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Grohl's new Foos

By Matt Ashar

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  "I don't feel right unless I'm drinking 15 cups of coffee a day, I'm totally exhausted, I'm pulling my hair out, haven't eaten in two days, can't sleep, and am about to get pneumonia," explains a rather caffeinated-sounding Dave Grohl over the phone from Atlanta. He and his Foo Fighters are preparing to soundcheck at a gym on the campus of Vanderbilt University -- they're on their second pass through the US in support of Foo disc number two, the buzz-and-crunch power-rock opus The Colour and the Shape (Capitol).

It's their first tour with new guitarist Franz Stahl, who joined the same night former Germs/Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear announced his departure from the band -- at the MTV Music Awards last month. (The tour brings the band to the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg tonight.) And it comes at the end of a year that has seen the bottom fall out of the grunge market and the Foo Fighters lose another member, drummer William Goldsmith, who gave notice during the sessions for The Colour and the Shape and whose spot was filled by former Alanis Morissette sideman Taylor Hawkins. Add to that the talk of bassist Nate Mendel hooking back up with Goldsmith and singer/guitarist Jeremy Enigk for a Sunny Day Real Estate reunion and it's hard not to wonder whether things are really in order in the House of Foo -- whether it's more than just caffeine keeping Grohl awake at night.

Grohl, as you might expect, puts a different spin on the situation. "Franz is working out better than I could ever have imagined. I played with him in Scream before Nirvana. I kind of learned how to write songs and play rock guitar by being in a hardcore band with Franz. He's like a brother. I spent years in a tiny van with him, touring around, sleeping on people's floors and stuff. If he hadn't been busy playing in another band [Wool] when I put my band together, he probably would have been the guitarist in the Foo Fighters. So we just knew that he'd be perfect. The first day we played with Franz, or even sat in a rehearsal room with him, was the day of the MTV awards. We went over `Everlong' two or three times and then we did it that night."

Which is not to say he was unhappy with Smear. "Pat's an amazing guitar player. He had his own style. He was really just a wall of sound. Now it's still a wall of sound, but I think we're paying more attention to what we're doing. It's maybe more powerful now. I miss Pat, and I love him to death, but with Taylor on the drums and Franz on guitar we have these really outstanding musicians in the band, and I can really hear the difference. It seems like everything has opened up. We can put it on cruise control and it just goes."

Indeed, Grohl mainly blames the pace he's set for the Foo Fighters with bringing about the departure of Smear and Goldsmith. "I think one of the biggest reasons both these people left the band is that we're constantly working. We don't take breaks. We started the band in January of 1995, did our first tour in March, toured for a year and a half, took three and a half weeks off after that round of touring. Then we started rehearsing every day to record the next album, spent until February in the studio, I left right away for press tours -- did 60 interviews in Japan in three days -- and then we started touring again. This is our fourth tour for this record. We've been to Europe twice, it's our second American tour, and we've been to Japan.

"I think my love of touring comes from having been in Scream. In Scream we'd go on tour, live off three to five dollars a day, but we were playing music every night and didn't have to hold down jobs. When we came back from a tour, I'd have to go to the furniture warehouse and get a job, I'd have to go to Tower Records and get a job. That sucked. So we'd spend eight to 10 months of every year out on tour. After four years of doing that I learned to love being on the road. Like the other day, we did a show in New Orleans at 1 in the afternoon, hopped in a LearJet, flew to Atlanta, and played in Atlanta that night. And I'm really proud of that."

Despite Smear's departure, Grohl still feels the Foos are a group project. "As long as there's more than one person, then it's not just one person's band, so it's always felt like a band to me. At least, that's the way I look at it. I think people's impressions might be a little off. With two guys leaving the band and me recording the first album by myself, plus the fact that I was in Nirvana, that leads people to think that the Foo Fighters is a solo experience, where it's all about me. But I've always felt that I couldn't do this alone."

Matt Ashare can be reached at mashare@phx.com.

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

  • Foo Fighters - Semi-official site with all the "Foo" fit to publish

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