The night Dave Grohl held a seance to summon John Bonham

News The night Dave Grohl held a seance to summon John Bonham

He may have risen to prominence as the rhythmic backbone of Nirvana in the early 1990s, but Dave Grohl set out on his voyage many years before. Born in 1969, the year of Led Zeppelin’s emphatic first two albums, Grohl grew up on a diet rich in classic rock. He drummed along to Ringo Starr’s beats on old Beatles records and banged his head to Lemmy’s basslines, with a vision of rock ‘n’ roll success manifesting all the while.

When children tell their parents that they would like to become a rock star, as opposed to, say, a doctor or an architect, eyes will tend to roll. The vocation is fraught with hazards, including the probability of commercial failure and the dangers of addiction and shady antics that walk hand in hand with the profession. Of course, Grohl would eventually experience such pitfalls through the abject case of his bandmate Kurt Cobain, but even pre-existing cases wouldn’t have stopped him from following his heart.

When, in the 1980s, Grohl made his first moves to become a pro drummer with formative hardcore bands Mission Impossible and Dain Bramage, his parents were apprehensive. The aspiring musician would frequent the 9:30 Club, a popular Washington DC venue, with his friends. Here, he would be introduced to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and discover some of his most important influences. “I went to the 9:30 Club hundreds of times,” Grohl told the Washington Post in 2010. “I was always so excited to get there, and I was always bummed when it closed. I spent my teenage years at the club and saw some shows that changed my life.”

Over time, Grohl’s musical exploits hit the road as he toured with his early bands across Virginia and Washington, DC. In retrospect, he understands his father’s dissatisfaction. “I totally understand why he would say, ‘Please don’t get in that van with six stinky older men and sleep in squats for two and a half months in Europe,’” Grohl remembered in a 2021 conversation with Rolling Stone.

Even if he understood his father’s fears at the time, Grohl had a dream to fulfil. Having grown up idolising Neil Peart and John Bonham, he had only one aim in life. He has long described the latter as his greatest influence and even has a tattoo in the Led Zeppelin drummer’s honour. For the design of Led Zeppelin IV, the four band members created their own symbols; Bonham’s was three overlapping rings, which Grohl has tattooed on his left shoulder.

Grohl’s obsession with Bonham, who passed away due to alcohol overconsumption complications in 1980, didn’t end at the tattoo parlour. A young Grohl was fascinated with dark spirituality and the occult, often with a head loaded on marijuana, and once attempted to conjure Bonham’s spirit in a DIY seance.

The session failed to facilitate the conversation Grohl so desired and left him in a state of grassy paranoia for some time. “I got really scared that I sold my soul to the fucking devil,” he remembered. “At what point does Satan come to reclaim the contract I signed with him?”

Some readers may remember Grohl’s portrayal of Satan in the 2006 comedy Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. Other than that, his soul seems to be in the clear, with his career continuing to soar into its third decade with Foo Fighters.

Although Grohl left his weed-smoking days some time ago, he admitted to smoking again during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to combat insomnia. “I actually tried to get back into smoking weed last year, thinking it would help me sleep,” Grohl revealed. “And I would fuckin’ just sit until six o’clock in the morning watching a bunch of stupid shit on YouTube.”

God only knows what kind of rabbit holes Dave Grohl digs himself into during his late-night YouTube sessions, but they probably start with something like the clip below.

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