The Foo Fighters emerged from the ashes of Nirvana, but the band's true roots lay in the years of personal recordings made by leader Dave Grohl.
The former Nirvana drummer had played guitar and written songs since he was a Washington, D.C., teenager, while also playing drums in several hardcore bands.
At 17, Grohl became the drummer for the veteran punk act Scream. In 1990 he joined Nirvana, but continued to work on his own material during breaks from the road and studio.
After finishing Nirvana's Nevermind, Grohl returned to D.C. to record several tracks, which were released on the cassette-only Pocketwatch. Plans for another cassette release were shelved with Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide.
Later that year Grohl entered a studio with friend and producer Barrett Jones to record what would become the first Foo Fighters album. Grohl played all the instruments himself (with the exception of the song "X-Static," which featured guitar by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs).
Though he had written and sung just one Nirvana song (the B-side "Marigold"), Grohl demonstrated a flair for pop hooks and driving guitar rock. (The name Foo Fighters came from what American World War II pilots called unidentified fireballs spotted over Germany.)
Grohl signed with Capitol and formed a band in time for a 1995 tour, recruiting bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith from the freshly-broken-up Sunny Day Real Estate. Pat Smear, the former Germs guitarist who had joined Nirvana for its final tour, also joined.
December 24, 2010:
Fans got the next best thing to a Nirvana reunion Tuesday night when Nirvana's three surviving members performed together for the first time since Kurt Cobain passed away.
This was the encore for an impromptu Foo Fighters concert at Paladino’s in Tarzana, California.
Wow... exciting to see the sight of Krist Novoselic joining former Nirvana tour guitarist/current Foo Fighter Pat Smear and head Foo Dave Grohl onstage.
The trio played one song — "Marigold," the non-album b-side of Nirvana’s "Heart-Shaped Box," with Grohl both singing lead and reverting to his Nirvana role behind the drums — to an audience which included Amanda Seyfried, Juliette Lewis, Ryan Phillippe and No Doubt’s Tony Kanal alongside hardcore fans pulled in from the band’s Facebook page.
The show — which was being filmed for a full-length documentary — was to celebrate the Foo Fighters' finishing up their seventh album, which features Novoselic playing accordion and bass on one track, "I Should Have Known," and production by Butch Vig, who helmed Nirvana’s breakthrough 1991 album Nevermind.
The new effort remains untitled, although Grohl indicated from the stage at Paladino’s that he might call it Back + Forth; the band debuted a song by that name from the upcoming spring 2011 release.
"I had the same feeling listening back to this album that I did two decades ago listening to a Nirvana song like 'Lounge Act,'" Grohl said in an interview before the concert at his home studio, where the latest album was recorded — much of it, in fact, in the garage. "It’s even got the same snare sound as Nevermind," Grohl adds. "Butch is good at that."
Of the sessions, Vig explains, "We had three criteria going in: It’s got to be hooky, heavy, and we’re going analog all the way."
Accordingly, the new material is being hailed as the heaviest the band has ever committed to tape.
The album’s first single "These Days" evokes classic Foo Fighters hits, but layered with startling layers of crunch and fuzz; tracks like "Bridge Burning" and "White Limo," meanwhile, achieve levels of unhinged squall hitherto unreached by the band.
Grohl confirms his latest opus is indeed a ballad-free zone. "When I was writing the riffs for this record, they were getting heavier and heavier," he says.