A few months after breaking his leg on tour in mid-2015, Dave Grohl announced that the Foo Fighters were going on indefinite hiatus. Halfway through the following year, the 48-year-old frontman realized he couldn't keep his word. “When you’re in the middle of touring, you start to blame the music for a lot of your problems,” he says. “But the music helps you heal.” To shake things up, after 2014’s Sonic Highways -- recorded in eight different cities and released with an HBO docuseries -- Grohl decided to record at a proper commercial studio for the first time since 2002, working down the hall from Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga. He also reached out to an unlikely collaborator: producer Greg Kurstin, the pop mastermind behind hits for Sia and Adele, who, says Grohl, lent some of the tracks a smoother, “Motörhead meets Pink Floyd” sound. Stalwart fans eager for a Foos comeback snapped up the resulting collection of raucous-yet-melodic anthems, Concrete and Gold, which became the second Foos album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Prior to release, rock radio embraced thrashing first single “Run,” which dropped without warning last June -- proving the Foos are still plenty capable of surprises and garnering them a best rock performance Grammy nod.
John Fleckenstein, RCA executive vp: I think fans wanted the Foos to come back and recenter themselves around that classic Foos sound, but in a more updated way.
Dave Grohl: I thought maybe the strangest thing we could do is go make a record like most bands do [in a commercial studio]. It’s exciting when you’re in a hive of activity where everybody is inspiring each other. That’s the first time that has happened since the fucking ’90s.
Dennis Blair, RCA senior vp promotion: Dave was sitting in my office explaining the record to me as Sgt. Pepper meets Slayer. Like, what? I couldn’t fathom it. When you listen, you totally get it, but that was a challenge for radio. They hadn’t heard that aggressiveness in a Foo Fighters song in a long time.
Grohl: I couldn’t even walk when I wrote “Run.” There’s some catharsis there, that I get to scream my brains out. I’m a huge fan of old-school thrash metal, so I was really excited, 22 years into being the Foo Fighters, to have a song that’s probably the heaviest thing we’ve ever recorded.
Nate Mendel: I knew that’s how a year-and-a-half of shows were going to open -- with that riff. The funny thing about “Run” is, it’s got a reggaetón beat and we didn’t really realize it.
Grohl: I said, “What the fuck is a reggaetón beat?” And Greg played six songs on the radio right now by Justin Bieber and everyone else.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 30 issue of Billboard.