It’s one of the oldest rock cliches there is.
The convergence of ego, writer’s block, and internal strife can disrupt even the steadiest of creative relationships, pushing countless groups to the brink.
Foo Fighters, though, have always seemed more immune to this than most. Chaired by Dave Grohl, the band have steamed through 10 hugely successful studio albums, with the latest of these – ‘Medicine At Midnight’ – being recorded at a mansion in California.
Not quite content to give up the lease, the band opted to stay on and take part in a new project. Part band-movie, part gory homage to slasher horror, Studio 666 flips the script on its head, and ponders what could happen if Dave Grohl – famously the Nicest Man In Rock – were to become demonically possessed and slaughter his band mates.
An outrageously entertaining film, Studio 666 matches goofy in-jokes to knowing horror references – everything from The Evil Dead to the Shining seems to get a shout out – before pouring fake blood over the whole mixture.
Out now, Studio 666 is the unexpected Foo Fighters project we never knew we need. Clash caught up with Dave Grohl to chat about its genesis, the film’s surprise guest stars, and what might come next for the band.
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Congrats on the new film! It’s a really entertaining watch, the perfect blend of band in-jokes, knowing horror references, and ridiculous gore!
Thank you very much. I appreciate that. It still surprises me that not only did we make this movie, but people enjoy it. It’s not something we ever seriously aspired to do. It just kind of happened. The fact that people are seeing it now is amazing.
So, why a horror movie, and why now?
Well, first of all, what are we going to make… a romantic comedy? I don’t think that that would play as well! I mean, why not? Simple answer.
Long story short, I had a meeting some time back with these film makers, who pitched the idea of a Foo Fighters horror movie. Sometime after that, we decided to record an album – ‘Medicine At Midnight’ – in a California mansion, and we end up using one that I actually lived in for a short time about 10 years ago. We’re working in this mansion, and I start thinking: well, what about that movie…?
The basic premise came really quickly. Band needs to make a record. Band look for cool destination to record. Destination turns out to be a haunted house. Singer becomes possessed, murders everyone over creative differences, and then goes solo. That was it.
One of the things that makes Studio 666 so enjoyable is that it feels as though you’re just playing yourselves, there’s a lot of your own character in there.
I mean, the script writers on this are super cool. They’re rock people – we’ve actually known them for years now. They’re on the rock scene. They understand the cliches. One of the screenwriters – Rebecca – came to see us before shooting, just to understand the dynamic. So she caught us goofing around, joking amongst ourselves, and a lot of that made it into the film.
Also, we were just allowed to improvise. A lot of what ends up in the film, came from us just joking around. Like, those Pearl Jam high fives? That was a spur of the moment thing. Taylor Hawkins actually took one look at the script and said “no, I’m not doing that!” Which is why the character is, basically, Taylor Hawkins. If you’ve ever spent time backstage with us you’ll know that it’s just like Studio 666, minus the blood.
There’s a fantastic scene where you’re unveiling new material, and the band keep pointing out that you’re just playing songs you’ve already written and release. It’s funny, but I expect a lot of songwriters will resonate with that. Has it ever actually happened to you?
No, it has happened, for sure. At this point, we’ve written, what, 10 albums? So that’s coming on for 200 songs, really. It’s practically inevitable that you end up with an ear worm, that you think is a brilliant song… only to realise that you’d already written it 22 years ago. Fortunately, the band is my favourite referee. They’re my Supreme Court. Judges that will be honest with me. I think maybe a few people suffer from that, but we like to keep a few years between albums, so there’s a bit of time for thinking.
It must be natural for there to be competition with your own catalogue, is that why doing something completely new – like a horror movie, let’s say – is so attractive?
I do think that it’s one of the keys to longevity, to not be afraid to take on new territory that might seem unnatural at first. But over time, you know, we’ve made it a point in our catalogue to kind of push out into territories within each album. If you look at our first and second albums, those are totally different, for example. Over time, the playing field is so wide that you can kind of dip into anything, but then to make a movie like this, it’s just expanding on that idea. Like, okay, we’ve been making music video for 26 years. Fucking blow that thing wide open and make a full feature film.
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There are some brilliant cameos in the film, too – Slayer’s Kerry King winds up having his head char-grilled in a BBQ.
Well, I’ve loved Slayer since I was a teenager in the early 80s. Like, always loved them. I’d met him before, but the director knew him from another project, so they reached out. But really, having a film that contains both Kerry King and Lionel Ritchie is one of my life’s greatest achievements. I’m deadly serious. They both play really well in the film. And I think they would get along famously if they ever met in real life, I really do.
Lionel Ritchie’s part is hilarious!
Oh my God, yeah! He was only there for an hour and a half. His first take was brilliant. The second take was even better. He’s just such a fucking star. He’s genuinely one of the most wonderful, kind, brilliant, funny legends I’ve ever met in my entire life. He really is a very, very sweet guy.
One of the film’s Easter Eggs is the band Dream Widow, whose aborted work you help finish. And that’s something you’re actually going to release?
Yeah. It’s a thrash metal album. I’m supposed to be finishing it today, actually. Long after the film was actually finished I just thought, wouldn’t it be fun to actually make a Dream Widow album? They were so close to finishing it, until the singer fucking murdered everyone! And y’know, I’m an old school metal fan.
Does working in a compressed time frame excite you as well?
One of the cliches in the film is a band entering the studio and having writer’s block. But I’ve never had that. Ever. We might spend two or three years between albums, but in terms of making ‘em it’ll be like a month, a month and a half. I’m more Neil Young than I am David Gilmour. So for me to go in and make a thrash metal album in a week… it’s possible. We did the first Foo Fighters album in six days.
There are a lot of nice nods and winks to horror greats in the film, from The Evil Dead to The Shining. Are you a horror buff?
Like most kids, when you when you become a teenager you start to hunt down horror films, or at least I did. And in the late 70s, early 80s they were everywhere. Movies like The Exorcist, and Halloween, things like that… getting together with your buddies and sneaking beers in the movie theatre when you’re 15 or 16 years old. – There’s something about horror and the darker elements that have always been a part of rock and roll, whether that’s Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil or Zeppelin with Aleister Crowley or Alice Cooper, even. Or Slayer! I’m getting to live out as a 53 year old man… maybe it’s my midlife crisis. But yeah, I mean I’ve never been an afficionado. I know some people that are completely horror obsessed. But I appreciate it because it really is very much a community genre.
There’s a few jokes in the film at the expense of Pearl Jam and Coldplay… would you send them into the mansion?
Ha! No, those are just jokes. Listen, I’ve known Eddie Vedder and the Pearl Jam guys for like decades now, they’re real good buddies. We’ve known Coldplay for what… 20 years? It’s all jokes. I think we’re that kind of band that scribbles graffiti on the high school walls and smoke cigarettes out the back of the fucking playground after school. And we just poke fun at each other. – And I don’t mind people making fun of me, either. One time a photographer friend phoned me up, and told me this story about Bob Dylan making fun of me. And I was like, Bob Dylan?! I was made up! I cracked up laughing. So no, I don’t mind that either.
Well, it’s a very successful film – to finish, would you do something like this again?
I mean, you have to remember, first and foremost, we’re a rock band. And we make rock albums. And we go out and we play rock concerts. That’s why we’re here. We’ve had so many outside projects in the last quarter of a century, whether it’s the Sound City documentary or whatever. You know, going out and making a fucking Bee Gees tribute album for a laugh. There’s a lot of things that we do, mostly just to entertain ourselves, and to keep us wanting to be the Foo Fighters. – But I don’t imagine that this ensemble cast will become a franchise that will make movie after movie after movie. Because, y’know, I like my fucking day job. I gotta be honest. Like, the easiest thing for me is to be the singer of the band. Making films… God it takes a lot of fucking time! A lot of fucking patience, things I don’t necessarily have either of so I’d much rather go out and play rock music. That really is why I’m here. That’s my favourite thing to do.
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Studio 666 is out now.
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