Feature artwork by Jacob Livengood (Purchase Prints + More)
FACES is Consequence of Sound’s quarterly literary magazine. Each volume will focus on an artist whose scope of creativity and cultural impact defies simple categorization. Through a blend of original artwork and a variety of writings, we hope to both shed light upon and celebrate the artists who continually inspire us to put pen to paper.
While kicking around ideas for this edition of FACES, Dan Bogosian, who contributes a piece here, asked, “At what point did my mom know who Dave Grohl was?” I laughed when I read the line in his email but quickly composed myself when I remembered that my mom also knows who Dave Grohl is from watching the Foo Fighters appear on a Thanksgiving episode of Top Chef a few years ago. At some point, Dave Grohl became the rock star you could take home to meet mom. A far cry from that moshing hair behind the kit on the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.
But being on my and your mother’s cultural radar isn’t a knock on Grohl. Rather it’s a symptom of two decades of steadily ascending into that pantheon of rock and roll torchbearers. When Dylan, McCartney, Young, and Springsteen are no longer able or willing to carry that glowing guitar pick, it’ll pass into Grohl’s capable and calloused hands. And I, for one, rock a little bit easier in the meantime knowing that there’s a succession plan in place that we can all agree upon — that one day I can play “Everlong” for my humoring, hard candy-gobbling grandchildren and say, “See. This is how we used to do it,” and I’ll pass that piece of myself along to them like “Born to Run” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” were bequeathed to me.
Until then, though, enjoy this collection of writings on Dave Grohl. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to head over to my parents’ house to watch the new Sonic Highways episode. “I just wish he’d shave that beard and cut that hair. He cleans up so nice, just like you.”
I know, Mom. I know.
Table of Contents:
— Give Some to the Drummer by Ryan Bray
— The Art of Transcendence by Kevin McMahon
— Mileage: Dave Grohl’s Unrivaled Experience by Michael Madden
— The Other Dave by Dusty Henry
— There Is Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Bogosian
— Original artwork by Jacob Livengood
As always, support our in-house art staff by purchasing their work in your choice of a variety of fun, innovative, and practical formats.
Give Some to the Drummer
By Ryan Bray
I was 11 when I got my first drum set. I still use it to this day, the hardware at least: same kick, floor tom, and rack tom, while the cymbals, snare drum and drum heads have been replaced more than a few times over the years. The set, a three-piece CB Percussion kit, sat in an unoccupied room upstairs in the house I grew up in. On Christmas morning 1994, my dad told me to run upstairs into the room to get a pair of scissors, a ruse to lure me upstairs to find the kit waiting to be banged on furiously. I appreciated their efforts at trying to surprise me, but I knew. Kids have a habit of knowing these things in spite of their parents’ best efforts at keeping them a secret.
The set came with a bare-bones setup of a kick drum, rack tom, and snare. No cymbals or hi-hat included, but it hardly mattered to me. I sat down and just started wailing away, totally oblivious to the fact that it was barely seven in the morning. I’d had about two months’ worth of lessons at that point, which is a polite way of saying I didn’t know shit about playing the drums. That harsh fact of life didn’t keep me from beating the kit with all the force my sixth grade bones could muster. That’s how you did it, right? You had to be brutal and unmerciful with them in order for them to work. That was my M.O. I’ve learned a thing or two (literally that much, no more) about dynamics and restraint in the 20 years since, but at the time I thought that the harder I hit the better I’d sound.
That’s complete bullshit, of course, and I blame Dave Grohl for the misinformation. As a child of the early-to-mid-’90s, you didn’t have a ton of reference points if you were a kid learning to play the drums. It was pretty much Dave Grohl and everyone else. I remember watching the video for “Heart-Shaped Box” and wondering if he was going to survive to see the end of the video. You saw the drums rocking from the weight of his force, trying to keep their bearings in the midst of his sonic assault. In a word, it was awesome. Kurt Cobain was typically moody and brooding, while Krist Novoselic’s lanky frame just pogoed about with his bass. But Grohl was quite possibly having more fun than any other human being I’d ever seen. I wanted to do that.
So I did. I kept taking lessons, and eventually I started playing along to chart music. I learned how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come as You Are”, “In Bloom”, “Lithium”, and “Aneurysm”, which would later become a set staple with my long-defunct junior high band Vehicular Homicide. Rather than substituting legit know-how for noise, I actually started playing the songs. In doing so, I realized that beneath all of the force and might Grohl put behind his drumming, a lot of those seemingly simple Nirvana drum parts were pretty intricate. It was an odd but interesting thing to see Nirvana songs written out in musical notation. Here were loud, punk-infused grunge songs mapped out like Mozart. Despite the fact that grunge came from this defiant “Fuck everything, we suck” headspace, Nirvana had all of these cool, intricate drum touches that punched up the songs. Without getting too technical, there were accents, drum rolls, fills, etc. All of a sudden, I went from looking at Dave Grohl as being our generation’s gnarly answer to John Bonham to being this guy that really knew his shit. He wasn’t just making noise but playing his own part in writing those Nirvana songs that Cobain (rightfully and understandably) received the lion’s share of credit.
Those songwriting instincts served him well after Nirvana’s tragic dissolution. The Foo Fighters were a poppier extension of Nirvana but still marked by Grohl’s love of punk rock and lively power pop. Although he wrote and recorded pretty much the entire Foo Fighters debut by himself and took on the role of frontman, he was still very much the drummer of Nirvana in the eyes of a curious public. And that to me is a great part of the legacy behind those early Foo records. Over time, Grohl would finesse Foo Fighters into one unstoppable, melodic hit-making machine, but the band’s 1995 debut and 1997’s The Colour and the Shape were written with the attitude and mindset of a drummer. I mean, really, have you ever thought about it? Songs like “This Is a Call”, “I’ll Stick Around”, “Monkey Wrench”, and “Enough Space” don’t simply wail with ferocious energy; they rely a lot on the drums to motor them along. And then there’s “Everlong”, perhaps the band’s finest hour, which pretty much uses the chorus as an excuse to shoehorn in a hair-raising, full kit drum solo. Who does that on a single? Dave Grohl does.
One of my favorite anecdotes from the Foo Fighters’ early days is how Grohl used to constantly break strings on his guitar because he was so predisposed to playing with all the force he could as a drummer. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but that’s a great story nonetheless. And I guess that’s why I love Dave Grohl. He never forgot his roots. You can give a drummer a guitar and a microphone, but at the end of the day he’s still a drummer. More than 30 years removed from his earliest days as a kid banging the skins in Scream, Grohl still has that boyish enthusiasm for making music. But it seems he still gets an extra special kick out of sitting behind the kit. Pay attention the next time you see him jump in behind a band, which he’s always been prone to do. The dude loves it. As great as his work has been fronting the Foos, there’s nothing like seeing him go wild and knock the snares loose. It’s where, at least to me, he seems most at home.
I carry a little bit of that spirit with me when I play to this day, or at least I try to. In my small corner of the world playing small corner bars and watering holes when the precious opportunities are offered to my band, I always try to play a little bit beyond myself. The scene behind the drums after I’ve done my civic duty looks like the aftermath of shop class, with broken sticks and discarded wood shavings scattered about. To hammer home the point, our last practice ended a bit prematurely after I put my stick through the center of my snare head, not realizing what I had done until I caught my breath and looked down at the damage done. I’d like to think Dave would have been proud.