Members: Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett
Active: 1995 - Present
Grohl spent four years as the drummer for Nirvana. Unbeknownst to most of Nirvana's fanbase, Grohl had gradually written a stockpile of songs that he had largely held back from the band for fear of ruining their chemistry. (Grohl has noted in several interviews that he was well aware of the infamous drummer joke: "Q: What did the drummer say just before he got fired? / A: 'Hey, guys, let's try one of my songs!'") Instead, Grohl occasionally booked studio time to record demos, and even issued a cassette of some of those songs called Pocketwatch under the pseudonym Late! in 1992.
Following Kurt Cobain's death in 1994, Grohl entered Robert Lang's Studio in Seattle, with friend/producer Barrett Jones. With the exception of a guitar part on "X-Static" by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, Grohl played every instrument and sang every vocal on the tracks. Lured to Capitol Records by former Nirvana A&R (and then-Capitol president) Gary Gersh, Grohl had the demo recordings professionally mixed, with the results eventually becoming the Foo Fighters' self-titled debut album.
Grohl didn't want the Foo Fighters to be a one-man studio project, so he worked to form a band to support the album. Initially, former bandmate Krist Novoselic was a main candidate for the band, but both became concerned that it might portray Foo Fighters as a reincarnation of Nirvana. Having heard through the grapevine about the disbanding of Seattle-based emocore band Sunny Day Real Estate, Grohl drafted SDRE's bass player, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith. Pat Smear, who was an "unofficial member" of Nirvana after the release of In Utero, was added as a second guitarist, completing the band. The Foo Fighters undertook their first major tour in the spring of 1995, opening for Mike Watt.
The band's first single "This Is a Call" was released in June of 1995, and their eponymous debut album was released the next month. "I'll Stick Around" and "Big Me" were released as singles in the months that followed.
THE COLOR AND THE SHAPE
After touring through the spring of 1996, the now full band Foo Fighters entered a Seattle studio with producer Gil Norton to record the band's second album. Conflict erupted between Grohl and Goldsmith, however, resulting in Goldsmith's decision to leave the band. The band regrouped in Los Angeles and almost completely re-recorded the album with Grohl on drums. The album, The Colour and the Shape, was released on May 20, 1997.
In need of a drummer, Grohl contacted Alanis Morissette's touring drummer Taylor Hawkins to see if he could recommend anybody. Grohl was surprised when Hawkins volunteered himself. Hawkins made his Foo debut in time for the album's release. In September of 1997, in front of a crowded street outside the MTV Video Music Awards, Pat Smear simultaneously announced his departure from the band and introduced his replacement, Grohl's former Scream bandmate Franz Stahl. Prior to the recording of the band's third album There Is Nothing Left to Lose, Stahl departed the band, citing creative differences. The band auditioned a number of potential guitarists, eventually settling on Chris Shiflett, who previously performed with 22 Jacks and No Use for a Name. Shiflett initially joined the band as touring guitarist, but achieved full-time status prior to the recording of the group's fourth album. This lineup has been the most stable, remaining in place as of October 2006.
THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE
Before the release of There Is Nothing Left to Lose, Capitol president Gary Gersh was forced out of the label. Given Grohl's history with Gersh, the Foo Fighters' contract had included a key main clause that allowed them to leave the label upon Gersh's departure. They subsequently left Capitol and signed to RCA. (Gersh eventually joined forces with former Nirvana manager John Silva to form GAS Entertainment, a company that manages the Foo Fighters and other artists such as Jimmy Eat World, Beck, and the Beastie Boys.)
In 2000, the band generated controversy through their public support of Alive and Well, an organization that disputed the established medical belief of a link between AIDS and HIV. The organization also questioned the validity of HIV tests and the safety of HIV and AIDS medications. Foo Fighter bassist Nate Mendel learned of Alive and Well through a book written by its founder. Mendel passed around the book to the rest of the band, who supported his advocacy. In January of 2000, the band played a benefit concert for the organization, and passed out literature to the audience. The band's support alarmed many in the medical community, who noted that the organization's beliefs ran contrary to most medical studies on HIV and AIDS, and questioned the responsibility of a musical group pushing unproven and possibly life-threatening beliefs on its fans. Initially, Mendel spoke of holding more benefits. However, in ensuing years, the band significantly reduced its public support of the organization. Today, their support consists mainly of a link on their official website.
One notable moment in the band's history came in February of 2000, when American late-night talk show host David Letterman invited the Foo Fighters to perform on his first show after undergoing heart bypass surgery. Letterman introduced them by proclaiming, "My favorite band, playing my favorite song," leading into a performance of "Everlong".
In 2000, the Foo Fighters established a relationship with rock band Queen. Early that year, guitarist Brian May added a guitar track to the Foo Fighters' second cover of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar", which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Mission Impossible 2. When Queen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March of 2001, Grohl and Hawkins were invited to perform with the band on "Tie Your Mother Down", with Grohl filling in on vocals for the late Freddie Mercury. In 2002, guitarist May contributed guitar work to "Tired of You" and an outtake called "Knucklehead". The bands have performed together on several occasions since, including VH-1 Rock Honors and the Foo Fighters' headlining concert in Hyde Park.
ONE BY ONE
Near the end of 2001, the band reconvened to record their fourth album. After spending four months in a Los Angeles studio completing the album, Grohl spent some time helping the Queens of the Stone Age complete their 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. Once the Queens of the Stone Age album was finished, Grohl, inspired by the sessions, decided to reconvene the Foo Fighters to rework a few songs on their album. Instead, they completely re-recorded the album in a ten-day stretch at Grohl's studio in Virginia. The final album was released in October of 2002 under the title One by One. (Hawkins jokingly refers to the first version of the album as the "Million Dollar Demos".)
For most of its history, the Foo Fighters chose to stay away from the political realm. However, in 2004, upon learning that George W. Bush's presidential campaign was using "Times Like These" at rallies, Grohl decided to lend his public support to John Kerry's campaign. Grohl attended several Kerry rallies and occasionally performed solo acoustic sets. The entire band eventually joined Grohl for a performance in Arizona coinciding with one of the presidential debates. Grohl later cited his experiences with the Kerry campaign as inspiration for the title of their next album.
IN YOUR HONOR AND SKIN AND BONES
The band's most recent studio album was a double CD, In Your Honor, released on June 14, 2005. To record the album, the band shifted to Los Angeles and built a recording studio, dubbed Studio 606. Grohl said that the two-disc release ? one full of rock songs, the other featuring acoustic tracks ? was a perfect memorial for band's 10th anniversary. Grohl hinted about the release in an interview with NME magazine: "It's really amazing. The good thing about doing it is that you split it up so that there's no middle ground. So the rock stuff is the most rocking stuff we've ever worked on, ever."
One highlight on the acoustic part of the set is a song called "Friend of a Friend", which has a surprisingly long history. Grohl wrote the song in 1990, basing it on his initial impressions of Cobain and Novoselic after joining Nirvana. He recorded the song in 1990, and included it on an informal collection of songs (called Pocketwatch) released on cassette in 1992 under the pseudonym "Late!". The version on In Your Honor is very similar to the original recording (albeit more polished), with Grohl simply accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar.
Three days before the release of In Your Honor, on June 11, 2005, MTV2 aired 24 Hours of Foo, a special live broadcast hosted by the Foo Fighters. The band took over the MTV2 airwaves for an entire day to host a selection of music videos and live events.
During promotion of In Your Honor, Grohl had the chance to feed his fascination with UFOs when the Foo Fighters performed a show in a hangar at the Roswell International Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico. The Roswell International Air Center is the site of the former Roswell Army Air Field, where the fragments of the supposed alien crash landing in 1947 were stored. (Grohl named his label Roswell Records for the incident.) Grohl commented after the show that he wished he had had a chance to examine what was being stored inside the hangar.
On June 17, 2006, the Foo Fighters performed their largest non-festival headlining concert to date at London's Hyde Park. The band was supported by Juliette and the Licks, Angels & Airwaves, Queens of the Stone Age, and Mot?rhead. Mot?rhead's Lemmy Kilmister joined the band on stage to sing "Shake Your Blood" from Dave Grohl's PROBOT album. Also, as a surprise performance, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen jammed with the Foo Fighters, playing part of "We Will Rock You" as a lead into "Tie Your Mother Down".
In further support of In Your Honor, the band decided to organize a short acoustic tour for the summer of 2006. The tour included former guitarist Pat Smear, who rejoined the band as an extra guitarist, Petra Haden on violin, and Rami Jaffee of The Wallflowers on keyboards/piano. Much of the setlist focused on In Your Honor's acoustic CD. The band also used the opportunity to play lesser-known songs such as "Ain't It The Life" and "See You". The band also played a Nirvana B-side, "Marigold", which Dave Grohl originally wrote and sang for the "Heart-Shaped Box" single.
In September 2006, the release of the band's first ever live CD, Skin and Bones was announced, featuring fifteen performances captured over a three night stand in Los Angeles. The CD release is set for November 7th with an accompanying 2-disc DVD following later in the month.
1995 - Foo Fighters
1997 - The Colour and the Shape
1999 - There Is Nothing Left to Lose
2002 - One by One
2005 - In Your Honor
2006 - Skin and Bones
1995 - "This Is a Call"
1996 - "I'll Stick Around"
1996 - "For All the Cows"
1996 - "Big Me"
1997 - "Monkey Wrench"
1998 - "Everlong"
1998 - "My Hero"
1998 - "Walking After You"
1998 - "Baker Street"
1999 - "Learn to Fly"
2000 - "Stacked ActOrs"
2000 - "Breakout"
2000 - "Generator"
2000 - "Next Year"
2002 - "The One"
2002 - "All My Life"
2003 - "Times Like These"
2003 - "Low
2003 - "Have It All"
2004 - "Darling Nikki"
2005 - "Best of You"
2005 - "DOA"
2005 - "Resolve"
2006 - "No Way Back"
2006 - "Miracle"
2003 - Everywhere But Home
2005 - Five Songs and a Cover