One by One saw a tough period for the Foo Fighters. At a time where the addition of Chris Shiflett graced the band and amped up their famous heavy guitar sound, the band were fraught with hurdle after hurdle. This is the album that nearly broke them, but serves as a testament as to how they faced their demons and produced one of the best alternative rock records of the 21st century.
Chris Shiflett (No Use for a Name, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) was hired by the then three piece after holding a bunch of open auditions for a new guitarist, as Grohl decided that the band needed a second guitarist for live performances of There is Nothing Left to Lose. Turns out that Shiflett and Grohl crossed paths in the past, and were both involved in the same underground Punk scene that Grohl found his start in as a kid. After touring the record, the band started to compose songs for their next album, One by One. However, the first hurdle struck the band. Whilst performing at London’s V Festival in August of 2001, Hawkins suffered a heroin drug overdose that left him in a coma for two days. Tensions started to rise once Grohl was offered to drum with Queens of the Stone Age on their upcoming release at the time, Songs for the Deaf. After Grohl got back together with the band to record their new material, tensions rose even more. Bad attitudes started to arise and arguments started to breakout in sessions, with a lot of the band thinking that they didn’t feel like a band anymore. None of them were happy with the tracks they’d recorded/demoed, even Hawkins described the discarded tracks as “million-dollar demos”. Neither the band nor their manager were happy with what they had produced and all agreed it didn’t represent what the Foo Fighters were about.
They decided to go on a break and carry on with other ventures to clear the air. They got back together for their scheduled appearance at the 2002 Coachella festival, of which Grohl thought would be their last performance together as a band. During rehearsals the arguments got worse, especially between Grohl and Hawkins (mostly over Grohl drumming for QOTSA). Although, the band enjoyed the performance so much that they decided to stick together and re-record the album. ‘Times Like These’ was born out of Grohl’s hesitance over whether or not the band were going to stay together, and what would happen in the future if that were the case. The album itself is the Foo’s darkest album, leaning towards the environment to which it was written and recorded in. Tracks such as ‘Low’ and ‘Have It All’ really transcribe the new heavy and guttural feel that the band seemed to be heading towards. As if they were trying to get all the animosity out of their systems.
Although, Grohl has also described this album as being “11 tortured love songs”, harping back to The Colour and the Shape’s tracklist being a therapy session. Both albums were recorded and produced in times of Grohl’s life where he lost and found love, this time being with his girlfriend (and future wife), Jordyn Blum. You can definitely hear within the second half of the album with the slow yet powerful tracks ‘Tired of You’ and ‘Come Back’, giving Grohl and the band a sense of relief that not only did they manage to pull together as a band and friends, but that Grohl also found a new start in life.
One by One ended up being an album that the band would soon rather forget, mainly due how they were so close to breaking up. But it’s hard not to admit that this is one of their best releases, really showing how they can vary their genre. Especially from the vast contrast of their previous album being extremely laid back and about taking it easy, whereas One By One is a collection of songs that really showcase how they can leave their hearts on their sleeves yet do so in such a heavy way, leaving you breathless and wanting more.
Words by Sophie