IN THE STU­DIO: FOO FIGHT­ERS

WITH SOME UN­LIKELY HELP, DAVE GROHL FINDS THE SWEET SPOT BE­TWEEN ’70S MOR AND MOTÖRHEAD.

Q (UK) - - Contents - MATT ALLEN

How Boyz II Men helped Dave Grohl raise his game on the Foos’ ninth LP. Re­ally…

Some­times the mood of an al­bum can shift in un­likely cir­cum­stances. For Dave Grohl, his most re­cent cre­ative epiphany took place in a record­ing stu­dio car park. Sit­ting on a stool “with an acous­tic gui­tar and lyric book” he was un­ex­pect­edly ap­proached by Shawn Stock­man – one-time judge on the US ta­lent show, The Sing-Off, and found­ing mem­ber of slow jam quar­tet, Boyz II Men. The pair be­gan talk­ing, a con­ver­sa­tion that re­sulted in Stock­man join­ing the Foo Fight­ers’ song­writer-in-chief to cre­ate a grand choir on the ti­tle track for the band’s forth­com­ing new al­bum, Con­crete And Gold. “It was a sea of beau­ti­ful voices,” laughs Grohl, re­call­ing the sur­real union that led to the “heavy, dark, Sab­bath meets Pink Floyd” track. “The guy from Boyz II Men re­ally raised the fuck­ing bar on this record. It sounds strange but I swear to god, he came in and pushed us to do bet­ter.” Such are the lofty al­ti­tudes in which the Foo Fight­ers cur­rently or­bit. Hav­ing opted to record with Greg Kurstin of Cal­i­for­nian synth pop duo The Bird And The Bee and pro­ducer to the likes of Sia and Adele, the six-piece (key­boardist Rami Jaf­fee is now an of­fi­cial mem­ber of the band) be­gan record­ing 11 songs that re­jected the lyri­cal pa­ram­e­ters re­strict­ing Sonic High­ways’ ge­o­graph­i­cally-themed, “city bungee jumps” in 2014. “We went into a stu­dio and made a fuck­ing record,” says Grohl, suc­cinctly. A four-month en­camp­ment in LA’s EastWest Studios be­gan in De­cem­ber and drew vo­cal cameos from sev­eral fel­low res­i­dent artists, in­clud­ing Ali­son Mosshart of The Kills. “But Adele’s not on this record,” says Grohl, dis­pelling a re­cently pop­u­lar on­line myth. “There are names we’re keep­ing se­cret, though. If you can fig­ure out the mys­tery of who, then I’ll send you a fuck­ing lol­lipop.”

Lo­cat­ing the po­ten­tial pres­ence of Muse and Justin Tim­ber­lake – both in at­ten­dance at EastWest dur­ing Grohl’s res­i­dency – proves tricky. But with re­peated lis­tens, Con­crete And Gold soon re­veals it­self as an al­bum that blends hon­eyed, mul­ti­lay­ered vo­cal hooks with “su­per heavy riffs”, work­ing to a pro­duc­tion MO that con­nects with Grohl’s sonic sweet spot. “My early love of ’ 70s AM Gold and AC/DC, Aero­smith, and hard rock,” he says. Open­ing with the quiet-loud dy­nam­ics of T-Shirt (“writ­ten af­ter watch­ing the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal fi­asco”), it lands fa­mil­iar, melodic foot­falls in the stam­ped­ing rock of Run and La Dee Da. The sonic sur­prises ar­rive later, in tracks such as The Sky Is A Neigh­bour­hood and the ti­tle track where lush, seven-part har­monies add a grandiose twist in a sound that Grohl has likened to The Bea­tles col­lid­ing with Motörhead. “I just wanna make Lemmy proud,” he says. “He’d un­der­stand, like on the 50 gui­tars roar­ing on Make It Right. I think we pulled it off.” De­spite Grohl’s aims of record­ing in a more straight­for­ward fash­ion, it wouldn’t be a Foo Fight­ers project with­out a lit­tle stab at some overly am­bi­tious en­deav­our. “I’m a hy­per­ac­tive mu­si­cian,” he states, though, even by his stan­dards, the briefly con­sid­ered “Hol­ly­wood Bowl Project” – sev­eral live record­ing ses­sions held in front of an au­di­ence of thou­sands at the fa­mous LA am­phithe­atre – seemed too much. “When I came up with that con­cept the band looked at me and said, ‘Are you out of your fuck­ing mind?’ I was re­ally ex­cited. Then I saw PJ Har­vey had done some­thing sim­i­lar on 2016’ s The Hope Six De­mo­li­tion Project] and she’d do it a fuck­ing mil­lion times bet­ter.” Their dra­matic aims might have been briefly tem­pered, but if it can pro­duce a record as sat­is­fy­ing as Con­crete And Gold, who cares?

“THE GUY FROM BOYZ II MEN RE­ALLY RAISED THE F**KING BAR ON THIS RECORD, I SWEAR TO GOD.” DAVE GROHL

Dig­ging for …Gold: (clock­wise from left) Dave Grohl in shred heaven; “OK, guys, let’s free­jam” – Foos and friends in LA’s EastWest Studios; Grohl puts his feet up with pro­ducer Greg Kurstin (cen­tre).

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