Foo Fighters continued to try and move forward from the disastrous few months that had almost ended the band and with a handful of new songs demoed by Grohl and Hawkins, the pair were feeling a little more positive. On May 6th, 2002 the duo headed back to Studio 606 in Virginia and once again got to work. For this session Nick Raskulinecz had been promoted to the role of producer, following a call with Grohl a few weeks earlier. The pair had discussed the state of the recording up to that point and Nick was asked for his honest opinions on its quality. “Dave called me up point blank one day and asked if I thought the record was as good as it could be,” Nick recalled. Deciding honesty was the best policy the engineer gave Grohl a clear answer - no. “I thought it could be better,” he believed. Appreciating his honesty and knowing his abilities Grohl asked Raskulinecz if he felt he could produce a new version, a challenge he was up for.
Nate Mendel and Chris Shiflett were not present at the studio, nor were they even aware of what was taking place. Recording, therefore, got underway with just three men present – Grohl, Hawkins and the newly promoted Raskulinecz. “Taylor and I went back to Virginia, and we recorded the basic tracks for everything in like 12 days. All the vocals, all the guitars, and all the drums,” Grohl explained.
Of the tracks previously recorded, ‘All My Life’, ‘Lonely As You’, ‘Come Back’, ‘Overdrive’, ‘Halo’, ‘Have It All’ and ‘Burn Away’ were all re-done by the pair. Tracks such as ‘Knucklehead’ were left on the cutting room floor whilst the original recording of ‘Tired Of You’ was deemed okay, Brian May’s contribution on that first version helping towards that decision.
Proper versions of their newly demoed songs were also put to tape, bringing the number of songs deemed finished to eleven.
The newly re-recorded tracks had a varying level of similarity to their initial versions in terms of structure, but the trio felt overall all of the new recordings were more akin to their previous record ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’, sounding more natural and organic. “'All My Life' we had for a long time, not necessarily with all the lyrics, but the basic structure. The same with 'Have It All',” drummer Hawkins explained. “We ended up making them better when we re-recorded them, because we did it without all the technology and ProTools, and went for more of a real human feel, as opposed to this quantized Limp Bizkit version.”
The changes to two songs were very drastic. “Completely unrecognizable” is how Hawkins described the track ‘Come Back’. The song had changed from a simple, 4-minute hard rock song into a 7-minute epic featuring an extended, instrumental breakdown section two-thirds in. The drummer described the changes to ‘Lonely As You’ in a similar manner, with more drastic changes undertaken. A quiet intro section had been added to the song with whisper-like vocals from Grohl and the lyrics later in the song had also seen big changes. The line ‘Is anyone out there?’ was gone and Grohl would sing ‘One more time for the last time’ several times more than the original. Overall the song length was cut down by approximately 40 seconds.
“Recognizable, but we put a big line of cocaine on top of it” was the somewhat odd way Hawkins described the changes to ‘Overdrive’. “We did it in an early Police record fashion, as opposed to the sterile “Learn to Fly” fashion that it was originally.”
A new version of their album was now recorded but there was, of course, a problem – half of the band knew nothing about it. With the problems causing by re-recording an album behind the back of one former drummer and the tension surrounding earlier recordings for this album, Grohl made the potentially difficult phone call midway through the session. “I called up Nate and Chris and said, 'hey, I think we just re-recorded the whole record here.' And they were, like, 'what?!' 'Yeah, we did three songs yesterday, we're doing two today, we're doing three songs tomorrow.'“ Grohl explained to the pair how recording “just came together - there was no time to fuck around, there was no time to overanalyze, it was just all about making music because we were excited to do it and the energy was really there.” Thankfully Mendel and Shiflett were understanding of the situation and Grohl told them he still needed them to record their parts for the songs, although there was another issue.
Dave Grohl was still drumming for Queens Of The Stone Age and after a short break was due back on the road with his side-band. This meant two things. Firstly, since Studio 606 was also Dave Grohl’s personal home, they wouldn’t be able to go there to record their parts without Dave present. Secondly, it meant they would have to record their parts without the band leader to oversee their work in any manner. “[They] were left to do all of their recording on their own. So, they were basically left to play the parts that they wanted to play,” said Grohl of the situation.
The drummer for hire headed off, knowing that Foo Fighters fourth studio album was turning out to be extremely troubled, and now rather unconventional. “When you imagine a band making an album, you imagine four guys, in the studio, playing the song once, singing everything live and doing it. That seems like what you should do. But it doesn't necessarily work that way,” he explained. Whilst the process for this album was strange, Grohl was very aware that previous Foo Fighters albums had not been created in a conventional manner either. “We've always had sort of a weird way of making records, whether it's someone else playing the drums, or recording it in three different places,” Grohl said, describing the troubled recording of second album ‘The Colour And The Shape’. “I think the way we made the album was a very healthy way, compared to the way a lot of other records are made these days. It almost seemed like an experiment that worked. But I listen to it, and I think it's a pretty good representation of the band. Warts and all, it's fuckin'--the band. And that's what it should be, I guess.”
At the end of twelve days of recording Dave Grohl duly headed back out on the road with Queens Of The Stone Age, leaving Raskulincz to arrange the recording of Chris and Nate’s parts of the album at a later date.