Mine is yours and yours is mine/There is no divide/In Your Honor I
would die tonight
Foo Fighters fifth and definitive album opens with a statement of
purpose universal in its passion. Dave Grohl could be singing to his
wife, bandmates Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins and Chris Shiflett, or to
any and every fan listening to the song. In truth, the song and the
double album -- one heavy as fuck, the other subtly laid back -- are
dedicated to all of the above: the friends, family and fans that have
made the decade-long Foo Fighters odyssey possible.
We've been a band for 10 years now, says Grohl, channeling the band's
quandary at the outset of the In Your Honor sessions. So what do we do?
Do we make another album? Rush into making another record? So I came up
with this idea. I thought since I'd just been all around the world for a
year and a half screaming my ass off, I'd make a solo acoustic
record�but disguise it as movie score. We've always had acoustic songs.
Most of our rock songs were written on acoustic guitar, songs like
'Times Like These,' 'Everlong'� I had this little studio up at my
house and started recording all this music, some of it songs, some of it
like a score, it was really beautiful, really coming out well then I
listened to it and I was like 'Wait a second: It sounds like the Foo
Fighters. It sounds like the band.'
Everyone in the band has so much to offer, Grohl says. But we'd sort of
remained in this one 'thing' for so long that I felt it was time to
break out, to branch out, that maybe we should make the acoustic record_
but then I started thinking about how I didn't want to show up to the
Reading Festival with a harpsichord, or whatever. This band just has
to make some rock music�so I thought, OK, why don't we do this? Why
don't we make a DOUBLE album?
And so it was that the In Your Honor double disc opus was conceived.
The band and producer Nick Raskulinecz would take the Foo Fighters'
unique and precarious balance of balls-out aggression and lady-killing
melodic tenderness and split the difference. The chemistry that had made
it possible for "All My Life," Everlong and Times Like These to impact
listeners equally in their acoustic and electric incarnations would be
divided and pushed to separate extremes of hard and soft, distilled into
their purest forms.
By splitting the difference," Grohl continues, "You eliminate the
middle ground. We can make the acoustic record far more delicate and
beautiful and atmospheric than anything we've ever done�and we can make
the rock record far more brutal and aggressive and powerful than
anything from our past.' In order to make it work, I really thought
"take out that middle ground, make these two records, put them together
and you've accomplished something." I've always sort of believed we
were capable of doing both - just not as well as this has turned out.
Indeed, Foo Fighters being at the peak of their creative powers 10
years in - let alone still together at all--often seemed a sketchy
possibility. From a genesis in the form of a 1995 self-titled platinum
debut originally recorded as a demo tape by Grohl (who played all
instruments, save for a lone guitar track contributed by erstwhile
Afghan Whig/Twilight Singer Greg Dulli), the Foo Fighters' career has
been largely, as bassist Nate Mendel puts it, accidental."
Accidental� or worse: The shattered relationships that inspired,
permeated and continued through the recording of and touring behind
1997's The Colour and the Shape would surely have left a lesser band in
tatters. Foo Fighters, however, persevered first through the mid-session
departure of drummer William Goldsmith, who would be replaced by Taylor
Hawkins months before Pat Smear would depart -- all of this as The
Colour and the Shape yielded one FF classic after another: Monkey
Wrench, Everlong, My Hero, Walking After You -- and rocketed beyond the
sales of Foo Fighters.
The resultant, strengthened Grohl/Mendel/Hawkins nucleus decamped to
Grohl's now derelict home studio in Alexandria VA to create 1999's There
Is Nothing Left To Lose. Heralded by the infectious Learn To Fly, the
album was in large part their answer record, especially in retrospect,
to the testosterone-drenched rap-metal onslaught mounting in its year of
release. Mellifluous down-tempo numbers rolled into one another (Next
Year, Aurora) while the record's few raucous numbers (Breakout, Stacked
Actors) would become live staples. The band enlisted guitarist Chris
Shiflett and embarked on yet another global conquest in support of the
album, concluding with two Grammy victories: Best Rock Album and Short
Form Music Video (Learn To Fly).
One By One followed in 2002�and a difficult birth it was. The result
of two passes at recording, it once again tested the mettle of the band
and its personal bonds -- resulting in Grohl's leave-of-absence to gain
much needed perspective: recording and touring for a spell as drummer
for Queens Of the Stone Age. Regrouping, regenerating and putting the
record to bed, Foo Fighters released One By One to rave reviews and
followed with the band's biggest world tour to date-including two sold
out nights at London's Wembley Arena and a headlining stand at the
Reading Festival. By 2004, One By One had become the fourth FF record to
surpass the platinum mark, putting two more Grammies on the band's
mantle: Best Hard Rock Performance for the All My Life single and a
second consecutive Best Rock Album statuette, as the band wound down
with a show-stopping Grammy performance of Times Like These augmented by
legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea.
As a result of these cumulative experiences, not to mention down time
spent with various side projects--Grohl's Probot, Mendel's Fire Theft,
Hawkins' Coattail Riders and Shiflett's Jackson United-the collective
Foo Fighters would become more assured than ever that this was the final
lineup of their band-for-life. In Your Honor would be their chance to
commit that statement to music: The days of near-disintegration with
every record had long since come to an end.
Every album that we made, I'd always imagine it to be our last, Grohl
I think we all felt that way, adds Hawkins.
Cue In Your Honor's first single, the magnificent and grandiose Best of
You, which packs a career's worth of passion, rage and melody into a
breathtaking 4:16. No coincidence that a lyric repeats I swear I'll
never give in/I refuse, elsewhere Grohl executing possibly the defining
vocal of his career, rife with heartfelt sentiment on pertinent lines
like I'm getting tired of starting again/Somewhere new. Small wonder
Best Of You is already tearing radio a new one and eliciting early press
And so it goes over the course of In Your Honor's hard-as-nails first
disc. Confessional screeds melding fury and melody with precarious
balance and finesse on anthems No Way Back, DOA and The Last Song. With
each successive track, it becomes more apparent why Hawkins calls disc 1
the best rock record we've ever made, and Shiflett can't wait to leave
the band's self-built 606 studio-cum-grownup-clubhouse to get out and
play these songs live. Deeper still into the first disc, Resolve, The
Deepest Blues Are Black and the closing End Over End find the band's
formidable rock power channeled into more varying tempos and
arrangements, more than making good on Hawkins' claim.
But as Hawkins is quick to clarify, In Your Honor's first and second
discs really are two different albums. As such, they were created in two
distinct manners. Grohl recalls: We'd been recording the rock record for
nearly two months when I finally realized 'OK, we have to start on this
acoustic stuff or else it's not going to happen.' So I sat everyone down
at this meeting where I said 'here's the deal: No more fuckin' around.
No more doing the drums, then you come in Wednesday and do the bass,
then you come in Thursday and do the guitar_
We just needed to have everybody here the whole time, says Hawkins.
To do a song a day, adds Shiflett.
And everybody was kinda' scared because we'd ever done it that way
before, Grohl says, though they quickly adapted, soon preferring the new
pace, Shiflett referring to it as a more natural process for creating
music, while Mendel noted, It's a lot more fun and there's a lot more
spontaneity to it. Everyone's there and feeding off of one another.
The creation of the mellower half of In Your Honor turned surreal when
the band's self described insane wish list of guest performers began
materializing. Norah Jones lent vocals and piano to the sultry bossa
nova of Virginia Moon-a performance Hawkins describes as awesome; She is
a pro. (FF guitar tech Joe Beebe, also guests on guitar on the same
track) Elsewhere on the second disc, photographer extraordinaire Danny
Clinch, on hand to document the recording process, shows off his
harmonica skills on Another Round, producer Nick Raskulinecz sits in on
double bass for On The Mend, Petra Haden adds violin to Miracle, Josh
Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age plays dueling acoustic guitars with
Grohl on the stunning closer Razor, while Cold Day In The Sun showcases
an alternate universe featuring Hawkins on vocals, Grohl on drums and
Raskulinecz on bass.
But nothing could prepare the boys for the day their calls to John Paul
Jones were actually returned: The legendary Led Zeppelin bassist was in
town to pick up a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and would end up
contributing piano to Miracle and mandolin to Another Round. His most
significant contribution, however, would be ensuring that Grohl would
die a happy man: Honestly, that was probably the musical highlight of my
life because I've been so obsessed with Zeppelin since I was a little
kid--It's just like give me a fuckin' break man, pinch me this is NOT
Then, unexpectedly, as Shiflett recounts, The energy of the acoustic
record ultimately affected the rock record in an interesting way.
Yeah we ended up re-thinking a lot of it, Hawkins agrees.
Or as Grohl adds less diplomatically, There was no way we could let the
acoustic stuff kick the rock stuff's ass. So we went back in on the rock
stuff for about three weeks or something like that---from noon one day
until 8 the next morning, making the rock record the most devastating
thing we'd ever done. The resultant sprint to the finish line saw
marathon sessions that had the band thanking their lucky stars for their
decision to build 606, where they could write, rehearse, record and
re-record to their heart's content, all completely off the clock. The
end result? In Your Honor: the double record Grohl looks on proudly as
his band's crowning achievement.
In 20 years, when some kid asks his dad, 'You ever hear of Foo
Fighters? Which record should I get?' They should say In Your Honor.
Like if you wanna hear some Led Zeppelin? Get Physical Graffiti. That's
exactly what I want to happen with this record. I want people to say
'Wow, that's the album they'll be remembered for.'