Two CDs. One rock, one acoustic. Foo Fighters have just produced the album of their career. Trouble is, says Dave Grohl, it might also be their last...
WHEN YOU DID PROBOT YOU SAID YOU WERE SICK
OF WRITING RADIO-FRIENDLY SONGS AND WANTED
TO CONCENTRATE ON METAL NOW YOU'VE DONE
AN ACOUSTIC CD. WHAT CHANGED?
"It's all about the love of making music, and to be able to do it in so many different ways is even better, To come in and have a song with mellotron, a 12-string guitar and a vocal can be just as satisfying as a Big Muff pedal and a 26-inch kick drum. It's just good to spread it out."
YOU ONCE DISMISSED 'LEARN TO FLY' AND 'NEXT
YEAR' AS "MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD FUCKING POP
"See, the purpose 'Next Year' served was to bridge a song like 'Stacked Actors' with a song like 'Ain't It The Life', to make that transition without it seeming too schizophrenic. I love 'There Is Nothing Left To Lose'. Those are some of the best songs we've written, But when it comes to playing live it was those songs in the middle ground that never really worked."
DOES THIS ALBUM INDICATE A DESIRE TO MESS
WITH PEOPLE'S PERCEPTIONS OF WHAT FOO
FIGHTERS ARE ALL ABOUT?
"Not really. It's more about discovering what the band is capable of doing. It's just flexing the usual muscles in a weird way. It was always inevitable that we'd do one of these albums at some point down the line. It's just that we made them both at the same time."
SO IS THIS THE DEFINITIVE FOO FIGHTERS ALBUM?
"In a way, yeah. I always consider each record to be our last album anyway, just because it's gone on for so fucking long now that I can't see it continuing!"
REALLY? GIVEN HOW POPULAR YOU ARE, WOULDN'T IT BE INSANITY TO STOP NOW?
"Of course, but that's just how I always feel, When I was a kid I never imagined I'd live to be 16, because that's when you got your driver's license, It's a fatalist cop-out thing (laughs), So with this album I always imagined that a double record like this was a good way to send it off, a good way to say goodbye."
DOUBLE ALBUMS ARE QUITE A SELF-INDULGENT
EXERCISE, THOUGH, AREN'T THEY?
"It is a lot to get your head around, Everyone expects us to do a rock album, but the acoustic record, that's the one where it throws people for a loop because it doesn't sound like a Foo Fighters album, In fact, I originally thought about only releasing the acoustic record."
DID YOU RECORD LABEL HAVE A FIT WHEN YOU SAID
YOU WERE DOING A DOUBLE?
"They didn't ask, They wanted to put out a greatest hits record before this and we didn't want to do that, Fuck it. This is our greatest hits, You've just never heard them before and we're not calling it that!"
THE TITLE-TRACK IS PRETTY EXTREME BY YOUR
STANDARDS. WHAT PROMPTED THE DECISION TO DO
SOMETHING SO HEAVY?
"A lot of our songs have a somewhat predictable composition, so it's fun to write songs that don't. It's really fucking cool to have just three minutes of noise and then rolling drums for a minute-and-a-half and then into full-on thrash! It's fucking awesome. I remember when we were rehearsing it, our guitar tech came in and said, 'What the fuck is that?', and I said, 'That's the song we're opening the show with for the next two years', and he said, 'Wow, after 'All My Life' I didn't know how you guys were going to open a show ever again!'."
THE ROCK HALF OF THE ALBUM DOES SOUND
CUSTOM BUILT FOR BEING PLAYED LIVE...
"Yeah, so for the first time we can actually bring a whole album out onstage every night. Finally! It only took 10 fuckin' years!
YOU'VE SAID THAT 'IN YOUR HONOUR' WAS
INSPIRED BY YOUR TIME WITH JOHN KERRY DURING
LAST YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
"The song itself was just inspired by going out on the campaign trail and experiencing such a strong sense of devotion and belief. People were getting together to make a difference, for the sake of something honourable. It's that overwhelming feeling of connection with something. It could be love, it could be football, it could be music, it could be anything. I'm trying to keep it general so people don't focus on one specific Ithing. It's not a political record at all."
SO HOW DEPRESSED WERE YOU WHEN BUSH GOT IN
"Everyone was fucking pissed. Really fucking upset. My immediate reaction was, 'Fuck it all, let's riot! Fuck you world! I fucking hate everyone that didn't vote for Kerry!'. But that's ridiculous. You have to do something to make things better. As John Kerry said when he conceded defeat, 'Just keep fighting the good fight'."
HORRENDOUS POLITICAL SITUATIONS DO SEEM TO
INSPIRE GOOD MUSIC, THOUGH, DON'T THEY?
"When George Bush was first elected president, I tried to see something positive in it. I thought, 'Maybe this will inspire artists and musicians to make better music'. When Reagan was president it was the heyday of hardcore. The music was so good back I then. But if I'm honest, I'd take shitty music over this president any day! (laughs)"
SOME OF THESE NEW SONGS SEEM PRETTY DARK,
WHICH MIGHT SURPRISE PEOPLE WHO EXPECT YOU
TO BE THAT CHEEKY GUY WHO SMILES All THE
"What, 'The Happy Guy'? (laughs) Yeah, that's a total pain in the ass! I suppose this album is a little darker, but a lot of these lyrics were written quickly, off the cuff. I'm really embarrassed about lyrics. It's hard to write something and think, 'Wow, I'm clever!'. Lyrics are fucking tricky, man."
OBVIOUSLY, BECAUSE OF YOUR PAST WITH NIRVANA
AND THE WHOLE MYTHOLOGY THAT SURROUNDS
THAT, YOUR LYRICS ARE SUBJECT TO AN UNUSUALLY
HIGH LEVEL OF SCRUTINY. DOES THAT BOTHER YOU?
"Oh, for sure. Yeah. Even if I say the words 'never mind' people jump on it and get all excited, all the alarms go off..."
YEAH, THE ALARMS WENT OFF IN MY HEAD WHEN I
HEARD YOU SING THAT IN 'FRIEND OF A FRIEND'...
"I'm sure they fuckin' did! Just so everyone knows, that song was written 14 years ago. I wrote it right as I joined that band, and I did write it about Krist, Kurt and myself. They were friends of a friend of mine, which is how I joined the band. I did think, 'Goddamnit, I don't know if I want to field a load of crap about that song for a year and half', but it's a great song'"
THEN THERE'S 'THE LAST SONG' ('THIS IS THE LAST
SONG I WILL DEDICATE TO YOU..') WHICH PEOPLE
ARE CLEARLY GOING TO MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT...
"Yeah, let's give everyone something to talk about! (laughs) All I've got to say is that there's a whole lot of people that I love and hate far more than any of the people that you know I know."
YOU'VE GOT SOME HIGH PROFILE GUESTS ON THIS
"Ah, my famous friends! Yeah, we had a long list of people that we wanted to ask. I thought it'd be fun to have guests because we'd never done it before, so we thought about Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Ry Cooder, Greg Norton from Husker Du, John Paul Jones, Norah Jones and Josh [Homme]. In the end we blazed through the acoustic stuff so quickly it just didn't seem like we needed all those people."
JOHN PAUL JONES (LED ZEPPELIN) PLAYS PIANO ON
'MIRACLE'. THAT MUST HAVE BEEN EXCITING...
"Aw, shit, it was unreal. He's such a good guy. He doesn't seem like a spooky, pretentious legend. He came in with his mandolin and said 'Hi'. We had to hold back from asking every question we'd ever wanted to ask about Led Zeppelin. I tried to be cool but I'm sure I looked like a total fucking idiot. I was shitting my pants. Full diaper! (laughs)"
AND THEN THERE'S THE TRACK WITH NORAH JONES.
LOOK AT YOU WITH YOUR JAZZY, BOSSA NOVA VIBES!
"Yeah, we're so multi-faceted! (laughs) That song's about eight years old. We tried to put it on '...Nothing Left To Lose' but it just didn't make sense. We did one version where we tried to turn it into 'Everlong' but it didn't fucking work. That's on a tape somewhere."
ONE FOR THE BOX SET?
"Oh yeah. There's a lot of shit! For every 12 songs you heard on each album there's another 12 that didn't make it. You'll never hear them, and that's because they're shit! One day we might put out a record called 'Crap We Never Used' or 'Scrapings' or something. But I figured that 'Virginia Moon' might actually make sense on this album. I thought it would be cool to have some piano on there, and I heard a Norah Jones record and thought, 'Cool! Maybe she's the one I should call."
LIKE A LOT OF THINGS ON THIS ALBUM, IT'S GOING
TO SURPRISE PEOPLE.
"The thing is, if it was someone like Charlotte (Hatherly) from Ash or anyone that people consider to be cool or hip, it wouldn't be a big deal, but the fact that it's Norah Jones kind of freaks people out. That's dumb. I can understand it with me being on a Nine Inch Nails record. People think, 'What? Grohl? He's not a fucking goth techno creep! He's too happy!'. But I don't care. I knew it would sound good. And it does kick open another door for the band. That's what this album is about in many ways. Who's to say what we can't do? We might even start doing show tunes! Or reggae!"
It's a sobering thought. Dave Grohl grins beatifically
once more - despite his discomfiture. he really does
seem to be 'The Happy Guy' most of the time - and
heads off to grab some coffee. It's time for Foo
Fighters to get back on the touring treadmill, to introduce an expectant world to the myriad delights of an
album that has both reawakened their enthusiasm for
being on the road and stretched the boundaries of
what a modern rock band is expected - or even
permitted - to do.
"When we stopped touring after the last album we were all like, 'Well, we're never fucking doing that ever again!'," laughs Grohl heading for the door. He lights a cigarette and shrugs dramatically. "But two months later we started talking about doing this record and now here we are again. Man, we just can't help it!"
Words: Dom Lawson
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