Foo Fighters' 1995 self-titled debut marked a fresh start for former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who famously played every instrument, with the exception of one guitar performance from Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs. When he took it live, Grohl stepped away from the kit, strapped on a guitar and moved to the centre-stage microphone. A new band was born.
After three platinum discs, two Grammys and several near-implosions, it looked like the four-man Foo Fighters lineup was finally going to hold -- then Grohl took a head-clearing leave-of-absence to record and tour with heavy rockers Queens of the Stone Age.
But the Foos proved they had plenty of fight left with One By One (2002), touring forever, selling out London's Wembley Arena and picking up two more Grammys.
For the brand-new In Your Honor -- a double whammy consisting of one rock disc and one devoted to mellower tunes (it's our CD page this week) -- Grohl and his bandmates, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Chris Shiflett, kept to their new studio/clubhouse and invited a few musical friends to join in.
Earlier this week, during a promo trip to Toronto, Hawkins slammed his feet on a boardroom table at Sony BMG and leaned back in his chair -- and shared his perspective on the experience.
Was In Your Honor originally planned as a double disc or did you just have too many songs?
On live TV, with that five-second delay, I love to say "We made a double album because we're pretentious assholes," and watch them scramble. The truth is it gave us more room to move, instead of having eight rock songs and then schizophrenically throwing three softer songs in the mix. We started with rock and recorded music for 19 songs then we thought if we're going to do this acoustic record we should start. Rather than segregate the sessions, we had everybody in studio so we could cut loose. We were like a totally different band. Rami Jaffee, who plays with The Wallflowers, was like a band member. We had guests like Norah Jones and [Led Zeppelin bassist]John Paul Jones. We had the acoustic record done in under two weeks!
Was there creative back-and-forth?
We listened to the rock stuff and realized the acoustic stuff was kicking its ass. We knew we needed to stay loose instead of always trying to perfect everything. Only two songs made it from the original rock sessions -- Best of You and No Way Back. We redid a bunch of stuff. We always take the long road.
What was it like singing one of your songs (Cold Day in the Sun) and having Dave on drums?
It's hard playing a demo for Dave because he's like my older brother -- I know when he thinks something sucks. He says [Hawkins puts on a clipped, sarcastic tone] "Hmm, yeah that's good," and then he'll say, "I really like how affected your vocals are." Anyway, it's a song Dave liked and it lightened up the acoustic record. Everyone says it sounds like the Eagles! When Dave was recording the drums I went from the control room into the live room and made a suggestion. He was like, "No. I like what I'm doing." I reminded him of this recently but for some reason he didn't remember that.
Playing drums behind a guy considered one of the best rock drummers in the world sounds like a tough gig.
Funny, from the beginning I didn't think about it. When we record, I ask Dave what he wants, not because he's a drummer but because they're his songs. We speak the same language. I throw in little things he doesn't do -- believe it or not, Dave can't do a good press roll, a marching-band thing -- to get a rise out of him.
What keeps your work interesting?
I'm scared to death every time I get on stage. I have insane stage fright. If Nate screws up, the beat goes on. If Dave screws up, everyone laughs. But if I drop the beat, we can all go down in flames. It's like jumping off a cliff every time.
Why does every Foo Fighters album sound like a greatest-hits record or...
Or set list. I know what you mean. Rolling Stone just compared this record to Nickelback and I told Dave, this guy [the writer]probably only likes Interpol, The Strokes and The Killers. We don't make cool-guy rock; we make heart-on-your-sleeve arena rock, or classic rock with punk-rock energy.
Have you met Phil Collins yet?
Oh man, I just interviewed him for [the British magazine]Rhythm. He's such a ridiculously amazing drummer -- you listen to those old Genesis records, even the first ones he sang on, incredible. We got talking about playing in 7/4 [time]because I've been getting into doing that in my band. [Taylor suddenly withdraws his feet and starts drumming loudly in 7/4 time on the table, summoning the publicist who realizes the interview had gone 15 minutes overtime.]/p>