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Other segments from the episode on January 4, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 4, 2008: Interview with David Grohl; Review of late night television talk shows.

Transcript

DATE January 4, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl on their new album, "Echoes,
Silence, Patience & Grace," on his time with Nirvana
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, from tvworthwatching.com, sitting in
for Terry Gross.

Today's guest, Dave Grohl, was the last and most famous drummer in the band
Nirvana. After the band dissolved following the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain,
Grohl started to record by himself under the name Foo Fighters. He released
the first Foo Fighters' album in 1995, but by the time of the 1997 album "The
Colour and the Shape," Foo Fighters was a band. Grohl sings lead, writes most
of the songs, and plays various instruments, including drums. But he's not
the band's primary drummer.

Last year, Foo Fighters released a 10th anniversary edition of "The Colour and
the Shape" as well as a new CD, called "Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace."
It's up for a Grammy Award as best album. And the Foo Fighters currently are
enlisting the help of a musically inclined fan chosen on the Internet to
perform with them at the Grammys next month. They are planning to play this
song from the newest Foo Fighters CD, "The Pretender."

(Soundbite of "The Pretender")

Mr. DAVE GROHL: (Singing) Keep you in the dark
You know they all pretend
Keep you in the dark
And so it all began

Send in your skeletons
Sing as their bones go marching in again
The need you buried deep
The secrets that you keep
Are at the ready
Are you ready?

I'm finished making sense
Done pleading ignorance
That whole defense
Spinning infinity, boy
The wheel is spinning me
It's never-ending, never-ending
Same old story

What if I say I'm not like the others,
What if I say I'm not just another one of your plays
Your pretender

What if I say I will never surrender
What if I say I'm not like the others

(End of soundbite)

TERRY GROSS, host:

That's the Foo Fighters from their new CD, "Echoes, Silence, Patience &
Grace."

Dave Grohl, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. GROHL: Thank you very much.

GROSS: You know, in a moment I want to play another track from your new CD,
and this is called "Let It Die," and I want to play this because it represents
two ends of your singing and music. It starts off, you know, very acoustic,
quiet, singing; and it ends up loud, and your voice is kind of full throttle
scream. So before we actually hear that, I want to ask you about the full
throttle scream style of vocal that you're capable of.

Mr. GROHL: Mm.

GROSS: What does that do to your voice?

Mr. GROHL: It does horrible things to my voice. I don't even want to know
what it's doing to my voice. I just kind of get out there and do it. I mean,
there are two sides to my personality that most people I know are well aware
of. I can be the quiet wallflower, and by the end of the night I'm usually
the guy that you're taking out of the bar in a headlock screaming, "Let It
Die."

GROSS: So how do you protect your voice? Like, I recently interviewed this
like vocal coach who specializes in coaching people who do like hard core and
metal vocals. So have you ever gotten any coaching like that just to learn
how to protect your voice?

Mr. GROHL: No, but if this is the same person that you're talking about, it
was a woman, and I can't remember her name, but she made like an instructional
DVD...

GROSS: Yes, exactly, exactly.

Mr. GROHL: Yeah, and my mother bought me that DVD for Christmas.

GROSS: That's funny.

Mr. GROHL: I never watched it. I probably should. One of these days, I'll
get around to it.

GROSS: OK. This is "Let It Die." We'll hear the beginning and the end. This
is the Foo Fighters.

(Soundbite of "Let It Die")

Mr. GROHL: (Singing) Heart of gold but it lost its pride
Beautiful veins and bloodshot eyes
I've seen your face in another light
Why'd you have to go and let it die?
Why'd you have to go and let it die?
Why'd you have to go and...

And let this die?
Why'd you have to go and let this die?
Why'd you have to go and let this die?
Why'd you have to go and let it die?

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's the Foo Fighters, the beginning and end of "Let It Die," from
their new CD, "Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace." My guest, Dave Grohl, is
the leader of the band. He's a drummer/guitarist/songwriter and singer.
Wears a lot of hats in the band.

Which hats are you wearing on that track?

Mr. GROHL: That song, I'm just singing and playing guitar. I haven't played
drums on one of our records for a really long time. We have a...

GROSS: Why not?

Mr. GROHL: Well, because we have a phenomenal drummer, Taylor Hawkins. He's
a decathlete. He's amazing. The guy's--I'm really lucky to have found him to
be in my band, and he's been with us for, I guess, maybe 11 years, 12 years
maybe. We're close personally, but then we're also connected by this love and
understanding of rhythm and drums. So when we're writing songs, you know, I
might request something or I might try to steer him in a direction, but for
the most part, the guy--he doesn't need me to tell him what to do because he's
an incredible drummer, so...

GROSS: Do you miss playing drums?

Mr. GROHL: I do until I sit down and I do it for four minutes and then I
remember why I stopped.

GROSS: Which is why?

Mr. GROHL: It's really tiring. It can be really tiring. When I was--that's
kind of a joke--when I was young, I was tireless. I could play for hours and
hours and hours on end in all the fast hard-core punk rock bands that I was
playing in. And then in Nirvana I couldn't play hard enough. I felt like
those songs were so simple and wide open that I spent most of my time just
trying to break the drum set, and I succeeded. Every now and then I actually
would. But, you know, I really miss playing the drums. And I still play the
drums on different people's albums and when we're here in the studio. We have
our own studio so I'll come in here and record stuff by myself. And it really
is--I feel more comfortable doing that than anything else, and I'm not the
greatest drummer in the world, but I can turn my mind off and do it and I feel
like I'm flying. It's great.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters,
and they have a new CD which is called, "Echoes, Silence, Patience, Grace."

I want to play the most out-of-character song on your new CD and it's called
"Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners," and there's an incredible story behind
the song. Well, let me ask you to tell the story.

Mr. GROHL: OK. I guess it was probably about two years ago that there was a
mine collapse in this town called Beaconsfield in Tasmania. There were three
miners that were trapped about a kilometer underground. One of them
unfortunately died, but two survived. And it took a few days, but finally the
rescuers tunneled down, and I guess they maybe drilled a hole to contact the
miners that were trapped and found that they were alive and said, well, `Until
we can actually pull you out, is there anything that we can get you?' And one
of the miners requested an iPod with our last album on it, "In Your Honor."

And I was so moved, I was really touched because I felt like--I write lyrics
on cocktail napkins and we record these albums in our own studio, and to feel
like something that I do could perhaps help someone in a situation like that,
which is an unimaginable situation, just to be trapped in a mine for weeks
that far underground and the first thing that they ask for is water and a Foo
Fighters record, you know. I was really--I was genuinely blown away, and it
changed the way I look at what I do. To feel like your music is making a
difference in someone's life just, you know, it changes everything.

So I wrote them a note and I said, `Hey guys, it's Dave and I know I'm on the
other side of the planet right now, but you're in my thoughts and prayers and
I hope our music is helping you guys out. And when you get out, there's a
couple of cold beers and tickets to a Foo Fighters show. Wherever you want to
come see us play, just come on and we'll hang out.'

GROSS: So did you get to take them to a Foo Fighters concert?

Mr. GROHL: I did, yeah. We went down to play at the Sydney Opera House and
I knew that Brant Webb, one of the miners, was coming to the gig. So the
night before, I was in my hotel room with my guitar and I wrote this
instrumental, and I thought, `You know, I'm going to dedicate this to Brant
tomorrow night.' So we played the show and I dedicated the song to him, and
it's the same as it is on the album. And afterwards we went to the hotel bar
and we hung out all night and had a couple drinks and I promised them I'd put
it on the record, so I had to.

GROSS: Well, here's that track. This is "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners"
from the Foo Fighters' new CD.

(Soundbite of "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners")

BIANCULLI: That was "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners" from the latest Foo
Fighters CD. More with Dave Grohl after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2007 interview with Dave Grohl, founder
of the Foo Fighters and formerly the drummer for Nirvana.

GROSS: Now, you decided to form the Foo Fighters after Kurt Cobain's death.
And you had to figure out what your sound was compared to what Nirvana's sound
was. You'd had such great success with Nirvana, and apparently all along
you'd been writing songs that you thought of as your songs and not Nirvana
songs. Did that help guide you in terms of trying to figure out what your
band was going to be compared to Nirvana?

Mr. GROHL: Yeah, I think it did. I mean, I was perfectly happy, in Nirvana,
being the drummer. When you're in a band with someone like Kurt, who was a
really gifted songwriter--I mean, his songs were really simple and direct and
almost like nursery rhymes, you know, but with distortion pedals and cymbals
washing all over them. So it was great being the drummer of that band. I
loved it. But I would come home from those tours and go down into my basement
and record music on my own.

You know, there's a famous old joke: What was the last thing that the drummer
said before he was kicked out of the band? And the punchline is, `Hey guys, I
got a couple songs I think we should record.' So there's some truth to that,
you know? You know, when you're in a band and everything's working so well,
the last thing you want to do is pollute that process. You know? And
honestly, what I was writing and recording I didn't consider to be anywhere
near what Nirvana was doing. I just thought it was this innocent little game
that I would play by myself.

But after Kurt died, I wasn't sure what to do or where to go, and I stopped
playing music for a while, and it was hard to listen to music, any music,
because of that association. You know? Like I always considered music to
equal life and celebration, and all of a sudden music equaled death and the
loss of a friend, so I put it away for a while. And then eventually I
realized that, you know, music is part of the healing process because it's
been such a huge part of my life and my heart for the longest time.

GROSS: I'd like to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is probably like the
most popular song that Nirvana recorded, and this is from the album
"Nevermind." Would you talk about your drumming on this track before we hear
it? Very powerful.

Mr. GROHL: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, when we wrote this song, we were
rehearsing in a barn behind someone's house in Tacoma, Washington, and we
would play it--we'd rehearse about five hours a day, maybe about five days a
week, for months and months and months, just tightening up the band and coming
up with new ideas and new songs. And "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was one of
those. Kurt came in with this guitar idea, and I think he'd worked out a
melody. And like I said, it was one of those songs that we just started
jamming on, and it was all about the release and the energy of just getting
away from the world, hiding out in this little barn and jamming. And this is
what happened.

GROSS: OK. Here's Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit." My guest, Dave Grohl,
on drums.

(Soundbite of "Smells Like Teen Spirit")

Mr. KURT COBAIN: (Singing) Load up the guns and bring your friends
It's fun to lose and to pretend
She's over bored and self-assured
Oh, no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low

With the lights out
It's less dangerous
Here we are now
Entertain us
I feel stupid
And contagious
Here we are now
Entertain us
A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My libido
Yeah

Yay
Yay

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Nirvana recorded in 1991 with my guest Dave Grohl on drums, and
Grohl is also the founder of the Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters have a new
CD, which is called "Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace."

That song and the album that it was on, "Nevermind," was a huge success for
Nirvana. Were you comfortable with that level of commercial success, having
lived in like the, you know, like alternative rock or rock underground or punk
underground--whatever you want to call it--for so long? To have that kind of
visibility and commercial success afterwards, did it seem like a comfortable
place?

Mr. GROHL: It did and it didn't. I mean, I don't think that Krist or
Kurt--I don't think that any of us expected that that was going to happen.
And, you know, honestly, when I found out that we had a gold record, when we
had sold 500,000 copies, my first thought was that, you know, I could get my
own apartment. And I was so excited that I didn't have to crash on someone's
couch anymore, you know. I just thought, `Oh my God, I can buy a car. I can
have an apartment.' These are things that I never had, you know. And I was
really excited that I could actually support myself doing what I loved to do.
So it was a pretty good feeling at first, and then it just went haywire and
everything was completely out of control, and you felt like you were being
sucked up in a tornado, and there were days when you just wanted to escape.
But ultimately, personally, I didn't think of it as a bad thing because, you
know, we didn't change the band to make that happen, you know? A lot of
people change what they do in order to make that sort of thing happen, and we
just kind of had a party and everybody came, you know? To me, I was really
proud of that.

BIANCULLI: Dave Grohl speaking to Terry Gross last October. We'll hear more
of their conversation in the second half of the show. I'm David Bianculli and
this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross. We're
listening to Terry's interview with Dave Grohl, the founder, lead singer and
primary songwriter of the band Foo Fighters. The group's latest CD, called
"Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace," is up for a Grammy Award next month as
Album of the Year. Grohl started the band after the 1994 suicide of Kurt
Cobain. Grohl played drums in Nirvana from 1990 until Cobain's death.

Before we get back to their conversation, let's listen to a classic track from
Nirvana's breakthrough CD "Nevermind." The song is called "Lithium."

(Soundbite of Nirvana performing "Lithium")

Mr. COBAIN: (Singing) I'm so happy, cause today I found my friends
They're in my head. I'm so ugly, but that's OK
'Cause so are you. We've broke our mirrors
Sunday morning is everyday for all I care
And I'm not scared. Light my candles. In a daze cause I've found god

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: You had lived for a while with Kurt Cobain. How long did you live
together in the same apartment?

Mr. GROHL: I think it was maybe eight months or nine months or something
like that. We lived in a house that was split into three apartments, and ours
was around the back of the house. And it was a mess. I mean, it was
disgusting. People shouldn't live that way. We did.

GROSS: What was so disgusting about it? Would you describe it?

Mr. GROHL: I mean, the floor was just--there was this awful kind of beige
Berber carpet that was just littered with cigarette butts and corn dog sticks,
and the window was broken and never repaired. So on a winter night, the
living room would be about, I don't know, 40 degrees, and that was my room, so
I slept on a couch in a sleeping bag and I'm six feet tall and the couch is
probably four and a half feet long, and so my feet are hanging over the edge.
And in the corner, Kurt used to--he had a thing for turtles, he loved turtles.
And so he had made this makeshift turtle aquarium, or whatever, out of, I
think they were storm windows that he had put up or something like that. And
these poor turtles all night long just were trying to escape, you know, and so
they would just butt their heads against the glass all night long. And the
thing, it just stank. And I mean, it was really, really bad. It was
horrible. So you can imagine my first check for $700, I thought, `I made it.
I'm getting out of here. I've made it. I need to go get my own place.' Yeah,
it was pretty gross.

GROSS: Kurt Cobain had a heroin habit, and when you became aware of his
addiction and realized what a problem it was for his health, but also for the
band, did you feel in a difficult position about whether to try to intervene
at all, and if you did, whether that would be of any use?

Mr. GROHL: Absolutely. I think--well, you have to remember that I didn't
know these two guys before I joined the band, you know. I flew up there, and
the day they picked me up from the airport was the day that I met the two of
them. And so it wasn't long before, you know, we realized that there was a
problem. And Krist Novoselic, who was the bass player of Nirvana, he grew up
with Kurt and they started the band together when they were kids. And, you
know, as best friends, I think that Krist had that conversation with Kurt at
some point. And I remember having a brief conversation about it with Kurt and
Kurt saying like, `Yeah, no, that's--I'm not going to do that, that's gross.
I don't--that's--it's a filthy habit and don't worry. I'm not going to do
that sort of thing again.' I think someone who becomes addicted to something
like heroin can be really hard to reach because at the end of the day, the
only person that's going to pull them out of something like that is
themselves, and--yeah.

GROSS: Getting back to the music and to the band's life onstage, Kurt Cobain
would sometimes like dive onto your drum kit?

Mr. GROHL: Yeah.

GROSS: Would you like describe what the experience was like on your end...

Mr. GROHL: Well, you know...

GROSS: ...when he would do that?

Mr. GROHL: The first few times it happened, I imagined it being this
cathartic experience, like, `Wow, man, he's so into the music. You know,
he's, you know, sacrificing his body for this song and he's diving into a pile
of drums.' Which is--can only be the most painful thing you've ever done in
your life. And then after a year or so, I heard Krist Novoselic telling a
story about how Kurt used to do that because--when he felt like the drummer
wasn't playing well, he would just dive into the drum set. So my whole
perspective kind of changed a little bit, like, `Oh, wait! So, but I thought
that was--oh really? Oh.' So yeah.

GROSS: Well, like how close would he come to knocking you off your chair when
he dived into the drums?

Mr. GROHL: I usually--I saw him coming--and if he was--if I saw him--I mean,
you know, it was like standing in front of a bull or something. You see that
thing running at you and you just, you run away. So I did my best to avoid
any...

GROSS: Would you abandon your chair?

Mr. GROHL: Oh, yeah. I mean, what, am I going to keep playing? No. I
mean, I don't want to get run over by the guy so I'd usually just kind of step
out for a minute and let him do his thing.

GROSS: Would it ruin your drums? Did your drums ever get hurt?

Mr. GROHL: Oh man, my drums. The tour that we did for that album
"Nevermind," the American tour went from, I think, September of '91 to
Halloween of '91, and we started the tour playing these really small venues
because they were the type of place Nirvana would usually play. And the album
came out and the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video went on MTV, and we'd show up
to a place that would normally hold about 110 people, and there'd be 500
people outside. I'd think, `Oh my God, that's a lot of--how they going to
squeeze all those people in?' And that was my gauge of what was happening to
the band and how popular the band was getting is every time we'd pull up to a
club, there'd be twice as many people as there should be at the club, that
line around the block, people trying to get in. And we had to start upgrading
the venues to fit, you know, the audience, to accommodate all the people that
wanted to see the band.

But on that tour we were still in a van, there were six or seven of us in a
van with a trailer pulled behind, and Kurt would chop at my drums with his
guitar. And so a lot of shows would just end with total destruction. And
guitars can be pieced back together. It can all be glued back together. You
know, you can smash a guitar and play it the next night. It might not sound
any good, but that's beside the point. You know, you just want to smash it.
So by the time we get to Chicago, my drum set had holes in it. I mean, there
were holes in the toms, and my kick drum was completely destroyed. It was
splintered. And I kept saying to our tour manager, `Hey, Lonnie, do you think
maybe I could get a new drum set? Because these sound like crap, man, I mean,
they have holes in it.' And he'd say, `Ah, can you hold on for another week?
Because, you know, we're a little low on money.' And I'd say, `Yeah, man, I
could hold off for another month, but honestly, dude, these things sound like
crap.' He'd just say, `Just hold off, hold off.' So I'd ask a couple days
later, `Lonnie, I'm telling you, I really need to get another drum set. This
thing is falling apart.' He'd say, `Just hold off one more week.'

And as we're pulling into Chicago to play our show, we had the radio on in the
van, and there was a commercial for, `The Drum Center, half off, everything,
50 percent off at The Drum Center.' And I thought, `OK, you know what?
Tonight I'm going to destroy my drum set beyond repair so that I can go to The
Drum Center and get a drum set for half off.'

So that night I kind of whispered in Kurt's ear before the show, I said, `Hey
man, let's really do a number on the drums tonight so I can get a new set
tomorrow.' He goes, `OK.' So at the end of the gig, we actually told the
audience, `Hey, you guys can, you know, leave if you want, but we're going to
splinter this drum set. We're going to turn it into firewood.' And the
audience, 1200 people, sat and watched us completely destroy--no music. It
was just the sound of two guys destroying drums onstage. And I walked
offstage really proud of myself, and the next day was Sunday and The Drum
Center was closed. So I had to use the opening band's set.

GROSS: There must have been nothing left to play.

Mr. GROHL: No, there wasn't anything left. It was a good time, though.

BIANCULLI: Dave Grohl speaking to Terry Gross last October. More after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2007 interview with Dave Grohl, founder
of the Foo Fighters and formerly the drummer for Nirvana.

GROSS: I want to play another track, and this is a song that you wrote when
you were in Nirvana but you never gave the song to Nirvana to play, you just
recorded it yourself. It's "Friend of a Friend." It's a song about Kurt
Cobain. Would you talk about the song before we hear it?

Mr. GROHL: Well, when I moved up there to play with those guys, you know, it
was a really weird time for me because I grew up in Springfield, Virginia,
just outside of Washington, DC, and I have an amazing family, a great mother
and father, great sister, good friends that I've known since I was five or six
years old, and I never imagined moving away from there. I just sort of
thought I'd always be there. I worked at a furniture warehouse. It was good.
You know, life was good. And ending up in Seattle, somewhere I'd only been
once in my life--and enjoyed, I liked it a lot--but I was, you know, I didn't
know anybody and I didn't have anything. And I was in a band with these two
strangers, and they were great people but, you know, I missed home. And there
was an acoustic guitar in the room, and I just started writing songs at night.
When Kurt would go to sleep, I'd sit on the couch and write these quiet
acoustic songs. And this song, "Friend of a Friend," I wrote about the two
people that I just joined the band with, you know?

GROSS: There's a line, "He needs a quiet room with a lock to keep him in."
What does that refer to?

Mr. GROHL: Well, every night before going to sleep, Kurt would go into his
room and close the door and write in his journal. He wrote every night. And
I think a lot of his ideas, lyrically, maybe musically, came from that. But
he was really prolific. And I think that time that he had to himself every
night was entirely his own and, you know, he would write for hours every
night.

GROSS: Well, let's here "Friend of a Friend," and this is Dave Grohl's song.
He's singing it. And here it is.

(Soundbite of "Friend of a Friend")

Mr. GROHL: (Singing) He needs a quiet room
With a lock to keep him in
It's just a quiet room
And he's there

He plays an old guitar
With a coin found by the phone
It was his friend's guitar
That he played

Hm-mm mm-mm mmmm
Mm-mm-mmm mmmm
Mm-mm-mm mmmm...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Dave Grohl singing a song he wrote for Kurt Cobain--or about
Kurt Cobain, I should say, when they were living together in the same
apartment. And Dave Grohl was the drummer in Nirvana and has subsequently
been the founder and leader of the Foo Fighters. And the Foo Fighters have a
new CD, which is called "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace."

You have a 17-month-old daughter now. Do you sing lullabies to her, and if
so, like what kind of music do you sing or play for her?

Mr. GROHL: Right now--we have jam sessions sometimes where she'll get a pair
of drumsticks and sit down in front of a snare drum and just beat out some
noisy rhythm and I'll play guitar. And what I like to do is I like to make up
songs with words that she knows so that she'll sing along. So I'll sing a
song called "House," and I basically just repeat the word "house" over the
verse and the chorus until she starts trying to sing along with me. And then
I'll sing a song about horses, where the chorus is just "neigh, neigh, neigh."
You know, and so, yeah, and I mean--we haven't done any television. We
haven't done any Barney or Wiggles or any of the kid stuff. She likes music,
and she actually has good taste in music. If I have the radio on, she'll
stand still for the songs that I hate instinctually, and then a really great
Beatles song or Credence Clearwater Revival song will come on and she'll start
dancing, and I'll think, `Wow, you already have good taste in music. How'd
that happen?'

GROSS: Well, I'd like to end with the final track from the new Foo Fighters
CD, which is called "Home." And it's a beautiful song, and again I'll ask you
to introduce it for us, to tell us about writing it.

Mr. GROHL: Well, I got a piano for my birthday about a year and a half ago,
and I'd never played piano before. It always seemed really intimidating to
me. As a rock musician that plays guitar and drums, you could imagine that,
you know, there were just too many little buttons on that thing. I didn't
know what the white ones did. I didn't know what the black ones did. And
I've taught myself how to play all of the instruments that I play. So I got
this piano for my birthday, and I sat down and someone said, `You know, all
you really need to know is that note right there is middle C.' And I thought,
oh, OK, well, if that's a C, well, then that's a G, and I started playing and
coming up with melodies and just writing these really simple songs.

And this is the first song that I wrote on the piano, and I didn't imagine it
to be a Foo Fighters song because it's so unlike anything we've ever done.
But then we did a demo of it, and I sat down and wrote these lyrics really
quickly and listened back, and it kind of gave me the chills because I felt
like I'd finally accomplished that thing that I'd been trying to do for 20
years, to write a song like this. And I'm more proud of this song than
anything that I've ever done in my life because, as a musician, you want to be
able to tap into that thing, or that place inside of you that's entirely real
and to be able to express it so that it makes sense. And I listen to this
song and it sounds like it makes sense, and that's all I've been trying to do.

GROSS: Well, Dave Grohl, it's really been great to talk with you. Thank you
very, very much, and good luck with your new CD.

Mr. GROHL: Thanks for having me. No, it's been an honor to be on your show.
Thank you very much.

GROSS: It's a real pleasure to have you. And this is the Foo Fighters from
their new CD "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace." This is "Home."

(Soundbite of "Home")

Mr. GROHL: (Singing) Stand in the mirror, you look the same
Just looking for shelter from the cold and the pain
Some want to cover, safe from the rain
And all I want is to be home

Echoes and silence, patience and grace
All of these moments I'll never replace
No fear of my heart, no absence of faith
And all I want is to be home

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: That was "Home" by the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl spoke to Terry
Gross last October. His latest Foo Fighters' CD, "Echoes, Silence, Patience &
Grace," is up for a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

Coming up, I shift over to TV critic duties and examine the return of the late
night talk show hosts. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: TV critic David Bianculli discusses late night talk shows
returning during writer's strike
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for tvworthwatching.com.

It's been only two days since the popular late night talk shows returned to TV
in the midst of a writers' strike about to enter its third month. But already
it's clear there's a huge type of high-stakes poker game going on, and how
these various shows and hosts are playing with the hands they've been dealt is
truly fascinating.

David Letterman, because of the separate deal he negotiated with the Writers
Guild of America, has the upper hand. His CBS "Late Show" and the "Late, Late
Show with Craig Ferguson," which he also owns, came back with their full
writing staffs. Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien on NBC and Jimmy Kimmel on ABC
came back Wednesday night, too, but without writers.

The first day back got lots of media attention and sort of set the stage for
their various approaches. Thursday's shows, though, made things even more
interesting. Because of many actors not wanted to cross picket lines,
Letterman looks to be getting bigger guests than Leno: Robin Williams the
first night, Bill Maher the second. Leno, whose guests had to cross picket
lines, had Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee the first night and
Howie Mandel the second. Conan came back with Bob Saget, Jimmy Kimmel with
Andy Dick, and Craig Ferguson with no guests at all, which is better than
having Andy Dick. Instead, Ferguson showcased written comedy bits because he
could.

Last night, though, showed how quickly things can shift. Letterman delivered
a very polished show but missed an opportunity during his interview with Bill
Maher. Maher's live HBO talk show is returning next week but presumably
without writers, and Letterman never asked him why or how.

Conan's show on night two was best during his opening monologue and pre-taped
comedy improvisations and weaker once he got behind the desk. The idea of
wasting time, which was funny the first night, the second night seemed closer
to a real waste of time.

But in this second round of late night poker, three other players stole some
early hands. Jay Leno was writing monologues that sound very much like the
ones his writers would have provided him. But behind the desk he's looser;
looser, I think, than in anytime since he was guest host of "The Tonight Show"
and didn't yet have the job. Instead of just telling jokes, he's starting to
tell the truth.

(Soundbite from "The Tonight Show")

Mr. JAY LENO: It is day two of the writers' strike here on "The Tonight"--we
are still writerless.

Unidentified Man #1: Right.

Mr. LENO: This is actually the third month of this, and I wish they would
get it settled.

Now, we never get a chance to show you some of the amazing and bizarre holiday
gift ideas that people send to us, so what we're going to look at now, this
is--I'll be honest with you--this is just crap we had lying around the office.
OK? It's the writers'--these shows will be nothing but honest, OK? It's
going to be a hard time getting guests.

Man #1: Right.

Mr. LENO: The hard part is it's going to be hard getting guests. The good
part is, when a movie is crappy, we can say it was crappy now.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: The second night of "The Late, Late Show," Craig Ferguson went
back to interviewing guests, and his first guest was Mike Huckabee, who was
Leno's guest the night before. Actually, the Ferguson interview with Huckabee
was pre-taped on Wednesday right after his Leno appearance, but wasn't
televised until late Thursday, after Huckabee had been announced as the winner
of the Iowa Republican caucus. Anyone who saw both interviews would realize
that Huckabee was a winner all week: triumphant in Iowa, funny on Leno and
funnier on Ferguson. Then, again, Ferguson asked funnier questions.

(Soundbite of "The Late, Late Show")

Mr. CRAIG FERGUSON: When you go--when you go to an airport, do you use the
bathroom or you just wait and...

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE: Not anymore.

Mr. FERGUSON: Or do you wait till you get on the plane?

Mr. HUCKABEE: Well, and if I do, I sit there like this.

Mr. FERGUSON: Yes.

Mr. HUCKABEE: I'll tell you.

Mr. FERGUSON: Do you know--do you know what I find? In politics--I--you
know, I actually even think of this now because occasionally, every now and
again, someone recognizes me. I think...

Mr. HUCKABEE: Yeah.

Mr. FERGUSON: I can't go to the bathroom. I can't. I just have to hold it
until I get home.

Mr. HUCKABEE: I just go to the ladies room. It's easier that way.

Mr. FERGUSON: Do you--do you ever--sometimes men are a bit funny about this.
If I'm in town and I'm like 20, 25 minutes from my house...

Mr. HUCKABEE: Uh-huh.

Mr. FERGUSON: ...and I need to, you know, I'll go home.

Mr. HUCKABEE: You need to wipe.

Mr. FERGUSON: I need to go to my own special little litter box. Do you do
that?

Mr. HUCKABEE: I think we need to change the subject.

Mr. FERGUSON: All right.

(End of Soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Over on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel got a laugh just talking about Huckabee
and Democrat Barack Obama as the actual winners of the Iowa caucus. The
difference was that "Jimmy Kimmel Live" really was live, the only guy in late
night with that advantage. Most days it may not matter much; Thursday night
it did.

(Soundbite of "Jimmy Kimmel Live")

Mr. JIMMY KIMMEL: But for the Republicans, Mike Huckabee won tonight.

Unidentified Man #2: Mm-hmm.

Mr. KIMMEL: Mike Huckabee used to be very fat. He use to--he's like the
Ricki Lake of politics. He's--but now he's slimmed down and he won. And
Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

Man #2: How about that?

Mr. KIMMEL: Which really is amazing because, I mean, this is--this is Iowa.
There are more black people in The Beatles than in Iowa. And, I mean, I think
that's a pretty great thing.

Man #2: That is a great thing.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Comedians talking about topical issues is the main reason I've
been eager to have these late night hosts return. Monday, on Comedy Central,
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert return, too, without their writers. That's
two more players anteing up in a game that's not being played strictly for
laughs. But from a viewer perspective, it'll be lots of fun to watch.

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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