So, new drummer, new guitarist -- here

we

are."

Perhaps some of the uneasiness of the night was down to Grohl's seeming

disregard for pacing or build up through the set. During the short pause

that marks the boundary between the quieter first verse of "Up In Arms"

and

the power pop of its remainder, Grohl stood calmly in the spotlight

wrapping his chewing gum around his tongue and staring out at the

audience.

He introduced one of his finest moments, "Big Me," in a heavily

sarcastic

tone as "This is me being really sensitive and introspective."

The crowd saved its most frenzied moshing for "Weenie Beenie" and the

encore appearance of

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Foo_Fighters/This_Is_A_Call.ram">"This

Is

a Call" (RealAudio excerpt), during which Grohl announced, "I

could

divide the hall and get you to sing along Freddie Mercury-style, but I

won't." That didn't stop the room from bellowing out the entire song

anyway. Earlier in the set, "My Poor Brain" also ignited the hall when

Grohl screamed, "Sometimes I feel I'm getting stuck between the

handshake

and the fuck."

It's an odd line but one that speaks volumes about Grohl and his

attitude

toward rock stardom, if not for its content then for its shear

frankness.

Initially dead-against a confessional style of songwriting, the singer

says

he came to see it as inevitable for the songs that ended up on the Foos'

last LP, The Colour And The Shape: "You're sort-of torn when you

write something so beautiful or powerful or that you think is special.

Then

once it's on paper, you have to step back and think, 'OK do I want to

hold

this up to anyone else, do I want anyone to know this stuff?'

"There were things I felt needed to make their way into the songs,"

Grohl

said. "I know that sounds hokey and pretentious, but it's true. If you

have

something like music as one of your only vehicles to express things you

couldn't otherwise, then that's what happens."

Color="#720418">[Mon., Feb. 16, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]