Foo Fighters have ‘nothing left to lose’
By Alan Sculley
The title of the new Foo Fighters CD, “There Is Nothing Left To Lose,” may suggest to some people a sense of desperation. But to the band members, the title reflects more of a carefree feeling and an appreciation for the life frontman Dave Grohl, bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and new guitarist Chris Shiflett lead as members of the Foo Fighters.
“I think we just kind of got to the point where we felt like there was nothing left to lose and if we don’t enjoy it, there’s no reason to do it,” said Hawkins of the band’s mood going into recording sessions for the new CD.
“So have a good time doing it. You know, we have our good days and our bad days, but when it comes to the basic dynamic of the band right now, it’s like fuck, man, we’re lucky to be doing this. I could so easily be home delivering pizzas right now.”
Part of the upbeat mood in the band is a reflection of how life within the band has changed since the recording of the group’s second CD, the 1997 release The Colour And The Shape.
By all accounts, the making of that CD was anything but a smooth process. A number of finished tracks were scrapped and re-recorded during the sessions, and original drummer William Goldsmith left the band in March 1997 over creative differences.
By the time the Foo Fighters had completed touring behind The Colour And The Shape, the group had gone through two guitarists, with Pat Smear and then his replacement, Franz Stahl, both leaving the lineup. One can also factor in some changes on the business front. After Capitol Records President Gary Gersh left the label in July 1998, the Foo Fighters exercised an option that allowed them to void the remainder of their Capitol contract and shop for a new record deal.
Instead of finding a new record deal right away, Grohl, Hawkins and Mendel chose to record There Is Nothing Left To Lose with their own money and didn’t sign with RCA Records until the CD had been completed. The move gave the group complete freedom over the songs and sound of the new CD.
Grohl did the self-titled debut CD essentially as a solo album, starting the project after the suicide of Kurt Cobain that brought a sudden end to his former band, the legendary alternative rock group Nirvana. He recorded virtually all the instruments himself over a five-day period for that first Foo Fighters CD and then recruited Mendel, Goldsmith and Smear so a Foo Fighters band could tour behind that album.
“What we really wanted to do was go in and make a proper rock album because all of us had made punk rock records for years.” Grohl said of The Colour And The Shape in a 1997 interview.
Having explored the idea of making a more produced and polished full band CD with The Colour And The Shape, Grohl was ready to try a more spontaneous approach to There Is Nothing Left To Lose.
He built a studio in his Virginia home, brought in a producer in Adam Kasper, who is known for his ability to capture a live sound in the studio, and had him record the songs primarily live in the studio with minimal overdubs.
“We were trying to do something good and interesting without using the gadgetry of today,” Hawkins aid. “It’s fairly honest representation of the band. That means warts and all.”
The organic approach to recording comes through on the finished version of There Is Nothing Left To Lose. The tracks sound uncluttered, direct and at times even a little rough around the edges.
Stylistically, the new CD seems like a logical successor to the first two albums. The loud, hard rocking side of the band familiar to fans of hit singles like “Monkey Wrench” and “This Is A Call” re-emerges on first-rate new songs like “Breakout,” “Gimme Stitches,” “Stacked Actors.”
With There’s Nothing Left To Lose, the current Foo lineup say the tensions that existed before are a thing of the past and the new lineup enjoys a strong personal chemistry. And according to Hawkins, while Grohl remains very much the guiding force behind the band, he and Mendel have slowly begun to play a larger role in creating the finished versions of the songs.
“Dave would kind of put the songs together together in a way. He always had more of an idea,” Hawkins said. “I was usually just kind of just trying to catch up because he’s got the song in his head. But I’d throw little ideas, and some of them he’d go ‘nah’ and some of them he’d go ‘Oh yeah.’…that song ‘Aurora’ just from [the] inception was a real sort of band feel when he wrote it and put it together.
“That’s a lot of trust for Dave to give,” Hawkins said of Grohl’s willingness to open up the songwriting and arranging process. “It’s his thing and I totally understand that he’s the leader. And I don’t want to dirty the process or cloud the genius or whatever.”
The Foo Fighters open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers April 9, 2000 at Rupp Arena in Lexington and April 8, 2000 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, IN.