Cape Town – It’s 12:30 on Tuesday when I get the call. Are you still coming for your interview with the Foo Fighters?
What? When? Where? How? Say what?!
Yes of course I will be there!
I put down the phone.
"Jean-Marie, are you okay?," my one colleague asks. "I am interviewing the Foo Fighters in 2 hours", I whisper. I missed the e-mail. I blame my computer, my spam folder, I blame myself, WTF?! I feel like I am going to throw up, but instead I casually continue eating my egg salad while processing the fact that I will be interviewing one of the biggest rock and roll bands of our time and one that I am a massive fan of in just 2 hours. Freaking hell. Shit just got real.
I hastily ask everyone I know, including our loyal readers, for some questions. I tell my editor Herman, you’re coming with me to take pics.
We drive to the hotel, we get there and we are escorted to the penthouse where the interviews will be taking place. As we walk in, I hear Dave’s voice upstairs, chatting away during an interview. This is really happening, and I still can’t believe it.
We sit, we wait. And while Dave Grohl is doing his thing in front of the camera for video interviews, Chris Shiflett (lead guitar), Taylor Hawkins (drummer) and Nate Mendel (bassist) sit down with us for chat.
We start chatting and I find out that these guys have literally just arrived a few hours ago and now they are doing interviews, which let’s face it, they don’t really need to do. That is awesome.
"Is this your first time in SA and will you be doing any sightseeing?" I ask.
"I hope so yeah, we haven’t really planned a whole lot, but we wanna get out and see the sights for sure," says Chris.
"Yeah I mean we have a show tomorrow, so I don’t know how much time we’ll have, today we’re gonna try and do soundcheck, and then we have the next day off here, which would be the day to try and do something. I wanna go to that table rock thing for sure, yeah I wanna do that," says Taylor.
"It’s supposed to be a scary trip up," Nate adds.
Chris reveals that the Cape Town Stadium show will be the first official show of their tour to promote their new album, Sonic Highways.
"What can fans expect from your show?" I ask.
"What you can expect from the show... as far as frills, we don’t have a lot of frills, we don’t have exploding stage props or anything like that, we’re pretty much a straight ahead rock n’ roll band I guess to a certain degree, so I guess what you can expect is a real band with no computers, a real rock n roll band. For better or for worse," Taylor laughs.
"It will probably be a fairly long show, something tells me Dave will want to play for a while!" Chris adds."Who came up with the idea for the album and how did it all come together?" I ask. (Foo Fighters have just released their new album and they also made a TV show that chronicles the recording of each song at a different studio.)
"That was all Dave, it was him who came up with the idea. You know, we’re his band," says Taylor laughingly. "So if he says we’re going to go to Zimbabwe to record our next album, we’re like, 'alright let’s go!'"
"He had the idea quite a while ago, I mean we started working on it long before we got into the studio, we rehearsed for months and months and months," Chris adds.
"How do you guys go about writing songs?" I ask.
"We'll we start rehearsing when Dave’s got it almost completely finished to maybe half done, sometimes he’ll demo stuff to just Taylor, and they will work together on a drum track. Dave will throw some other instruments on there, and that can be pretty close to how the song is when it’s finalised. Or we get together as a band and things will kind of shift as we play it. But Dave’s the final, they’re his songs, he’s the editor and the guy who’s really in charge of shaping it," Nate explains.
"Yeah some songs grow a lot in that band process, and some songs virtually stay as the demo was, either that Dave does by himself or me and him do a demo. We get together and do rounds and rounds and rounds of demos. I mean there’s like probably 10 versions of all of these songs in different states of you know, development. But really the thing that finalise them is where Dave puts them," says Taylor.
"So Dave has the final say?" I ask.
"Absolutely!" says Chris.
"So you’re just the band?" I ask jokingly.
"Pretty much! If you want to put it that way..." Taylor laughs.
"You travel a lot, you’ve done a lot, what’s on your bucket list, are there still things you want to do? Or have you done it all?" I ask.
"As far as with this band goes, it’s going to new places. The last time we toured we went down to South America for the first time and that was great, so for me it’s just going to different countries I’ve never been to. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll do an Asian tour some day," says Chris.
"Yeah uhm, this was one of them, absolutely, I was anxious coming here, because it’s been so long since I’ve been somewhere I’ve never been before. You know my first tour experience, I played drums for Alanis Morissette, and I swear to god we went everywhere, but this is one place we didn’t come. And with the Foo Fighters we’ve just really started to expand our horizons. With our last album we went to South America for the first time in 8 years, I don’t know why we waited so long, and that kind of opened up the potential to go anywhere with this band. There was a time that Dave didn’t really want to do anything. America, Europe, UK and Australia and maybe a little Japan, and that was it," says Taylor.
"What’s the one thing you never tour without, that’s always with you on tour?" I ask.
Chris answers first: "I started bringing my own coffee recently, but that’s a new development!" he laughs. "I was explaining it to Taylor a couple of weeks ago when I first brought it with, and he listened to me tell the whole thing, there’s a grinder, then I bring my little cup, I got a filter in there..."
"You like coffee way too much!" Taylor says.
"It’s like wine or anything else, people get into it!" says Chris.
"I toured with my own pepper grinder for a while..." Nate adds while laughing.
"Why?" I ask. "Didn’t you trust other pepper?"
"Yeah, I didn’t like the powdery European pepper."
For Taylor, it's music he can't go without: "I gotta have music everywhere I go. I think most people are like that, but I gotta have a speaker too, I don’t like listening with headphones, so I walk around a lot of times blasting my music. You hear me walking down the hallway in a hotel blasting some ZZ Top."
"What do you guys listen to at the moment?" I ask.
"I’m always trying to discover stuff that I missed and there’s a few things every once in awhile, uhm, that I like now, newer stuff. But I generally just don’t like the way records are made, you know. So it puts me off to the sound of records, because when I hear a band that’s supposed to be a rock band and it gets shoved into a computer, I just don’t like that. I like bands who really play, and there are more and more again, I like that. But yeah, just a lot of old stuff," says Taylor.
"So no Justin Bieber?" I ask.
"No, no Bieber ... I like pop music you know, sometimes. I like the songs that are on the radio. There’s this band Big Data, they play a lot in LA ... I tend to go back you know, to the 70s, 80s, and even some 90s stuff. Like I found this Bee Gees live record from 1976 that I never knew existed, and I love it, I’m obsessed with it now!" says Taylor.
We had a few readers questions for the band as well, so here goes:
Nhlanhla Majozi: "I heard that Dave is replacing Mark Ruffallo as the Hulk in the latest Avengers movie. Is this true?"
"Absolutely! How did that get out?" Chris says jokingly. "He’s got a lot of shit going on, so I wouldn’t be surprised! Well I haven’t heard that one yet, but it’s possible," says Chris.
Carmen Williams: Would any of you identify yourself as a feminist? I ask this because female musos and celebrities get asked all the time and I think it’s only fair that I get to ask you?
"My mother is a very strong feminist, so I will say I am a feminist as well, " says Chris.
"I just finished reading a book, and I noticed and discussed it with my wife, there are three characters, two men and a woman, and the woman had no personality of her own, so I guess in that I noticed that, that I at least have feminist sensibilities," says Nate.
"I played with Alanis Morissette," Taylor adds. "Take that!" he laughs.
(I get a signal that I should be wrapping this interview, so I ask one last question): "Do you have any rituals before you go on stage?"
"Everything just comes together, Dave usually puts on some crazy music and starts doing shots and literally just jumps around for like an hour. I play guitar, I warm up a little bit, I kind of just move around a little bit," Chris explains.
"I always have drum sticks in my hand for like an half hour before we go on stage. What I don’t like to do is have small talk for that hour before I go on. I don’t mind it within our band, like I like small talk in our band, but not with other people before I go on stage. Generally our small talk involves what we’re about to do or going to do, but if I have some cousin backstage wanting to talk to me... no," says Taylor.
"Just a nice hot shave for me," says Nate.(Photos: Herman Eloff, Channel24)
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