At the age of twelve, Grohl began learning to play guitar. He eventually grew tired of lessons and instead played in bands with friends. A year later, in 1982, Grohl and his sister spent the summer in Evanston, Illinois at their cousin Tracy's house. Tracy introduced them to punk rock by taking the pair to shows by a variety of punk bands. "From then on we were totally punk," Grohl explained. "We went home and bought Maximumrocknroll and tried to figure it all out."
In Virginia, Grohl attended Thomas Jefferson High School as a freshman and sophomore. He was elected vice president of his freshman class and played bits of songs by bands like the Circle Jerks and Bad Brains over the school intercom before his morning announcements. During his junior year, Grohl and his mother decided that he should transfer to Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria because his marijuana usage was affecting his grades.
While in high school, Grohl played in several local bands, including a stint on guitar in a band called Freak Baby. While playing in Freak Baby, Grohl had been teaching himself to play drums by banging on various items in his bedroom. When Freak Baby kicked out its bass player, Grohl decided to switch to drums, and the new band called themselves Mission Impossible. During his developing years as a drummer, Grohl cited John Bonham as his greatest influence, and eventually had Bonham's Zoso.svg tattooed on his wrist. Mission Impossible later rebranded themselves Fast before breaking up, after which Grohl joined the post-punk-influenced hardcore punk band Dain Bramage.
While playing in Scream, Grohl became a fan of The Melvins and eventually befriended the band. During a 1990 tour stop on the west coast, The Melvins' Buzz Osborne took a couple of his friends, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, to see the band.
A few months later, Scream unexpectedly disbanded following the departure of its bass player, and Grohl placed a phone call to Osborne for advice. Knowing how much Cobain and Novoselic liked Grohl's drumming, Osborne gave Novoselic's phone number to Grohl. Novoselic invited Grohl to Seattle, where Grohl attended Nirvana's infamous show at the Motor Sports Garage, the one Nirvana show that featured Dan Peters on drums. (Grohl admitted to Rolling Stone in 2005 that he spent most of Nirvana's set outside talking to a friend.) Grohl subsequently auditioned for the band, and soon joined them full-time.
At the time that Grohl joined Nirvana, the band had already recorded several demos for what would be the follow-up to their debut album Bleach, having spent time recording with producer Butch Vig in Wisconsin. Initially, the plans were to release the album on Sub Pop, but the band found itself receiving a great deal of major label interest based on the demos. Grohl spent the initial months with Nirvana travelling to various major labels as the band shopped for a deal, eventually signing with DGC Records. In the spring of 1991, the band entered the studio to record the album.
Upon its release, Nevermind exceeded all expectations and became a massive success, catapulting the band to worldwide stardom. At the same time, Grohl found himself fighting with his status in the band. While his drumming style was a significant element in the band's success, Grohl saw himself as just another in a long line of drummers. In his mind, Nirvana was the band that recorded Bleach; his arrival had altered that sound dramatically, and, as he saw it, not necessarily in a positive way. Though Grohl had been writing songs for several years, he declined to introduce his songs to the band for fear of damaging the band's chemistry. Instead, Grohl compiled his songs and recorded them himself, releasing a cassette called Pocketwatch in 1992 on indie label Simple Machines. Rather than using his own name, Grohl released the cassette under the pseudonym "Late!".
In the later years of Nirvana, Grohl's songwriting contributions increased. In Grohl's initial months in Seattle, Cobain overheard him working on a song called "Color Pictures of a Marigold", and the two ended up jamming on it. Grohl would later record the song for the Pocketwatch cassette. During the sessions for In Utero, he decided to re-record the song, and the band released this version as a b-side on the "Heart-Shaped Box" single, titled simply "Marigold". Earlier, as the band worked on new material for In Utero, Grohl contributed the main guitar riff for what ended up becoming "Scentless Apprentice". Cobain conceded in a late 1993 MTV interview that he initially thought the riff was "kind of boneheaded", but was gratified at how the song developed (a process captured in part in a demo on the Nirvana box set With the Lights Out). Cobain noted that he was excited at the possibility of having Novoselic and Grohl contribute more to the band's songwriting.
Prior to their 1994 European tour, the band decided to schedule session time at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle to work on demos. For most of the three-day session, Cobain was absent, so Novoselic and Grohl worked on demos of their own songs. The duo completed several of Grohl's songs, including future Foo Fighters songs "Exhausted", "Big Me", "February Stars", and "Butterflies". On the third day of the session, Cobain finally arrived, and the band recorded a demo of a song later named "You Know You're Right". It was the band's final studio recording.
At the same time, Grohl wondered if his future might be in drumming for other bands. In November, Grohl took a brief turn with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, including a memorable performance on Saturday Night Live. Petty asked him to join permanently, but Grohl realized that his future lay elsewhere. Grohl's name was also rumored as a possible replacement for Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzzese, and Grohl even performed with the band for a song or two at three shows during Pearl Jam's March 1995 Australian tour. However, by then, Pearl Jam had already settled on Jack Irons, and Grohl had other solo plans in the works.
After passing the demo around, Grohl found himself with considerable major label interest. Nirvana's A&R rep Gary Gersh had subsequently taken over as President of Capitol Records and lured Grohl to sign with the label. Grohl did not want the effort to be considered the start of a solo career so he recruited other band members: former Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear, and two members of the band Sunny Day Real Estate, William Goldsmith (drums) and Nate Mendel (bass). Rather than re-record the album, Grohl's demo was given a professional mix by Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock and was released in July of 1995 as the Foo Fighters' debut album.
At the end of 1995, the Foo Fighters were asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack to the television show The X-Files. During a break between tours, the band entered the studio and recorded a cover of Gary Numan's "Down in the Park". In February of 1996, Grohl and his then-wife Jennifer Youngblood made a brief cameo appearance on the X-Files third season episode "Pusher". (The two can be spotted walking in the FBI building, just after the Pusher character has put on his phony pass. Grohl pauses to look at his watch.)
After touring for the self-titled album for more than a year, Grohl returned home and began work on the soundtrack to the 1997 movie Touch. Grohl performed all of the instruments and vocals himself, save for vocals from Veruca Salt singer Louise Post on the title track, and vocals and guitar by X's John Doe on "This Loving Thing (Lynn's Song)". Grohl completed the recording in two weeks, and immediately joined the Foo Fighters to work on their follow-up.
In the midst of the initial sessions for the Foo Fighters' second album, tension emerged between Grohl and Goldsmith. According to Goldsmith, "Dave had me do 96 takes of one song, and I had to do thirteen hours' worth of takes on another one. ... It just seemed that everything I did wasn't good enough for him, or anyone else." Goldsmith also believed that Capitol and producer Gil Norton wanted Grohl to drum on the album. With the album seemingly complete, Grohl headed home to Virginia with a copy of the rough mixes, and found himself unhappy with the results. Grohl penned a few new songs, recording one of them, "Walking After You", by himself at a studio in Washington, DC. Inspired by the session, Grohl opted to move the band, without Goldsmith's knowledge, to Los Angeles to re-record most of the album with Grohl behind the kit. After the sessions were complete, Goldsmith officially announced his departure from the band.
The effort was released in May 1997 as the band's second album, The Colour and the Shape, which eventually cemented the Foo Fighters as a staple of rock radio. The album spawned several hits, including "Everlong", "My Hero", and "Monkey Wrench". Just prior to the album's release, former Alanis Morissette drummer Taylor Hawkins joined the band on drums. The following September, Smear left the band, citing a need to settle down following a lifetime of touring. Smear was subsequently replaced by Grohl's former Scream bandmate Franz Stahl. (Stahl departed the band prior to recording of the Foo's third album and was replaced by touring guitarist Chris Shiflett, who later became a full-fledged member during the recording of One by One.)
Grohl's life of non-stop touring and travel continued with the Foo Fighters' popularity. During his infrequent pauses he lived in Seattle and Los Angeles before returning to Alexandria, Virginia. It was there that he turned his basement into a recording studio where the 1999 album There Is Nothing Left to Lose was recorded.
In 2000, the band recruited Queen guitarist Brian May to add some guitar flourish to a cover of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar", a song which the Foo Fighters previously recorded as a b-side. The friendship between the two bands resulted in Grohl and Taylor Hawkins being asked to induct Queen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Grohl and Hawkins joined May and Queen drummer Roger Taylor to perform "Tie Your Mother Down", with Grohl standing in on vocals for Freddie Mercury. (May later contributed guitar work for the song "Tired of You" on the ensuing Foo Fighters album, as well as on an unreleased Foo Fighters song called "Knucklehead".)
Near the end of 2001, the Foo Fighters returned to the studio to work on their fourth album. After four months in the studio, with the sessions "finished", Grohl accepted an invitation to join Queens of the Stone Age and helped them to record their 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. (Grohl can be seen drumming for the band in the video for the song "No One Knows".) After a brief tour through the USA, Britain and Japan with the band and feeling rejuvenated by the effort, Grohl recalled the other Foo Fighters to completely re-record their album at his studio in Virginia. The effort became their fourth album, One by One. While initially pleased with the results, in another 2005 Rolling Stone interview, Dave Grohl admitted to not liking the record: "Four of the songs were good, and the other seven I never played again in my life. We rushed into it, and we rushed out of it."
Grohl and the Foo Fighters released their fifth album In Your Honor on June 14, 2005. Prior to starting work on the album, the band spent almost a year relocating Grohl's home-based Virginia studio to a brand new facility, dubbed Studio 606, located in a warehouse near Los Angeles. Featuring collaborations with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Norah Jones, the album was a departure from previous efforts, and included one rock and one acoustic disc.
Foo Fighters's sixth studio album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was released on September 25, 2007. It was recorded during a three month period between March 2007 and June 2007, and its release was preceded by the first single "The Pretender" on September 17. The second single, "Long Road to Ruin", was released on December 3, 2007.
In 1993, Grohl was recruited to help recreate the music of The Beatles' early years for the movie Backbeat. Grohl played drums in an "all-star" lineup that included Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, indie producer Don Fleming, Mike Mills of R.E.M., Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum. A music video was filmed for the song "Money (That's What I Want)" while Grohl was with Nirvana on their 1994 European tour, but footage of Grohl was filmed later and included.
Later in 1994, Grohl played drums on two tracks for Mike Watt's Ball-Hog or Tugboat?. In early 1995, Grohl and the Foo Fighters played their first US tour opening for Watt, and helped make up Watt's supporting band. Nicknamed the "Ringspiel" tour, Watt's band featured Grohl and William Goldsmith on drums, Eddie Vedder and Pat Smear on guitar, and Watt on bass.
During the early 2000s, Grohl spent time in his basement studio writing and recording a number of songs for a "metal" project. Over the span of several years, Grohl recruited his favorite metal vocalists from the 1980s, including Lemmy of Motörhead, Conrad "Cronos" Lant from Venom, King Diamond, and Max Cavalera of Sepultura, to perform the vocals for the songs. The project was released in 2004 under the moniker Probot.
Also in 2003, Grohl stepped behind the kit to perform on Killing Joke's 2nd self-titled album. The move surprised some Nirvana fans, given that Nirvana had been accused of stealing the opening riff of "Come as You Are" from Killing Joke's 1984 song "Eighties". However, the controversy failed to create a lasting rift between the bands. The Foo Fighters made a habit of covering Killing Joke's "Requiem" during the late 1990s, and were even joined by Killing Joke singer Jaz Coleman for a performance of the song at a show in New Zealand in 2003.
Grohl lent his drumming skills to other artists during the early 2000s. In 2000, Dave played drums and sang on a track, "Goodbye Lament", from Tony Iommi's album Iommi. In 2001, Grohl performed on Tenacious D's debut album, and appeared in the video for lead single "Tribute" as a demon. He later appeared in the duo's 2006 movie Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny as Beelzeboss and performed on its soundtrack. In 2002, Grohl helped Chan Marshall of Cat Power on the album You Are Free and also played with Queens of the Stone Age on their album Songs for the Deaf. In 2004, Grohl drummed on several tracks for Nine Inch Nails' 2005 album With Teeth. He also drummed on the song "Bad Boyfriend" on Garbage's 2005 album Bleed Like Me. Most recently, he recorded all the drums on Juliette and the Licks's 2006 album Four on the Floor and the song "For Us" from Pete Yorn's 2006 album Nightcrawler. Beyond drumming, Grohl contributed guitar to a cover of Neil Young's "I've Been Waiting For You" on David Bowie's 2002 album Heathen.
In November 2006, for the release of a movie with Jack Black and Kyle Gass, Grohl was specially featured as Satan. KG (Kyle Gass) and JB (Jack Black/Jables) challenge the Satan to a Rock-Off, where Paul Tompkings plays as the Open Mic Host. He grabs the pieces of the Pick of Destiny, then turns into Satan (Dave Grohl). The name of the song is "Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)", and the song is also on the Pick of Destiny OST (Official Soundtrack).
In June 2008, Grohl was Paul McCartney's special guest for a concert at the Anfield football stadium in Liverpool, in one of the central events of the English city's year as European Capital of Culture. Grohl joined McCartney's band singing backup vocals and playing guitar on Band on the Run and drums on Back in the U.S.S.R. and I Saw Her Standing There.
He then went on to marry his second wife, Jordyn Blum on August 2, 2003, at their home in Los Angeles. Guests included Clive Davis, Jack Black, and former Nirvana bandmate, Krist Novoselic. On April 15, 2006, Grohl and his wife welcomed their first child, daughter Violet Maye, in Los Angeles. She was named after Grohl's maternal grandmother. Earlier that year, Foo Fighters bandmate Taylor Hawkins told MTV, "We're going to be touring Europe in January and February, but we've got to be home by March, because Dave and his wife are having a baby," he said, adding, "but I probably wasn't supposed to tell you that." Grohl said that he had been playing music to his unborn child, saying she "likes The Beatles. Doesn't really get down to The Beach Boys. Digs Mozart."
In May 2006, Grohl sent a note of support to the two trapped miners in the Beaconsfield mine collapse in Tasmania, Australia. In the initial days following the collapse, one of the men requested an iPod with Foo Fighters album In Your Honor, to be sent down to them through a small hole. Grohl's note read, in part, "Though I'm halfway around the world right now, my heart is with you both, and I want you to know that when you come home, there's two tickets to any Foos show, anywhere, and two cold beers waiting for yous. Deal? In October 2006, one of the miners took up his offer, joining Grohl for a drink after the Foo Fighters acoustic concert at the Sydney Opera House. Grohl wrote an instrumental piece for the meeting, which Grohl pledged he would include on the band's next album. The song, titled "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners," appears on the Foo Fighters' latest release Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, and features Kaki King.