If you're a Foo Fighters fan (and who isn’t?) you have an unlikely individual to thank for the band’s existence. After Nirvana had ended, Foo Fighters’ creator Dave Grohl told Ryan Tubridy, he was at a loss as to what he wanted to do. He was young – in his mid-twenties – and didn’t necessarily want to play music. He’d been to Ireland before and had taken a trip around the Ring of Kerry, so on his return, he rented a car and drove around the Dingle peninsula, hoping to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life:
"And as I was coming around this country road, I saw a hitchhiker and I thought, you know he was young and it was sort of raining and I thought, 'Well, maybe I’ll pick him up.’ And as I got closer, I noticed that he had a Kurt Cobain t-shirt on and that was the moment where I realised, you know, I need to go home and figure this out. And that’s when I started the Foo Fighters."
So take a bow, young mid-90s hitchhiker on the Ring of Kerry in the rain with your Kurt Cobain t-shirt – you're the person (aside from Grohl himself of course) most responsible for the existence of the multi-million-selling, Grammy Award-winning Foo Fighters. They should erect a statue to you. The unknown Kerry hitchhiker who inspired Dave Grohl. Dave didn’t mention to Ryan whether he ended up actually giving the guy a lift or not, but it’s nice to imagine them chatting in the car, with the Blasket Islands in the drizzly background and Radio Kerry playing Take That.
Dave Grohl’s written a book called The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music, which details his time growing up in the suburbs of Washington DC to touring the world with two seminal bands. Dave spoke to Ryan about his schoolteacher mother, Virginia and how, when he first came to Ireland, he discovered just how Irish she really looked when he walked onto the street:
"I knew that we had Irish heritage in our family, but I’d never been. So the first time I came, I woke up, I walked outside and everyone looked like my mother. I ran back to the phone and I called her and I’m like, ‘Mom - everybody looks exactly like you here!’"
His mother, it turns out, was a key part of what Ryan describes as Dave’s "lack of snobbery" about music, as she used to take him to jazz clubs when he was a boy. And Dave told Ryan that, when it came to music, he didn’t know anything about cool, but he knew what he liked:
"I didn’t know anything about what to listen to or what not to listen to, I just took everything in. And I mean, it could be like, doo-wap Manhattan Transfer music, or a show tune or Aerosmith or AC/DC. To me, music was just this beautiful puzzle or this mystery that I was trying to figure out. It didn’t matter what type or what genre of music."
And when it comes to enjoying music – or, presumably, anything else in life – Dave has a nicely succinct philosophy:
"I think it’s important for people to remember that there should be no guilty pleasure, there should just be pleasure. And whether it’s Gangnam Style or Let It Be, who cares? It’s music and if you dig it then you should dig it and be OK with that."
So I feel like what he’s saying is that I can wear my Bryan Adams t-shirt with pride. And I’m pretty sure his mom agrees with me. Here Dave recounts what she told him when he asked her how she dealt with peer pressure when she was young:
"She said, ‘You know, I never compared myself to other people. I always just felt like my own person, I never compared myself to anyone else.’ And that’s one of my favourite little nuggets of wisdom that she’s given me."
Following that advice, Dave said that he never felt any pressure to be cool. Not sure you have to try very hard to be cool when you’ve been in Nirvana and formed the Foo Fighters, but sure, the sentiment is admirable.
For more from Ryan’s conversation with Dave Grohl – including what drew him to punk rock as opposed to do-wop – go here.
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl is published by Simon & Schuster.