The Foo Fighters are an American rock band, formed in Seattle in 1994. It was founded by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the death of Kurt Cobain and the resulting dissolution of his previous band. The group got its name from the UFOs and various aerial phenomena that were reported by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II, which were known collectively as foo fighters. Prior to the release of Foo Fighters' 1995 debut album Foo Fighters, which featured Grohl as the only official member, Grohl recruited bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith, both formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate, as well as fellow Nirvana touring bandmate Pat Smear as guitarist to complete the lineup. The band began with performances in Portland, Oregon. Goldsmith quit during the recording of the group's second album, The Colour and the Shape (1997) when most of the drum parts were re-recorded by Grohl himself. Smear's departure followed soon afterward.
They were replaced by Taylor Hawkins and Franz Stahl, respectively, although Stahl was fired before the recording of the group's third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999). The band briefly continued as a trio until Chris Shiflett joined as the band's lead guitarist after the completion of There Is Nothing Left to Lose. The band released its fourth album, One by One, in 2002. The group followed that release with the two-disc In Your Honor (2005), which was split between acoustic songs and heavier material. Foo Fighters released its sixth album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, in 2007. In 2010, it was confirmed that Smear had officially rejoined the band after touring with Foo Fighters as an unofficial member between 2006 and 2009. Over the course of the band's career, four of its albums have won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album. The band's seventh studio album, Wasting Light, was released in 2011. Grohl stated in January 2013 that the band had started writing material for an eighth studio album. Producer Butch Vig is set to produce his second album with the group.
Formation and debut album (1994–1995)
Grohl joined the grunge group Nirvana as its drummer in 1990. During tours, he took a guitar with him and wrote songs. Grohl held back these songs from the rest of the band; he said in 1997, "I was in awe of [frontman Kurt Cobain's songs], and [I was] intimidated. I thought it was best that I kept my songs to myself." Grohl occasionally booked studio time to record demos and covers of songs he liked and even issued a cassette of some of those songs called Pocketwatch under the pseudonym "Late!" in 1992.
Frontman Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home on April 8, 1994, and Nirvana subsequently disbanded. Grohl received offers to work with various artists; he almost accepted a permanent position as drummer in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Ultimately Grohl declined and instead entered Robert Lang Studios in October 1994 to record fifteen of the forty songs he had written. With the exception of a guitar part on "X-Static", played by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, Dave Grohl played every instrument and sang every vocal on the tracks. "I was supposed to just join another band and be a drummer the rest of my life," Grohl later said. "I thought that I would rather do what no one expected me to do. I enjoy writing music and I enjoy trying to sing, and there's nothing anyone can really do to discourage me." Grohl completed an album's worth of material in five days and handed out cassette copies of the sessions to his friends for feedback.
Grohl hoped to keep his anonymity and release the recordings in a limited run under the title "Foo Fighters", taken from the World War II term "foo fighter", used to refer to unidentified flying objects. However, the demo tape circulated in the music industry, creating interest among record labels. Grohl formed a band to support the album. Initially, he talked to former Nirvana band mate Krist Novoselic about joining the group, but both decided against it. "For Krist and I, it would have felt really natural and really great", Grohl explained. "But for everyone else, it would have been weird, and it would have left me in a really bad position. Then I really would have been under the microscope." Having heard about the disbanding of Seattle-based rock band Sunny Day Real Estate, Grohl drafted the group's bass player, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith. Grohl asked Pat Smear, who served as a touring guitarist for Nirvana after the release of its 1993 album, In Utero, to join as the group's second guitarist. Grohl ultimately licensed the album to Capitol Records, releasing it on his new record label, Roswell Records.
Foo Fighters made its live public debut on February 23, 1995 at the Jambalaya Club in Arcata, California and then March 3 at The Satyricon in Portland. They followed that with a show at the Velvet Elvis in Seattle on March 4. The March 3 show had been part of a benefit gig to aid the finances of the investigation into the rape and murder of The Gits singer Mia Zapata. Grohl refused to do interviews or tour large venues to promote the album. Foo Fighters undertook its 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 1995, and its debut album Foo Fighters was released the next month. "I'll Stick Around", "For All the Cows", and "Big Me" were released as subsequent singles. The band spent the following months on tour, including their first appearance at the Reading Festival in England in August.
The Colour and the Shape (1996–1997)
After touring through the spring of 1996, Foo Fighters entered Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Washington with producer Gil Norton to record its second album. While Grohl once again wrote all the songs, the rest of the band collaborated on the arrangements. With the sessions nearly complete, Grohl took the rough mixes with him to Los Angeles, intending to finish up his vocal and guitar parts. While there, Grohl realized that he was not happy with how the mixes were turning out, and the band "basically re-recorded almost everything". During the L.A. sessions, Grohl had played drums on the songs. Unhappy with Goldsmith's drumming, Grohl removed it from the recordings and re-recorded the drum tracks. As Goldsmith was about to come down to L.A. to find out why he wasn't being called upon to re-record his parts, he called Mendel from Seattle inquiring if he should make the trip. Grohl then called Goldsmith saying, "Dude, don't come down here, I'm recording some of the drum tracks." Shocked by this, Goldsmith met up with Mendel in Seattle and repeated Grohl's claim to be re-recording "some" of the tracks. Mendel asked, "Is that what he told you?" Goldsmith affirmed it, and Mendel stated, "No, man -- he did them all."
Grohl explained that he'd wanted the drums to sound a certain way on the album. He wanted Goldsmith to play for the tour even though it would not be his drumming but Grohl's on the album. Feeling betrayed, Goldsmith left the band. To this day Grohl still feels guilty for his decision, saying "I was an immature kid at the time." However, he felt that he did what he had to do to give the record the right sound and make it successful.
In need of a replacement for Goldsmith, Grohl contacted Alanis Morissette's touring drummer Taylor Hawkins to see if he could recommend anybody. Grohl was surprised when Hawkins volunteered his own services as drummer. Hawkins made his debut with the group in time for the release of its second album, The Colour and the Shape, in May 1997. The album included the singles "Monkey Wrench", "My Hero", and "Everlong".
Pat Smear announced to the rest of the group that he wanted to leave the band claiming exhaustion and burnout but agreed to stay with the band until a replacement could be found for him. Four months later in September 1997 at the MTV Video Music Awards, Smear simultaneously announced to the public his departure from the band and introduced his replacement, Grohl's former Scream bandmate Franz Stahl. Stahl toured with the band for the next few months, and appeared on two tracks that the band recorded for movie soundtracks, a re-recording of "Walking After You" for The X-Files and "A320" for Godzilla. A B-side of the album, "Dear Lover", appeared in the horror film Scream 2.
There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1998–2001)
In 1998, Foo Fighters traveled to Grohl's home state of Virginia to write music for its third album. However, Grohl and Stahl were unable to co-operate as songwriters; Grohl told Kerrang! in 1999, "in those few weeks it just seemed like the three of us were moving in one direction and Franz wasn't". Grohl was distraught over the decision to fire Stahl, as the two had been friends since childhood. Shortly after that, Mendel called Grohl to say he was quitting the band to reunite with Sunny Day Real Estate, only to reverse his decision the next day. The remaining trio of Grohl, Mendel, and Hawkins spent the next several months recording the band's third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose, in Grohl's Virginia home studio that he bought and built. The album spawned several singles, including "Learn to Fly", the band's first single to reach the US Billboard Hot 100.
Before the release of the album, Capitol president Gary Gersh was forced out of the label. Given Grohl's history with Gersh, Foo Fighters' contract had included a "key man clause" that allowed them to leave the label upon Gersh's departure. They subsequently left Capitol and signed with RCA, who later acquired the rights to the band's Capitol albums.
After recording for There Is Nothing Left to Lose was completed, the band auditioned a number of potential guitarists, and eventually settled on Chris Shiflett, who performs with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and previously performed with California punk band, 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.
Around 2001, Foo Fighters established a relationship with rock band Queen, of whom the band (particularly Grohl and Hawkins) were fans. In March of that year, Grohl and Hawkins inducted the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and joined them on stage for a rendition of the Queen 1976 classic "Tie Your Mother Down", with Hawkins playing drums alongside Roger Taylor, while Grohl was playing rhythm guitar and handling vocal duties. Guitarist Brian May added a guitar track to Foo Fighters' second cover of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar", which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Mission: Impossible II. 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 VH1 Rock Honors and Foo Fighters' headlining concert in Hyde Park.
One by One (2001–2004)
Near the end of 2001, the band reconvened to record its fourth album. After spending four months in a Los Angeles studio completing the album, the album "just didn't sound right" and the band had no confidence in the album to sell many records. With the album not reaching their expectations, and much infighting amongst the members, Grohl spent some time helping Queens of the Stone Age complete their 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. Once the Queens of the Stone Age album was finished, and touring had started for both Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, the band was on the verge of breaking up entirely as the animosity grew amongst the members. Grohl reconvened with Hawkins, Shiflett and Mendel to have them play at the Coachella Festival, with Queens of the Stone Age playing one day and Foo Fighters the following. After the Queens of the Stone Age played, Hawkins and Grohl talked about retrying the One by One album and had agreed to finishing it and seeing where they would go from there. The group went and re-recorded nearly all of the album (save "Tired of You") in a ten-day stretch at Grohl's home studio in Alexandria, Virginia. The original version of One by One, referred by the band as "Million Dollar Demos", has never been heard in its entirety, except for snippets which leaked before the album's premiere, and a few more snippets leaked by a fan on the band's website in 2007. Two songs from these sessions were leaked in 2012.
The final album was released in October 2002 under the title One by One. Singles from the album included "All My Life", "Times Like These", "Low", and "Have It All".
For most of its history, the band 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 - "There’s no way of stopping the president playing your songs, so I went out and played it for John Kerry’s people instead, where I thought the message would kinda make more sense". 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.
In Your Honor (2005–2006)
Having spent a year and a half touring behind One by One, Grohl did not want to rush into recording another Foo Fighters record. Initially Grohl intended to write acoustic material by himself, but eventually the project involved the entire band. To record its fifth album, the band shifted to Los Angeles and built a recording studio, dubbed Studio 606 West. Grohl insisted that the album be divided into two discs–one full of rock songs, the other featuring acoustic tracks. In Your Honor was released in June 2005. The album's singles included "Best of You", "DOA", "Resolve" and "No Way Back/Cold Day in the Sun".
During September and October 2005, the band toured with Weezer on what was billed as the 'Foozer Tour' as the two bands co-headlined the tour. On June 17, 2006, Foo Fighters performed its largest non-festival headlining concert to date at London's Hyde Park. Motörhead's Lemmy 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 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 member Pat Smear, who rejoined the band as an extra guitarist, Petra Haden on violin and backup vocals, Drew Hester on percussion, and Rami Jaffee of The Wallflowers on keyboards/piano. While much of the setlist focused on In Your Honor's acoustic half, the band also used the opportunity to play lesser-known songs such as "Ain't It The Life", "Floaty", and "See You". The band also performed "Marigold", a Pocketwatch-era song that was best known as a Nirvana B-side.
In November 2006, the band released their first ever live CD, Skin and Bones, featuring fifteen performances captured over a three-night stint in Los Angeles.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and Greatest Hits (2007–2009)
For the follow-up to In Your Honor, the band decided to call in The Colour and the Shape producer Gil Norton. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was released on September 25, 2007. The album's first single, "The Pretender", was issued to radio in early August. In mid-to-late 2007 "The Pretender" topped Billboard's Modern Rock chart for a record 19 weeks. The second single, "Long Road to Ruin", was released in December 2007, supported by a music video directed by longtime collaborator Jesse Peretz (formerly of the Lemonheads).
In October 2006, Foo Fighters started its world tour in support of Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. The band performed shows throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, including headlining the Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore on August 9. At the European MTV Music Awards in 2007 Pat Smear confirmed his return to the band.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was nominated for five Grammy Awards in 2008. Foo Fighters went home with Best Rock Album and Best Hard Rock Performance (for "The Pretender"). The album was also nominated for Album of the Year, while "The Pretender" was also nominated for Record of the Year and Best Rock Song.
On June 7, 2008, the band played Wembley Stadium, London and was joined by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin to play "Rock and Roll" (with Grohl on drums and Hawkins on vocals) and "Ramble On" (sung by Grohl, drums by Hawkins). As Page and Jones left the stage before a final encore of "Best Of You", an ecstatic Grohl shouted "Welcome to the greatest fucking day of my whole entire life!". Throughout the tour for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters had been writing and practicing new songs at sound checks. After Foo Fighters had completed this tour in September 2008, they recorded 13 new songs in studio 606, shortly after announcing a hiatus from touring (which would last until January 2011). These sessions likely lasted from late 2008 - early 2009. While the members of Foo Fighters had initially planned for their new album (composed of songs from this recording session) to have come out in 2009 with almost no touring support, they ultimately decided to shelve most of the songs from these sessions. Three of these songs were later released - "Wheels" and "Word Forward" (which were directly placed on their greatest hits album), and a newly recorded version of "Rope" (which ended up making the final cut of "Wasting Light").
On November 3, 2009, the band released a compilation album, Greatest Hits, which features two new songs, "Word Forward" and the single "Wheels". These songs were recorded during a session which occurred between "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace" and "Wasting Light" coming out. In order to promote their greatest hits album, Foo Fighters performed a show at studio 606 in October 2009 (which was broadcast online), during which the band took fan requests.
Wasting Light (2010–2012)
In August 2010, the band began recording their seventh studio album with producer Butch Vig, who had previously produced the two new tracks for the band's Greatest Hits album. The album was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage using only analog equipment. The album won five Grammys and was nominated for six. Vig said in an interview with MTV that the album was entirely analog until post-mastering. Pat Smear was present in many photos posted by Grohl on Twitter and a press release in December confirmed Smear played on every track on the album and was considered a core member of the band once again, having initially left as a full-time member in 1997 before returning as a touring guitarist in 2006.
The first single from Wasting Light, "Rope", was released to radio in February 2011. On April 16, 2011, Foo Fighters released an album of covers, Medium Rare, as a limited-edition vinyl for Record Store Day. The promotion for the album has been highly praised for its originality. Wasting Light debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, being the first Foo Fighters album to do so.
Alongside Wasting Light's release, Foo Fighters released a rock documentary, directed by Academy Award-winner James Moll. The film, entitled Back and Forth, chronicling the band's career—from the dissolution of Nirvana due to the death of frontman Kurt Cobain to the formation of Foo Fighters as Dave Grohl's "one-man band" to the status of the band in 2011. All the current and past bandmembers, plus producer Butch Vig, tell the story of the band through interviews. After debuting on March 15, 2011 at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, it was eventually released on DVD on June 2011.
On May 21, 2011, Foo Fighters headlined the middle day of the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. On June 4, 2011, they played a surprise set at the 2011 KROQ Weenie Roast. They also headlined two sold out shows at the Milton Keynes National Bowl on July 2 and 3, supported by artists such as Alice Cooper, Seasick Steve and John Paul Jones. They headlined the final night at the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park on August 7, 2011, performing part of their set in a driving rainstorm.
In December 2011 Foo Fighters played its final shows of the year through Australia and New Zealand with support from Tenacious D, finishing at Western Springs, Auckland, New Zealand on December 13.
On August 27, 2012, Foo Fighters ended its European tour with a performance at Reading and Leeds Festival. On September 21, 2012, the band headlined the Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. The following evening, the band headlined the DeLuna Festival in Pensacola Beach, Florida. On September 29, 2012, the band performed at the Global Citizens' Festival, before embarking on a break.
Eighth studio album (2013–present)
Despite initially announcing a break after supporting Wasting Light, Grohl later stated in January 2013 that the band had started writing material for an eighth studio album. On February 20, 2013 at the Brit Awards, Grohl said he was flying back to America the following day to start work on the next album. In an interview with XFM, Grohl announced that their next album has been slated for a 2014 release. Grohl said “Well, I’ll tell you, we have been in our studio writing and in the past few weeks we’ve written an album and we are going to make this album in a way that no-one’s ever done before and we’re pretty excited about it… It’s a little ways off – it’s not ready to happen right now – but I think next year is going to be a really big year for the Foo Fighters, without question.”
On September 6, 2013, Shiflett posted a photo to his Instagram account that indicates 13 songs are being recorded for the new album and later described the album in an interview as "pretty fucking fun". Rami Jaffee has recorded parts for three songs, one of which is entitled "In The Way." Butch Vig, who worked with the band on Wasting Light, confirmed via Twitter in late August 2013 that he is producing the album.
The band confirmed that it will end its hiatus and play two shows in Mexico City, Mexico on December 11 and 13, 2013. On October 31, 2013, a video appeared on the official Foo Fighters YouTube channel showing a motorcyclist, later shown as actor Erik Estrada, delivering each of the band members an invitation to play in Mexico.
On January 16, 2014 a picture was posted to Foo Fighters' Facebook page with several master tapes with some labeled "LP 8."
It was announced on September 28, 2011, that Foo Fighters would be performing during the closing ceremony of Blizzard Entertainment's annual video game convention, BlizzCon.
On September 5, 2012, the band performed a show at the Fillmore in Charlotte, NC as a benefit for Rock The Vote. The show, which occurred at the same time that the 2012 Democratic National Convention was being held in Charlotte, NC, was announced only two weeks prior. All tickets to the 2000 capacity venue sold out in under 60 seconds, setting a record for the venue. The band set another personal record during the show itself, which was the longest that the band had played to date, lasting just under 3.5 hours with a setlist consisting of 36 songs.
Musical style and legacy
When Grohl first started the band, its music was often compared to that of his previous group, Nirvana. Grohl acknowledged that Nirvana singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain was a major influence on his songwriting. Grohl said, "Through Kurt, I saw the beauty of minimalism and the importance of music that's stripped down." Foo Fighters also utilize the technique of shifting between quiet verses and loud choruses, which Grohl said was influenced by the members of Nirvana "liking The Knack, Bay City Rollers, Beatles, and ABBA as much as we liked Flipper and Black Flag, I suppose". Writing and recording songs for the first Foo Fighters album by himself, Grohl wrote the guitar riffs to be as rhythmic as possible. He approached the guitar in a similar manner to his playing a drumkit, assigning different drum parts to different strings on the instrument. This allowed him to piece together songs easily; he said, "I could hear the song in my head before it was finished." Once Grohl assembled a full band, his bandmates assisted in song arrangements.
The members of Foo Fighters meld melodic elements with heavier ones. Grohl noted in 1997, "We all love music, whether it's the Beatles or Queen or punk rock. I think the lure of punk rock was the energy and immediacy; the need to thrash stuff around. But at the same time, we're all suckers for a beautiful melody, you know? So it is just natural." Grohl said in 2005, "I love being in a rock band, but I don't know if I necessarily wanna be in an alternative rock band from the 1990s for the rest of my life." Grohl noted that the band's acoustic tour was such an attempt to broaden the group's sound.
Campaigning and activism
Foo Fighters's official website formerly linked to Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a group led by controversial AIDS activist Christine Maggiore. In January 2000, Nate Mendel led a benefit concert in Hollywood for the group with a speech by Maggiore and free copies of her book, What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?. The full band was shown in a documentary for Alive & Well declaring their support before a performance. Links and references to Alive & Well have since been removed and no further mentions or shows of support have been made.
In September 2011, before a show in Kansas City, the band performed a counter-protest parody song in front of a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. The song mocked the church's opposition to homosexuality, and was performed in the same faux-trucker garb that was seen in the band's "Hot Buns" promotional video.
- Dave Grohl – lead vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, drums (1994–present)
- Nate Mendel – bass guitar (1995–present)
- Pat Smear – rhythm guitar (1995–1997, 2010–present); touring (2006–2010), backing vocals (1995–1997)
- Taylor Hawkins – drums, backing and occasional lead vocals (1997–present)
- Chris Shiflett – lead guitar, backing vocals (1999–present)
- Rami Jaffee – keyboards, piano, organ, accordion, harmonica (2006–present)
- William Goldsmith – drums (1995–1997)
- Franz Stahl – lead guitar, backing vocals (1997–1999)
- Foo Fighters (1995)
- The Colour and the Shape (1997)
- There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)
- One by One (2002)
- In Your Honor (2005)
- Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)
- Wasting Light (2011)
Pitchfork Media described Grohl and the band as "his generation's answer to Tom Petty—a consistent hit machine pumping out working-class rock."
Foo Fighters first received a Grammy Award for their music video for "Learn to Fly" in 2000, and have won ten others in total. These include four Grammys in the Best Rock Album category for There Is Nothing Left to Lose, One by One, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and Wasting Light, and three awards for Best Hard Rock Performance for the songs "All My Life", "The Pretender" and "White Limo". The band also received three Kerrang! Awards. At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, the band won Best Rock Video for "Walk". They won the Radio Contraband "Major Label Artist of the Year" in 2011.
On February 12, 2012, the band performed at the 54th Grammy Awards playing "Walk" along with the remix version of "Rope", featuring deadmau5. The band was nominated for six Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, Best Rock Performance, Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Rock Album and Best Long Form Music Video (for Back and Forth). They won five out of the six, losing only to Adele in the Album of the Year category.
- List of alternative rock artists
- Official website
- Tablatures and lyrics website
- Dave Grohl Band Discography
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