FACES: Dave Grohl

Volume 1.3, Fall Edition


    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.

    dave grohl - momBut 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.

    –Matt Melis
    Senior Editor

    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

    Past Issues:
    FACES: Neil Young, Vol. 1.1, Spring Edition
    FACES: Tom Petty, Vol. 1.2, Summer Edition


    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

    grohl 2

    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.


    dave grohl teen spirit drums

    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.

    The Art of Transcendence

    By Kevin McMahon

    grohl 3

    When we look at what draws us to an artist, we realize it is often the parts we see reflected in ourselves. However large the stretch or great the leap, even if it’s somewhat transient — these are the pieces we hold dear. Capturing this fleeting coalescence allows us to pick deeper, past the crust, into the core of both the artists we love and ourselves. It is from this naked center that I personally gain clarity — clarity to move forward and be decisive and proactive about who I am and who I would like to be. Getting to that pith, however, is often the true obstacle. Sometimes it finds us — through events, through necessity, through the slow mutating passage of time. The inspiration or catalyst for change transferred from artist to observer is an easy favorite because we can share the pieces we relate to with others.

    The change itself is another story. Change, or better yet transcendence, is why I find Dave Grohl so relatable (see what I mean about the leaps?). When I think of Grohl, I am inexorably brought to his once-in-a-lifetime career arc. I become the moment he was tapping skins with Tom Petty’s band on Saturday Night Live. I swallow his mindset between beats and feel his restlessness. Then I come back. In my own head, I rustle through the many people I’ve been and wanted to be. It’s a consequence of my age, I suppose, part inquietude, part adolescent compensation. Our teen years inevitably turn us into someone, and most of the time it is an almighty task to slip out of that skin.

    I still remember early days of middle school, setting my mood like a clock to whatever tune I chose. Led Zeppelin or Guns N’ Roses for cool, Eminem for angry, and a private playlist I made of various rock ballads for the occasional cry. Transparent friends flip-flopped — as middle school kids do — to save themselves from the torment of the masses. Slowly, time passed and we got older. Some things changed, and others didn’t. Being small or easily targeted in high school was the same crime punishable by the same sentence as middle school — but at least the music got better. Sung Tongs showed me that I was far from the only one obsessed with shattering the mundane bubble I began to think many people lived in. And quickly I was surrounded by a small group of no-longer-transparent friends, the kind of social support that allows a child to put down self-doubt just long enough to burgeon with real personality. I changed. Not in some lavish, grandiose sense of the word, but something in that music, and in those people, let me know I could be the kind of person who believes in what they can achieve.


    nirvana FACES: Dave Grohl

    So back to those leaps of faith; it’s this time in my life that I’m brought back to when I think of Grohl’s acquiescence of his own music. Being in a band with Kurt Cobain can do a number on anyone’s belief in his or her talent. Grohl was very vocal about the lack of trust he had in his own songs. He saw Kurt as this infallible god and recused himself to a much lower tier. Like a child in the shadow of the popular kid everyone worships, a catalyst is sometimes needed for us to step out.

    For Grohl, this was Kurt’s death. It’s one of those viscerally demanding moments; it hangs in your face, conspicuous blackness. The sudden death of a close friend permeates everything. It leaves a smell in the air. Even when you’re not near the body, softly formaldehyde stales everything that enters your nose. Silence affects all your senses, like being under stagnant water with your eyes shut. You replay every moment you shared with them. And, depending on the circumstances, you have the image of them laying in a box staring back at you, seared into your brain.

    If you’re lucky, you deal with it in a life-affirming manner; mortality shocks to a young system have the kind of “fuck it” power to make us be better. But when it comes to wrapping your head around loss that is infinite, it’s much easier said than done. This is a relation that doesn’t take a great leap for me.


    I think Grohl understands these feelings well. He talks openly about that period in his life, his struggles with music and wondering if he could continue with it. When something so pure is tainted with such grief, it’s hard to imagine finding desire to enter that mind state. One of his legacies will always be how he used this time to reflect. This trial allowed Grohl to record the songs he had written over his life into a demo. Grohl created a moniker for this now-classic release, to protect his own identity from the external forces that resist attempts to transcend what the outside world expects. And transcend he did, due to an abundance of talent, sure, but also due to his inherent will to never be just one thing.

    foo fighters foo fighters album cover FACES: Dave Grohl

    With the passing of my own friend, I was thrown into similar frenzy. The initial weight was omnipotent, but as I began to be able to think again, things adopted new hues. Nothing gives me more joy then making music. As such, all the outlets I had developed for myself outside of the creation of music seemed like distractions. Whether resultant of fear, pragmatism, or both, I couldn’t reconcile how I was living. It was like I was tying up all these safety nets, and in doing so I was going to miss taking the risk in the first place. Thoughts of mortality cast an interesting spell on the brain. I have always held a predilection to boil everything down to the fact that we are born doomed, but now it seemed inescapable. Networking, business opportunities, gainful employment — these were black spots on my soul, clots attempting to stop my blood from flowing. Unfortunately, this line of thought has made my life thus far seem like a constant circle of crawling up my own ass, then shamefully poking back out. Right as I was on the verge of falling into that anal trap, I thought of Dave.

    Musicians are often thought of as simply that, but as I said, Dave Grohl has never been just one thing. He refused the label of just a drummer by leading one of the most successful bands in rock and roll history. He also overcame the fear of hypocrisy in a small way, which I have always thought is a main reason why people cease to grow. Grohl did this when he decided he wasn’t done with drums, ending the relationship with the Foo’s first drummer. It was a difficult decision, but Grohl knew what he needed, despite previous claims that he could only feel lukewarm about drums post-Nirvana.


    Outside of music, Dave has done enough to prompt whole lists of why he’s awesome. Giving no fucks as to what your surrounding environment thinks about who you are and who you’ve been is certainly easier with the kind of recognition Grohl has gotten. However, you get the feeling — as someone who follows his career — that it would be that way even if he were still flipping burgers. His sincerity builds a trust that allows you to really feel what he says. I won’t stretch as far as saying Dave Grohl’s ability to become these different things inspired me to make attempts to transcend who I was in the eyes of my surroundings or myself, but knowing people like him are out there is important. It says that it can be done.

    Foo Fighters official

    When I came back to reality (aka the small, green, foldable chair from where I used to play guitar), I did something I normally wouldn’t have done. I put it down and went to hang out with my friends. Not for long, mind you, but long enough to recognize that letting my obsession swallow me whole wasn’t going to make the music happen any faster. My willingness to change, and the music that has affected me, has got me thinking lately that time just might be on my side.

    Like many males, I have been a timid child, a cocksure 19-year-old, a totally consumed aspiring musician, and I remain naïve as ever. But for me, remaining open to the things that change you, and having the vigilance to act upon them, is really all there is.


    One hypothesis I’ve come across is that these Deltas — triangular points of catalyst — spread out as we get older. Our self-image becomes more ingrained, stone. Not to say that we aren’t in constant growth, but the spike-like movements of the years between child and adult will flatten, our backstories will thicken, and redefinition becomes more like peeling an onion than a clementine. With each year or new development in my personality and behavioral patterns, I can feel these layers grow on me. But so far they all come off with a good shake, and individuals like Dave Grohl give me faith that they always will.

Personalized Stories

Around The Web