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Music

The story of how Foo Fighters was born

@josephtaysom

Foo Fighters were never supposed to be a band, let alone stadium-dwelling megastars. When Dave Grohl concocted the idea for the Foo’s, there was no grand plan for their future, and everything fell into place naturally over time.

Following Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana’s subsequent end, the last thing Grohl wanted to do was drum for another group. He desperately needed a fresh start in a new environment, and Foo Fighters was born purely out of circumstance. Speaking about playing the drums after the tragedy, he later admitted: “It would just remind me of being in Nirvana; every time I sat down at a drum set, I would think of that.”

After making his comeback with The Backbeat Band at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1994, Grohl’s appetite to make music returned, and at first, he saw it solely as a vehicle for his grief. He’d been writing songs for years but had kept to himself and finally decided to formally record his creations.

Grohl didn’t want the project to appear as a solo project, even though it was, and that’s why he landed on the name Foo Fighters. It was designed to create an allusion that would trick fans into believing they were listening to a band rather than one man playing all the instruments.

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The plans originated with six days at the Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, and Grohl quickly began to realise he had an album on his hands. The Foo’s frontman admitted in 2011: “The first Foo Fighters record was not meant to be an album, it was an experiment and for fun. I was just fucking around. Some of the lyrics weren’t even real words.”

After being in the most important band on the planet, Grohl knew anything he released would have the world’s attention on it, and for that reason, he wanted to try for anonymity, but Eddie Vedder would blow that plan into the water.

The Pearl Jam frontman aired two songs from the album on his radio show, and this created a buzz in the industry. Record labels were queueing up to secure their signature, and after signing with Capitol Records, Grohl finally put a band together, which included Nate Mendel and Pat Smear. 

Although Grohl was the only artist to play on Foo Fighters, Capitol wanted to present them as a band and included an image of them all together in the liner notes. The album was a resounding success, selling two million copies within the first five months of its release, and although Foo Fighters was initially supposed to be a one-off project, Grohl knew it was too good to throw away.

Speaking to Esquire in 2018, he revealed: “After that first [Foo Fighters] record we thought, ‘Ok, well, let’s make one more’, and some of us were backpacking through Europe and we spent our life doing it but you gotta do it at least once, so we thought, ‘Ok, let’s do it again. This time, we’ll get an established producer and we’ll really work on it because the first one was just me, five days in the studio.”

He added: “So the ball kinda just kept rolling and it was a nice way to feel like life had direction and that there were things to look forward to, because I didn’t want to get stuck in that place where I was when Nirvana ended. I never, ever thought we would be in the place that we are in now. I mean, anyone that would imagined that happening is just fucking insane. If someone were to tell me we would be where we are now I would tell them they are wrong, that there’s no way that’s possible.”

Watch the footage below of Foo Fighters performing ‘This Is A Call’ at Brixton Academy in 1995 from their first world tour.