Grunge veterans the Foo Fighters are channelling their inner Rick Astley with a bold new record the American rockers describe as their “weirdest” yet.
While their DNA is rooted in the Seattle grunge scene of the early nineties, the band told AFP that turning to British pop diva Adele’s award-winning producer Greg Kurstin for their ninth studio album, “Concrete and Gold”, brought a fresh dimension to their sound.
In an interview before headlining the Summer Sonic festival in Tokyo — where they invited Astley on stage for an improbable mash-up of the eighties pin-up’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett said:
“People think it’s a really weird choice for us to work with a pop producer but it made perfect sense. There’s so much more to Greg and his love of music and knowledge base than just the pop stuff.”
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer, chose him to replicate the alchemy he has with Adele, this time with a gnarly rock band.
“We weren’t getting Greg for Adele’s sound,” said keyboardist Rami Jaffee, previously a fan of Kurstin’s indie synthpop duo The Bird and the Bee.
“The Greg we had in the studio was definitely the more adventurous soundscape guy — he brought more of that stuff,” he added.
“I thought: ‘Oh boy, we’re getting weird quick!’ This record we really took extra leaps and bounds, sonically.”
Due out next month, the new Foo Fighters album combines thunderous guitar riffs with lush, harmonic textures.
Tracks such as “La Dee Da” and the Donald Trump-inspired single “Run” rock out, but the Foo Fighters shift gears on the dreamy “Dirty Water”, while the title track is a slow-burner that features Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman.
Beatles legend Paul McCartney also plays drums on one track among several other guest turns, including Alison Mosshart of The Kills.
“Paul McCartney is a fan of music,” said Shiflett, nibbling on vegetable sticks in between photo shoots.
“He only did two passes at the song, which he had never even heard before. Then he just wanted to noodle around so we just jammed on a bunch of other stuff.”
The Foo Fighters shot to fame in the late nineties with hits such as “This Is A Call,” “Monkey Wrench” and “Learn To Fly” and have sold more than 30 million records worldwide.
“I didn’t join the band until ’99 but I remember a cassette tape bootleg of the first album way before it came out circulating,” said Shiflett.
“All my friends that were in the know had it and it was just something that would be on the stereo at parties.”
But after a turbulent 2015 when Grohl broke his leg after plunging off the stage and they were forced to cancel a tour, rumours persisted that the group were set to split.
“It would be so dumb for any band to break up,” insisted guitarist Pat Smear, who also used to tour with Nirvana. “You just look stupid when you get back together.”
Shiflett believes the secret of the band’s longevity lies in not taking themselves too seriously, pointing to a spat with Coldplay, who took offence at a mischievous bumper sticker joke in a 2011 Foo Fighters video.
“I remember at the time Chris Martin got super offended and actually got into it with Dave at a kids birthday party or something,” he said.
“It certainly wasn’t meant to offend anybody. I don’t think this band could ever take itself too seriously.”Jaffee agrees.
“Not taking yourselves too seriously — all other bands take note,” he said. “It’s a very important thing to keep in check and I’m sorry, Chris Martin, but all our wives love you!”