Dave Grohl & Stevie Nicks: The Old Dreams and New Realities of Rock and Roll
While Fleetwood Mac and the Foo Fighters are multi-platinum artists, touring is still—broadly speaking—how Grohl and Nicks make the bulk of their living. Selling out arenas around the world is common for both groups. If live performance pays the bills, then it also provides each artist with the place they yearn to be: the stage. Stevie Nicks’ ascensiontostardomhadas much to do with her gifted talent as a lyricist as it did with her live presence. The burnt-sugar voice combined with her iconic fashion sense—that exotic mixture of Victorian and bohemian—elevate her beyond a simple human when she takes on songs like “Rhiannon” or “Gold Dust Woman.” Dave Grohl is no fashionista but if you ask someone to picture him playing live—whether seated behind the drum kit or with a guitar strapped on—chances are they’ll picture him wearing a beatific smile. If you spend any time with him, you get the sense that the smile has less to do with his unexpected but deserved fame and more to do with a zen-like happiness of being able to play music for people willing to listen. And one suspects that the same smile, which addressed a crowd of 60,000 at last year’s Global Citizen Festival is one that was present in 1983 at a tiny club in Washington, D.C., when Grohl was drumming for the hardcore punk band Scream. The only difference now, it seems, is that thanks to technology, fans can say they saw the show without ever being there.
Is the experience of live music fading between the challenge of fans trying to score tickets to your shows these days and the Internet alternatives? YouTube exists now and every- one can see what the Sound City Players are about before they ever go to the show or try to get a ticket. Do you see people being weaned off of their interest in the live experience itself?
Stevie: Imagine how we feel up there knowing the first time that we played “You Can’t Fix This” or “The Man That Never Was,” [that] the second that we walked offstage, the whole world had already seen it on YouTube. That makes me sick. That makes me hate the Internet even more than I already hate the Internet. Does it make you hate the Internet, Dave?
Dave: Nothing will ever replace the live experience, being in a room where there’s a musician playing an instrument and they’re right in front of you— flesh and bone. That’s the ultimate experience.
Stevie: And what about the surprise? The mystery?
Dave: Those things—they’ve been challenged by the Internet, so you have kids that only sit and watch YouTube clips.
Stevie: And see it filmed from a really bad angle.
Dave: It will never replace the live experience—it just won’t— I don’t think.
Do you see value in something like YouTube?
Dave: Not as much as the live experience.
Stevie: Isn’t that really stealing? Isn’t that like coming in here and saying, “Boy, I love that coffee table. I’m just going to take it.” Why? Because we should share everything? Or that [cell phone ad] on TV that goes, “I deserve unlimited sharing to the whole world” or something. I’m like, “No, you don’t. You don’t deserve anything because you aren’t working for it. You’re buying a fucking phone for god’s sake.”
How different is it playing in a club or arena today than it was in 1993 or 1974? Does it feel different?
Dave: It doesn’t feel different to me.
Stevie: Not in a big, huge venue where you’re playing a big show— it really doesn’t feel different. It’s still that big, huge thing. It is weird to see gazillions of phones being held up. I preferred the lighters.
Dave: I remember the first time I ever saw an app on the iPhone with a cigarette lighter. I saw people holding those up. That one hurt a little bit. But here’s something funny, which maybe pertains to what we’re talking about. I came home a couple of months ago with The Beatles vinyl box set and both my daughters love The Beatles— they’re four and seven. I walk in the house and they see this big box set, and they’re like [gasps] “What’s that?” and I said, “These are The Beatles records.” They pull them out and they’re holding the records in their hands and they couldn’t wait to open them up, look inside, look at the sleeve and the liner notes, and see the picture. It’s not a little icon [as an album cover typically appears in a program like iTunes].
Stevie: It’s not even a CD.
Dave: I get the record player and I put it in [my daughter] Violet’s room and I show her, “OK, here is how you do it. You pull it out of the sleeve, you put the little stem in the hole there, you put the needle down—be careful. You’ll see this is the order of the songs, then you flip it over, there are more songs on the other side.” I left the room and I came back an hour later and she had all the record covers out on the floor and she was dancing by herself listening to “Get Back.” It was the exact same experience that you or I had when we were young, dancing in our bedroom, listening to all our records. The world’s changed, technology’s changed. The way we experience music, the way we listen to music, the way we buy music— it’s all different. But people are the same. She’s an almost seven-year-old kid having the exact same experience that someone had in 1959, 1965, ‘75 or ‘85. So human beings haven’t changed. When you ask the difference between watching something on YouTube or watching it live in your face, a human being, I’m pretty sure, will always prefer to see another human being doing it, live, in the flesh, because it’s tangible. It’s real.
One of the things that has changed over time are ticket prices. Fleetwood Mac may have had an expensive ticket in the ‘70s, but it’s not even close to where a Lady Gaga or Madonna ticket is today— they’re so much higher. How conscious are you of ticket prices?
Dave: Here’s how we look at it as the Foo Fighters. You know who I want in the front row? Kids that are dying to see a fucking show, kids that are going to go absolutely bananas when the band plays. Honestly, I don’t want a whole front row of people that just had a $900 dinner and are standing there, full of caviar and steak, watching the band. We try to keep it down. That’s just us, that’s our world. I’ve gone to see bands play before where I’ve shelled out a great deal of money to see my favorite band because of that experience I was talking about. That’s worth it to me. If a band that I really love comes into town and I have to buy a ticket, [then] I’ll pay $120 for it. I’ll pay $300 for it.
Stevie: I honestly don’t know how much Fleetwood Mac tickets are. Anybody know? [Stevie’s assistant relays the information that for most of the band’s shows, ticket prices are below $200 before service fees.]
Stevie: $200 is a lot of money.