The all-new Foo Fighters are in Las Vegas to play their first gig together. We're here to meet Franz Stahl, to find out why Pat Smear really left, and to discover that they'll be working on a rock opera very shortly....
Post-gig the dressing room is in chaos. The band have a late-night flight to LA to catch and time is running out. Taylor's in the shower, Dave is having a shave, Nate and Franz are packing their bags. But before they leave one by one they will troop into a small adjacent room they have christened the 'High Voltage Closet' to meet Kerrang! for their first all-new Foo Fighters interview.
WHY EXACTLY DID PAT SMEAR LEAVE THE BAND?
Dave I think Pat left the band because a) he hated flying, and b) he wasn't so into touring any more. He'd bee in our band for longer than he'd been in any band since the Germs, and making a two-and-a-half-year commitment is pretty good. Like, I'm flattered that he lasted longer in our band than in any other. He wanted to do other things. He was just over it, you know. And it wasn't a bad thing. He wanted to do TV, and he's gonna work on a movie. He's probably going to make an album of his own, maybe start another band. Totally understandable.
Nate I think it infringed on his Pat-ness. There's a lot of demands in being in a band that goes out and tours and works really hard. Pat is such an individual, I think that the commitment to working in this kind of environment was too constraining for him.
THERE WERE ALL SORTS OF RUMOURS BEING POSTED ON THE INTERNET ABOUT THE REASONS BEHIND PAT'S DEPARTURE. ANY TRUTH IN ANY OF THEM?
Dave I don't read the Internet. Bathroom wall bullshit.
ONE RUMOUR IS THAT PAT IS JOINING HOLE. ANY COMMENT?
Dave Didn't know about that. That's kind of wild.
Nate Well, he's a wild card. People should be betting money on it. Anything could happen. He wasn't letting us in on any plans that he had, if he had any. I hadn't heard that. I'd believe anything, though.
WHOSE DECISION WAS IT TO MAKE THE ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT PAT'S DEPARTURE AND FRANZ'S ARRIVAL AT THE MTV AWARDS?
Taylor Pat's idea. He thought it'd be a cool way to do it.
WERE YOU SHCOKED WHEN PAT DECIDED TO LEAVE OR HAD YOU BEEN EXPECTING IT?
Dave It was very much a surprise. I mean, it was four months ago when he first told us. When he first came and said he wanted to leave we were like, 'Ohmigod, no, please stay'. And then we realised, you know, 'Well, okay...'. He was nice enough to finish all the shows with us until Franz was available. It just happened that Franz's first day of availability was the MTV awards. It's true!
Franz I was only made aware of Pat's leaving two months ago.
Taylor Franz was the first and only guy we thought of. At first, we were going to try to talk Pat into staying and then we went into denial. All that bullshit. I jammed with Franz before I even joined the Foo Fighters. I remember asking Dave, out of curiosity, 'How come you never asked Franz to join the Foos?', because I knew they'd played in a band together and were really tight friends. He told me it was because Franz was in Wool when he formed the Foos. Pat saying he wanted to go was a surprise to me, cos I'd just joined the band. I was like, 'What did I do? I fucked up the whole thing'.
FRANZ - WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION WHEN THE FOOS APPROACHED YOU?
Franz (laughing)I was like, 'Really?!'. I was in Japan playing with this punk rock kid named Jay, who comes from this really huge band over there called Luncay and who's just done a solo record. I kind of knew about it before I went there. But it kept going back and forth. So I said 'Here's my number, call me in Japan if anything happens'. And Dave called me. I drank half a bottle of Vodka in celebration. What really freaked me out was the MTV thing. I was expecting to come back and start rehearsing for two weeks. Then I get this call: 'We want you to come back and do the MTV Awards'. I came straight from Japan to LA, then got on another plane to New York, rehearsed for a few hours on the one song, and then played the next day. It was only one song, but it was still the longest moment of my life.
IS THIS THE LAST LINE UP CHANGE YOU'LL BE MAKING?
Dave I sure hope so. Unless I quit... Actually, then we'd just put Taylor up front.
DID YOU EVER CONSIDER SPLITTING THE BAND UP?
Dave Nope. Never.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU DECIDED TO HIRE FRANZ?
Dave You know, had Franz not been in Wool at the time, he would've been the Foo Fighters' guitar player when we started the band. But he was, and Pat's awesome and he was a friend, so...
DID THE TWO OF YOU KEEP IN TOUCH AFTER YOU'D LEFT SCREAM?
Dave Well there was a time after I left that we didn't talk. But then we started speaking to each other again. We kept in touch, off and on. We were both busy. Wool toured like fucking crazy. They came out on the road with Nirvana (in July '95).
WHAT DO YOU HOPE FRANZ WILL BRING TO THE BAND?
Dave Good looks. Personality. We needed a pygmy albino really bad, so that's what we got.
Nate Enthusiasm. He plays guitar completely differently from Pat, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with that. And he won't be barefoot. And there won't be Perrier on the rider any more...
FRANZ - WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO BRING TO THE BAND?
Franz Some good fucking guitar playing. Some fun. Friendship. I hope songwriting will be part of it, definitely. But I think Dave's already got a gazillion songs.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE PLAYING ONSTAGE WITH KRIST NOVOSELIC AT THE BUMBERSHOOT IN SEATTLE RECENTLY?
Dave It was awesome. It was the only way it could've ever happened, cos that was Pat's last show. We all knew that, and Krist kind of knew it. It wasn't planned, it was just totally instinctual. There was a tear in my eye as well.
Taylor For me, that was weird. Playing with Pat, Dave and Krist. I was like, 'Wow, I'm in Nirvana right now!'. That was pretty cool. Krist's a really sweet guy. The reason that happened was, Nate kept getting hit in the face with shit from the audience, so he just didn't feel like playing any more. So Krist just jumped up on the bass. Then we played some Zeppelin song ('Communication Breakdown'). It was totally fucking around.
DAVE - WILL YOU AND KRIST WORK TOGETHER AGAIN?
Dave There is very much a chance that we'll work together. We don't have plans, but it's not out of the question.
DESCRIBE THE MOOD IN THE BAND RIGHT NOW.
Franz Good. I couldn't be happier playing with these guys.
Taylor It's totally happy. A new vibe. I mean, we miss Pat and we love him, but we're also lucky and happy to have Franz here.
Nate Really positive. It sounds really good, everyone's excited to have Franz in the band, we've got a funky stage show and the records picking up, so that's exciting too.
YOU'LL BE SUPPORTING THE ROLLING STONES IN THE US SHORTLY. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT?
Dave Yes. Opening for the Rolling Stones will be such a profound moment in my life. I remember being 11 years old, playing Rolling Stones songs in my neighbourhood garage band. I don't think anyone should have so much punk cred as to say no to the Rolling Stones when they ask you to open for them. It's an honour. They're one of the last great rock bands.
Franz I'm just looking forward to hanging out with Keith Richards.
Dave I don't think any of our fans are going to be there. I think we're gonna get pelted off. But at least I can tell my friends we're opening for the Rolling Stones.
WILL YOU BE PLAYING ANY NEW MATERIAL AT THESE SHOWS?
Taylor Newer than the new album? No. Unless we do 'The Colour And The Shape' itself. But I think we'll rely on the most popular songs.
Dave We're still getting to know these songs with Franz. But we actually started writing a new song together a week ago.
GOT A NAME FOR IT?
Dave No. But you know, Franz and I wrote songs together in Scream. He's an amazing songwriter. And when everyone says 'Monkey Wrench' and a lot of the other new songs are Wool rip-offs, it's just because I took a lot from Franz's songwriting.
WILL FRANZ BE WRITING WITH YOU?
Dave Of course he'll be writing with us. He's great. Now, I'm looking forward to our next record more than I ever had been. For a while I was thinking, 'God, what are we gonna do for our next record?'. But Taylor plays piano and guitar, and writes songs and sings. Nate writes stuff. It's just gonna be the freak-out record. And now with Franz, I just know that it'll be this big, strong... Rock Opera! We have to do it. It's time for our version of the Beatles' 'White Album'. How about the 'Mauve Album'? We'd like to do some recording soon, but we're doing so much touring we won't really have too much time.
DAVE - GAVIN ROSSDALE WAS EVIDENTLY UPSET AT THE 'BU$H' T-SHIRT YOU'VE WORN ONSTAGE. HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO HIM ABOUT IT?
Dave We actually had a discussion about it at the MTV Awards, at an aftershow party. We had a nice talk. I don't know if either of us laughed or cried. I think we were both really freaked out to sit face to face and talk to each other. But evreything's okay now.
WHY DID YOU WEAR IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Dave I... Er, one of the conditions of our treaty is that there's a confidentiality clause.
WHAT DOES THE REST OF THE YEAR HOLD IN STORE FOR THE FOO FIGHTERS?
Franz Lots of fucking work.
Dave Touring, touring, and more touring. Until they tell us to stop.
WHERE DO YOU HOPE THE BAND WILL BE IN 12 MONTHS' TIME?
Nate On vacation!
Dave Finished touring.
At this point we're interupted by a knock at the door. A roadie pops his head around the door to inform Mr Grohl that his mother is currently signing autographs outside.
'Shut up!' Dave smirks. Then a look of abject horror crosses his face. 'Mom!' he snorts, heading fo the door.
The new Foo Fighters, then: happy, healthy, unable to control their mothers.
Words & Pics:Lisa Johnson
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