For Dave Grohl, what motivates musicians is more than a van


NEW YORK – Dave Grohl was thinking of making a nostalgic film about the days of famous musicians’ training. But then the pandemic happened.

NEW YORK – Dave Grohl was thinking of making a nostalgic film about the days of famous musicians’ training. But then the pandemic happened.

Part by design and part by circumstance, “What Drives Us” has become a surprisingly emotional documentary about the power of live music and the pain of its absence.

The Foo Fighters frontman has become an effective film storyteller, directing the documentary “Sound City” on a legendary California music studio and the HBO series “Sonic Highways”. His latest is available to stream on Friday through Coda Collection, a subscription streaming service and Amazon Prime Video outside of the United States.

He centers on an experience common to most musicians, certainly rock groups. At one point, they make the figurative leap of getting into a van with members of the band and bringing their music to the road.

“You have to get in a van if you want to be successful in this business,” said Ringo Starr, who said the Beatles stacked up like firewood to warm up after their windshields blew up on a freezing night. .

Grohl began by exchanging van stories with over two dozen musicians. But the interviews deepened as they spoke about why they had entered those lives, hence the double meaning of the title “What Drives Us”. He started editing the interviews after the outbreak of the pandemic and realized how the need to share music on stage was a common theme.

“It was part of the conversation,” Grohl said. “But as the time went on and we got starved for it, I realized that was the most important part of the conversation. That’s why we’re doing it. No musician wants to stay in their basement for the rest of their life practicing scales.

Their stories are funny and sometimes poignant; The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea talks about music as an escape from an abusive childhood. “Here’s your golden ticket to Oz – take a ride around in a van and play music with friends,” he said.

U2’s The Edge grew up in a small town north of Dublin with nothing to do. “That’s why we went into explosives,” he said, until watching “A Hard Day’s Night” puts him and his friends on a more productive path.

St. Vincent, Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Brian Johnson of AC / DC are particularly eloquent subjects.

In a passenger van, “you are really, really close to the people – close in a way the people at a bank might never know,” said St. Vincent.

Grohl even finds and drives around the red van that the Foo Fighters were using at the time of their training. His 15-year-old daughter is an aspiring musician and the film made her more excited to follow her father’s work, he said.

Grohl has a rapport with his fellow musicians that a conventional filmmaker or journalist cannot match. They were in the same seat, or in the same cargo hold.

“Musicians have a type of ESP between them, which is usually shared when the instruments are turned on,” he said. “I had great conversations with musicians where we didn’t say a word. You just play instruments together, and sometimes these can be the most revealing. “

He is also gregarious and open to a surprising degree; it’s hard not to get carried away by the enthusiasm of the 52-year-old songwriter. The former Nirvana drummer’s pandemic activities have included online “drum” contests with 10-year-old British girl Nandi Bushell and songwriting and recording with Mick Jagger. He is writing a book about some of the adventures of his life and has finished directing a television series about rock stars and their mothers with his own mother.

From his days in the underground punk rock scene around Washington, DC, music has always been about community for him.

He recalls being backstage at music festivals, with all kinds of acts playing a variety of styles.

“I would walk from the lodge to the lodge, knock on the door with a bottle of whiskey in my hand and say, ‘man, let’s hang out, we’re musicians,’” ​​he says. “We should hang around. This is what we do. “

He has lost track of all the colleagues with whom he has shared a whiskey.

“I love being with musicians,” he said. “Musicians can be really fun. In some ways, we are like aliens. In some ways, we are electricians. But put us all together and we’re like a nutcase convention. I love being in the middle. “

If there is one theme that runs through his cinematographic work, it is to humanize a life that may seem distant or exotic to strangers. Grohl is knocking on your door, basically.

Live music starts again, at least trickles. Grohl said he was constantly asked by people on the streets when he would be fully back; he would love to know himself. He dreams of going on stage and enjoying the applause before hitting that first guitar chord.

He expects it to be an overwhelming experience.

“You can open your laptop and go to YouTube and watch the bands live performances,” he said. “It can be entertaining. It can almost be exciting. But the tangible, community experience of actually being there while this is happening is something else.

David Bauder, The Associated Press

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