Fighting Talk

Classic Rock 2005

While showing Classic Rock around the band's brand new recording studio in LA, Dave Grohl & Chris Shiflett talk about recording two albums at once, creativity, their fans expectations and band side projects.

Its genuinely amazing to realise that Foo Fighters have been around for 10 years now, having started out as a vehicle with which to air the songs that Dave Grohl wrote and recorded while he was the drummer in Nirvana.
  Having had great, and deserved, success throughout those 10 years with albums including their eponymous debut and 2002's 'One By One', and a pocketful of Top 40 singles on both sides of the Atlantic, the Foo Fighters are now preparing to record what are effectively two separate albums - one a selection of plug-in-and-turn-it-up tracks, the other an acoustic collection - that they hope to release as a double record later in the year. It's quite a challenge - especially coming at this juncture in their career. It's common knowledge that double albums can often spell disaster for the most successful and secure of bands, but the Foo Fighters appear completely unperturbed...
  Having met up with the band's representative in LA, Classic Rock is taken by limousine from the Mondrian hotel on West Hollywood's famed Sunset Strip, past tall palms and along wide streets, to the LA suburb of North ridge. When we arrive at our destination, Dave Grohl is there to welcome us to the Foo Fighters' brand spanking new, state-of-the-art recording studio (although the main recording area is littered with vintage amplifiers). They recently had the huge, converted warehouse stripped out, and built the studio from scratch. It is also conveniently situated just a couple of miles down the road from where most of the band members live.
As we are taken on 'the tour', Grohl points out the Hall Of Shame, as he describes it, in which the walls are festooned with Nirvana and early Foo Fighters photographs and gold records. The band intend to make this recording facility their home from home, and have installed modern home comforts and amenities including fully decked out kitchens and bathrooms.
  Back into the studio, a genuinely congenial Grohl and Foo Fighter guitarist Chris Shiflett sit back and enjoy our chat.

Dave & Chris in the studio Why are you recording two albums at me same time?
Dave Grohl: We'd like to release them at the same time as a double album, which we've never done before. This is our fifth record, and we've been a band now for 10 years. It just makes sense to do something we've never done before, rather than just make another album. We thought we'd take advantage of the studio, take advantage of all the music we've written in the last year. We've been off for a while, and this is the most music we've ever written in our time together, and we've had acoustic songs and we've had so many different types of songs.
  Usually our records are a combination of a lot of different types of music, rather than just being like an AC/DC from front to back, and I like that about the band. But it's the middle ground that's always bugged me. I like things really heavy and really obnoxiously loud, but then I also like things that are really quiet and gentle and beautiful and acoustic, and it's the things in the middle that I wind up disliking after a year or two. So I thought rather than try to make an album with songs that are fucking screaming hardcore loud and songs that are beautiful acoustic ballads - rather than try and sequence those songs together - why not make two CDs where you can split it and eliminate that middle ground. It would be the most rock stuff you've ever done on one CD, and on the other the most beautiful acoustic you've ever made, so that they're totally separate. But then somehow it'll all tie together.

How does having your own studio help creatively?
Grohl: Well, we've had our own place for the last three albums. It relieves the pressure, because one of the great things about having your own place is that there's no clock on the wall and you don't feel like there's an open tab. just running wild spending all your money on...
Chris Shiflett: We've already used that tab to make the studio [laughs]. It doesn't seem like we're doing it slower. It seems more efficient in a way, which probably has to do with the fact we're a lot more prepared to make this record..

What's the biggest difference in die music you're making nowadays compared to in die early days?
Grohl: One is that we're much more prepared. Rather than going into the studio and writing music in session, we've written most of the music before getting in here, so we're prepared. I can already hear what kind of album it's going to be.
  It's great when you walk into the studio and you throw down an idea that's spontaneous and new and fresh and exciting, but then you wind up a year later playing that live and you've elaborated on it, you've made it better. And that's kind of what we've done. I think if we'd made the album six months ago it wouldn't be as good as making the album now, because the music that we were writing. six months ago, some of it we've kept and just elaborated on. It's twice as good as it was before.
Shiflett: I don't know how to say it exactly, but with 'Times Like These' off our last record, three or six months into touring, however long it was, it sounded totally different and more powerful and a little more interesting than it did on the record. We wrote 'Times Like These' a couple of weeks before we went into the studio to record it; we didn't really play it live, we just sort of put it together. We did a quick demo at my house.
  I think what Dave was looking for, if I can speak for him, is to have these songs developed to that point where it's how we would play them live. Because one of the cool things about 'All My Life' on the last record was we had played it live a couple of times and we had rehearsed it a lot as a live band, whereas with all the other ~ songs on that record we didn't. 'All My Life' virtually remained exactly the same from being in the studio to playing it live. We want to get all the songs to that level of excitement and energy.

Is it difficult to maintain that excitement, having played those songs so many times?
Grohl: It's funny, because those are actually the ones you wind up loving the most. The ones that you love to play over and over and over again should be the ones that go on the record, rather than the ones that you had fun jamming in the studio and just decided to put it on the album - eight months down the line it just might not do it for you any more.

Are you finding it more difficult to be creative now that you're more successful and not as hungry as you were in the beginning, and are you as passionate about your music as you were when you started?
Grohl: I think so. I feel, yeah, because I feel like we've expanded on the original idea of the band. At first it was just, hey let's throw together some nice harmonies and melodies over some rock music and we can go jump around and get sweaty live. But as time goes on you really have to challenge yourself. And the challenge is the most exciting thing. 10 years down the road, I don't know how many songs we've written but there have been quite a few, and the challenge is to do something better.

It must be difficult to not try to second-guess what your fans expect.
Grohl: Yes.

Are you able to block that out?
Grohl: For some things. I think the acoustic CD serves as some sort of relief too, because it will be entirely different from anything we've ever done. There are no expectations, really. We've had a few songs that were successful as acoustic versions, but we've never made an acoustic record with orchestration and different instrumentation, different players, different additional musicians. That's brand new ground for us. We've never gotten into that at all.
  The great things are that we're open to doing anything. It's hard for me to imagine. I know what the band sounds like when we plug into amps and turn it up; I have no idea how the acoustic record is going to sound like, and I love that. So that's one of the things I'm looking forward to the most. The rock album we're making is the most powerful stuff we've ever done. The acoustic record is just kind of unchartered territory, and I'm really looking forward to that a lot. I'm just seeing it as the next Foo Fighters record. And it's great, because on all of our records, from the first to the last, we've made music that opens doors to different types of songs.

You've also opened doors for other bands who have imitated your style. Does that annoy you, or are you flattered by it?
Grohl: I honestly have never heard of a band that sounded like us.
Shiflett: But people say that a lot to me. Maybe it's just one song. From the outside - I wasn't there when they recorded the record - I think 'The Color And The Shape' [1997] definitely shaped a lot of the sounds of modrn rock music on K-ROCK and stuff like that. I don't see bands copying the Foo Fighters per se, or maybe I'm unable to hear it, but I've definitely heard things, especially on that record, when I could hear the shaping of modern rock, and some stuff that has taken from that.

Do you have a title for the new album yet?
Grohl: Not yet. We really only started about two weeks ago, and that chart on the wall over there... everyone of those boxes need to be filled in.

Who's producing this time?
Shiflett: Nick Raskulinecz, who produced our last one.

So would it be fair to say that a rough guideline is that you'll be touring next summer to promote the new record?
Grohl: Yeah. What we're trying to do is to have this album finished in March, mixed and ready to release both of the albums - the double album - and then start touring.

Do you have other side projects going on or planned?
Grohl: One of the great things about the last year off is that everyone... Chris went off with his band, went out on the road and made records; Taylor [Hawkins, drummer] made a record on his own; I did stuff with Nine Inch Nails and Garbage and other people too, Killing Joke. It's been nice to have this time to do all these things we've wanted to do when we couldn't do them.

Words: Rachel Clark

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