Towards the end of the 1990s and into the new millennium online communication was really starting to take off, with many bands operating a website. The official Foo Fighters website also had a message board feature, allowing fans around the world to chat with each other about the band. The board also had a special section where the band members themselves could post messages if they so desired.
On November 13th, 2001 Taylor Hawkins posted a message to the board to assure fans that he was back in good health following his overdose, contrary to many reports in the media at the time. He also revealed to fans that the band were back in Dave’s basement studio in Alexandria, Virginia, and had begun recording material for their fourth studio album. Hawkins message mentioned that they had already started recording a new version of ‘All My Life’, a track he and Grohl had first demoed together earlier in the year.
Since recording ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’ in the basement studio some new recording equipment had been acquired, with new amplifiers including a vintage Marshall and a Hiwatt cabinet from the 1970s, formerly owned by Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Neilsen. The tape machine was however still the same Studer A827 24 track, recording onto 2-inch magnetic tape. Producing the session was once again Adam Kasper, who had worked in the same role on their previous record.
At the start of the recording session, the band had twenty-nine new songs that they were planning to work on, whittling them down to a suitable number for an album by the end. By mid-November songs already worked on extensively included ‘Halo’, ‘Gun Beside My Bed’, ‘New Wave’, ‘Bottomed Out’ and ‘The One’.
The latter was almost finished by this point as it was recorded for use on the soundtrack to the movie ‘Orange County’, starring Grohl’s friend Jack Black. The track was also released to radio, albeit as an edited version. ‘The One’ became the first Foo Fighters song to be released with explicit lyrics - “You’re not the one, but you’re the only one to make me feel like shit,” Grohl sang.
With the first song in the bag, work continued throughout November with Grohl sporadically updating online fans with their progress. At this stage, working titles were still commonplace, with one rather blunt label being ‘Asshole’. “I think I might change [it] because I'm not so sure that Carson Daily will be able to introduce the video to all the little kiddies unless I do,” joked Grohl. “Tentative titles are tricky because more often than not they stick. I guess we'll see what happens with this one....it kicks though.” Another song completed in mid-November was ‘Knucklehead’, a track they had already worked on in the spring.
Whilst Adam Kasper had returned to produce, he was not the one pressing the record button this time. That (among other roles) was instead left for Nick Raskulinecz. Nick had previously worked as an engineer at the famous Sound City studios, first meeting the band in 1998 whilst they were at the studio recording the song ‘A320’ for the Godzilla soundtrack. He and Grohl hit it off on that occasion but it wasn’t until a chance meeting in an LA parking lot some three years later that the two met up again. “He told me the Foo Fighters were getting ready to go back to Virginia to make a new record and asked me if I was interested in going back with him and engineering the record at his house,” Raskulincez recalled.
Late November saw a short break in recording as the band headed to New York to film a music video for ‘The One’. When recording resumed Grohl revealed in another online message that the band were “a third of the way done with the drum tracks” and revealed that the number of songs the band was working on had increased by three, to thirty-two. “The list of songs is getting longer. I keep remembering stuff that I wrote while we were out on tour for the last few years. Stuff that I never bothered to put on tape,” explained Grohl. “Usually, if I think I'm onto something good, the least I'll do is call my voicemail and leave ideas there, but so many of them slip through the cracks. I really want to give every one of them a chance but I'm afraid if I do, we'll be stuck in the basement for the next year and a half.”
As recording was taking place at Grohl’s private house Foo Fighters were not restricted to a set time schedule, with recording going long into the night on some occasions. Drum tracks continued to be recorded and by the very last days of November work on the guitar tracks had begun, with scratch takes being put to tape.
The band was also still working through the list of songs, with another track started and given the tentative title of ‘Get Up, I Want To Get Down’. The song according to Grohl was “a monster” with Hawkins adding that it was “The most kick-ass, motherfucking, ass licking, dick smoking song of all time.” Whilst Foo Fighters did not ultimately release a song under the title, it was instead utilized by Hawkins on his 2006 side project ‘Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders’, an entirely different song for which he ‘borrowed’ the title.
Recording continued into December and by the fifth, all drum tracks were finished. Grohl described one unspecified song as “the B-52's playing a Black Sabbath song.... or vice versa.” By mid-December the recording of guitar tracks was in full flow, with Grohl extremely enthused by the work being completed - “We have entered uncharted territory here.... finding new ways to make a guitar sound like an angry old power tool, which is exactly how it should sound. Adam has cracked the code. Nick is mixing up some serious shit over on his side of the laboratory. It's getting weird. It's getting noisy,” enthused Grohl.
The recording was progressing well according to Grohl, painting a picture of a well-oiled machine. “It's getting done a lot faster than we expected. That's a good thing. Last record we just set up a mike and hit record. This time we set up a mike, make the amp scream like a wild banshee, and run for cover.” Work continued with the rhythm guitar tracks up to the third week of December before a break was called for the Christmas holidays.
When the band reconvened in the new year it was apparent to those at the studio that progress was not progressing as well as Grohl has publicly suggested. With the band spending day after day at the studio tensions were rising, disagreements were becoming more commonplace and progress was slowing. Only six songs were fully completed in two months and the decision was made that a change of scenery would be the best option. “[We] are going out to LA to do the rest. Need a change of scenery,” Grohl calmly announced. “The basement was getting smaller and smaller. It's no fun feeling like a rat in the sewer, never seeing the light of day, only coming out at night to hit up the 7-11 for Slurpees and microwaveable pork cracklins.”
Despite being previously adamant that recording at home, in your own time, was the only way to record an album the new location for recording was the exact opposite. Conway Recording Studio was a huge, state of the art professional studio in the heart of Los Angeles, with recording time coming at a premium cost. The band packed up their gear, grabbed their unfinished recordings and headed for Hollywood.