After the recent Release of their hit singles ‘Run’ and ‘the sky is a neighbourhood’, We had a chance to sit down and talk with the Foo Fighters lead guitarist, Chris Shiflett, about the new album concrete and gold. From the challenges of balacing his family life, to the highlights of his career, we give you a look inside the life of this iconic rockstar.
You must be a busy man at the moment, with the tour and release of the new album?
Yeah, yeah. It’s been a busy summer for sure.
So you’ve been working with a different producer on this album; how did you find that?
Yeah, we had a new producer we hadn’t worked with before, named Greg Kurstin. He’s more well known as a pop producer, but he’s just a super-smart guy and an incredible musician, and brought a lot to it. Greg’s known as a pop producer but we didn’t become a pop band going into the studio with him – we’re still the Foo Fighters. So the approach wasn’t different in that sense. But he’s just a different producer, a different crew of people working on it. You get a different result; this record, definitely, dynamically is a lot different than anything we’ve done before.
When was the moment you realised that making music and being in a band was the career for you?
I started playing when I was pretty young, and had just grown up listening to music. I had older brothers who were really into music and both played. And so I just kind of followed in their footsteps. But it was really probably around the summer between 8th and 9th grades. [That] was when it really hit me, that I wanted to do it. That I wanted to go, try to be in a band and do that whole thing. I was starting to go to see live music from about junior high on, until when I was going into high school. That’s when I first started playing, and in garage bands and doing that whole thing… and once I started down that path, I really – that’s all I ever wanted to do.
You guys must be almost ready to hit the road with a massive world tour?
Yeah, we have started touring. We did a European tour at the beginning of the summer, where we did a bunch of festivals mostly. It really kicks off in the [autumn] here in the US. That’s when we’re doing a lot of North American touring, pretty much through to the end of the year.
How do you find touring and performing in New Zealand?
Oh it’s great, man, it’s a beautiful country. And a joy to come play shows there… the gigs are great, the cities that I’ve been to are great. I’ve been to Auckland the most, of course. But have been to Christchurch as well. We usually – if we get some time off there – we can head out to Piha, and go hit the beach or get down to Raglan and go for a surf and I love it.
What has been the best moment in your career so far?
I mean, there have been too many to count. I mean, we’ve been really lucky. We’ve gotten to do so many crazy things over the years and perform with so many of our heroes, and play some big, crazy shows. It’s really hard to pick one. I mean backing up Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live probably sticks out as one of the best.
How do you balance your family life with your career?
This was my life before I got married, and before I had kids. So they’ve only ever known me as the dad that… when we have a new album out, I’m just gone a lot. And I think that… as much as that can be hard at times, I think that it would probably be harder for everybody if that was something that just started today. You know what I mean? I think that the fact my kids have always sort of grown up around it, and they’re used to me leaving a lot, makes it workable. But when I’m home, we make the most of our time together.
Have any of your family or your boys been in any of the videos yet?
Not yet, but I remember when we made the ‘Walk’ video. The guy that directed that is a friend of mine, Sam Jones. And he asked me if I wanted to have my oldest be the kid in the back window of the car flipping the bird to the camera. And I opted out. Which my son reminds me of from time to time. It still bugs him that I didn’t let him do it.
So, back to the album that’s coming out; do any of the songs have messages in them that relate or draw ties to current issues in the world at all?
Well, I’ve read some reviews of the record that make that connection. I mean, really, you’d have to ask Dave. I don’t think he writes anything that’s like really specifically political. But he’s a human being, and when he’s writing the lyrics, I’m sure he can’t help but be affected by what’s happening around him and around all of us. So it probably shows up in some way.
How do you define success?
There was a time when success was, like, just being able to get a gig in a bar. And that felt pretty good. Or, like, [the] first time I was able to get a gig at the Whiskey Au Go Go or something like that. That felt like, yeah, that was a big shot, we made it. And then there’s… another version of success is being able to pay your bills from playing music. I remember when I could stop working a day job, I was in a band finally that made enough money that I could get by. And then, now, to me, I think success is being able to provide for my family, and take care of my family. Then there’s another side of success, which is artistic success. Like writing a good song or making a record that you’re proud of, or going out and doing a tour that you’re proud of.
Aside from music and your family, when you are back home, what are some things you do in your spare time to relax or to have fun?
Well, we’ve been gone so much this summer, I didn’t have much of a summer at all. I spent most of the last couple of weeks surfing. My kids just started back at school [in September]. So my boys were at surf camp, and after I dropped them off, I’d go run off and get some waves myself. That’s been kind of what I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I have a podcast that I do, called Walking the Floor. So that eats up some time – I go and interview other musicians. And when I’m not doing that, I play soccer, and I box, and I swim, and I run – and I do all that kinda shit… Obviously, I spend a lot of time with my kids and my wife, and we do some travelling. And then when I’m not doing any of that stuff, I write songs, and I make records and sort of do that thing too in my downtime.
So, we’ve got the tour coming up, and you guys are going to be busy with that quite a lot. But where to next, after that, for the Foo Fighters? Do you guys have a plan?
Really, all that we’ve got planned now is all the touring. I’m sure we’ll be on the road for this record for quite a while. I don’t know how long. I would think probably maybe till this time next year would be a reasonable idea. But we’ll see. And I know that our team of people are busy planning all that stuff out now. So beyond that, who knows? Probably [we’ll] take a little time between finishing the tour and starting a new record.