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Dave Grohl’s SXSW Keynote: ‘Gangnam Style Is One Of My Favorite Songs’

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"Sound City" Q&A - 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival
Brian Ives
Brian Ives
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John Fogerty has recently been quoted as saying that Dave Grohl has a childlike enthusiasm for music. Grohl’s fans have seen that time and time again over the years, watching him play in a number of situations (including Nirvana and Foo Fighters, but also collaborating with everyone from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers to John Paul Jones). He’s brought his love of music to a new level via his documentary Sound City and the subsequent tour, which has seen him performing with Stevie Nicks, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick and Fogerty himself.

Grohl’s joy was on full display at his keynote speech today (March 14) at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, marking quite a contrast between the jaded music industry insiders who tend to cram the streets of Austin during SXSW. Here are our 10 favorite moments from Grohl’s speech.

1. He’s been a crowd-pleaser since the moment he was born.

Grohl said that his mom told him that he was “born to applause.” When she gave birth, a couple of medical students were observing, and it was the first birth they’d ever actually seen. As he noted, “hanging upside down, covered with blood, being spanked by a stranger,” was great and early preparation for his eventual career as a rock musician.

2. Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” rocked his world.

Grohl dedicated much of the speech to his love of punk rock, but it was Winter’s instrumental classic, which he’d heard on a K-Tel compilation, not on Winter’s 1972 album They Only Come Out At Night, that made Grohl want to pick up an instrument. He mentioned throughout the speech that he wanted to eventually provide that type of inspiration to other musicians.

3. Inducting Rush at this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony? It’s been a long time coming.

Grohl described setting up pillows as drums in his bedroom before he had a drum kit and “playing until sweat was dripping off of my Rush posters.”

4. The Foo Fighters’ debut LP was not his first experience as a one-man band.

He demonstrated, from the stage, how he multi-tracked as a kid: Playing an acoustic guitar riff into a tape recorder, then putting that tape into a stereo, playing it back and tapping along a drum line, and recording that on the tape recorder. Most of his songs back then were about his dad and his dog.

5. He had to “cut loose” at an early age. 

One of the songs his first group (called “Nameless”) played at a “Battle Of The Bands?” Kenny Loggins‘ “Footloose.”

6. He found his calling in punk rock. 

His cousin Tracy introduced him to punk rock via her collection of albums and singles from the likes of The Misfits, Discharge, Black Flag and The Minutemen. “This was the first day of the rest of my life,” he said. His first concert was Naked Raygun, but soon after that he attended the infamous “Rock Against Reagan” show in Washington, D.C., which he described as “my Woodstock, my Altamont.”  D.R.I. played the show, and afterwards, he bought a 7″ single directly from the singer of the band, out of their van. That single contained 33 songs.

7. The five words that changed his life were…

“Have you heard of Nirvana?” He set the scene, saying that when he heard those words, he was stuck in a bungalow with a bunch of female mud wrestlers, I heard the words that changed my life,” noting that that story would be for a different keynote address.

8. Kurt Cobain wanted Nirvana to be “the biggest band in the world.” 

Grohl recalled the feeding frenzy around Nirvana. The band took a meeting with legendary Sony Music exec Donnie Ienner, who asked Cobain what he wanted.  The response: “We want to be the biggest band in the world!” Grohl remembers laughing, thinking the frontman was kidding. At that point in the keynote, he listed the top 10 singles of 1990 for context, including songs from Mariah Carey, Phil Collins, Bell Biv DeVoe (he sang a bit of their hit “Poison”), and then mocked the #1 hit of the year, Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.”

9. He doesn’t hate pop.

“F*** ‘guilty pleasures!’” he said, going on to note that he likes Psy’s inescapable hit from 2012. “”f*** guilty pleasure!” “‘Gangam Style’ is one of my favorite songs of the past decade,” he admitted. “It is! Is it any better or worse than the Atoms For Peace record?”(name-dropping the recent collaboration between Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers).

10. …It’s just that he doesn’t like music competition shows.

A main theme of his speech was that everyone has their own voice, and they should celebrate it. He tried to imagine Christina Aguilera “judging” Bob Dylan on The Voice. 

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