The Foo Fighters are suddenly struggling to juggle their roles as both international rock stars and the world’s biggest movie stars.
Well, they’re just joking about the second part. But the day after the band debuted the James Moll-directed documentary Foo Fighters: Back and Forth at the SXSW Film Festival and then played live through the eleven songs on their new record, Wasting Light, for a few thousand fans, they fielded questions about the new rock-doc experience.
Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins and Nate Mendel sat in a ragged circle on the stone patio of the Zilker Clubhouse across the river and outside of downtown Austin and talked classic rockumentaries, the discomfort of watching their own confessions in the movie, their desire for an Avatar-size release and Grohl’s (possible?) appearance in The Muppets.
They also provide a pretty good argument for why you shouldn’t sit through their movie…
The Hollywood Reporter: What are your favorite rock docs?
Grohl: I have two. One of them is the first Decline of Western Civilization, because it’s such good music and it just made me want to be a punk rocker. Then, Another State of Mind, which is another punk rock documentary about a bunch of bands — Youth Brigade and Social Distortion –getting in a f—ing old school bus to tour the country and spread the positive punk rock message — BYO, Better Youth Organization. And they get halfway through, the f—ing thing breaks down, everyone gets money wired to them from their moms and everyone breaks up. [Laughs] They just totally surrender and go home. Also, Dig!, the one about the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre — it’s such a crash landing unhappy ending. It’s f—ing great.
Shiflett: With any rock documentary or band documentary you always recognize things that you’ve experienced some version of. It doesn’t matter if it’s Motown or whatever.
Grohl: Dig! is The Deer Hunterof rock documentaries. And we’ve all experienced that moment.
THR: Now that you have your own historical document about the band, what does it feel like to be in that company?
Grohl: Ours is like the Dumb and Dumber of rock docs.
Hawkins: It’s Dumb and Dumber meets Truth or Dare.
Grohl: It’s not unlike The Jerk.
Hawkins: “You know how I always wanted that studio above my garage. Well, I got that too…”
Grohl: “Full of fancy friends!” And then we wind up back from the gutter in our garage making a record…
THR: With movies like Gimme Shelter and The Song Remains the Same and some of the classics…
Hawkins: We’ve seen those.
Grohl: I like the rock documentaries that make it seem real. There’s something about Gimme Shelter… I don’t know. Some rock documentaries are meant to make the bands look larger than life.
Hawkins: And we blew it, we didn’t do that this time.
Grohl: When I think of classic rock documentaries, that’s what I think about. The ones that I like are the ones where the Dandy Warhols wind up with a restraining order.
Hawkins: It’s the real stories.
Grohl: Or the ones where the band just gives up and goes home.
THR: What wasn’t in the doc that should have been?
Hawkins: Who knows? It was out of our hands at some point, in a good way.
THR: Did you guys put anything off limits?
Hawkins. No. Unfortunately.
Shiflett: We never had any kind of talk before we started, like, what were the talking points, what was off limits.
THR: That’s really giving up control.
Grohl: You know what? I always say the same thing: I don’t tell Sony how to make f—ing flat screens, so they shouldn’t tell us how to make rock records. Why the f— would we tell James Moll, who’s won an Academy Award, what to do when it comes to making a documentary? We gave him sixteen years worth of footage and just let him hang out with a camera for a while.
THR: There was never a moment either during that or when you finally got to see the cut that anyone felt a cringe?
Hawkins: Absolutely. And Dave said, “That’s the shit we’re keeping. That’s the good stuff.”
Grohl: I watched it first, I didn’t want us all to watch it together for the first time. Because I was afraid, What, are we gonna f—ing break up because we made a documentary? Honestly, I didn’t want James’s movie to f— our band up, and so I went to watch it first and I thought, OK, it’s OK. But everyone’s going to have that uncomfortable moment, and I don’t think we should change it. Like, there’s the part where I’m talking about re-doing the drums on the second record. I feel like an asshole stillfor doing that. The movie just says it all, basically. But I wouldn’t want to change it, because it’s the f—ing truth. And after watching it, I came back to everybody and I said, “OK, everyone’s going to have that moment at least once in the movie that you’re going to say or do something that you don’t really want people to know.” But that’s good.
THR: How about you, Taylor, you seem like you may have some sensitivity about watching it?
Hawkins: Well, I’m the most sensitive one, so no question. I’m a sensitive man. Dave will make fun of me for being sensitive. I definitely am probably the least comfortable with all that. I’m never going to watch it again.
THR: Really? Nate, do you agree? Was he less comfortable than you?
Mendel: Absolutely. I’m a really private person, and I don’t know why, for some reason it was really — my interview went for eight hours, and I just figured that it would be better to put it out there and if there was something that I really wasn’t comfortable with… maybe try to talk James out of putting it in the movie.
Grohl: I said, “I don’t think anyone should change anything.” And Nate goes, “Come on, can’t it be like that golf rule where you get one mulligan?”
Hawkins: I didn’t get my mulligan!
Grohl: Nobody really did.
Hawkins: Eh, whatever. I’m over it. I wash my hands of it. I know it’s good. I know that people will enjoy my pain, and that’s great. “Enjoy my pain! I’m really glad you enjoyed it!”
Grohl: Foo Fighters: Taylor’s Pain… the sequel.
THR: Did having that premiere last night juice anything for the show afterwards?
Shiflett: We don’t need it. We come on full bore every time.
Mendel: I thought it was an exceptionally good show and the crowd was so energetic and so f—ing loud, and then Dave goes, “How many people here saw the movie?” And everybody raises their hand. And it was like, “Aw well shit, I thought we were just good…”
Hawkins: It was the perfect ending for the movie, I guess. Come see a show!
Grohl: Pat and I sat and watched in the theater with the audience, which I wasn’t planning on doing. My wife said, “Come on, let’s just watch it.” She hadn’t seen the final cut. And it was a little weird to go right from the theater to the gig.
THR: From a fan perspective, I wish they were all like that–you see the doc and then go right to a live show!
Hawkins: The Song Remains the Sameand then you go watch Zeppelin play!
Grohl: Well, we’re actually doing that, I think, when the movie comes out on April 5 in 80 theaters. We’re going to play live from the studio right as the credits stop rolling. BAM — and we’re on live from the studio.
Smear: Here’s my question about that, though. Do we do “Bridge Burning” when the movie shows “Bridge Burning?” You go right from it playing in the credits to playing “Bridge Burning” live?
THR: Do you guys want a bigger theatrical release beyond that?
Hawkins: We’re thinking of an Empire Strikes Backtype thing potentially.
Grohl: We want some Titanicshit. Some Avatar— 3D, yo!
THR: Yeah, why wasn’t it in 3D?
Grohl: Can’t we convert? Can’t you do that?
Hawkins: It looks like shit.
THR: Have you ever had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame discussion?
Hawkins: Oh, God. Not that one again. [laughs]
Grohl: I haven’t had that one yet. About what?
THR: About whether you think this band belongs there. Whether that’s something you want.
Grohl: Oh, this band.
Shiflett: Dave’s supposedly got a drum set in there, so that kind of takes the pressure off.
Smear: Do you really?
Grohl: I don’t know.
Shiflett: Yeah, you do. They have Nirvana things there.
Grohl: I think I do. Yeah.
THR: Foos have 16 years, you’re getting closer…
Hawkins: I think you need to start that campaign. Well, Dave will be first with Nirvana.
Smear: I was a couple years ago doing the Germs reunion tour. We thought we were all punk rock again. And then the Sex Pistols got nominated to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as we were feeling all punk rock on tour we see Johnny Rotten’s note to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — hand written, all bad spelling, and it starts with: “WE’RE NOT FUCKING GOING!” I was like, Oh, we’re not punk rock. And then it’s just a whole list of “why we’re not going to your f—ing stupid thing.” OK, we’re not punk rock at all.
THR: Dave, are you in The Muppets?
Grohl: Maybe. I can’t talk about it. I don’t thinkI can talk about it.
THR: Come on. It’s not a Chris Nolan movie.
Grohl: No, it’s weird. I’ve never really been in a movie, and so after doing it people started asking me if I was in it–I guess I just answered your question! [laughs] And I was afraid to talk about it because I didn’t want to blow their super special movie.
Hawkins: You’re gonna get sued.
THR: Can you tell me if you’re playing yourself or a character?
Grohl: I’m a character.
THR: Are you a Dave Grohl muppet?
Shiflett: “Are you a muppet?” That’s the question.
Hawkins: This is a new thing for him.
Grohl: I get confused between the rock and roll thing and my movie star thing… We’re f—ing movie stars. What would Stipe do? That’s what you have to ask yourself.
THR: What are your immediate plans now?
Grohl: Well, we just do what we always do. We play shows and go home and rest and then play more shows. And the record’s going to come out, hopefully [April 12]. We just do what we’ve always done.
THR: What’s the film each of you love that fans would be surprised that you like?
Mendel: Dune. I f—ing love Dune.
Mendel: There are so many great, great moments in that movie. Sting’s in it. What’s not to love about Dune?
Shiflett: My wife and I love to watch old movies, from the ’40s and ’50s, and if it’s got Humphrey Bogart.
Smear: I like TV!
Hawkins: Indiscriminately, too.
Grohl: You know what? I think I’ve come to the realization that I don’t know if I like movies.
Hawkins: Yeah, it’s too long for you to sit.
Grohl: I’m not a big fan. I would rather be doing shit for two hours than sitting down watching someone else’s shit. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s now that I have kids. It’s like sleeping in. You know that feeling you get when you’re sleeping in too long you start to feel guilt?
Smear: When someone asks me to watch a movie, I’m always the same, I’m just like, “I can’t, No! Two hours? No, I can’t do that.”
Shiflett: It’s a commitment.