Metal Hammer Presents...Foo Fighters, 2005
Chris Shiflett; My Story
Lots of people struggle their whole lives to
make it in a successful rock band, but
most of them don't. Chris Shiflett, the Foo
Fighters affable guitarist, didn't have to.
Or, at least, if it was a struggle, he doesn't
remember because he was too busy having a
blast on the way to the top. That's his story
anyway and he's sticking to it.
"I remember the first ever gig I went to see,"
says Chris, stretching out in his chair. "It was Dio
on their first tour in the States. The 'Holy Diver'
tour. Then I saw Night Ranger and Alcatraz,
although I wasn't a massive Night Ranger fan,
but I grew up in a small town and you would go
and see pretty much every show that came
through. Then I had a couple of older friends
who had cars and would drive us to LA, so I
wound up getting to see Poison, Faster Pussycat,
Guns N'Roses and Jet Boy and all of those bands
before they got record deals.
"But, growing up in Santa Barbara, the only
regular gigs were the punk rock shows,"
continues Chris. "People would play in the park
for free and that's how I got turned onto that
world. I went to shows like that because those
were the only places you could go with your
friends and get drunk. Anyone who wasn't a
trendy kid or a jock would go to the punk rock shows. If you were a heavy
metaller, a punk or a mod or whatever, you
Like a lot of kids from smalltown USA, Chris
was first inspired to pick up an axe by a certain
monochromatic make-up sporting, wig-donning,
stack-heel boot-wearing glam/heavy rock outfit.
"From when I was a little kid I loved Ace
Frehley. I was lucky I had elder brothers who
used to play me Kiss and lots of other music."
After moving to San Francisco with his buddy
Joey - the Lag Wagon singer - and snagging a
job working in the offices of Fat Wreck Chords,
Chris reckons landing a paying gig with his first
group No Use For A Name was easy.
"I was there for about a month when the
guitar player quit: he says nonchalantly. "Fat
Mike came in and said, 'Does anybody know
anyone who plays guitar who wants to try out?'
It was the first band I'd joined that had records
out and went on tour. A real band. It was great!"
A freshly showered Dave Grohl saunters
through the room causing Chris to exclaim:
"Hey, I feel I know you in a whole different way!"
Dave laughs and walks out again.
"Before the interview I walked in on Dave
having a shower!" Chris explains, before getting
back to his story. "I tried out with No Use For A Name on the
Thursday and by the Monday I was on tour.
But as far as trials and tribulations go,
when you look back at all the bands you
were in when you were in school, just
schlepping about and that, playing gigs and
all that, it's not really trials and tribulations.
You're so busy loving it, you don't care.
You're never sitting there thinking, 'I'm
paying my dues, one day I'm going to be in a
platinum-selling band.' It's all just part of it,
You're just stoked that you're on the road
He accepts his run of good luck carried
him right through to the Foo Fighters. A
friend of a friend was a lawyer representing
the band and when he heard that they were
down a guitarist, he put his name forward
straightaway, He laughs when we ask if his tryout with Dave was like the guitar duel
between Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai in the
"Very much so," he says. "The drive to the
studio was a nerve-wracking experience. The
wait outside the room while I heard some other
guy try out was a nerve-wracking experience.
but once I was in there it was fine. They're all
pretty disarming people, especially Dave, and
they made me feel comfortable and we played
through a few songs. But really we spent more
time sitting on the floor talking shit than
playing. Which is how we rehearse now. We
spend a lot more time eating than playing."
When Chris joined, the group had just finished
recording 'There Is Nothing Left To Lose' as a
three-piece, so he had two years on tour with the
band before he got a chance to contribute to
the 'One By One' album.
"It was a weird way to make a record. We had
made a version of it but we shelved that and
then came back and made another one pretty
quickly. Dave was leaving the next day to go
back on the road with the Queens so we sat
down in the studio with Nick (Raskulinecz,
producer) and listened to the demo and said
things like, 'I think you should play a little
something in there. Play a little melody on that
chorus.' And we went through every song and
sort of figured out what it needed. And he just.
left me and Nick to record my guitars and that
was that, and I didn't even know what was going
to make it on to the disc or not. But a lot of it did,
even though it was a weird, broken-up way of
making a record. Everyone did their parts
separately. It was the polar opposite to how we
made the new record - with everybody here,
which is a much better way of doing things."
He concedes that some people may think 'In
Your Honour's two disc split is a bit of a
marketing ploy, but he hopes people like it: "We
really went to bat to keep the cost of the record
down, and it's only going to be about a buck
more than the price of a single album. So it's not
like we're making twice the money, We never
discuss marketing or even how things will be
perceived in the public eye. We just do it for the
joy of doing it. And the acoustic album? It
re-invigorated us in a huge way, For me it was
the most enjoyable part of the process."
"Anyway", he says with a smile. "People don't
need to worry. We aren't going to be perched on
stools when we play live any time soon."
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