They may be one of the biggest bands on the planet, but Foo Fighters' feet are firmly on the ground. Here's why...
Beards aside though, Echoes... is a record that marks a radical change in the Foo Fighters' world. Over the last six years, the band has been in a considerable state of flux. For all Dave Grohl's earty assertions that he just
wanted to establish his band as, "a four-piece rock band, which meant going into the studio and writing rock 'n' roll records," there was a time, shortly before fourth album One By One, when Grohl was sick of the Foo Fighters. He said he needed to find "something more
as a stimulus," nearly joined Queens Of The Stone Age, then gave the Foos one last go.
The resultant album, 2005's double-album In Your Honour - with one rock half and one acoustic half - was the turning point. Recorded in the band's brand new, purpose built LA studio (Studio 606), it was a record that proved to the Foos and to Grohl that they could do something different, yet still maintained the safety blanket of a series of radio-friendly, fan-pleasing rock songs on the first disc. Now, though, the Foo Fighters want to do things differently again. Now, they want to push things further. Without the safe!y net.
ECHOES, SILENCE, PATIENCE & GRACE SOUNDS LIKE QUITE AN INSTINCTIVE ALBUM - AS THOUGH, RATHER THAN THINK TOO MUCH, YOU JUST WENT AHEAD AND PLAYED.
DAVE GROHL.: "The process of making In Your Honour really whipped us into shape. Building a studio, then touring the rock side and the acoustic side separately made us a better band. In the last two years this band has changed greatly - we've become better players, we're better writers. It was inspiring to go out and do all of that and to realise that we were capable of doing things we've never done before. There's no more fear anymore."
BEFORE IN YOUR HONOUR. WERE YOU UNSURE OF WHERE TO GO NEXT?
GROHL: "To an extent. The idea of the album was to make it so that we had endless possillilities. We wanted to be able to do anything under the umbrella of this band, to widen the playing field so that we could just write freely. Ultimately, it made things more difficult. though. For this album, we were writing songs that were so varied - there were songs that sounded like old-school Motorhead, there were country songs, piano songs and string-led songs. At times it got confusing because it was hard to realise what sort of album we were making until it was done."
HAD YOU CAST OFF THE COMFORT BLANKET AND THEN GONE, 'WHAT DO WE DO NOW?'
GROHL: "Yes. We spend our lives having itineraries slipped under our door, so we get used to having a routine. You know what to expect. But with this album, musically, I didn't know what to expect at all."
IT SOUNDS LIKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY OF WORKING.
GROHL: "The acoustic tour changed a lot of things for me. The main thing was that I realised we were making music worth listening to, rather than music made for pummelling the person next to you. I would look out and see people sitting down and just listening. The most important part of a song now, to me, is the lyric. We've written a lot of songs and the ones that stand out are the ones that say something."
ON THE FIRST ALBUM, YOU SEEMED DETERMINED NOT TO MAKE ANY POINTS AT ALL. PERHAPS AS A REACTION TO KURT COBAIN'S DEATH. THIS IS A CALL'S LYRICS - ABOUT FINGERNAILS AND ACNE MEDICNE MINOCIN - WERE NONSENSE, FOR EXAMPLE.
GROHL: "Absolutely. I didn't want to say anything on that first album. I was deliberately trying to say nothing, in order to keep from saying something. I was afraid that people would read things into what I was trying to say. Now, though, saying something is the most important thing to me."
WHAT'S CHANGED - WHY THE NEED TO MAKE A POINT NOW?
GROHL: "I guess I finally realised how important it is. I have faith in us musically and melodically and, while it's still a challenge, it's not so much of a hurdle anymore. I want to write things that connect. The songs that people connect to are the ones that people sing the loudest. That's important to me. I want to have a connection with the crowd in front of us. Hearing them sing Times Like These or Best Of You like a fucking choir is the greatest thing in the world."
YOU'VE OFTEN KEPT YOUR PERSONAL FEELINGS HIDDEN IN YOUR SONGS. ARE YOU MORE WILLING TO OPEN YOURSELF UP AND GET THINGS OFF YOUR CHEST NOW?
GROHL: "Absolutely. Yeah, it feels good to be able to say things in a song that I wouldn't necessarily be able to say to someone's face. Writing the lyrics in a short space of time, like I did on this album, meant I got a lot off my chest very quickly. Also, anyone who's a father understands how the world becomes a different place when your child is born. I just feel and see everything differently now. I'm not scared anymore because there's nothing more important to me than my daughter now. I'm just not scared to do things anymore because the big picture is so much fucking brighter now."
IS THAT WHERE A SONG LIKE ALBUM-CLOSER HOME COMES IN? IT SEEMS TO BE WRITTEN ABOUT WANTING TO BE WITH YOUR FAMILY AND IS FAR
CLOSER TO THE BONE THAN ANY OTHER FOO FIGHTERS SONG.
GROHL: "That song made me feel pretty vulnerable when I wrote it. I got really choked up thinking about all the time I spend away from the things that are important to me. It's tough being away, it's tough now to be talking about how I wish I were with my family. But then, those are the moments you search for when you're writing an album. You want to capture real feeling, rather than for your music to just be wallpaper on the stereo. You want to find a way into the listener's heart."
HOME AND ANOTHER ECHOS SONG, STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED, BOTH SUGGEST YOU'RE TIRED OF WHAT COMES WITH TOURING. IS THAT TRUE?
GROHL: "Well, I don't have many complaints. I realise that we're pretty fortunate to be doing this, even day after day. But life's a lot bigger than sitting here in the Covent Garden Hotel, or talking to tape-recorders, or being on magazine covers. So, yeah, there are times where the monotony just makes you feel insignificant."
IS THAT JUST A RESULT OF BEING ASKED THE SAME INTERVIEW QUESTIONS OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
GROHL: "I try to look at it like this: we would be talking about music all day long whether there's a tape-recorder there or not. It's not a bad life, really."
It's a life that has seen the Foo Fighters leap from sideshow curiosity to major-league rock band. Initially a Grohl solo project that he used as a means to deal with the fallout after the demise of his former band Nirvana, last year they played to over 85,000 people in one gig at Hyde Park. It was a vast show and one that Grohl would perhaps have been against playing 13 years ago when the band was started. Then, having had his life turned into a zoo by both the media and the music industry while in Nirvana, he was determined to keep the Foo Fighters a low-key project, so much so that he planned to not put his name on their first release. Tens of millions of album sales later, he sits back now, on the overstuffed sofa of an expensive hotel and thinks about this, about his reinvention as frontman and then his almost unwilling elevation to one of the world's biggest rock stars.
GIVEN THAT THIS IS A BAND STARTED AS A SIDE-PROJECT, DO YOU EVER WORRY ABOUT HOW BIG IT'S GOT?
GROHL: "There are times. I was grilling up food on a barbecue backstage before we went on at Hyde Park. I remember thinking, 'Okay, there are 85,000 people here. Motorhead are playing as our support band and we're responsible for all of it.' We set up everything - we looked after all the staging, lights, everything. We had 1,100 employees that day. It was all because of this demo tape I did for fun 13 years ago. I had a moment where I thought, 'How the fuck did this happen?' But it's fleeting, it goes away."
HAVE YOU EVER WORRIED THAT PEOPLE MIGHT LOSE INTEREST IN YOU?
GROHL: "That doesn't worry me too much. I think we've accomplished more than we ever dreamed of. If it ended now, I'd say we had a pretty good run of things."
SO, IF THIS NEW ALBUM WERE A FLOP, IS THAT OKAY WITH YOU?
GROHL: "The hope is that a lot of people might go out and buy your music, appreciate what you do and come to the show but..."
NATE MENDEL: "...if they don't, then we'll keep coming back until they do. But yes, of course it would be disappointing. If we put a record out and fewer people are interested than last time, then it would be disappointing. It wouldn't mean we'd have a discussion about whether we should carry on doing this, though. It wouldn't make us any less proud of the record."
SO, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU DO FOR YOUR OWN PLEASURE OR BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL?
GROHL: "I think it's something we do for our own pleasure. The upside is that we get to play places like Hyde Park and do other big shows. After [second album, 1997] The Colour And The Shape, we were released from our record contract. We could have stopped right then without any consequences had we wanted to. We looked at each other and asked, 'Do you still want to be in a band?' We all said yes, so we built a studio in Virginia and made [third album, 1999] Nothing Left To Lose without a label. That, to me, was a good indication that we were in it for the right reasons. There will probably come a time, though, when the audience goes away. And we'll probably still go into Studio 606 and record songs."
THERE'S AN IMPRESSION THAT FOO FIGHTERS WOULD BE A GREAT BAND TO BE IN, THAT IT WOULD BE A LAUGH. YET, OCCASIONALLY, WORD BREAKS OUT TO SUGGEST OTHERWISE - THE DISSATISFACTION YOU HAD BEFORE ONE BY ONE, OR STORIES ABOUT DAVE BEING IN THERAPY, FOR EXAMPLE...
GROHL: "Well, we're only human beings. We've all got our problems. The reason we work well as a band though, is that we keep it simple. We try to run this organisation as though we're a garage band. I hate the feeling of being swamped by minders and security. I hate being hustled from room to room like a diva. That upsets me, I hate it."
MENDEL: "It's important to have some humility too. All we're doing is playing rock music - it's important not to lose sight of that."
GROHL: "We played a show recently for a bio-engineering company. We met the man who invented synthetic insulin. He basically saved millions of people's lives by reinventing that drug. He's the kind of dude who deserves a medal - not some drunk onstage wearing eyeliner and selling 10 million records. So what? What we do isn't changing the world."
DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE AS JUST AN ENTERTAINER THEN?
GROHL: "Yes, in a way. Really, I just want to move people - whether that's with a song that makes people bounce up and down or one that makes them just listen. I don't want to exclude anyone. I think it's important that people know they're going to have a pretty fucking good time when they come and see us. That's one of the reasons why I'm in it. That's why I'm still here."
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