Fighting On

Saturday Telegraph - February 6th 2021

Dave Grohl has a doozy of a plan for getting Foo Fighters' long-awaited 10th studio album through quarantine and in front of their live music- starved fans.

Dave Grohl wakes up every morning with some "jackass" idea to get their made-forstadiums record Medicine At Midnight in front of the millions of Foo Fighters fans throughout the world.

There have been livestreams, music videos for the album's introductory singles Shame Shame and Waiting On A War, performances for television and US President Joe Biden's Inauguration concert.

Last week, just a couple of days before their 10th studio record was released - following last year's Foo Fighters' 25th anniversary and six months before Nirvana's Nevermind turns 30 - talk in the rehearsal room turned to "let's go to Australia" and play some gigs.

The next morning, Grohl had a doozy of a plan.

Team Foos enacted their own bubble in November when they came together to launch the album campaign, with crew members and their extended band family undertaking twice daily COVID testing.

The band members - whose DNA is wired to play gigs in front of 60,000 people for 18 months after the release of every record - would have no qualms about getting match-fit for any pandemic restrictions around touring ahead of travelling to Australia.

They would propose a Foo Fighters quarantine compound with a home studio and record new songs for an EP called Knock Knock over their 14 days of isolation rehearsals.

"This is not a bad idea, right?" Grohl says, bursting with his signature boyish enthusiasm.

"First song, Knock Knock, second song, Who's There? Third song, Orange. Fourth song, Orange Who? Fifth song, Orange You Fucking Glad We Made This EP?

"Here's the thing, the joke is only in the sequence. The first song is about searching for your lost love, door to door, trying to find the woman that you met that stole your heart.

"Song No. 2 Who's There? is an introspective look at who you really are.

"Listen, I wake up thinking of this shit, Kathy, I'm not kidding, that is my life. And let me tell you, a dad joke is still a fucking joke, OK?" Grohl and his merry music making men's almost sole purpose is to entertain. So as they recorded the songs for Medicine At Midnight from late 2019 into early 2020, their eyes were focused on the live prize.

The frontman told his bandmates - Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee - it would be their "Let's Dance" record, invoking the pop melodies and funk danceability of David Bowie's smash hit album.

As he cites the other groove inspirations for the record - from ABBA and Queen to Sly and the Family Stone, I wonder if Grohl has any "dance moves" which aren't running around a stage or busting out classic rock hair flips and guitar poses?

"That's not something I show to the world," he says, laughing.

"If you and I were on a dancefloor and the music's pumping and we've had 17 drinks, yes, it would become Saturday Night Fever.

"I'd be spinning and I'll breakdance. I can breakdance."

As for how he might incorporate his pandemic-length rock locks in the execution of inciting a mass dance when the Foo Fighters eventually do get to play their Medicine At Midnight songs live, Grohl says those hair flips are entirely logistical moves as opposed to choreographed theatricality.

He reveals that if you listen closely to the recent television performances to launch the record, you will hear him mid-song loudly trying to blow his hair out of his face.

"I haven't had a cut in like a year. The last two performances we have done, in the middle of Everlong which I have played 10,000 times, I can't see my f ucking guitar so I'm just hoping I can remember," he says.

The new album marks yet another incremental sonic shift in the Foo Fighters sound, adding bigger female backing vocals, drum loops - which Hawkins was resistant to initially - swelling strings and supercharged pop melodies and strings orchestrations helmed by their current production partner and Grohl's good mate, hitmaker Greg Kurstin. Family is also in the mix. Grohl and wife Jordyn's middle daughter Harper inspired the song Waiting On A War when she asked her dad "is there going to be a war?" in the middle of the school run one morning in 2019.

Eldest daughter Violet sings on the record and is a part-time member of the band, graduating to backing vocals after dad put her to work in their production office on the last tour.

The pair would share a room on the road and get room service and watch horror movies together after the gig.

"I thought that it was just kind of fun until I get a call from my accountant who says, 'What do you want me to do with this cheque for Violet? She sang on the record. She has to be paid,' " he says.

"When she told me how much the cheque was, I was like, 'That cheque is going to me and I will give it to her when she turns 18 years old.'

"The whole dad rock thing? If you're lucky, you can stick around long enough that your own kid can be in your band. If that's not an accomplishment, I don't know what is. I'm very happy to say Violet Grohl is in my band."

Bassist Mendel, the only Foo Fighters member who has been in the line-up for the entirety of its 25 years, says their "Let's Dance" record has fuelled even more excitement for what comes next. Perhaps that Knock Knock EP? "The 25th anniversary kind of crept up on me a bit but in all honesty, yeah, sure I thought we'd get there. The state of the union is strong here, honestly," he says of their bond.

"There's now another side to the Foo Fighters that gives us a greater latitude in what the music is going to sound like in the future.

"I think we did tinker with who we are, fundamentally, and now I'm curious to see what the people who know the band think."

Words: Kathy McCabe    

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