Honor Roll

Bass Player

Since the start, Nate Mendel has been driving Foo Fighters’ trademark arena-rock anthems. Last year not only marked the band’s tenth anniversary, but also the release of the ambitious electric and acoustic double-disc In Your Honor, which includes such guest performers as Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. As if Foo Fighters weren’t enough, Nate also found time last year to score and appear in the independent film Our Burden Is Light and work with his own band, the Fire Theft.

Nate What was the recording process like for In Your Honor?
On the first disc we did things in segments, by instrument. First drums, then scratch guitars, I’d take home a Pro Tools file and write a bass line. I would run it by Dave and the producer, we’d talk about it, make changes, and then put it down. I would usually come in with this elaborate bass line—but over time, I’ve come to appreciate simplicity and what it can do for a song.

How did you approach the acoustic disc?
When it came time to do the acoustic record, we were running low on time and I didn’t have a chance to go and write bass lines, so they ended up being much simpler. A couple of times, I hadn’t even heard the song before—Dave [Grohl] and Chris [Shiflett] would put down their guitar lines and I’d be in a room with the bass, and [producer] Nick Raskulinecz would go, “Okay, let’s run it a couple of times and see what happens.” I was concentrating on just finding the notes and getting the rhythm right.

What was it like having John Paul Jones in the studio?
Intimidating!—although he did everything in his power to make it not so. It was Dave’s idea to have him in, and initially I was like, “Okay, how many songs are not going to have my bass on them?” But it was great, and when he was tuning up his Mellotron he played a couple of Zeppelin riffs, so that was a treat.

How daunting is it to have two drummers in the group?
Well, it makes the process of recording the drums really labor-intensive. Sometimes they record a whole song and then decide that it’s a beat-per-minute too fast or too slow, and we’ll re-record the whole thing based on that. Or, they’ll slightly change the kick drum pattern and that may or may not dictate having to redo all the music.

Does this end up affecting your playing at all?
Occasionally—but it’s usually something fairly simple and I’ll come in and do pretty much the same thing. Sometimes it just turns into an entirely different song.

Currently Spinning: The Arcade Fire's 'Funeral'. It's just an incredible piece of work.

Words: Marco Passarelli

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