Foo Fighters - Biography
Foo Fighters (one of many post-grunge bands to pop up in the mid-‘90s) are one of the few who became a lasting, successful band. The presence and leadership of ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl is no doubt what gave the Foos their footing, as he is the only musician present on their first LP, which initially made it difficult to view the Foo Fighters as anything but a Dave Grohl solo project. However, once he found a drummer he respected in Taylor Hawkins, the group started to take on a team-minded mentality and released a truly collaborative third album, There is Nothing Left to Lose. In their history, they've never had trouble placing well on the charts and have yet to see a dwindling of their fan base. If the Foos are guilty of anything, however, it is their unwillingness or incapability to alter their forumula and deliver an album that steps challenges rock conventions.
In the late ‘80s, Grohl began playing drums for Washington DC hardcore band, Scream, after drumming for a slew of bands that rocked to varying degrees. A couple songs off of Scream's final album, Fumble, were composed by Grohl, one of which he even sings on, “God Looks Down.” He also began a partnership with his friend Barrett Jones, whose basement studio was the setting for many of Grohl's early recordings. Unsure of what his next move would be upon the sudden demise of Scream, Grohl, whose drumming had been witnessed by both Krist Novoselic and Kurt Cobain at a recent west coast show, was invited to Seattle by Novoselic to watch Nirvana play. Shortly thereafter, he became the band's drummer. When Grohl was not busy with his new gig, he continued recording his own material with Jones. A few of his songs were released on a cassette called Pocketwatch under the name Late! It was released on the Simple Machines label in 1992, after Nirvana had released one of the biggest albums of all time, Nevermind. After Kurt Cobain's suicide, Grohl was again at a crossroads. He tried out a few different projects, including a tour with Tom Petty, before finding his new focus.
Grohl had recorded an album's worth of material in 1994 and had played every instrument on every track, except a guitar part on “X-Static” which was played by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs. Grohl began generating a quiet buzz for the cassette, only making 100 copies for friends. Things quickly caught fire, however, and his new project was fought over by record companies. Not wanted to record as a solo artist, he went about assembling a band. His then-wife, Jennifer Youngblood, introduced him to Nate Mendel of Sunny Day Real Estate. He and drummer William Goldsmith had recently found their music careers in limbo thanks to the Christian conversion of their band's singer. Grohl hired both of them, as well as former Nirvana and Germs guitarist Pat Smear.
Naming themselves after unexplained World War II era aerial phenomena, Foo Fighters were officially born. Capitol Records ultimately won the bidding war and though there was an opportunity for Grohl to re-record the album with his new group, it was decided that the LP be released as is and Foo Fighters (1995 Capitol) surfaced on Independence Day. “This is a Call” was a big hit, as was “Big Me.” By 1996 it went platinum and peaked at 23. The band toured and afterwards Grohl took his three bandmates into the studio for the recording of their follow-up, hiring English producer Gil Norton to oversee the sessions. The goings-on in the studio proved tense when Grohl decided to scrap what had already been recorded with Goldsmith. He then took Mendel and Smear to L.A. to re-work the album and played drums on those sessions which Goldsmith wasn’t told about. Hurt by the news and dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome, Goldsmith made the decision to leave the band.
Grohl next hired Taylor Hawkins, who had been playing for Alanis Morissette. The new lineup geared up for a tour in support of 1997's The Colour and the Shape (Capitol). The album soon reached number ten in the charts, a 13-spot improvement over their debut. Smear announced his departure from the band after a performance at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards pre-show. Upon taking to the stage of the Radio City Music Hall Marquis to play a second song, Smear made the announcement on live TV. After introducing his replacement, Franz Stahl, the new lineup proceeded to play a version of “Everlong.” Stahl, Grohl's old band-mate from Scream, did not stay in the band for very long and the band's third album was recorded by just Grohl, Mendel and Hawkins, with Grohl and Hawkins switching off on drums.
The band switched to the RCA label for the release of There is Nothing Left to Lose in 1999. Like its predecessor, it reached number 10 and scored with critics who praised its organic, natural sound. The Foos got their first number one single of their career that year when “Learn to Fly” went to the top of the modern rock charts. Initially for touring purposes, No Use For a Name's ex-guitarist Chris Shiflett was brought in and soon became a member. The band recorded their fourth album and considered it completed before Grohl took a break to play drums on Songs for the Deaf, the 2002 album by hard rockers Queens of the Stone Age. His decision to join QOTSA, made around the time that Hawkins overdosed on a combination of prescription painkillers and alcohol, led to rumors that tensions within his mainstay prompted Grohl’s decision. Grohl denied this, insisting that his decision was based purely on his fondness for QOTSA. After finishing that album and playing a short tour with QOTSA, Grohl decided that the new Foo Fighters album needed some tweaking. What resulted was their most hard-edged and polished effort to date, One by One (2002 RCA). The LP reached number 3 on the strength of lead-off single, “All My Life,” which hit number 1 on the modern rock charts. However, many critics claimed Grohl’s songwriting was growing increasingly mediocre.
Grohl and company decided to try something ambitious for 2004's In Your Honor (RCA), dividing the album's 20 songs over two discs, the first disc full of hard-rockers and the second an acoustic set. The rock & roll side included the hit, “Best of You,” which went to number one on both the mainstream and modern rock charts. The double-LP almost got the Foos their first number one album, peaking at number 2. After a 2006 live album called Skin and Bones (RCA), the band returned with 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace (RCA). It peaked at number 3 and boasted three number one modern rock tracks: “Let it Die,” “Long Road to Ruin,” and “The Pretender.” Foo Fighters showed up in the news during the 2008 presidential campaigns when Grohl asked John McCain’s campaign to stop using the song “My Hero.” John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne and Heart all made similar requests.
Although they have never carried the same cultural significance as Nirvana, Foo Fighters have impressively maintained a devoted and monumental fan base for over a decade. They sometimes seem too content in treading lukewarm water, but one could also argue that they are America's band, one that can score mainstream hits while still appealing to the alternative crowd. This popularity has crossed the Atlantic as well; in late 2008, the band released Live at Wembley Stadium, a DVD that showcased the performance at one of their biggest concerts to date. The audience consisted of over 160,000 fans, and that many fans cannot be wrong, can they? Although it would be nice to hear a talented band like the Foo Fighters turn rock & roll convention on its head and release an album that's truly groundbreaking and uninformed by commercial obligation, it's crystal-clear that most people, their diehard fans, specifically, don't want the group to change one note. The band released Wasting Light in 2011.