In the early 90's, Nirvana rose from the underground to become unwitting
leaders of the grunge movement. The three-piece and their Seattle Sound
ushered in a dark era in which metal became a dirty word. Only the true
of heart remained to recall the glory days and plot the eventual return
of metalcraft. It is ironic that one of the three, drummer Dave Grohl,
should now ride onto the battlefield waving the tattered metal flag.
Like Aragorn from The Lord Of The Rings, Grohl has returned to the land
that spawned him accompanied by a fellowship of stouthearted believers.
Each brings with him his own unique talents. But instead of elves,
dwarves and hobbits, Grohl rides with legendary figures like Snake, King
Diamond and Tom G. Warrior. Together they will uncover the true
foundation that was, indeed, built to stand the test of time. This epic
tale, marked by the swing of Grohl's axe and the battle cry of this
unlikely fellowship, has been memorialized on an album called Probot. It
is a love story.
METAL UPDATE: First of all, the record is done. How do you feel about
the end product?
DAVE GROHL: Great. When I first started recording these songs, I didn't
intend for it to be an album. I was just writing riffs in my basement.
And that was good enough for me. And then we had this idea that we'd get
some vocalists to sing on the songs. I came up with my wish list of all
my favorite singers from a really specific era. Once they all agreed to
do it, it was just a matter of shipping those tapes out and crossing my
fingers and hoping they come back.
MU: Was there anyone that declined your offer or anyone who just couldn’t do it?
DG: No. I talked to Tom from Slayer. The only person that I talked to
that didn't do it was Tom from Slayer. I think it was pretty much all
about logistics because we were touring and he was touring. We talked
about him coming to Virginia and doing it and we talked about doing it
in Los Angeles. It just never worked out. Fuck man, that was like two
years ago. It was so long ago. This things been going on for three and a
half years so it was a really long time ago. It was difficult because
I'd come home from touring, and I'd get really into the Probot thing for
about a week and a half. Then I'd split for another eight months and
then come back for another week. And then split for three or four
months. It was really on and off. I didn't know what label to put it on,
and I was just confused. It took forever. But everybody else that we
contacted said, "OK, well send out the song and we'll call you back."
Everyone we sent the song to said, "Fuck, this is killer." So it was
MU: I thought you pretty much nailed every song as far as catering to
the respective vocalist. Was that what you had in mind?
DG: Not really. The record was recorded in two sessions. The first
session was in February of 2000. I just recorded seven songs for kicks.
I didn't imagine anyone singing on them - just basically riffs,
instrumentals that I did in my basement. Then once we came up with the
idea of having different vocalists on each song, it was a matter of
pairing people up. There was one song that I wrote for a specific
vocalist, and that's "Shake Your Blood" for Lemmy. I didn't want to send
him something that was way off the mark. I thought, "You know what? I'm
gonna give him something that's right up his alley. He's gonna fuckin'
nail it, and it's gonna sound great." So I wrote "Shake Your Blood" and
recorded it in a half an hour and it was super easy. But everything
else, it was like putting a puzzle together. Me and some friends would
sit around and figure stuff out like, " I think Cronos should sing on
this song." "No way dude, he should sing on this one!" "You see, I
wanted Lee Dorian to sing on that one." "No, no, no, no. Lee Dorian
should sing on this one, because Mike Dean should sing on that one." It
was just kind of shuffling things around. Some of them were really
obvious. One song, you know, "Max from Sepultura should definitely sing
on that." "This would be awesome for King Diamond." Things like that,
but for the most part it was really just throwing people around and
trying to stay within their realm - trying to keep within their scene,
their style, their trip. Basically, it was just kind of random. From the
first session, the song that Max sang on, that comes from the first
session. That was recorded without any vocals intended anyway. But see,
the thing that I think is cool about that is that when I listen to this
stuff, I really think about the true influence of all these bands. Like,
"Wow man. This is what it sounds like when I want to record some heavy
riffs." It comes out sounding like 'Chaos A.D.' When I record some
melodic, dissonant thing, it comes out sounding like Voivod. That's how
much these people influenced me. It's pretty cool.
MU: How many of your contributors did you know on a personal level
DG: Let's see. . . well, a lot of the people I've met over the years
like Mike Dean, Max, Snake. I met Kurt from DRI when I was like 13. I
saw DRI play in 1983 in D.C. and I bought their 22 song 7" from 'em out
of the van. But I hadn't seen him in fuckin' 20 years or something, so I
called him up on the phone and said, "Hey remember me? Hahaha."
MU: (laughter) Nope. Who the fuck are you?
DG: Some of the people I've bumped into - Wino, from the Obsessed. My
band used to open for his band in '85. We used to open for the Obsessed
every once in a while. You know, just knowing people around the way.
Meet people here and there. But a lot of 'em, I still haven't met, cause
the whole record was done through the mail. So, I've never met King
Diamond before, and I've never met Eric Wagner. I feel like I know 'em,
cause I've listened to their voices a million times over in the last 20
years. A lot of 'em I've just never met before. So that's what's kind of
fun. I went over to England to do some press for this album and I got to
hang out with Cronos and Lee Dorian for a couple days. It was fucking
great. Oh actually, Lee Dorian - I slept on his floor in 1987. Things
like that. We've just bumped into each other over the years. Away from
Voivod, I've known him for a really long time, since the late 80's.
MU: You're a really big Voivod fan, right?
DG: Fuck yeah!
MU: I've read that multiple times. I might have even read a while back
that it was almost an inspiration for this entire project. Obviously,
you've got Away doing the artwork and it's probably a Voivod inspired
DG: Pretty much. The thing about the name that's funny is that I just
wrote it on the fuckin' reel so that it wouldn't get lost among the
other tapes in my house. I thought, "Let's call it Probot. Hahaha." So
then the first person to do a logo for it was my sister because I made
copies of the CD. And my sister said (in a funny voice), "I'll make a
logo on my computer and zerox some cover copies." I was like, "OK." And
she had the t-shirt that said Probot. It was so stupid. But yeah, I've
always loved Voivod. The first album I listened to by Voivod was
'Rrroooaaarrr', the second record. I couldn't fucking believe how crazy
the sound was. I couldn't believe a band could be so fucked up. We had a
band in D.C. called Void. It was kind of the same trip. They were more
hardcore. It just sounded like someone throwing instruments down the
stairs, and it was amazing. I loved it. But then to see them progress,
to see them go from 'Rrroooaaarrr' to 'Killing Technology', where you're
just like, "Holy fucking shit!" They've really tightened up and they're
writing songs. And 'Dimension Hatross' was like, "Holy fucking shit!"
They're a really big inspiration.
MU: What's your favorite Voivod album now?
DG: That's a tough one man. I would probably have to say 'Dimension
Hatross'. I'd probably have to say that because 'Rrroooaaarrr was
amazing, but 'Killing Technology', the songwriting and the arrangements
were getting more complex and interesting. But 'Dimension Hatross', I
think they really fuckin' made a classic record. The songs were
beautiful, which was something you could never imagine Voivod doing. And
that's when they started tapping into that aesthetic. I've probably
listened to that album - that came out in '89 maybe? '88 or '89 - I
swear I listened to that album everyday for a year. And it totally
started to influence the band Scream that I was in. The last single we
ever released was a single called. . . what was it called? I think it
was called. . . "Mardi Gras". . . something like that. The riff is such
a Voivod ripoff it's insane. We were huge fans.
MU: Well you pretty much nailed it on the Probot track too, you know?
DG: Yeah, that was actually the first one we sent out. We were like,
"Which one are we gonna give to Snake? Let's give him this one. He'll do
this one really good." And it came back maybe like three weeks later, a
month later. It came in the mail. I fucking ripped the package open,
stuck it in the stereo. I knew at that point that this whole project was
going to work. I wasn't sure how to do it. I didn't want to give anyone
any sort of direction or any sort of production advice, because they've
all proved themselves to be fucking genius, and they don't need any help
from me. I always wondered, "Man, I hope they understand that this is
the chorus. I hope they understand that this is the verse." And it would
come back. . . most of the vocalists did exactly what I imagined them to
do. The King Diamond track, I remember listening to that as we were
making a copy to send it to him and saying, "Oh man, I hope he does that
little laughing thing here. I hope he does the whispering thing here."
And he did it. It was great.
MU: If you had to choose a favorite track on the album, which would it
DG: That's tough. And that's one of the cool things about the album.
It's that everybody has a different favorite. I think everybody has a
different favorite song. You can almost judge a person's character by
which song they pick as their favorite. If they like the Motorhead song,
then they're kinda like a rock n' roll sorta person. If they like the
Lemmy song, they're more of a rocker. If they like the Mike Dean song,
they're kinda leaning towards Bad Brains and punk rock. If they like the
Tom G. Warrior song, then they are just fuckin' weird, you know? So
probably, honestly, my favorite song on the whole record. . . that's
tough. . . I'd probably say "Ice Cold Man" - the song that Lee Dorrian
sings on. I like that one the most, just because I think it's the best
riff on the whole record and Lee did a fuckin' great job and it's got
the buildup. I like that. A very close second would be Eric Wagner's "My
Tortured Soul". I was a huge Trouble fan. "Iced Cold Man", that song
sounds like I should have handed it to Eric. It had such a heavy Trouble
influence, but I thought no, no, no, no. I'll give it to Lee because he
was such a huge Trouble fan too.
MU: I thought the King Diamond track was almost a bit risky, musically,
but it works.
DG: That was one of those situations where you're looking at all the
songs and you're thinking, "Let's see. What's as close as we can get?"
We didn't have anything that sounded like Mercyful Fate. I can't do that
fucking double kick drum shit. "All right, what are we gonna give him?
Where is it gonna go?" And we figured, this one seems kinda creepy, and
it has some melody to it. We crossed our fingers and it came back with
64 vocal tracks on it. It was like, "Yeah! This is great!"
MU: Was there any substance of choice for the recording?
DG: We're kind of partial to the beer bong actually. We're beer bongers.
There's nothing that says "good morning!" like a nice cold beer bong.
There was a lot of beer bong and a lot of barbeque.
MU: How did you decide on Southern Lord to release this?
DG: Well I've known Greg for a really long time. He plays in a band
called Goatsnake. The singer of Goatsnake was the singer of my hardcore
band Scream when I was 17/18 years old. So Pete Stahl, I've known Pete
since I was a teenager. And Pete moved out here and started a band. He
was in a band called Wool, and then he started Goatsnake with Greg. It
turned out Greg is from Seattle and he used to play in a hardcore band
with Nate from the Foo Fighters when they were kids. So it's kind of
like this big extended family thing. But I've known Greg for years, and
we'd get together and talk about metal and talk shows and talk about
hardcore. And I wasn't sure what to do with this album as far as
releasing it on a label. I didn't know if I should do it on a major
label or if I should do it on a metal label. With a lot of the major
labels that were interested, I'd have to explain to them, "Well. . .
here's the deal. This isn't metal as in Def Leppard or Poison. This is
underground metal." And nobody understood it. I'd have to explain
Cathedral or Venom to somebody and I thought, "OK, this is going to be a
disaster. I have to release this with someone that wasn't there? Someone
that didn't see any of these bands play or understand the ethics and
aesthetics of the scene? There's no way it'll work." So I was kind of
confused and that was holding things up. And finally I saw my buddy Pete
Stall and he said, "When's the Probot record coming out?" I was like, "I
don't know man. I don't know what's good as far as a label goes. We have
two songs that need vocals and I have no idea who I'm going to release
it with." And he said, "Man, just put it out with Greg." I thought, "Oh
my god, yeah." So I called up Greg and we started talking about it and
he was totally in. I didn't have to explain anything. I just basically
said, "OK, take care of it." He went, "Alright." And that was it. From
that point on shit started happening. We got mixes, we got mastering,
then we got artwork. It happened so naturally and quickly and easily, it
was great. It was a perfect choice for a lot of reasons, but to me the
most important thing was that the album be realized. . . it's important
that people realize the album's not contrived in any way. From the riffs
to my love of this music to my involvement in the scene to the people on
the record to the label to the artwork done by Away - the whole thing
really has to be within the true spirit of the project, and the true
spirit of the scene. It would be weird if it came out on Warner Bros.
Records because it had nothing to do with what was going on at the time.
MU: They wouldn't know how to market it either.
DG: No way. And with Greg it's like we're drinking buddies who listen to
metal on the weekends. That was the whole scene, man. Like, that was how
that scene worked, and it was great.
MU: "Shake Your Blood" was the first video. Are there any plans to
DG: Well, you know what we're gonna do? You're probably the first. . .
are you an online thing?
DG: You can put it on. I don't give a fuck. We're doing a Headbanger's
Ball. We're doing a two hour fucking Headbanger's Ball thing. It's going
to be all old school metal.
MU: Are you guys gonna be hosting or are you going to be with Jamie?
DG: It's gonna be me and Greg, and we're going to have some people from
the album there, and we're going to do a performance of the Eric Wagner
song. It's gonna be me playing drums. Nick Raskulinecz (the producer) on
bass, Greg playing guitar, Wino playing guitar and Eric singing. Fucking
killer! Ideally I'd love to film it on dream screen with some fucking
insane effects behind us so we can just call it a video. Play it live
and "there you go, there's a video."
MU: Will Probot ever play live?
DG: We talked about it a little bit, but you can imagine it took three
years to make this record. The logistics of pulling everybody together
in the same room, in the same place, in the same night would be fucking
phenomenal. I think the odds are better that a fucking meteor strikes
MU: It'd probably be more of a sporadic thing, if you're up for it and
they're up for it and you're all in the same place.
DG: I always imagine the most insane record release party I've ever been
to in my life. Like, "Yeah, let's get everybody together in one bar for
one night." It would be fucking out of control. But I think it's
practically impossible. At one point I thought it'd be cool to headline
a festival. To play some big metal festival and have the headliners be
Probot. At the end of the night each person would come out and do their
thing. It'd be great, but I don't think it'd ever work.
MU: Will there be another Probot album in the future?
MU: Do you have any current metal favorites or are you strictly about
the old school?
DG: There's a lot of stuff that I like now. I like Place Of Skulls. I
like High on Fire. Let's see. . . what else am I into? I like Strapping
Young Lad. . . You know, I catch a lot of heat for this, but sometimes I
like a little bit of Cradle of Filth, too. (laughs)
MU: That works, you know?
DG: Every time I say that everyone's like, "Really?" (laughs) It's
insane. It's like taking acid and listening to something like 'Abigail'
MU: Whatever works for ya, you know?
DG: Whatever floats your boat.
SOUTHERN LORD RECORDINGS
Interview: Scott McCooe [ email@example.com ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ email@example.com ]