The Maverick

Metal Hammer Presents...Foo Fighters, 2005

Chris Shiflett; My Story

Metal Hammer Presents....Chris Shiflett 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 would go."
  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 playing gigs."
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 film Crossroads.
  "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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