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Foo Fighters Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear Talk New Album, 'Concrete and Gold'

Foo Fighters Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear Talk New Album, 'Concrete and Gold' (from left) The Foo Fighters' three-ax attack: Chris Shiflett, Dave Grohl and Pat Smear

It’s just after nine a.m. in Los Angeles when Guitar World catches up with Dave Grohl, who has already been moving at full speed for hours. “Dude, lemme tell you,” he says with mock exasperation. “My morning starts…at night. Like, it’s already the afternoon for me!”

Grohl’s get-up-and-go attitude likely can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that he lives in a house crammed full with a wife and three daughters—“I usually wake up around 4:30 or something like that,” he reports, “and I get a good hour, hour-and-a-half to myself before my house explodes into a tornado of activity.”

But it’s also just the 48-year-old’s naturally energized demeanor.

To that end, the Foo Fighters—whose last album, 2014’s Sonic Highways, was a transcontinental endeavor that was paired with an eight-part HBO docuseries—recently finished up work on their ninth full-length, Concrete and Gold, and just returned from a slew of overseas shows where they headlined arenas, stadiums and festivals from Reykjavik to Roskilde.

Furthermore, they’re about to embark on a U.S. tour that kicks off in San Bernardino in grand fashion with Cal Jam 17, a 12-hour “rock superfest” that is Grohl’s reimagining of the legendary 1974 festival of the same name.

In place of the original’s lineup of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and the Eagles, Grohl has put together a bill that includes, among others, Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant, Royal Blood and, of course, his own band.

After that, the Foo Fighters will continue on, crisscrossing the globe on their own full-scale headlining tour over the course of the next year or two.

Needless to say, this would constitute a pretty full plate of activity for any band—much less one, that, for all intents and purposes, is supposed to be on a break.

“I know, right?” Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett says about the November 2015 announcement wherein Grohl, in an open letter to fans, opined that he and his bandmates “could use a nice wander through the woods right about now,” hinting at a hiatus that was later confirmed by various members. “Like, what the fuck happened?” Shiflett asks. “I was on vacation.”

He laughs, then continues. “But the truth is, I never really put too much faith in the whole ‘hiatus’ thing, because, you know, in this band it’s usually shorter than is stated.

But we wrapped up touring for the last record, with Dave with his leg broken and everything [in 2015, Grohl fell off a stage during a performance in Gothenburg, Sweden, resulting in his finishing the tour with his leg in a cast, and singing and playing while seated in a self-designed throne], and it was a little before Thanksgiving 2015. And at that time Dave was talking about wanting to take two years off. That was sort of the stated goal. “Which,” he points out, “I never really believed…”

As it turns out, Shiflett had good reason to doubt Grohl’s intentions. According to Pat Smear, the former Germs and Nirvana guitarist who comprises the final third of the Foos' three-ax attack, “The last time we were going on a long break, Dave started making [the 2013 documentary film] Sound City. And we were like, ‘What about us, man? We wanna do it too!” So we ended up making that album [Sound City: Real to Reel] and touring for that. That’s how Foo Fighters breaks go.”

That said, the band members, who also include bassist Nate Mendel, drummer Taylor Hawkins and keyboardist Rami Jaffee, did get a bit of time off. They spent the holidays and early part of 2016 at home, and Hawkins and Shiflett even managed to squeeze out solo albums (KOTA and West Coast Town, respectively). But soon enough, Grohl came calling. “The beginning of the summer of 2016 was the first sort of text from Dave implying things were gonna pick back up soon,” Shiflett recalls.

In Grohl’s defense, initially he didn’t know how soon “soon” would be.

“At the end of the last tour [for Sonic Highways] everyone was completely exhausted—mentally, physically, emotionally,” he explains.

“We were like a rag that got squeezed dry. It was time to stop, and we knew it. We finished the tour, I still wasn’t walking 100 percent yet after breaking my leg, we had recorded the Saint Cecilia EP just as kind of a thank-you to the fans…and then we got home. And it’s weird when you come home from that much touring and that much traveling and that much performing. You’re dropped silent onto your back porch with this big question mark, like, ‘Okay, who am I? What am I doing here?’ It’s strange. It can turn into that Apocalypse Now scene with the mirror and the bloody hand if you’re not careful, you know?”

Indeed, Grohl soon began to get restless. “About once a month I would walk up into my home studio and look at the guitar and look at the drum set and then turn off the lights and walk out,” he recounts.

“And then a month later I’d look at the guitar, look at the drum set, maybe sit down in front of the drums for 15 minutes, and then turn out the light and walk out. A month after that, I’d started setting up microphones. Six months went by, and I just hit this vein where riffs and melodies started coming out. So I would record demos by myself and then send them to the guys and say, ‘Hey, what do you think? Is this cool?’ And after maybe 15 or 16 of them I realized that, if we wanted to, we could walk into the studio and make the record.”

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