”S—! F—! C—SUCKER!”
Dave Grohl is shouting himself hoarse; his tattooed arms pinwheel in disgust. Though not accustomed to such emotional outbursts, LTT stands firm in the face of an escalating stream of Tourette’s — like expletives. After all, only one player walks away from this Ping-Pong match a champion — and, in the name of scrawny music journalists everywhere, that champion’s title shall not be Foo.
Minutes later, with a narrow LTT victory declared (final score: 21 to 18), Grohl breaks into a toothy grin, tossing aside his paddle to offer a hearty handshake. He is, it turns out, pretty generous in defeat. And why shouldn’t he be? In pretty much every other arena, he’s indisputably winning. Mere feet from the offending game table, gold and platinum records line the walls of his spacious Northridge, Calif., studio, celebrating his part in the bands (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age among them) that have topped rock charts for over a decade. The lead single, ”Best of You,” from the Foos’ new double album, In Your Honor (out June 14), is already in heavy rotation, and a flurry of international festival dates is imminent. Life is, by his own admission, ”pretty sweet.”
And despite the trappings — the gold records, the state-of-the-art studio, the ridiculously fast and shiny cars parked out front — it’s hard to shake the feeling that Grohl and the other members are just…dudes. There is nothing about them to suggest expensive grooming habits or peculiar rock-star affectations of dress and speech (where art thou, Bono wraparounds?). When all four of them are in the same room, the interplay — roughhousing, riffing on old bands, breaking into random character imitations — is constant.
”I don’t have any brothers,” Grohl says later, sprawled across an overstuffed couch on the studio’s second floor. ”I just have these guys in the band. And it really works — everybody serves their purpose, everyone corners their own personality. It’s almost cliché; Taylor’s the f—in’ crazy, cute drummer; Nate’s the sensitive, sensible intellectual of the group; Shiflett is probably the most proficient member of the band — he’s a ripping guitar player. You wouldn’t know because we don’t have guitar leads, but he is so good, and he’s smart as a whip. The balance has to be right, or else it won’t f—in’ work.”
Anyone who’s seen their share of Behind the Musics might be wondering if it really is all sunshine and bunny rabbits for the Foo Fighters. Does any band get along that well? The truth, of course, is that they don’t: Grohl learned that lesson in the front-page psychodrama that was Nirvana’s day-to-day (though he insists the experience was ”not as depressing and dark as most people imagine it was”). Bassist Nate Mendel did the same with seminal Seattle emo outfit Sunny Day Real Estate, whose singer’s abrupt conversion to Christianity pretty much tore them apart in 1995.
What seems to hold the Foo Fighters together, after 10 years and multiple lineup changes, is each member’s comfort in his role within the group. Since forming in 1995, Grohl, 36, has served as the face of the band — writing the songs, squiring various bold-faced beauties, handling the bulk of the press — but he clearly remembers what it was like to stand behind the frontman.