These days the Foos’ drummer, Taylor Hawkins, is clean. He’s a weather-beaten but smiling 39-year-old in shorts and tennis socks, married with a son: disgustingly domesticated. Back in 2001, however, he was a serious heroin user, and on tour that year he overdosed and was admitted to a London hospital. “I’ve seen so many people just lose it all with drugs and die,” says Grohl, “So I freaked out.”
Hawkins didn’t die. After two weeks in a coma he woke up, recovery confirmed when he turned to Grohl and told him (as was apparently the band’s way) to “fuck off”. Grohl had been beside his bed for two weeks. Years earlier, aged 18, Grohl had seen a friend take too much coke and suffer a heart attack in a Virginia car park. Before his death, in 1994, Kurt Cobain had already collapsed in Rome after overdosing on heroin. Grohl, in another country, watched him being wheeled into an ambulance on TV; when he spoke to his friend on the phone he told him: “I don’t want you to die.” Cobain had only a few weeks to go.
It must feel that he’s had to endure this – a helpless view from the fringes – too often. “Absolutely,” says Grohl quietly. “When Taylor wound up in hospital I was ready to quit music. Because, to me, it felt like music equalled death. I started praying. I’ve never been to church in my life, and I’m walking back from Taylor’s hospital to our hotel every night, praying out loud in the streets of London. I don’t even know if I believe in God. But I felt like, y’know, this is just not right, y’know, what kind of God would let this…”