Group formed in 1995; members include William Goldsmith (left band, March, 1997), drums; David Grohl (born January 14, 1969, in Warren, OH; son of James and Virginia Grohl; married Jennifer Youngblood, c. 1994 [divorced, 1997]; married Jordyn Blum, 2003), guitar, vocals; Taylor Hawkins (born Oliver Taylor Hawkins, February 17, 1972, in Laguna Beach, CA; joined band, 1997), drums; Nate Mendel (born December 2, 1968; children: one son), bass; Chris Shiflett (born Christopher Shiflett, May 6, 1971, in Santa Barbara, CA; married; children: Liam; joined band, 1999), guitar; Pat Smear (born Georg Ruthenberg, August 5, 1959, in Los Angeles, CA; left band, 1997), guitar; Franz Stahl (joined band, 1997; left band, 1999), guitar.
Addresses: Record company —RCA Records, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. Website —http:// www.foofighters.com.
Grohl was a member of the bands Nirvana, Scream, Dain Bramage, Freakbaby, and Mission Impossible; as a solo artist he recorded an album, playing all instruments; released Foo Fighters on Roswell/Capitol, 1995; Grohl recruited band members for a tour, 1995; Smear was a founding member of the Germs; Goldsmith and Mendel were former members of Sunny Day Real Estate, and Mendel was earlier a founder of Product of Rape and Christ on a Crutch; Hawkins spent 1995 and 1996 touring as Alanis Morissette's drummer; Shiflett was a member of No Use For A Name and Me First … the Gimmie Gimmies; recorded first album
Awards: Video Music Award for best group video, MTV, for "Big Me, " 1996; Grammy Award for best short form music video, Recording Academy, for "Learn To Fly, " 2001; Grammy Award for best rock album, Recording Academy, for There Is Nothing Left To Lose , 2001; Grammy Award for best hard rock performance, Recording Academy, for "All My Life, " 2003; Grammy Award for best rock album, Recording Academy, for One By One , 2004.
Although the Foo Fighters came out of the ashes of the same fire that incinerated the grunge rock scene, their sound more closely resembles popular, less hard-hitting rock groups. Led by Dave Grohl, the former drummer for Nirvana, the Foo Fighters rely on simple, energetic pop-rock tunes to get their point across. Although there was a lot of turnover in the band initially, the band finally formed a cohesive group after a few album releases.
Grohl grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of a single working mother. Too poor to buy a record player, Grohl listened to his Minor Threat and Bad Brains albums on a record player borrowed from the public school where his mother taught English. Moreover, he did not even possess his own drum kit when he started playing with DC hardcore bands like Dain Bramage, Freakbaby, and Mission Impossible. By the time he was 17, Grohl had joined a lauded punk ensemble called Scream, leaving high school before completing his senior year when the opportunity to tour Europe arose.
After Scream disbanded in 1990, a friend (Buzz Os-bourne of the Melvins) put Grohl in touch with an up-and-coming Seattle band in need of a drummer. Grohl joined Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic in Nirvana in the fall of 1990, and a year later he was part of one of the biggest phenomenons in rock history. With a slew of successful releases and album sales in the tens of millions, Nirvana built a bridge between punk and rock. That winning streak ended in April of 1994 when Cobain committed suicide, a subject Grohl has been reluctant to discuss. He does confess to still being haunted by his friend's death. "It's hard not to think about something that everybody wants to talk about all the time, " he told Mike Rubin in Spin.
After the dissolution of Nirvana, Grohl toyed with the idea of joining Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and toured with them for a time. But instead, Grohl went into a recording studio by himself and began starting to tape a couple dozen of the songs he had written over several years. His only help came from his friend Barrett Jones, who produced the album, and Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, who played guitar on one song. The result was 1995's Foo Fighters , which was also the name of Grohl's memberless band. (The name originated from unidentified flying objects [UFOs] encountered by the U.S. Army Air Force near the end of World War II; the UFOs were called "Foo Fighters" or "Kraut Balls" by those who believed the objects were a secret German weapon.) The debut was released on Roswell Records, a vanity label which Capitol Records had given Grohl, named after the famed New Mexico site on which some believe extraterrestrials crash-landed in 1947.
Grohl assembled a band in order to go out on the road in support of the record, which was receiving a healthy advance buzz. His first pick was Pat Smear, a beloved eccentric who had been a founding member of the Germs, the first Los Angeles punk band to record an entire album. Smear, facing hard times financially, had made ends meet by playing punk rocker roles on television during the 1980s, as well as adding some verve to the last days of Nirvana. Joining Smear and Grohl in the Foo Fighters line-up were two members of a much-lauded and recently disbanded Seattle act, Sunny Day Real Estate. Drummer William Goldsmith and bass player Nate Mendel found themselves adrift after Sunny Day Real Estate's lead singer had become a fervent born-again Christian.
The Foo Fighters toured as an opening act for Mike Watt in the spring of 1995. However, the band was headlining after only a few months as record sales took off. Critics often made much of the odd, abstruse lyrics in songs like "Big Me" and "This Is a Call." Given Grohl's ties to Nirvana, reviewers looked for hidden meanings everywhere, but he later admitted they were purposefully nonsensical. "It was for fear of writing something that might reveal too much, " Grohl told Spin 's Rubin, "or actually reveal something at all.… I don't want to let everyone else in on my problems or my personal crisis or my misery. They're mine." He also pointed out that many of the songs had been written long before Nirvana became famous.
The Foo Fighters also exhibit a decidedly nongrunge demeanor on stage, in their playing, and in interviews. They shot a video for "Big Me" that spoofed the silly Mentos commercials and then were pelted by the candies at shows for months. The video went on to win the award for Best Group Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996. As the Foo Fighters record issued one well-charting single after another, and they toured for more than a year-and-a-half, the band grew increasingly reticent about the fame that came with their success. "There does come a point where it's totally out of your control, " Grohl told Rolling Stone 's Chris Mundy, "but I learned a lot of lessons from Nirvana. We don't want to spend too much time whoring ourselves around because not only does it make everyone else sick of you, eventually you get sick of yourself."
While Grohl appreciates his privacy, Smear appeared well-suited for the limelight. The guitarist, who loves to wear dresses and often outfitted himself in outlandish stage gear, began appearing on MTV's House of Style. Despite the band's success and popularity, Goldsmith left the Foo Fighters' vaulted orbit after a falling-out with Grohl. In recording their second album, Grohl expressed dissatisfaction with Goldsmith and re-recorded the drum parts himself. He was replaced by Taylor Hawkins, the former drummer for Alanis Morissette's world tour, after the Foo Fighters record was completed in early 1997.
The double album The Colour and the Shape was recorded in both Los Angeles and Seattle with Gil Norton as producer. Released in May of 1997 on Roswell, it took a slightly different path away from the light power-pop mood of Grohl's first record. This was a concept album, and its subject was the death of a relationship. Not surprisingly, Grohl's marriage to his high-school sweetheart dissolved around the time of the record's release. The songs sounded the same as the previous release, but the lyrics were suddenly trenchant—a marked contrast to the tracks on their debut. The Foo Fighters' development as a band, wrote Entertainment Weekly 's David Browne, "is clearly evident throughout The Colour and the Shape , but it isn't always a pretty sight or sound."
Though its subject matter was definitely more weighty, Grohl's penchant for building songs along the soft-verse/rocking-chorus structure hadn't changed on cuts like the first single, "Monkey Wrench." Chuck Crisafulli of Request noted that "Grohl is turning out to be something of a master builder when it comes to constructing pop hooks, " and the musician admitted to loving pure pop music like Abba, as well as punk rock bands. As Spin 's Rubin pointed out, "Foo tunes are more hummers than bummers." Christina Kelly, reviewing The Colour and the Shape for Rolling Stone , asserted the record "has a big, radio-ready, modern-rock sound." In the New York Times , Jon Pareles opined that "timing, ingenuity, and conviction can be all it takes to make rock's common materials ring with passion. That's what happens on The Colour and the Shape , as Grohl balances power and tenderness, whipsaw riffing and wistful tunes."
The Foo Fighters embarked on another lengthy tour for The Colour and the Shape , and Grohl directed his first video for the "Monkey Wrench" single, an assignment that grew out of his penchant for amateur film making. At the 1997 MTV Music Video Awards, Smear announced he was leaving the group; he was replaced by guitarist Franz Stahl. However, Stahl was not a member for long; the group's 1999 album, There Is Nothing Left To Lose , was recorded as a three-piece. The album was recorded in Grohl's home shortly after the band left Capitol. The group signed with RCA and set off on a few club dates to break in its newest member, guitarist Chris Shiflett, who replaced Stahl. Grohl wrote the album's first single, "Learn to Fly, " about his fear of flying. "Being afraid of flying isn't convenient when you are a band that seems to take two planes a day, " Mendel told Billboard 's Carrie Bell. Instead, Grohl decided to learn about how planes stay in the air to get over his fear; the song is about that learning process. The album's variety of song styles "reveal a sensitive streak that meshes nicely with Grohl's more aggressive inclinations, " wrote Entertainment Weekly 's Scott Schinder.
After touring in 2000, the Foo Fighters began working on an album in October of that next year, but after working on it for three and a half months, the group realized that things were not clicking. "It didn't feel right. With our band, the most important thing is that the songs feel right and the recordings feel good.… Spontaneity and energy have a lot to do with rock, and rock records shouldn't take that long, " Grohl told Billboard 's Andrew Katchen. To help spark their creativity, the band members went their separate ways for a short time. Grohl worked with the hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age, contributed to Tony Iommi's 2000 solo album, and created a death-metal compilation called Probot (he played all the instruments and had guest singers); Shiflett returned to his pre-Foo Fighters band, Me First … the Gimmie Gimmies; Hawkins worked on songs in his home studio, and Mendel recorded with the Fire Theft. "We'd never taken a substantial break, " Grohl told Katchen. "It only made sense that after seven or eight years we do that—to step back and look at the big picture, especially when you're lost in the process of making a new album that seems like it's going nowhere." After taking a breather, Grohl and Hawkins reworked the album's tracks and then had Shiflett and Mendel record their parts; the second version of the album was completed in about two weeks.
Of the finished album, titled One By One, Billboard 's Katchen remarked that there was a shift in the band's sound and that the group's "current agenda [is] to kick out visceral, driving jams that are big on volume, speed, and airtight drum and guitar salvos throughout." Declaring that listening to the album resulted in "unexpected exhilaration, " Entertainment Weekly 's Ken Tucker stated that the songs' "near-constant exploration of various relationships—those between lovers, or friends, or Foos-to-their-fans— never" got tiresome. In 2003, the song "All My Life" from the album won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. That next year, One By One won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.
Grohl continued to keep busy with projects outside the group, including playing drums on Killing Joke's self-titled 2003 album. "The great thing about being a musician is being free to jam with other musicians, and as with any musician you learn from each other, " Grohl told Gary Graff of United Press International. It was three years before the public saw another release from the Foo Fighters. In Your Honor , released in 2005, was a two-disc set. When Grohl began writing the music for the album, he planned on doing it as a solo project, envisioning a film score which then evolved into acoustic songs. However, realizing the resulting material had a Foo Fighters-type sound, he called his bandmates in to contribute. However, Grohl told Billboard 's Melinda Newman that the group "couldn't live without rock 'n roll, " so it became a double album. The first disc featured hard-driving tunes and the second disc showcased a more "atmospheric, acoustic-guitar-driven affair marked by movie-score string arrangements and mandolins, " wrote Scott Galupo in the Washington Times. All Music Guide 's Stephen Thomas Erlewine declared that the risk of creating such an album paid off: "By stretching out, the Foo Fighters not only have expanded their sound, but they've found the core of why their music works, so they now have better songs and deliver them more effectively." In support of the album, the band began a U.S. tour in the fall of 2005 which then moved to Europe in 2006. The album was nominated for five Grammy Awards, including one for Best Rock Album.
Besides their Foo Fighters recording and touring, the band members continued to work on side projects. Grohl was still involved with Queens of the Stone Age and did some drumming for Nine Inch Nails, Hawkins worked with former Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney on a glam-prog album scheduled for 2006 release, Shiflett's punk group, Jackson United, released an album in 2005 and toured the United Kingdom that summer, and Mendel continued working with Fire Theft and another band called Ghost Wars. The Foo Fighters regrouped on September 9, 2005, to participate in the nationally televised Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast , which was broadcast on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The WB, and UPN to raise funds for people affected by the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
Grohl avoids licensing the Foo Fighters' music for advertising (aside from one Japanese beer ad). "It kind of breaks my heart when I hear a classic song that changed my life in a car commercial, " he told Billboard 's Newman. "Integrity means a lot to me. Thetiny shred that we've maintained over the last ten years, I guard with my life." Grohl remains the definitive anti-grunge poster boy. "I've covered a lot of ground, but I still feel like a pathetic 17-year-old dropout, " Grohl told Spin. "My spirit is still young." As for those fans who may be concerned about the end of the Foo Fighters, Grohl told Entertainment Weekly 's Leah Greenblatt, "I've been traveling around the world since I was 18, and after every record I always think, Okay, after this I'm going to get on with real life and start a family and get fat and bald and do all the things most everyone does after they're finished running around. But, I don't think I'm finished running around yet."
Foo Fighters , Roswell/Capitol, 1995.
The Colour and the Shape , Roswell/Capitol, 1997.
There Is Nothing Left To Lose , Roswell/RCA, 1999.
One By One , Roswell/RCA, 2002.
In Your Honor , Roswell/RCA, 2005.
Alternative Press , June 1997.
Amusement Business , February 2000, p. 7.
Billboard , May 3, 1997; May 17, 1997; October 16, 1999, p. 14; November 27, 1999, p. 83; October 19, 2002, p. 10; June 11, 2005, p. 43.
Entertainment Weekly , May 9, 1997, p. 38; May 23, 1997, p. 62; November 5, 1999, p. 82; October 25, 2002, p. L2T8; October 25, 2002, p. 75; June 17, 2005, p. L2T8.
Guitar World , July 1997.
New York Times , May 18, 1997.
Request , July 1997.
Rolling Stone , October 5, 1995; March 21, 1996; May 29, 1997.
Spin , July 1997.
United Press International, May 27, 2003.
Us , July 1997.
Washington Times , June 14, 2005, p. B5; Oct 12, 2005, p. B5.
Grammy.com, http://www.grammy.com/awards/ (January 4, 2006).
"In Your Honor, " All Music Guide , http://www.allmusic.com (January 4, 2006).
Official Foo Fighters, http://www.foofighters.com (January 4, 2006).