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Foo Fighters are an American rock band formed by singer/guitarist/drummer Dave Grohl in 1995 in Seattle, USA. Grohl formed the group as a one-man project after the dissolution of his previous band Nirvana in 1994. Prior to the release of Foo Fighters in 1995, Grohl drafted Nate Mendel (bass), William Goldsmith (drums) (both of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Fire Theft), and Pat Smear (guitar) (of The Germs) to complete the group. Goldsmith left during the recording of the group's second album The Colour and the Shape (1997), soon followed by Smear. They were replaced by Taylor Hawkins and Franz Stahl, respectively, although Stahl left prior to the recording of the group's third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999).
Chris Shiflett joined as the band's second 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 harder-rocking material. Foo Fighters released its sixth album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace in 2007. Over the course of the band's career, three of its albums have won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album, and all six have been nominated for Grammys. The band's seventh album Wasting Light was released in 2011 and peaked at #1 in several countries.
Formation and debut album
Dave Grohl joined the band Nirvana as the group's drummer in 1990. In order to occupy himself during tours, he took a guitar with him and wrote songs. Grohl held back these songs from the band; he said in 1997, "I was in awe of frontman Kurt Cobain's songs. And intimidated. I thought it was best that I keep my songs to myself." Instead, Grohl occasionally booked studio time to record demos, and even issued a cassette of some of those songs called Pocketwatch under the pseudonym "Late!" in 1992.
Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home on April 8, 1994, and Nirvana subsequently disbanded. Grohl received offers to work with various artists, and almost accepted a permanent position as the drummer in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Ultimately Grohl declined and instead entered a studio in October 1994 to record twelve of the forty songs he had written. With the exception of a guitar part on "X-Static" by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, 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. According to Rope Songfacts, he was reading a book about military World War II sightings at the time and he wanted people to think it was a band. So he called it Foo Fighters as it was plural. However, the demo tape circulated in the music industry, creating interest among record labels. Grohl formed a band to support the album. Initially, Grohl 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 emo band Sunny Day Real Estate, Grohl drafted the group's bass player, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith. Grohl asked Pat Smear, who served 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.
The group played its debut show at a keg party in February 1995. Grohl refused to do interviews or tour large venues to promote the album. Foo Fighters undertook their 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
After touring through the spring of 1996, Foo Fighters entered a 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 wasn't happy with how the mixes were turning out, and the band "basically re-recorded almost everything". During the L.A. sessions, Grohl played drums on some of the songs. Goldsmith said Grohl did not tell him that he recorded new drum parts for the record and, feeling betrayed, left the band.
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 spawned the singles "Monkey Wrench", "My Hero", and "Everlong".
Pat Smear announced to the rest of the group that he wanted to leave the band to pursue other interests. Four months later in September 1997 at the MTV Video Music Awards, Smear simultaneously publicly announced 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.
There Is Nothing Left to Lose
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 about the decision to fire Stahl, as the two had been friends since childhood. 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. The album spawned several singles, including "Learn to Fly", the band's first single to reach the US 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 to RCA, who later acquired the rights to the band's Capitol albums.
Chris Shiflett joined Foo Fighters as a touring guitarist before becoming a full member
After recording was completed, the band auditioned a number of potential guitarists, and eventually settled on Chris Shiflett, who previously performed with No Use for a Name and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Shiflett initially joined the band as touring guitarist, but achieved full-time status prior to the recording of the group's fourth album.
That same year, Foo Fighters established a relationship with rock band Queen, of whom the band (particularly Grohl and Hawkins) are fans. 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 2. When Queen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001, Grohl and Hawkins were invited to perform with the band on "Tie Your Mother Down", with Grohl filling in on vocals for Freddie Mercury. 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
Near the end of 2001, the band reconvened to record their fourth album. After spending four months in a Los Angeles studio completing the album, 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, Grohl, inspired by the sessions, decided to reconvene Foo Fighters to rework a few songs on their album. Instead, they re-recorded nearly all of the album (save "Tired of You") in a ten-day stretch at Grohl's studio in Virginia. The final album was released in October of 2002 under the title One by One. Singles from the album included "All My Life", "Times Like These", "Low", and "Have It All". The band later expressed displeasure with the album. Grohl told Rolling Stone in 2005, "Four of the songs were good, and the other seven I never played again in my life. We rushed into it, and we rushed out of it."
For most of its history, the band chose to stay away from the political realm. However, in 2004 prior to donating 3 million dollars to the new Pittsburgh Penguins arena, 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. 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 and acoustic tour
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", "No Way Back", and "Miracle".
On June 17, 2006, Foo Fighters performed their largest non-festival headlining concert to date at London's Hyde Park. The band was supported by Juliette and the Licks, Angels & Airwaves, Queens of the Stone Age, and Motörhead. 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 stand in Los Angeles. An accompanying DVD was released, and featured tracks not available on the CD.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
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 in September 2007. The album's first single, "The Pretender", was issued to radio in early August. 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 mid-to-late 2007 "The Pretender" topped the Modern Rock chart for a record 18 weeks, it also gave the band their third consecutive year at the top (a record), and made them the only artist besides Red Hot Chili Peppers to have 4 consecutive albums have songs reach the top (RHCPs have 5). When "Long Road to Ruin" reached the top it gave them their fourth consecutive year to have a song reach the top (breaking their own record). When the fourth single, "Let It Die", reached the top 20 it gave them 3 songs in the top 20, one of only four artists to do this. "Let It Die" is also the album's third Number One hit on the chart.
Not long after completing the recording sessions for the album, the band participated in Live Earth at Wembley Stadium in London, England, performing the penultimate set of the night. Later that summer, the band headlined V Festival 2007, including a surprise acoustic set on the Channel 4 stage under the name 606. In October 2007, Foo Fighters started their world tour in support for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. The band performed shows throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada and Asia. The band finished its world tour in September 2008 at the Virgin Festival at Toronto Island Park in Canada.
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was nominated for 5 Grammys in 2008. The 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 17 September 2008 Dave Grohl announced on The Chris Moyles Show that the band would be taking a long break from music so that they could return with a new sense of purpose, and also informed fans not to expect any new music for a while. "We've never really taken a long break, I think it's time," Grohl commented. "After doing Wembley, we shouldn't come back there for 10 years because we've played to everybody. We're over in the UK every year, every summer, so I think it's time to take a break and come back over when people really miss us."
After taking a break from music, Foo Fighters returned in 2011 with the album Wasting Light. The album was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage, as opposed to Studio 606. Grohl addressed by stating "There's poetry in being the band that can sell out Wembley but also makes a record in a garage." Wasting Light features many guest musicians, including Krist Novoselic, who had played with Grohl in Nirvana.
Foo Fighters released a 30 second teaser on January 17th 2011 of the song "Bridge Burning", and on February 1st 2011 the announcement of the release date of the album, April 12th 2011, was accompanied by a 30 second teaser of "Miss the Misery". On February 12th, the music video for "White Limo" was released. And on February 23rd "Rope" was released for online streaming.
On March 1st "Rope" was released as the first single from the album. It peaked at number 1 in the US on the Rock, Alternative, and Mainstream Rock charts.
On April 9th the band appeared on Saturday Night Live (host Helen Miren). They played the song "Rope" for their first performance, and debuted the song "Walk" for their second.
Wasting Light peaked at number 1 on the Albums chart in 12 countries, including the US and UK. It has achieved platinum status in Australia and New Zeland.
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 Pixies' technique of shifting between quiet verses and loud chorus, which Grohl said was influenced by the members of Nirvana "liking the Knack, Bay City Rollers, The 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 similar to how he approached 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 harder sounds. 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."
Campaigning and activism
In 2000, the band generated controversy through their public support of Alive & Well, an organization that denies the link between HIV and AIDS, questions the validity of HIV tests, and advises against taking medication to counter the disease. Foo Fighter bassist Nate Mendel learned of Alive & Well through What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?, a self-published book written by Christine Maggiore, the organization's founder. Mendel passed the book around to the rest of the band, who supported his advocacy.
In January 2000, the band played a benefit concert for the organization, which Mendel helped to organize. The band also contributed songs to The Other Side of AIDS, a controversial documentary film by Maggiore's husband Robin Scovill, which questions whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. The band's position caused alarm in the medical community, as Alive & Well's advice ran contrary to established medical wisdom about HIV and AIDS. In a 2000 interview, Mendel spoke of using Foo Fighters' popularity to help spread the group's message and of holding more benefits for the organization. However, no further benefits have taken place, and the band has since removed the organization from its list of supported causes.
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