Ever since playing their very first shows in spring 1995 Foo Fighters had been on the road almost non-stop, with just a few breaks. The band covered most of North America, visited a large chunk of Europe and wound things up with a tour of the Australasia region towards the end of the year. The final stop of the schedule came with a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Kowloon, Hong Kong, on January 22nd, 1996, supporting Beastie Boys alongside Sonic Youth.
The band returned home but there was no opportunity for immediate rest. Foo Fighters had been approached to record a song for the upcoming X-Files companion album ‘Songs In The Key Of X’. Grohl, as a huge fan of the series and all things supernatural, jumped at the chance - “I was obsessed with The X-Files!” The band booked into Robert Lang Studios in Shoreline, Washington from January 24th to 26th 1996 in order to record a contribution. Grohl was by now very familiar with the studio, but this would be a first visit for the rest of the band. Barrett Jones was once again asked to produce the session.
This wouldn’t strictly be the first time the four members of the band had recorded in a studio. They had convened at the famous Maida Vale Studios in London, England in November 1995 to record songs for the ‘Evening Session’ show on the BBC. However, on that occasion, the band only recorded new versions of songs Dave Grohl had previously recorded on his own. This session at Robert Lang Studios would be the very first time they would work together on brand new material.
The song chosen for the album was ‘Down in The Park’, a Gary Numan/Tubeway Army song the band had introduced into their live shows back in April 1995. “‘Down In The Park’ is a beautiful song. It’s sort of eerie but at the same time it’s really pretty,” Grohl said when asked about his choice of song to cover. “What he’s singing about is bizarre. It’s a great song.”As the band was already familiar with the song recording went smoothly, and quickly. “We were just trying to capture the essence of the song and make it a Foo Fighters song as well,” said producer Jones. The original recording of the song heavily featured keyboards but in the change to making it a Foo Fighters song, these parts were all replicated on guitar. With the song for the X-Files album in the bag the band decided to take the opportunity to put to tape some rough cuts of new original songs.
The first was ‘Enough Space’, a song written by Grohl specifically to open their live shows. “There were only a couple of songs that we had that were really good openers, I thought 'god I need to write an opening song for us'.” Whilst performing in Europe over his career Grohl had noted that crowds behaved differently to those in America, electing to jump up and down rather than “beat the shit out of each other”. He wanted to write a song that “everyone would start bouncing to” as an opening song - “So, I had a melody and a riff idea but I didn’t know the tempo, so I jumped up and down and found a tempo by bouncing.” The song was put together by Grohl in the Autumn of 1995 and learned by the whole band in soundcheck just a day before it was given a live debut in Stockholm, Sweden on October 16th, 1995.
The demo version recorded during this session was effectively the same as the live version, albeit with some parts tightened up and with more extensive, complete lyrics. The words of the song were in reference to the movie “Arizona Dream”, a 1993 surrealistic comedy starring Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and Lili Taylor which Grohl enjoyed.
In the film, Dunaway’s character Elaine dreams of building a flying machine whilst Taylor’s character Grace dreams of killing herself and being reincarnated as a Turtle. In the song, Dave seemingly writes from the perspective of Elaine, with the lines “I was waiting for something, maybe flying machines”, although he then references actor Lili Taylor, rather than her character name.
Next up the band decided to record ‘Butterflies’, an old song by Dave which dated back to May 1992 when it was known by the title ‘Red Pellet Guns’. He’d recorded the song again during the session for the first album but whilst it was initially earmarked as a B-Side, never saw release. The band played the song semi-regularly during their live tour and saw value in attempting the song as a band in the studio. Structurally this new version was almost identical to the version recorded by Grohl in the same place just over a year earlier, the main difference being Pat Smear providing backing vocals during the choruses.
The penultimate song tracked was titled ‘I’m Alone Again’, a mid-tempo song of unknown origins. The song was structurally quite simple at this stage with repeated verse and choruses, as well as mostly repeated lyrics. This is the only known occasion of the song being recorded by the band, which has never seen an official release.
Finally, before their time at the studio was up, the band decided to put to tape a recording of ‘My Hero’, another song that had been given a live debut in the summer of 1995. Those initial performances highlighted the song still being in an early phase, with rough transitions and unfinished, placeholder lyrics. For this recording the song was much, much tighter with lyrics that were very close to that of the well-known version of the song released on their future ‘The Colour And The Shape’ album.
One rather interesting facet of this song is that it featured Dave using a unique Gibson EDS-1275 double neck guitar, which featured a 12-string guitar on the top neck and a regular 6-string guitar on the bottom. When the band was playing the song live in 1995 Pat Smear could be seen playing this model, using both necks at different points in the song. When it came to the studio recording, Dave played these parts with the guitar.
Whilst there have been rumors of the band working on a song titled ‘Comfortable’ during this session, producer Barrett Jones insists only the previously mentioned five songs were recorded at this time. On top of that Jones noted that only ‘Down In The Park’ was worked on extensively and given a final mix. The other four songs recorded were only ever meant as rough demos, the groundwork for a future second Foo Fighters album.
The X-Files album ‘Songs In The Key Of X’ was released just a couple of months after the session on March 19th, 1996. No other songs from this session have ever been officially released but a generated cassette containing all five songs does circulate among fans.