With the recording of Foo Fighters second album halted for the holidays amid creative tension and personal issues the band members all headed home, which for the soon to be divorced Dave Grohl meant returning to Virginia. Temporarily homeless, Grohl found himself sleeping on the floor of a friend’s house. Progress back in Seattle had been fraught with issues, the band struggling to adapt to producer Gil Norton’s perfectionist approach. Nevertheless, Dave had a couple of new song ideas and decided to try and take his mind off his personal issues by increasing progress on the record.
In late December he headed across the Potomac River into Washington D.C. and rocked up at Geoff Turner’s WGNS Studios. The studio had relocated many times throughout its history, originally in Maryland, followed by several locations in Washington D.C. and then later Arlington, the incarnation Grohl had last visited in 1991 to record tracks with Turner. Through all these re-locations the studio retained the same WGNS name and by 1996 it was once again back in D.C.
He took the rough tracks from Bear Creek along with him and took stock of what the band had achieved in the three weeks they spent in Seattle. “It didn't seem right. The album had something missing,” thought Grohl. To find that something Grohl recalled a riff that he’d so far not done anything with - “I had this one riff that I originally thought was a Sonic Youth rip off, but I decided it might be good to turn it into a song.” That song was ‘Everlong’, and during this session, Grohl put together the basic tracks that would later help form arguably his biggest ever hit.
With his impending divorce and other problems temporarily put to the back of his mind Grohl got behind the studio drum kit and got to work. “I always enjoyed doing these one-on-one sessions with Dave,” recalled studio owner and engineer Turner. “Just to get a chance to watch him play drums and to record him, which is so easy. You could record him with one mic or 10 mics. It wouldn't make any difference. It would just sound like Dave.”
Grohl tracked the drums, guitar, and bass but recorded no vocals for the song at this stage, the focus being on just having a mostly complete arrangement of the song that the full band could work on once they re-convened in the new year. One new song in the bag, Grohl wanted to attempt another. ‘Walking After You’ was a song he described as an “emotional, sappy song about getting dumped,” seemingly referring to his relationship with Jennifer Youngblood. As with almost any other song Grohl started by laying down a drum track, although owing to the soft, mellow nature of the song the regular drumsticks were replaced by “a mallet and drum brushes” according to Turner. Guitar and bass tracks were added and unlike ‘Everlong’, Grohl did record vocals.
Despite recording with him several times previously Turner was still impressed by Dave’s natural ability to record an entire song alone. “It's the same as every other track I've made with [him]. From the vantage point of the engineer, it didn't come off as being this one-man band, one person's obsessive take on the song. It sort of came off as a live performance featuring one person in six positions.”
Rather than capture the vocals in a traditional isolation booth Grohl sang everything from behind the drum kit, into an overhead mic. At the end of the take, he got up from the stool and headed to the control room to listen back to his work. The tape was still rolling and captured all the ambient sounds as he shuffled across the large live room and closed the door behind him. “I didn't know the tape was rolling and afterward I heard that at the end of the song and I thought it was corny, but it works!”
The version of ‘Walking After You’ recorded at WGNS would end up being included on the final album as-is, including the post-vocal ambient sounds. The rough instrumental version of ‘Everlong’ however remains unreleased in any form.
Happy with his work in the nation’s capital Dave Grohl headed back to Arlington, with many decisions to be made in the coming weeks, both personally and with his band.