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Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters, once described by bassist Nate Mendel as an "accidental" band, now have 10 years under their belt, are playing bigger shows than ever and are up for five Grammys for their two-disc opus, "In Your Honor."
With power chords, rock riffs and a fun-loving attitude that would have been unthinkable to Grohl's prior band — Nirvana — the Foo Fighters have become an unlikely torchbearer for arena-sized rock 'n' roll.
On Feb. 8, the band will have a chance to add to its previous-earned four Grammy awards, its nominations including best rock album, best rock song ("Best of You") and best pop collaboration (for the unlikely duet with Norah Jones on "Virginia Moon").
The ambitious "In Your Honor" — half rock and half acoustic — could make Grammy night an eventful evening for the band, but Grohl, speaking by phone from Paris, says whether you walk out with a trophy or not, "it's mainly for the fam."
"You get the fam all dressed up, put 'em in the same room as Mariah Carey," the 37-year-old says, "and all of a sudden your career is validated."
AP: With these five Grammy nominations, I imagine you're most pumped for the best surround-sound album one?
GROHL: You know, to be completely honest, that is the one that we're the most excited about. I mean, it's great to get the best rock record and the best rock song and all that other stuff, but something as wickedly technical and bad-ass as a true 5.1 surround record, that's pretty kick-ass. That just reeks of Pink Floyd or something like that.
AP: In other categories you're up against Neil Young, U2, the Rolling Stones ...
GROHL: Dude, the competition is stiff. I didn't even know who else was in our category. ... We're clearly the underdog. ... We might stand alongside Coldplay (the other best rock album nominee), but that's about it. That's where that line is drawn.
AP: Does this album feel like your crowning achievement?
GROHL: Well, they all do in a way. Every album that we've ever made has made sense at the time. Having been a band for 10 years and watched this steady ascent, everything has just sort of grown at this really natural rate. And it's been ... great. We've never lost it; we've never freaked out; we've never really wanted to stop. ... But this album is probably the most ambitious record we've ever made musically. It was really our intention to widen the dynamic and broaden the scope of songs, rather than just go in and make another 10- or 11-song album that they'll pull a couple singles from and you make a new T-shirt and you hit the road. It was really more about injecting some new life into the band.
AP: You played drums for Nirvana and often drum for other bands like Queens for the Stone Age. Do you consider yourself a drummer first and foremost?
GROHL: Kind of, yeah. It's not my first instrument, but it's the one I'm most connected to for whatever reason. It's just easier for me, I can turn my brain off. ... But when I'm hanging out with six or seven drummers, it's like they don't consider me one of them, because I'm the singer of the Foo Fighters. There's a whole drummer thing that's like "Highlander." When two Highlanders are in the same room with each other, they just know. That's kind of what happens with drummers, but not with me.
AP: You're currently touring Europe. Do you find American and European crowds different?
GROHL: Not so much. When you play rock music to rock kids, it doesn't matter if you're Japanese or German, everyone pretty much reacts the same. Some countries go into football chants, other countries throw Mentos at you.
AP: Is it true you guys don't play "Big Me" anymore because crowds throw Mentos at you? (The Foo Fighters' video for "Big Me" famously featured parodies of Mentos commercials.)
GROHL: About maybe two weeks into the tour, Rivers (Cuomo), the Weezer singer, knocked on our door and asked if he could come in. He's shy — it was weird, I don't think anyone had ever knocked on our dressing room door before. And he said, "Hey, I was wondering if you guys would mind if we played your song ‘Big Me'?" And we hadn't played that song in six, seven years, and we thought, "Yeah, have at it." And they played it every ... night. And we actually started to miss it. So once that tour ended and we went back out on our own, we kinda threw it back into the set list. But we did stop playing that song for a while because, honestly, it's like being stoned. Those little ... things are like pebbles — they hurt.
AP: In some sense, that kind of reaction is something to be proud of.
GROHL: Yeah, but I wish they were like marshmallows or something.