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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 great.

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.

Probot - (L-R) Dave, Lemmy & Wino

MU: How many of your contributors did you know on a personal level already?

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 name, correct?

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 be?

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.

Probot Album Cover

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 release another?

DG: Well, you know what we're gonna do? You're probably the first. . . are you an online thing?

MU: Yeah.

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 the Earth.

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?

DG: Nope.

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' on acid.

MU: Whatever works for ya, you know?

DG: Whatever floats your boat.







Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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