‘F-ck It, We Might as Well Make a Horror Movie’: Dave Grohl on New Rock & Roll Chiller ‘Studio 666’
“It’s part ‘The Shining,’ part ‘Amityville Horror,’ part ‘Evil Dead,’” says Foo Fighters leader of new horror-comedy
Around three years ago, a film-marketer friend of Dave Grohl’s was in a meeting with a “huge movie studio.” When Grohl’s name came up, the studio floated the outlandish idea of a Foo Fighters horror movie. Grohl’s initial reply? “I said, ‘That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my life,’ ” he tells Rolling Stone.
But the idea kept popping up and Grohl began mentally plotting out a film about the band heading in to record an album and finding out a previous singer had gone insane, murdered his entire band due to creative differences, and killed himself in the same house. The result is Studio 666, a gore-filled horror-comedy starring the group alongside Will Forte, Whitney Cummings, Jeff Garlin, and Jenna Ortega, and set for release on Feb. 25.
The Foos kept the movie, directed by BJ McDonnell, a secret for more than two and a half years, staying on to film in an Encino mansion after finishing the recording of their latest album Medicine at Midnight. “We’re not going for There Will Be Blood,” Grohl says via Zoom last month. Instead, think Amityville Horror meets Evil Dead, with more jokes about grandma sex and masturbation, an eviscerated raccoon, an angry Lionel Richie, and Grohl murdering his bandmates one by one, sometimes with their own instruments.
I wouldn’t normally start an interview with a semi-backhanded compliment but people are going to have thoughts when they hear “Foo Fighters acting in a horror film.” I was not expecting this to be a legitimately good movie.
Listen, neither did we. I remember when Pat Smear first saw the movie, he said, “Oh, my God, we made a movie.” I’m like, “What the fuck do you think we were doing for the last four months?” I enjoy horror movies; growing up in Washington, D.C., I was obsessed with The Exorcist, not only because it was filmed there, but because the bottom of those steps that are a big part of the movie is where all the punk rockers would drink on the weekend. The liquor store next door would sell beer to, like, 11-year-olds.
So this whole thing came about after you started plans for the album?
When we started writing the record, I wanted to find a place where I could be alone and demo things by myself, which I do often. So I was looking around Encino — where I live — for a house where I could just build a temporary studio and just write all day long and set up the drums and guitars and recording devices. As I was looking, this guy who I rented a house from 10 years ago emailed me and said, “Hey, I think I might subdivide this property if you want to buy part of it.” And it clicked. I didn’t want to buy the property, but I did want to move into that house to demo stuff and that’s the house in the movie. So I moved in there and I started recording all of these new songs for Medicine at Midnight by myself and it felt a little creepy.
I started thinking: Maybe this could be another fun way to be the Foo Fighters. We’ve always had fun making videos or documentaries; anything other than just going onstage and playing music makes it worthwhile. I came up with this idea of, what if we made a film about the band wanting to find some mystical destination that will inspire us to make an amazing new record?
While I was demoing, I was sending these demos to our producer Greg Kurstin. He’s like, “Where are you recording this? This sounds amazing.” I said, “This fucking house that I used to live in!” He goes, “Well, why don’t we just make the record there?” So then we moved the entire recording studio and we started filming. The band started talking about this ridiculous idea and pulling it further in all of these funny directions. It went from being something that I imagined would be a really low-budget, couple-of-weeks shoot to a multimillion-dollar Hollywood feature film.
You wrote in your recent memoir The Storyteller about a previous encounter with a ghost when you were living in Seattle. Did that play into the film at all?
OK, first of all, when I lived in that [Encino] house 10 years ago, there were a few people that were convinced that the house was haunted and that there was a ghost. I have lived in a house with a ghost before in Seattle, so up until that point, I just paid no mind to any paranormal shit other than UFOs. I am absolutely convinced I was not the only one there [in the Seattle house]. Going back and demoing those songs by myself and spending long days and nights in that big, creaky old mansion, I got spooked. And that’s really where the idea came from. It’s also the availability and practicality of just having this house at our disposal. I’m like, “Well, fuck it. We might as well make a horror movie.”
Did your famed X-Files obsession offer any inspiration?
Well, that’s something that’s more UFOs. I was obsessed with UFOs when I was a little kid. I somehow convinced my friends in third grade that I was part of Project Blue Book and I would come inspect the yard if they had any markings or crop-circle-type squished-grass formations.
No one in the band is a professional actor. Was it hard to get them onboard?
At this point, there’s not much we won’t do. It wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone that we were going to leap into this new territory. At first, we were riffing ideas together about who should be murdered, how they should be murdered, who should be the killer, etc. And we would sit around at dinner drinking wine, just cracking up at all of the different opportunities. I don’t think anyone realized the extent of what we were doing until we got to the table read and there’s a “script” and we have fucking lines and we have to act. That was a wake-up call.
That being said, did you do any prep work in terms of watching or studying any horror films or learning how to act?
I never do. I don’t warm up to play shows. I don’t practice my fucking instrument when my friends aren’t around. I don’t rehearse for films. We’re finished making the record and then had a few weeks to switch over from the actual recording studio to dressing the house for the movie and then we just drove straight into it.
There was an [actor] named Jimmi [Simpson, of Westworld and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia] who was actually brought on in case we had any questions or in case we needed someone to tell us how to be the Foo Fighters.
He’s been in a ton of things.
Yeah, see, I don’t watch movies or TV. Like [Studio 666 cast member] Leslie Grossman. I’ve never seen American Horror Story. I have no fucking clue. I just think that they’re someone’s friend.
What was the one-line pitch you’d give to someone about the film?
Oh, God, I’m terrible at … listen to me. I never fuckin’ shut up. I can’t say one line. There’s no way.
There’s no Dave Grohl elevator pitch?
Yeah, I don’t…. I can’t do this. So, no. Because there’s so many classic cliché horror elements that we filtered into this one movie. It’s part The Shining, part Amityville Horror, part Evil Dead.
The “rock band film” as a tradition seems to have disappeared. Whether it was A Hard’s Day’s Night or [The Ramones’] Rock ‘n’ Roll High School or Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park or the fucking Spice Girls movie. We’re not going for There Will Be Blood. We just want to have fun in that old tradition of rock & roll. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite rock-band horror film is, I always say it’s that documentary Dig! about the Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre, because that’s the most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen. It might top The Exorcist.
You shut down filming when the pandemic hit with only six days of shooting left. Was the original plan to release the movie at the same time as Medicine at Midnight?
I’ll tell you what the plan was, and whatever, I’m giving it away finally because I kept this fucking thing a secret for so long. Look back at some of the old interviews where we were talking about recording in this house and how the house was haunted. We were going to try to pull a Blair Witch where we’re telling everyone that we recorded this album in a haunted house and giving them all of this bullshit about instruments being detuned overnight, voices on the Pro Tools and things like that. We were trying to make a big deal out of the fact that we had recorded in a haunted house and it would just be bam and drop this fucking movie out of nowhere.
You’ve had a bit of an acting career, from a cameo in The X-Files to roles in the Tenacious D movie and various TV series. Is that something you’d like to pursue more?
I’ll tell you what I don’t like: I don’t like sitting around a fucking movie set for seven hours and then standing in front of a camera for 25 seconds. That is not my vibe. So to be an actor, I don’t know — I don’t think I have the patience. I have a raging case of ADD. My friends call it “Advance Dave Disorder.” I can’t fucking sit still for 10 seconds. But that being said, it was really fun doing it with my friends. I don’t know that any agents were calling agents. I think it was just us texting people that we knew and saying, “Hey, could you do us a favor and be in our dumb movie?”
You talk about camaraderie a lot — I figured a movie set would be one of the best examples of that.
I remember the last night of shooting. No one had really thought about a wrap party and we were all done and I’m like, “All right, that’s it. Is anyone getting beer?” I fucking run to the liquor store in my truck as fast as I can. Liquor store is closed, so I literally came to my house, raided my own liquor cabinet and all the beer in my fridge and we just hung out.
The film’s Twitter page mentioned John Carpenter as being involved in the film. What was his contribution?
Oh, my God, this is fucking amazing. I almost forgot. This is crazy. So our lighting guy, Dan [Hadley], went out on tour with John Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, the son of the Kinks’ Dave Davies, is also in John’s band. But John raised him. So Dan [Hadley] said, “Oh, my God, you know what? You should email John Carpenter and see if he’ll do a cameo.” I’m like, “There’s no fucking way John Carpenter is going to do a cameo in this film.” So I email, “Hi, my name’s Dave. I’m in a band called Foo Fighters and we’re making a horror film. We’d love for you to make a cameo.” John Carpenter emails back and says, “Hi Dave, you took my son [Daniel]’s band on tour with you 15 years ago and treated them really well. So not only will I be in your movie, I’ll also write the theme song.”
That’s got to be the main talking point for horror nerds.
That’s what I fucking said! I told everybody, “That should be the biggest name on the goddamn poster!”
Last time we spoke, you said you didn’t really factor in criticism after the release of an album. Does that mindset change when talking about a different medium like film?
You mean like a kid doing a reaction video on YouTube?
I was thinking more like Rotten Tomatoes, film critics, etc.
It honestly doesn’t. I hope the people that enjoy the Foo Fighters or enjoy horror films sit down in the theater and have a good evening. I’m not racing to the EGOT finish line.
Where are you with that? I think halfway, right?
I guess [I need] Oscars and Tonys. I’ve got some great ideas for the Tonys: I’m going to take the one-man show to Broadway; that’s gonna get me the T. I’m gonna do a Sound City fuckin’ musical; that’s gonna get me another T. [Laughs.]
From Rolling Stone US.