Those close to me will know that I had been working on an interesting project which centred around catching up with and interviewing Dave Grohl. Those with a keen eye will also sense by the use of the past tense that things didn’t quite work out as we hoped with a project that evolved into a documentary film called Searching For The Holy Grohl. I felt the actual process was an interesting journey and worth sharing. It’s about programme ideas, pitching shows, how stuff gets made or doesn’t and fate. So here goes…
To recap, in case you don’t know, in 1991 I was the drummer in Captain America and we toured with Nirvana just as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ became a hit and Nevermind catapulted them into a global phenomenon. We all knew they were an incredible live band but we were hanging out with these kind, considerate really nice guys and couldn’t believe that this oddly shaped small, skinny, tall, lanky, wiry, straggly but entertaining trio would have achieved so much.
My personal take on it was always how accidental my involvement was. At the time I wanted to be a writer but wasn’t too sure how I went about doing it. So I just wrote all the time, kept a diary, helped a pal out and took my notebook and pen with me on tour. I honestly think at the time I thought there might be a sitcom, maybe an updated version of Tutti Frutti. A few years ago, I published a book called Nirvana A Tour Diary, which mercifully has received a warm reception.
Generally, when I’m asked to do anything Nirvana related I’m wary of people thinking I’m just trying to cash in, I simply refuse to do anything that isn’t done tastefully. Then again I’m a writer and contractually obliged and expected to promote. I wouldn’t do anything salacious that would hurt Kurt’s family or upset the remaining band members. I would do a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime with someone like Karen Rose at Sweet Talk though, so I’m not stupid.
So that’s all some important background. The story began when my friend, Mark Hirst, an intrepid journalist a real one, who works for Russian TV, is a foreign correspondent, broadcast journalist and award winning documentary maker contacted me. He’s also a huge music fan and a drummer- they’re everywhere- told me he’d managed through a contact at Sony Management to a secure a sit down with Dave. Now, because I helped Mark with a piece he wrote about a charity gig Nirvana played at the Southern bar in Edinburgh, for the Scotsman I think he wanted to return the favour and wanted me to interview Dave. I was petrified but decided to force myself out of my comfort zone. For nearly twenty years I’ve written for people in front of the camera. I’ve never wanted to see myself on TV. But I said yes.
Initially the piece was just a small interview, more importantly, the feedback was all positive, with Dave more than happy to be involved in the idea which focused on Nirvana/Dave’s link to all things Scottish (the band’s early influences, their tour manager and road manager all Scottish).
The idea was we got maybe 20-30 minutes and edit it down to a five minute news piece. STV were interested, but then said it wouldn’t be too newsworthy. I suggested why don’t we pad it out into something more like a 30 minute arts show like Artworks? They type of programme we used to see loads of in Scotland before cheap docusoaps about poverty stricken people taking their belongings to pawn shops. That’s really creative isn’t it?
So a pitch was hastily arranged called Searching For the Holy Grohl. It basically involved me standing around looking like a clown and acting like an idiot, external shots of me outside important places pivotal to the effect of Nirvana/ Foo Fighters/ Dave/ to Scotland. There were close-ups of road signs to Bellshill, panoramic shots across the West End (of Glasgow) and the spires of Glasgow University and me outside the QM. Then to me outside Murrayfield getting thrown out by security while holding a Dave for President T shirt or placard and squealing for DG to come out.
I also thought of incorporating some sketches, maybe a King of Comedy spoof with me in my room interviewing Dave’s cardboard cut out on my own chat show. If you could imagine Alan Partridge was asked to interview Dave, that was my angle, just shout ‘Dave!’ like a lunatic and film what happens. I even thought about taking Scrabble…calling it Scrabble Rock. Of course this being the magic of TV, we hopefully would’ve had an interview in the can and then worked back from that.
BBC Scotland said no, the boss there didn’t seem convinced that there was enough appeal in a film of the link between Nirvana, Dave Grohl and all things Scottish and that it would be the type of show which would just get be too niche.
Anyway, all wasn’t lost. This was just BBC Scotland. I spoke to a few friends and contacts at the BBC who put us on to colleagues and there was a possibility of a few other avenues opening but the major fear was that if Dave became available the idea would be eaten up and we would be elbowed out of the picture. Dave would be sitting wondering how much Andy had changed as he listened to Phil Tuffnell or Robbie Savage or Josh Widdiecombe (WTF??!!!!) or Sue Perkins interviewing him because on current evidence, that’s all the BBC’s got.
There were a few kind offers from the BBC Arts online people but there were still concerns over my inexperience in front of camera. We, Mark and I – especially Mark, weren’t easily put off and decided we would go ahead, film it ourselves use contacts and friends to edit. Everything though would be dependent on what we got with Dave and how it looked and sounded.
Some friends had tried to explain that Dave was really big now. Foo Fighter shows were like a Springsteen gig backstage and that it would be like an interview with Bill Gates or a CEO now. It was beginning to sound more like an audience with the Pope than an old drumming pal. I wouldn’t be put off, convinced again that if I could look him in the eye, he would be happy to see me, be like the old Dave we all loved.
As you’re no doubt aware, Dave fractured his leg at a gig in Gothenburg in June and the Edinburgh gig was cancelled. We were told that the itinerary would hopefully remain the same when the gig was rescheduled. I was quite philosophical as these things happen. I even added to the crew by enlisting another talented media pal and documentary maker, Peter VanDall to film if we got a shout for tomorrow (September 8).
We found out last week that Dave wouldn’t be doing any promo or interviews on either side of the gigs. At Milton Keynes he played on a huge chair which could best be described as a mutant Foo Fighters/Game of Thrones and Dalek hybrid.
So as I sit writing on a beautiful autumn day with a wonderful blue sky, and the sun shining, I hope the weather holds out for tomorrow’s show especially for the fans. I think this is what we call an Indian summer…Always remember, it’s all connected really…