Grohl retreats from music for a while, not sure if he would be able to return to it again. Seattle band 7 Year Bitch reach out to Grohl, relating to his pain and musical uncertainty as they'd experienced the same when they lost their guitarist Stefanie Sargent to drugs in 1992. The weeks following Cobain's death would quickly prove to be the only lull in Grohl's soon-to-be-prolific career.
He gets back to work, playing drums and some lap steel on punk lifer ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt's solo album Ball-Hog or Tugboat? Grohl and Novoselic would also appear on the Stinky Puffs' (the group of Jad Fair's stepson and Lee Rinaldo's son) 1995 EP, notably their first live performance together since Cobain's death. Soon after, Tom Petty asks Grohl to sit in on drums for his November 1994 Saturday Night Live performance; Grohl immediately feels welcomed but turns down an offer to join full time as he considers his other evolving post-Nirvana possibilities outside of being a permanent session drummer.
At the end of October, he spends another week back at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle — nine months after last being there with Nirvana — once again with Barrett Jones, recording all of the parts (except one guitar part by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs). He completes an album's worth of material and makes some cassettes that he shares with friends. Grohl clearly has a knack for melody and he'd been sitting on a gem of a rock voice. Soon Grohl's answering machine is loaded with interested labels, most no doubt aware of the lure the project would have.
Grohl decides to release the recording on his own terms. He forms a record label, Roswell Records, and licenses it to Capitol Records where Nirvana's old A&R rep Gary Gersh has lured him. He gives the project a band's name, Foo Fighters, to prevent perception of a solo album. (The label and album name are influenced by books Grohl's been reading on UFO sightings.) He plans some live dates. He assembles a band.
Grohl's first wife (they would divorce in 1997) passes the cassette onto a friend, who in turn gets it to William Goldsmith and Nate Mendel, drummer and bassist for recently defunct Seattle emo progenitors Sunny Day Real Estate. Mutual fandom and successful jam sessions secure them as the rhythm section for the Foo Fighters. Grohl knows he wants Pat Smear to fill the role of guitarist after his stint in Nirvana revitalized the band. Nervous, he calls Smear to see what he thought of the cassette he'd sent a few weeks prior. Smear is already learning the songs; he has been waiting for the call.
1995 to 1998
Following a short tour of the U.S., Foo Fighters is released on July 4, 1995. The rest of the year is spent on the road, securing an MTV hit in "I'll Stick Around," and wraps up in December with a performance on Saturday Night Live. In February 1996, Foo Fighters lose a Best Alternative Album Grammy nomination to Nirvana's posthumous MTV Unplugged in New York. But the Foo Fighters had already planted themselves firmly in the forefront of the still-rolling alternative rock explosion that Grohl had, however inadvertently, helped create. Grieving and focusing on moving forward, it takes him years to feel comfortable discussing his previous band with the press, something he is certainly more candid about now.
"My whole life is defined by pre-and-post Nirvana. That's just my life. It's something that I just think about every day. Every time I wake up and drive my kids to school and every time I hear it on the radio and every time someone takes their picture with me, it's me. A long time ago I stopped being afraid of those sort of things," Grohl explains. "I can't say I was never in the band, and I can't say I don't miss it."
Another live Nirvana album is released in October 1996. From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, compiled by Novoselic (who also wrote the liner notes), features a selection of raucous cuts, serving as an unofficial companion piece to MTV Unplugged. In 1996, Grohl is tapped to score the Paul Schrader film Touch. He once again performs everything on the mostly instrumental rock numbers, save for some vocals from Veruca Salt's Louise Post and X's John Doe. The movie and soundtrack are released in 1997.
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