Preparation for the fifth Foo Fighters studio album began in 2003, immediately after touring in support of third album 'One By One' came to an end. Dave Grohl went home to Virginia and immediately began working on new songs at Studio 606. By this time most of the band and crew were now living on the west coast of the country, far away from Virginia. Grohl also thought they needed a larger studio, something that wasn't in the basement of his house that everyone could call home.
It was time to do something different. "Back in Virginia, we'd have to stop doing vocals sometimes, because you could hear the crows outside through the microphones. Or I'd have a couple of beers, go to bed, and then at two o'clock in the afternoon, I'd hear a kick drum coming through the heating vent. I mean: it's my fucking house" recalled Grohl of the unique issues that came with recording in the basement of his own home.
So dawned a huge project for Dave and the whole organisation; move Studio 606 from the East Coast to the West coast. Of course it wasn't that simple. “My original intent was to create something really low-key like my basement studio in Virginia where we made the last two records” said Grohl. “It was homemade, low-budget and low-tech, but a lot of good shit came out of there. I thought that was our vibe." he added.
His ambitions quickly grew however and a much more bigger master plan was devised - "Buy a warehouse. Build a bigger, better studio. Have a massive space to store our mountains of gear that we've amassed over the past decade" was his simplified description of the vision. "We wanted a nice big control room where people could smoke if they wanted to and it wouldn't drive everybody else out" said producer and now close friend Nick Raskulinecz of the idea. "Then it just made sense, since Dave had tons of gear scattered around the country, to build a place big enough to store it all", he added.
Grohl also had similarly ambitious plans for what they would eventually record there. "Let's buy an 8,000-square-foot warehouse, build the nicest studio in L.A. and make a double album in six months". Similar to the original low key plans for the studio Grohl's vision for the recording wasn't quite so grand. His first consideration was a venture back into the world of movie scores, following his first attempt with the 'Touch' soundtrack in 1997. "After we finished touring for the last record I thought, Okay, I'm in my mid- to late-thirties now. Do I really want to run around festival stages screaming my head off every night?" he thought to himself. "So I thought that, rather than just jump back into the album cycle, I'd see if I could find a movie that needs a score."
Grohl started writing some appropriate music but then had a light bulb moment. "After about a month of writing I thought, wait a second, this could be a killer Foo Fighters record. I'd hate to have pulled a solo album out of my ass in the middle of the best time of our lives as a band, so instead it became a Foo Fighters project." That wasn't the end of it however as he seemingly rethought his earlier concern about running around on festival stages playing rock songs every day. "I wrote 14 or 15 songs, but then it occurred to me that there's something about drinking half a bottle of Crown Royal and jumping up onstage at Reading Festival. So I decided I should probably write some rock songs too."
Friend and producer of previous album One By One Nick Raskulinecz helped Dave by kitting out his Encino home with a basic, digital recording setup. “I put a drum setup and a Pro Tools demo situation in Dave's garage” said Raskulinecz. “Then I gave him Pro Tools lessons. He ended up doing everything himself. He writes the songs on acoustic guitar, then plays all the instruments, working really fast. For demos, he'll lay down drum tracks and record a complete song — with vocals — in about an hour”. This recording setup in Grohl's garage can be seen very briefly in the documentary released with the 'In Your Honor# album at the 37 second mark.
Grohl then had to decide what to do with all this material and it was equally as ambitious as the plans for the new studio. "At one point I was demo-ing this stuff at my house, writing riffs and little pieces of songs, and I downloaded it onto a hard drive and [realised] it was five hours of music. And I thought, 'Oh my God, we've got to make a double album!' " he said. "I mean, we've been a band for 10 years now, this is our fifth record, and I thought it would be boring to just keep making album after album and making videos and playing festivals, so I wanted to do something special." And so the master plan was complete.
Now all they had to do was find a suitable location for the new studio and start putting that plan into action. The band scouted around the wide California area and in Spring 2004 happened upon a large building in Northridge, a small district in North West Los Angeles most well known for being the home to most of the major pornographic studios. The plot Dave found however was away from those studios and in a small residential area. The plot, according to Grohl, was in fact "the home of a woman whose stalker turned up one night and burned the place to the ground". Since then the shell of a building had been built on the land with basic walls and foundations in place but not much else. Grohl decided this was the perfect blank canvas for his master plan and made the purchase in April 2004.
Preparations for the album recording and building of the studio started near concurrently. In July 2004 the band booked into Mates Rehearsal Studio in North Hollywood to work on the songs Grohl had written and recorded on his own. Footage from these rehearsal sessions can be seen on the documentary DVD that came with special editions of the album. The band are seen playing the song 'In Your Honor' for the first time in the footage and also in the background of the first part of the footage, audio can be heard of the band playing an early version of the song 'White Limo', not released until their 2011 album 'Wasting Light'. However as this audio is merely in the background during other footage it isn't absolutely clear that the audio derives from these rehearsal sessions although it seems likely.
Speaking of the material they worked on during these rehearsals Raskulinecz stated that they ended up with three or four versions of around 30 songs. “In hindsight, we might have gone a little too far" he told an interviewer in 2005, adding that "part of the reason was we were waiting for the studio to be done. Finally, it got to the point where I didn't want them to play the rock songs anymore. I was afraid they were going to get stale".
As the band were rehearsing construction began across the city, turning the empty shell into a working studio and Foo Fighters base camp. In late July members of the crew travelled to Virginia to strip out Studio 606 from Dave's basement, packed it all onto a truck then drove it back to LA, storing most of it at Dave's house whilst the studio was built. Rehearsals and pre-production continued throughout August and September and the band began to get restless, wanting to get into the new studio and begin recording.
Unfortunately it was far from finished and so in mid September the band actually went to the building and started helping out themselves, as did many members of the crew. “Hammering, stuffing insulation — doing whatever [we could] to speed the process” according to Raskulinecz. Finally by November it was decided that the studio was in a suitable state for recording to commence, despite it still being far from finished. The walls of the studio were still just insulation, very little acoustic soundproofing was in place and the control room was similarly unfinished.
The gear was moved in however and recording began for the first time that month. A rota system of sorts was implemented with the band using the studio from 1pm to 1am each day and the construction continued outside of those hours, mostly in the small hours of the night.
"We came into the studio with five and a half hours of music" said Grohl of their position when recording was about to get under way. "Writing ahead of time has an added benefit. We usually write during the recording sessions. Sometimes you walk into the studio and you throw down an idea that's spontaneous and new and fresh and exciting. But then you wind up a year later playing it live and you've elaborated on it, you've made it better." he continued. "So we've done that already in the six months we've had to work on these songs before recording them." he said, summing up their position.
Recording for the rock disc got under way and towards the end of 2004 a journalist from UK magazine 'Kerrang!' visited the studio to report on how recording was progressing. He was told by Grohl "We've got 19 songs to finish before Christmas before we start on the acoustic record" however at that point no tracks were complete with the journalist noticing a chart on the wall, only the drums completed for some tracks. Grohl then explained that every box on that chart had to be filled.
The general approach to recording the rock tracks was similar to what the band had done in the past. Taylor would record the drum track listening to a stripe track of a rough version of the whole song. Guitars and vocals would then be added followed finally by the bass.
Producer Nick Raskulinecz explained the reasoning for this order in an interview with Mix Magazine - “Bass is so important. By doing it last, you can really tailor it for tuning, parts and sound. The traditional way is to do drums, then bass; you get this massive bass sound — the greatest thing you've ever heard. But then you put the guitars on, and they're small because the kick drum and bass guitar are taking up all the space. So you pile on 25 guitar tracks." he explained. “Whereas if you do the drums and then the guitars, you can fill the hole that's left with bass. And sometimes that hole wants a certain frequency that isn't traditional for bass, but you have to go with it, which is even more fun.” he continued.
Bassist Mendel expanded on what the process meant for him. "We did things in segments, by instrument. First drums, then scratch guitars, I’d take home a Pro Tools file and write a bass line. I would run it by Dave and the producer, we’d talk about it, make changes, and then put it down. I would usually come in with this elaborate bass line—but over time, I’ve come to appreciate simplicity and what it can do for a song".
When it came to recording drums for the rock material Taylor Hawkins was in charge, guided by Grohl. "Dave lets Taylor own the tunes" producer Raskulinecz told Music Radar. "Sure, Dave could play all the drum parts if he wanted to, and he certainly has specific ideas about how they should sound and how parts should be played, but he trusts Taylor to do his thing. And let me tell you, Taylor Hawkins is brilliant. He's a great drummer and a total musician. He's sitting behind the drum seat in the Foo Fighters for a reason, and Dave knows it. There was never one song where Dave said, 'Let me redo that, Taylor' or 'I don't think you got it, let me do it instead.' He really respects Taylor." he explained of the bond and understanding between the two drummers.
Despite the obvious chemistry according to Mendel the process of recording the drums was actually "really labor-intensive", hinting at a strive for perfection from the pair. "Sometimes they record a whole song and then decide that it’s a beat-per-minute too fast or too slow, and we’ll re-record the whole thing based on that. Or, they’ll slightly change the kick drum pattern and that may or may not dictate having to redo all the music." he explained. This was occasionally a problem for Mendel and his playing, usually the change would be something simple with a small change required in his bass lines but on some occasions it meant some recordings became entirely new songs.
For Hawkins recording this album marked the first time he had a drum tech working with him in the studio. Gary Gershunoff, a veteran session drummer based in LA had previously worked with Grohl during recording of Queens Of The Stone Age album Songs For The Deaf and was brought in to help out Hawkins. "He understands how to tune drums and make them sound good. It's a real art and meant that all I had to worry about was playing. I'm the first to admit that I am more comfortable on stage than I am in the studio, but I felt like I had a great support system around me this time." said Hawkins of Gershunoff. "I'm sure I will become more comfortable with each record that we do, but when I'm in the tracking room and all eyes are on me, I'm just desperate to get it right! Drums are tough because they are the first thing to be recorded and they are the foundation of the song. We used a click on most of the tracks on the new record." he added.
In terms of the kits and equipment Hawkins used during recording it varied hugely in terms of both the kit and it's placement in the room for recording. "Gear-wise, we have used a real mixture of stuff." explained Hawkins. "Gersh got a conglomeration of mine and Dave's Zildjian and Tama stuff; and some vintage drums, and we would mix and match for different songs. Sound-wise, we have experimented more on this record than ever before, and we have tried to make every song different." he added. One constant was a 22-inch black Slingerland kick drum, the same one used during recording of previous album 'One By One', miced up with a Sennheiser 602 inside and a Soundelux 251 outside.
In an interview with Rhythm Magazine Hawkins broke down many of the tracks recorded for the rock disc, noting that the drum rolls on 'In Your Honor' were "Very Who-esque", referring to English rock giants The Who. He would also explain that 'No Way Back' was the first song drums were recorded for, commenting that he liked the "big, wide open sound" and "the bouncy, upbeat tempo".
'DOA' was recorded twice according to Hawkins, the first version having a "lo-fi, indie rock sound" and then after trying it again the result of the second version was "a much harder rock feel". "The first version of it was really kind of small. Then we thought, 'We gotta make it bigger.' It needed something else" explained Hawkins in another interview. 'Hell' was one track not recorded to a click track, he and Grohl instead wanting the timing of the song to fluctuate. "It starts off in one tempo and moves up - perfect for someone like me who tends to speed up!" joked Hawkins.
He briefly explained three more rock tracks, noting that he nailed 'The Last Song' in two takes, described 'Free Me' as "the proggiest [Progressive Rock] out of all the songs" and explained that there was a "nice grace note on the snare" in 'The Deepest Blues Are Black'. Hawkins declared that 'Free Me' and 'The Deepest Blues Are Black' were two of his favourite tracks, both of them in 6/8 time with 'Free Me' transitioning to 3/4 later in the song.
In another interview, this time with British publication NME, Hawkins spoke further about some of the rock tracks. He noted that they had recorded "three or four versions" of the track 'Resolve' - "we wanted to get the best out of it, but we maybe started over thinking it a little bit. The version that's on the record is the second version" he explained, adding " We did another version that was really slow, and it nearly turned into a fuckin' Bon Jovi song". Speaking of the track 'The Last Song' Hawkins commented that he believed it was "What 'Breakout' should have sounded like" before adding "A lot of things on this record to me are what a lot of old past songs should have sounded like. With this record we worked on everything without beating the hell out of it; just getting the best, most intense, energetic performances".
On December 23rd 2004 guitar tech Joe Beebe posted an update to his website, confirming that the studio had reached functionality the month previous. "By functionality I mean all the gear is hooked up and the record light glows. by no means are we done" he explained. Describing the progress in more detail he mentioned that "The big room sounds great but the small room has some standing waves in it that are making it sound funny. Our control room is so fucking awesome it's unbelievable. It sounds so good in there and dammit, it feels good too".
Beebe then went on to describe other areas of progress, noting that the painting was done, carpet was down in the office, tiling was laid in the lounge upstairs, the bathroom was tiled and kitchen cabinets were ordered, due to arrive in January. On the subject of the recording he mentioned that by that point all of the drums were complete, most of the guitar and most of the bass. They were due to record further guitar, bass and vocals and then they were set to move onto the acoustic material.
January 17th saw Dave Grohl joining other musicians including Eddie Vedder, Josh Homme and Tenacious D at the Wiltern Theatre in LA for a benefit concert, in support of the victims of the Earthquake and resulting Tsunami that occurred in the Indian Ocean on December 26th 2004.
Each act performed acoustic material from their catalogue and during Grohl's set as well as performing older Foo Fighters material he also debuted a brand new song titled 'Razor', claiming during the performance to have written it that day. "I wasn't lying, I wrote it that morning." he later told Clash Magazine. "I sat up all night trying to write this song, and it didn't work. I woke up early and started writing lyrics and got it right as the car was coming to pick me up. I was up in the dressing room practising it and Josh and I were sharing a room. I said, 'There's a second guitar harmony in this song, try it out.' We played it and I said 'When I record it, you should come down and do it with me'".
The whole time the band were in the studio recording building continued in the early hours. The control room was modelled on Polar Studios, a studio in Sweden made famous by ABBA as well and Led Zeppelin, recording their album 'In Through The Out Door' there. The band quickly started decking the studio walls with various memorabilia including gold and platinum records of both Nirvana and Foo Fighters as well as Zeppelin Gold records and various other items from the bands personal collections.
The equipment installed in the studio and used for recording was a mix of analog and digital, the centrepiece being the classic Neve 8058 recording console. This was hooked up to a Neve BCM10, a 10 channel analog mixing console and a 32-input desk that came from the previous studio in Virginia. The preferred recording method was to record the tracks in analog on 2 Inch tape and then bounce them over to a digital ProTools setup for overdubs, editing and mixing.
Because of a shortage of 2" tape and in order to save money they had 16 reels of 24-track Quantegy GP9 tape which they would record onto, copy over to ProTools and then re-use the same tape over and over although midway through recording they ran into a rather large problem. Quantegy, the company supplying them with analog tape suddenly went out of business meaning they needed to find another source for what was becoming rather rare, digital recording taking over in the music world. "When we got the e-mail about them shutting their doors we started frantically calling around all the guitar centers in the area but they were all out because Rick Rubin bought it all. It's like insider trading or something." Grohl recalled of the situation.
Eventually more tape was found from an unknown source and recording continued. By the time recording was complete the live room of the studio was covered with classic acoustic tile but when recording began acoustic solutions were not so complete with some simple baffles and a bass trap in the corner of the room.
Recording of the acoustic material began at the end of January. "We were in a panic when we recorded the acoustic record. We'd spent about two months on the rock disc, and then one day I thought, Okay, I know when our deadline is, and if we don't start on the acoustic album we might be fucked" recalled Grohl. "Having never done anything like that before, I didn't know how long it was going to take. So we had a little meeting where I sat everyone down and said 'Here's what we have to do: Everyone has to be here all day, we need to do one song a day and no one's leaving until that song is done" he added.
That is exactly what the band did and the process for each song was very simple, as explained by Grohl. "I'd get in front of a mic, someone would put a click track in my headphones, we'd find a tempo and I'd just roll an arrangement off the top of my head. And as everyone else was putting their parts down, I'd sit in the corner writing lyrics. And we pulled it off."
For putting the acoustic material down there were some obvious changes in the recording process in comparison to the rock tracks. For recording most of the acoustic guitar two microphones were used, a Soundelux 251 positioned near the soundhole and an RCA 77 on the neck, near the 12th fret. There were some changes for other songs, however, as producer Raskulinecz explained. “For a couple of songs, we went with the 77 over Dave's shoulder and a Coles up high in the room. On ‘Friend of a Friend,’ for what's may be my favorite sound on the record, we used the 251 close, a pair of Royers spread on each side and farther out on the sides a pair of Earthworks, with everything pointing at the same source spot".
He states that the Soundelux 251 was also for other recording duties including capturing the Mellotron, piano and all of Grohl's vocals. "We used it into a Martek preamp and a dbx 160XT compressor, which is kind of funny — $7,000 worth of gear into a $200 compressor. But it sounds great” he explained. Raskulinecz expanded further on compression used on the record, noting that “Dave is really sensitive to compression”, explaining that "There's almost none on the record, including in the mastering that Bob Ludwig did. I should also mention that since we wanted to preserve the dynamics of the record, we deliberately didn't master ‘loud!’".
In terms of guitars used during recording of the acoustic tracks again the variety was high. Grohl used an old Silvertone that producer Raskulinecz had had kicking around in his van for several years, Grohl commenting that "it looked like a fucking Cello!". Also used was a Gibson Country Western as well as some more modern Gibsons, including a cutaway model. Another guitar of note was a Martin acoustic from the seventies that Grohl bought in London. According to Grohl recording of the acoustic guitar was not too complicated. "It was real simple. There wasn't a lot of mucking up the signal path. We'd put a Neumann microphone in front of the guitar and then run that into a Martech mic preamp, into the Neve or the API board and straight to tape" he explained.
For most of the tracks only one mic was on the guitar but certain tracks a more complicated setup was use. For 'Razor' one microphone was set up behind Grohl, pointed at his neck, another in front of his face, a third pointed at the bridge of his guitar and finally several more mics were placed around him to capture the ambience of the room. "On things like 'Over and Out,' you can hear my fingers scraping against the strings as I move around the neck" Grohl mentioned in an interview with Guitar World Acoustic in 2005. "At first we were worried about that. I said, 'Should I rub a stick of butter on this thing? It's making so much noise.' But everyone said, 'No man, it sounds great.' It sounds like someone just sitting in front of a microphone playing a guitar" he added.
Hawkins briefly explained his part on the acoustic recording, also noting that it was done very quickly. "I did most of my drum parts in about 20 minutes" he told Rhythm Magazine, joking that his favourite performance was on the song 'Razor', a track not featuring any drums. He also spoke of the recording techniques he and tech Gersh employed on the song 'Miracle', noting that his drum track featured only a floor tom and snare and that "In true Ringo [Starr, The Beatles drummer] style" he put T-shirts on the drum skins to get a "dead, dry, dirty sound".
The first acoustic track recorded was 'Still', a song with a very dark meaning but one that Dave liked. "When we listened back to it, I remember saying, 'That's my favorite thing we've ever recorded'. It's beautiful, and it was so new to me." Grohl told Rock Sound magazine. "It's about a kid who sat on the train tracks in my hometown in Virginia and committed suicide. I remember we rode our bikes to the park that morning and there were all these ambulances and shit. We saw pieces of his bones. It's heavy man, but you know, I was listening to the music, and that's what it was."
For the acoustic material the band decided they wanted to invite several guests to record with them on many of the tracks. "Ah, my famous friends!" quipped Grohl in an interview. "Yeah, we had a long list of people that we wanted to ask. I thought it'd be fun to have guests because we'd never done it before, so we thought about Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Ry Cooder, Greg Norton from Husker Du, John Paul Jones, Norah Jones and Josh [Homme]".
A name Grohl didn't mention on this list was Rami Jaffee of The Wallflowers and he would end up being a key part of the recording process, adding keyboards on five of the tracks recorded. This would be the first time that the band had extensively used keyboards, organs and other similar instruments on their music, the only exception being 'A320', recorded in 1998 and detailed earlier in this book.
“It was almost a learning experience for him, seeing what in the keyboard world will work for him,” Jaffee said of the experience. "He’s pretty focused on what he wants in his songs, and this was a weird area for him. When I first got to the studio, he wasn’t sure how it was going to sound with his songs. He said, ‘Why don’t you just try some stuff,’ and we quickly realized what wasn’t going to work for him" continued Jaffee. "He doesn’t like pretentious ideas and sounds. I had a few wacky keyboards, some pump organs and accordion organs and when I got to the more eclectic stuff, he was kind of weary, he didn’t want too much of that”.
John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame was the first big name to join them in the studio on February 11th, Chris Shiflett first revealing the details in a post to the official postboard the following day. "That guy is like royalty but he was so down to earth and cool it was incredible. of course, we managed to sneak in a few zeppelin trivia questions and he even riffed Kashmir [Led Zeppelin track] on the mellotron for a minute. we are pretty fucking blessed" he excitedly posted.
Grohl, a huge Led Zeppelin fan was also very excited for his arrival. "He walked in with his mandolin like a minstrel, [and] immediately went into 'The Rain Song.' I was worried, [because] I have all these pictures on the wall down there of Jimmy Page and John Bonham. I asked him to play on the record and he called me. I know I sound ridiculous but some bands are like a religion to me. Led Zeppelin are just... I ran around the room screaming, 'Guess who I just fucking got a call from?'" said Grohl of how the collaboration came about. "Then he asked if I'd like to sit on his table when they were being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. This wasn't Puff Daddy and fucking Gwen Stefani, this was Jerry Lee Lewis and Don Cornelius and Jimmy Page. That was the most special event of my life. I sat there with the Joneses and Jason and Zoe Bonham and Jimmy Page" he added excitedly.
Bassist Mendel initially had reservations after hearing about the guest slot, wondering if he would be surplus to requirements on the record. “Okay, how many songs are not going to have my bass on them?” he recalled asking Grohl. In the end Jones only featured on three tracks and none of them involved a bass guitar.
He first recorded piano for the track 'Miracle' and then used a Mellotron on two songs, 'Another Round' and 'Oh Yeah'. Speaking of Jones work on 'Miracle' Grohl said "He's an arranger, a composer. He came in, listened to the song, put it on piano, played it a few times and it was done". 'Miracle' and 'Another Round' featuring Jones were included on the acoustic disc of the album but the third track, 'Oh Yeah,' was not featured and remains unreleased with Grohl explaining why in a later interview. "John Paul Jones played mellotron on a track for the album sessions and I was drumming. We left it off the album cos it didn't fit but that is the nearest I will ever get to playing in Led Zeppelin".
On Valentine's day, February 14th, the second high profile guest arrived at the studio, Norah Jones. When Jones got the call from Grohl she was hoping that it would be her chance to stray out of her usual genre. "I was like, ‘Coooool, I get to rock'" she recalled. Unfortunately Grohl shattered that dream when he told her the band were recording a rock disc and an acoustic disc. "I was like, ‘Ohhhh, lemme guess which one you want me on'" Jones joked.
The song she did add her vocals and piano on, 'Virginia Moon', is an old Grohl composition that he had written before recording 'There Is Nothing Left To lose'. The band had attempted to record a version of the song for that album during recording sessions in July 1999 " but it just didn't make sense" according to Grohl. "We did one version where we tried to turn it into 'Everlong' but it didn't fucking work. That's on a tape somewhere. It never made sense on any of the records we'd made previously, because it's hard to put an acoustic song in the middle of a rock record" he continued. "So I thought, 'Now that we're doing this acoustic record, maybe it can see the light of day".
The song may have been old but the lyrics were very new, something Jones noticed with alarm. "When I got to the studio, Dave was like, ‘I just wrote the lyrics this morning,’ and it was good. I was like, ‘Wow. I can’t really work like that myself, but I’m surprised you did this so quickly". Speaking of how he decided on asking Norah to guest on the track he explained "I heard a Norah Jones record and I thought, 'Wait a minute, this is her vibe. She does jazz.' And her voice was so smooth and warm that I figured it would work out great with mine. she came to the studio, and she was only in there for three hours". Grohl was very impressed with the work Jones completed - "She was playing dog-ear stuff, where you cock your head in disbelief" he said. "It was perfect on the first take".
Jones was not the only guest musician to feature on the track. Grohl envisioned the song having a jazzy, Bossa nova guitar lead but nobody in the band knew how to play jazz leads. In stepped guitar tech Joe Beebe who did have the necessary skills, a talented guitar player himself. 'This thing needs a lead and nobody in our band knows how to play jazz leads. Will you please do it?" Dave had asked him.
Beebe asked for a copy of the track and said he would take it home and "write the baddest lead you've ever heard!" but Grohl had other plans. "No. You know what, dude? We're gonna go upstairs and have some dinner, and we'll cut it when we come back down" was his reply. Beebe sat down at the Pro Tools rig, ran the track in a loop and wrote the guitar lead in less than an hour.
Writing on his website he believed the track had turned out well but that it had "definitely put [him] on the spot". The band continued to work on the structure of the song, forced to backtrack at one point. "We put an organ on the song and it turned into something that you'd hear in an elevator. We had to tread lightly around some of these songs. That one in particular could have gone south real quick" Grohl said of the misdirection.
Organ removed and recording of the track complete Grohl then began to have reservations about including the track on the album, considering it may be "too fucking weird" for a Foo Fighters record but in the end it was Nate who convinced him - "That's exactly why we should put it on the record" he told Grohl. Drummer Hawkins also backed up the choice to include it, stating "We didn't use it (just) because it's her. I mean, if you listen to it, it works".
Another old composition revisited for the acoustic disc was 'Friend Of A Friend', a song Dave had written back in 1990 shortly after joining Nirvana and moving into an apartment with Kurt Cobain. "I had just joined Nirvana and I didn't really know him that well at that point. There was a 4-track in the apartment, and I recorded two songs on it over the course of a few months 'cos I had nothing else to do" recalled Grohl.
The track was first released on the 'Late! - Pocketwatch' album in 1992 and Grohl had performed the song a handful of times live since, most notably for the BBC Evening Session in 1997. Despite that it had never been released under the Foo Fighters name and Grohl decided this was the perfect opportunity to do so. This new recording again featured only Grohl on acoustic guitar and vocals, just as the original, but with much higher production quality. As he had done with 'Virginia Moon' Grohl had concerns about including the song given its history and subject matter but decided to go for it. "I thought 'Goddamnit, I don't know if I want to field a load of crap about that song for a year and half', but it's a great song'" he thought to himself.
Another song that partially came from Grohl's "work-in-progress" bin was 'Over And Out'. "The main riff in 'Over and Out' is something I've been messing with for five or six years" Grohl told Guitar World magazine. "I wrote it five years ago and demoed it in my basement. It was an experiment doing something more mellow. One of the things I love about the acoustic record is that there's mics in front of instruments and not a lot between that and the tape. I love it" he added.
The final guest on the record was Josh Homme. The exact day he arrived at the studio is not known however Grohl did comment on the hour of the day he did arrive. "Josh called me at like, one in the morning, going, 'Hey - I wanna come down and play that song'".
The song he was referring to was 'Razor', the track Grohl had written and performed with Homme a month earlier at a benefit show. "So I was like, 'Uh, okay'. And then of course we're here until six before finally I was like, 'Okay, you're a genius - let's go home'. I mean, I have so much respect for that guy - he's a dear friend and an inspiration, really. He fucking rules" said Grohl of the inconvenient but fun guest recording.
Another track recorded for the acoustic disc was a Taylor Hawkins composition, 'Cold Day In The Sun'. "I actually wrote this track, so I sing and Dave plays drums on it" explained Hawkins. "I've had a rough sketch of the song for a long time and Dave has always liked it" he added. When discussing the song Grohl noted that they initially tried to record the track as a rock song but decided it made more sense as "an acoustic thing".
This would mark the first time the band would record a song not initially composed by Grohl and Hawkins admitted he was apprehensive when showing Grohl his songs. "It's hard playing a demo for Dave because he's like my older brother -- I know when he thinks something sucks." In a 2005 interview with The Globe And Mail Hawkins explained the playful banter the pair exchanged whilst Grohl was recording his drum track. "When Dave was recording the drums I went from the control room into the live room and made a suggestion. He was like, 'No. I like what I'm doing'".
Hawkins also noted that whilst most of the tambourines heard throughout the acoustic record were played by Grohl (as he "hated playing tambourine") on 'Cold Day In The Sun' it was him. According to Grohl this track was one of few, or possibly only songs they attempted to record as both a rock and acoustic song. "We tried to record it as a rock track. But it made more sense as an acoustic thing". On the whiteboard seen in the documentary the only title listed on both the acoustic and rock side of the board was 'Who/69', suggesting this may have been a working title for the song, although this is not confirmed.
Due to the speed at which the band were required to record all of the acoustic tracks bassist Mendel also had to work faster in constructing his parts of the song. "We were running low on time and I didn’t have a chance to go and write bass lines, so they ended up being much simpler" he explained. For some of the tracks Mendel would not even have an opportunity to hear the song before going to record his bass. "Dave and Chris would put down their guitar lines and I’d be in a room with the bass, and Nick Raskulinecz would go, 'Okay, let’s run it a couple of times and see what happens'".
In total fifteen acoustic songs were recorded, ten making it to the final album and five not, including the third song featuring John Paul Jones. It is not known what the other four songs are but some unused titles can be seen on a whiteboard in the documentary video that came with special editions of the album. These include 'Drops', 'Be It Someday', 'Try Me On' and 'Floyd' amongst others, some not fully legible. It is however possible these titles are working/early titles for songs that were released with a more familiar title.
As recording for the acoustic disc was nearing completion Grohl began having reservations about the rock songs recorded earlier in the session and decided they needed to go back and work on them further. "We listened to the rock stuff and realized the acoustic stuff was kicking its ass. We knew we needed to stay loose instead of always trying to perfect everything" Taylor Hawkins recalled of the situation.
Hawkins also mentioned in an interview that only two songs made it from the first session, 'Best Of You' and 'No Way Back' however it's unclear if he meant the other eight songs were brand new or rather that they were re-worked/re-recorded versions of songs from the first session. There is contrary information in this regard as when Q Magazine visited the studio in late 2004 they revealed that the tracks 'Resolve', 'In Your Honor' and 'The Sign' were completed as well as 'Best Of You' and 'No Way Back'. However in an interview with Mix Magazine producer Nick Raskulinecz suggested that the other eight tracks were songs that "Dave wrote on the spot".
The fact the band are also seen playing 'In Your Honor' for the first time at Mates Rehearsal Studio in mid 2004 suggests the quote from Nick was incorrect, or that of those eight songs he wrote "on the spot" they weren't all the eight songs that made up the rest of the rock disc.
One of the first songs the band worked on in pre-production back in summer 2004 was 'Best Of You' and whilst it's believed they recorded the song during the first rock sessions it almost never made the final album. "I'd kind of forgotten about it." Grohl later told an interviewer. "[It] was one of the first songs we wrote for the album. It was inspired by seeing people stand up in the face of struggle. It’s meant to make you feel empowered. It's about the refusal to be taken advantage of by something that's bigger than you, or someone you're in love with. It's the fight in the face of adversity" he said of the song's meaning. "I didn't really think of an interesting melody; I just wanted to scream the whole way through. And the first few times we rehearsed it, I thought, 'There's no way I'll be able to play this live. There's blood in my throat'" he added.
The song was therefore forgotten until one day during the second session Grohl's manager, John Silva, came into the studio and asked him "What happened to that Best of You song?". The song was "pulled out and worked on a little more" according to Grohl, the reworked version making the album. According to a reporter for NME Magazine another track recorded during the rock sessions was a song titled 'That Ass', reportedly a rap song with the lyrics "Ding dong, daddy's home, Time to get down and get this on".
In another post to the official postboard on February 15th Chris confirmed that they were working on material for the rock disc again, stating that they had been listening to Taylor's drum tracks and that he had "been working on a couple more loud rock ones all day". The next post from Chris was on February 22nd, 7 days later, declaring that "The basics are down for all the songs we're gonna record now".
He also mentioned that Nick [Raskulinecz] believed there to be "over 40 songs, or versions of songs" but also noted that it'll be narrowed down to "about half of that number" for the final track list. He finished the message by stating "it's all overdubs from here on out and then we mix". This suggests that whatever they re-recorded, recorded from scratch or re-worked for the rock disc they did it in a very short space of time, a lot less than the approximate two months they spent on it originally. This is confirmed by a further message on February 26th with Chris stating that he is "officially done" recording his parts as well as mentioning that mixing would be commencing the following week.
Mixing is therefore assumed to have started on February 28th. Each disc was handled differently due to what each required from a mastering perspective. The rock tracks were mixed by Nick Raskulinecz in stereo to 1/2 inch analog, Pro Tools at 88.2khz and DAT. He monitored with Yamaha NS-10 and ProAc studio speakers, Allen Sides mains and also a small pair of Realistic speakers that he had owned since he was a child. Elliot Scheiner was placed in charge of mixing the acoustic tracks which he did at Capitol Studios in Hollywood using a Neve VR console. As he was a fair distance away and the band were still busy in the studio he began mixing the tracks that he had received via the internet.
Scheiner mixed one track and sent the result to Grohl and Raskulinecz to listen to. "We just looked at each other, then said to him, ‘Okay, which one do you want to do next?’” quipped Raskulinecz, obviously happy with what they had heard. Scheiner mixed in stereo to 1/2 inch analog and also mixed in surround sound with a Studer A827 2-inch 8-Track, using a surround matrix fitted to the Neve console. For monitoring Scheiner used Yamaha NS-10s for the stereo and Yamaha MSP-10s for the surround sound mixes.
There was also a strange item of mixing equipment brought to the studio, an Acura TL Sedan car. The reason being that it was equipped with an ELS 5.1 surround sound audio system that Scheiner helped develop himself and this was therefore deemed the perfect way to monitor the 5.1 mixes. Scheiner commented on the project to Mix Magazine, stating “I was really impressed with the recording on this project. It's not often that I get to just put up the faders and hear something outstanding. To me, the music and the recording have a timeless, classic feel, like something that will have a lot of longevity. These guys are very concerned with quality and that made it fun for me to come to work every day”.
NME magazine visited the studio sometime around March or April 2005 and mentioned that 19 songs were finished but one song was still unfinished at that point. Although it is not known which song that was in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine Dave did seem to suggest that part of it came from the fabled, unreleased song '7 Corners'. "There's always that stray song from eight years ago, and it's usually the same one - '7Corners'. It's a great riff but it's not a great song, It could be though. But I've spent years trying to figure it out. I'm sure it'll come back out for the next album" said Grohl of the track. He then added that "Today we're recording the last song for the record, and we've tried using the middle section of that song loads of times. It just never fit anywhere before!" suggesting in that tense they had now used the middle section of the track for the final song on the album.
Of all the tracks recorded during this rock recording session only a few were not released. '7 Corners', 'That Ass', Oh Yeah', 'Flagger' and the alternative takes of certain songs. With those exceptions everything else saw release, either on the 'In Your Honor' album itself or b-sides to singles from the album.