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Studio 666: Dave Grohl and Nate Mendel on Foo Fighters’ gory film debut

As Foo Fighters gear up to release Studio 666, Nate Mendel and Dave Grohl tell Rolling Stone UK the story behind the gory epic

By Nick Reilly

Dave Grohl in Studio 666
Dave Grohl in Studio 666

It’s the unlikeliest of premises – Foo Fighters are slowly killed off one by one in a series of increasingly gory ways after they find themselves recording in a mansion plagued by supernatural forces.

Oh, and to make things worse it’s Dave Grohl, deep in the throes of demonic possession, who is doing most of the killing.

That’s the story in Studio 666, the band’s debut feature film, which hits cinemas tomorrow (February 25). Directed by close Foos friend BJ McDonnell, it’s a loving homage to 70’s horror flicks that never took themselves too seriously and, most importantly, never dialled down on the unbridled gore.

To get the whole story behind the gory epic, we caught up with Dave Grohl and Foos bassist Nate Mendel. You can read the interview in full below…

Firstly, congratulations on making what is surely the goriest film I’ll see all year…

Dave: We weren’t gonna half arse the gore and we decided to go all the way. Coz look, if you’re going to make a record then turn the guitars up. If you’re making a horror film then give us more blood, you might as well get a chainsaw, some butchers knives and starting chopping off people’s heads. Why not!

It’s an unexpected project in one sense, but you look back at the long lineage of Foo Fighters dressing up and playing mad characters for music videos like ‘Learn To Fly’…

Nate: Yeah! The videos were like demos for this, a load of little demos for making a full length movie.

Dave, I noticed that when you released 2020’s ‘Medicine At Midnight’, you talked about making the album in a haunted house. Was that a hint at the film and everything that was to come?

Dave: It was all a big fat lie! We started making the record in late 2019 and that was around the same time we came up with the idea for the horror film. So we decided we’d finish making the record in that house, and then make a horror film and the two would come out together. The pandemic happened and that shut everything down and it made us rearrange our plans.

But in reality it’s just a cool old house and we made it look a lot spookier than it actually is. I lived in that house ten years ago! That’s our connection, I rented it for a year and when I lived there I never felt scared at all. I just felt like it was one of those cool old Hollywood houses.

But we don’t have to go back because they fucking tore it down a month ago!

How did the idea come about?

Dave: It was put in my ear by a friend who was in some meeting unrelated to the Foo Fighters where somebody mentioned they would love to make a horror film with our band. He texted me that afterwards and my initial reaction was that it was such a stupid idea, and one we’d never do. But when we were recording I thought ‘oh wait, we’ve got the spooky house’, we just need some cameras. It took a week to shoot this lo-fi horror film and here we are.

There’s some amazing cameos too. Slayer’s Kerry King and Lionel Richie put in show-stopping appearances.

Dave: I met Lionel before and we’d become friends, but the screenwriters put him in the script without knowing I could just text the guy and ask him if he wanted to be in our horror film. So I did! I read the script and thought this is hilarious, so I just texted him. I sent one text, he was on the set of ‘American Idol’ and I just said ‘Hey, we’re making a horror film. Do you wanna be in it?’. He was like ‘absolutely’, and that was it.

There’s an appearance from horror legend and pioneer John Carpenter too…

Dave: Now that was unexpected and a total coincidence! We share a lighting designer – our lighting guy on tour, Dan Hadley, also does lights for John Carpenter when he performs his music. So when we told Dan he was like ‘I know John Carpenter, you should see if he’ll make a cameo’.

I just thought there’s no way he’d do it, but I emailed him and it turns out we took his kid’s band on the road fifteen years ago. He emailed back and said ‘to return the favour not only will I be in your film, I’ll write the theme music as well’. No one ever imagined that we would get that kind of stamp of approval. He just threw us a fucking bone. Thank god! What an honour…

And there’s some really inventive death scenes in there too…

Dave: Our special FX guy Tony Gardner has been around for decades and is a legend in Hollywood. He came up with the way in which everyone should be killed. Tony was the one walking around saying you know what you can do? Take Chris Shiflett’s face and slam it into the fucking grill! Stab him in the back 50 times! Because that’s what he does for a living, which is funny because truly he is the nicest, sweetest nerdiest dad you’ve ever met in your life, but his job is to come up with gory ways to kill people.

Is this the start of something bigger then? Can we expect more Foos films?

Nate: Making movies takes a lot of time and we’re touring for the next year, so we just want to go and be a band and play music. It’s very fun, but it might be a minute before we do it again.

You’re about to finish a full album for Dream Widow too, the fictional thrash metal band that features in the film

Dave: We finished it last night and I think it’s coming out next week. It’s a nice change for me to go into the studio and write an album for a fictitious metal band from the early ’90s. I don’t feel obligated to be myself, I’m working as hard as I can to make it not sound like me. To assume the personalities of these people that were written into the script and release my fucking inner teenage thrash fanboy was great! I grew up listening to punk rock and thrash metal in the 80s and I don’t necessarily apply that to what we do, but it’s fun letting that out.

Dave, did you have any reference points for your performance? Were you trying to channel the spirit of Jack Nicholson in The Shining?

Dave: It’s funny because there is one scene where I’m just sitting at a table and I’m in a trance and I’m about to kill Taylor and I’d watched The Joker before filming it. So I just thought ‘what would Joaquin Phoenix do here?’ I have so much respect for these incredible actors who have been in some of my favourite movies of all time, but I am in no way an actor myself. To pull any inspiration from any of these people would be ridiculous, I just wouldn’t know what to do.

You’re at each other’s throats in the film too, which seems like the complete opposite of what Foo Fighters are like in real life…

Nate: There’s a bit where Taylor [Hawkins] is just like, ‘Shut the fuck up Nate and don’t tell me what to do’. I’m sure he wouldn’t say that in real life, but he enjoyed saying it in the movie.

Dave: My scene with Taylor where I’m trying to get him to do the drum track was a bit uncomfortable, because it couldn’t be any more opposite of what it’s like. With me standing over the drums saying ‘Doing it again! You’re fucking doing this on purpose!’ That would never happen.

Away from the film, you’re heading back to the UK as a band this summer for the first time since the pandemic. How does it feel to be performing again?

DAVE: We did a bunch of shows last year in America and that initial return to playing live was the most incredible feeling. Not only because the audience felt like they needed it and it was a celebration, but also for the band. It was a continuation, it’s felt that way with every show we’ve played. There’s a new appreciation for it, because for a long time we’d cross our fingers and hope it would happen. So when the lights go down and it’s actually happening, you’re very grateful that you’re able to do this again overnight.