For Foo Fighters, 2020 was set to be the year that would provide a defining victory lap of their entire career. Marking their 25th anniversary, the band had finished a tenth album that would expand the dimensions of their sound, and they were gearing up to take it to stadiums across the globe.
But then the pandemic hit and their best-laid plans went awry. Now, the engines in Foos HQ are rumbling once more. This weekend they tore up SNL and released new single ‘Shame Shame‘ – a searing, scorched-earth epic that explores their very darkest corners. It’s the first track from ‘Medicine To Midnight’, which is coming next year.
Hello, Dave. The last time you were on our shores was Summer 2019, when you headlined Reading & Leeds and gave us the mother of all parties at Club NME with Rick Astley. That just seems like a complete era ago.
Grohl: “Those were the days! It’s been a really strange year, to say the least. We finished our new album in February, it was mixed, mastered, and ready to go. Our tour itinerary was 18 months long too, with shows all over the world to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We were ready to implement our world-dominating routine, and then everything just stopped.”
That must have been a first for you guys?
“The whole band just went our separate ways and it was the first time we’d had a substantial break from the Foo Fighters in forever. Whether we’d been recording or touring, or making documentaries, we’ve been on it for fucking years! To have it grind to a halt was really strange. But, ever the optimist, I found a lot of beautiful moments in things calming down. First and foremost, everyone went home and made sure their friends and family were safe.”
And why have you chosen to return now?
“Well, we settled in for the long haul and months went by, when we just wondered when we would give the music to the people. After five or six months, we realised that our normal routine didn’t apply anymore. Right now, no one is going out on the road, so how do we connect with our audience and deliver the music we were so excited to give to the world? A couple of months ago, we just started up the machine again and decided it’s time! The most important thing is that people can hear the songs. I love playing live and all the other bells and whistles that come along with being in the Foo Fighters, but these songs were made to be heard. It’s time!”
What can you tell us about your mission statement for ‘Medicine At Midnight’?
“Since it’s our tenth record and 25th anniversary, we decided years ago that we wanted to do something that sounded fresh. We’ve made some many different types of album, we’ve done acoustic things, we’ve done punk-rock things, mid-tempo Americana type of things. We have a lot of albums to fall back on, so you just have to go with our gut feeling and I thought instead of making some mellow adult album, I thought ‘Fuck that, let’s make a party album’.”
What kind of party?
“A lot of our favourite records have these big grooves and riffs. I hate to call it a funk or dance record, but it’s more energetic in a lot of ways than anything we’ve ever done and it was really designed to be that Saturday night party album. It was written and sequenced in a way that you put on, and nine songs later you’ll just put it on again. Y’know, songs like ‘Making A Fire’. To me that’s rooted in Sly & The Family Stone grooves, but amplified in the way that the Foo Fighters do it.”
So it’s all pretty ‘out there’?
“‘Waiting On A War’ is the most recognisable song off the album as Foo Fighters. It came halfway through the recording process and came from a feeling I had as a child, when I was terrified that we were heading for nuclear war in the late 70s and early 80s with all the political tension and arms race. I was really afraid that we were going to die in a nuclear holocaust. And then last year, I was taking my daughter to school and it was around the time that the US and North Korea were ramping up tensions with each other and she had seen it on the news.”
“She just asked me: ‘Dad, are we going to war’? It reminded me of how I felt when I was her age and I just thought: ‘What a fucking drag!’ How depressing is it that childhood could be robbed of that beauty and innocence by this dark feeling of dread. So that’s what ‘Waiting On A War’ is about.”
Heavy! Any other big surprises on there?
“Then there’s ‘Medicine At Midnight’, that’s our David Bowie‘s ‘Let Dance’. It’s a huge fucking rock song that I imagine opening every festival from here to Melbourne! very song is a little bit different but they all have something that feels fresh and I like it!”
With the state of touring at the moment, would Foo Fighters ever play socially-distanced gigs?
“First and foremost, our main concern is that everyone is safe. Our band wouldn’t just jump out on the road for the sake of having an audience. Listen, we really do care for the people that come to see the band, so until we get to a place where everyone’s safe and sound, we’ll just have to adapt and figure out new ways to connect with the audience. Our band is rooted in live performance, more than anything. I love making records and everything that goes along with being in this band. But being on stage is really where we shine. Until that can happen safely, we’re just gonna have to fucking knock it out in the rehearsal room.”
That must be frustrating?
“To be honest, being away from it for six or seven months, not seeing the guys and having instruments in our laps, getting back to the rehearsal place and playing together to no one was just the best feeling in the world. When we get back and once it happens that we walk on stage to an audience, I have a feeling it’ll be the best show and the best feeling the band’s ever had.”
Foo Fighters release ‘Medicine At Midnight’ on February 5, 2021. Check back soon for more of our interview with Dave Grohl.