Foo Fighters Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide

When Foo Fighters formed, longevity was not envisioned.

Initially, founder Dave Grohl didn’t see the project as anything more than an outlet for solo material he’d written but never done anything with. Grohl’s career, and rock music in general, was changed overnight by the death of Kurt Cobain in April 1994. Nirvana came to an abrupt end, and the drummer was suddenly out of a job. Even though Grohl received offers to work with several other acts, including Tom Petty, he ultimately opted to head into the studio. Roughly six months after Cobain’s death, Grohl – with help from producer and engineer Barrett Jones – created his first album under the name Foo Fighters.

The unexpected popularity of that self-titled album turned Foo Fighters from a solo project to a full-fledged band. They have since gone on to become one of the most successful rock groups of their generation.

Foo Fighters have released 10 albums, sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, won more than a dozen Grammys and received a 2021 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

“The foundation of the band is funny because originally it was just a demo tape I made,” Grohl said in an interview with Guitar World. “And then we all decided that we’d get together and have a band and use these songs to jump in the van and go have fun. We did that, and then we looked at each other and said, ‘OK … do you want to do it again?’”

While the band’s core has been remarkably stable over the years, Foo Fighters have seen several lineup changes since their mid-’90s start. In the below gallery, we’ve highlighted the major shifts for the multiplatinum group.

Foo Fighters Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide

1994: Dave Grohl

Grohl sang all vocals and played all of the instruments on the rugged first album titled Foo Fighters – save for a lone guitar part on the song “X-Static,” provided by Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs. Grohl recorded that debut LP in one week and made a mere 100 copies to pass out to friends and associates. The demo tapes made their way to much wider circles, and after signing a deal with Capitol Records, Grohl set out to form a full band. The album, Foo Fighters, was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 1996 Grammy Awards.

1995-1997: Dave Grohl / Nate Mendel / William Goldsmith / Pat Smear

Grohl recruited bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith from the band Sunny Day Real Estate and also drew help from his days in Nirvana by asking touring guitarist Pat Smear to join the band. It was this lineup that embarked on the Foo Fighters’ early tours in 1995 and 1996. Goldsmith quit during the recording of 1997’s The Colour and the Shape after Grohl reportedly became dissatisfied with the finished product and re-recorded most of the drum parts himself. Smear’s departure followed soon afterward, though he would rejoin the band later. The Colour and the Shape spawned some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Everlong,” “My Hero” and “Monkey Wrench.”

1997: Dave Grohl / Taylor Hawkins / Nate Mendel / Pat Smear 

Following the departure of Goldsmith, Foo Fighters found themselves in need of a new drummer. The group had previously crossed paths with Taylor Hawkins while he was on tour with Alanis Morrissette playing in support of her hit album Jagged Little Pill. The two groups intermingled at a multiband Christmas concert, and Morrissette would later say she had an inkling that Hawkins might eventually leave her band. “What are you going to do when Dave asks you to be the drummer in the Foo Fighters?” she prophesied. It didn’t happen instantly, but Hawkins’ connection with Grohl would prove to be a lasting one. “I didn’t really ever think there was going to be an opening. Never. Nor did I necessarily think I was the right drummer. But I did love the music so much,” Hawkins said. He was announced as the new Foo Fighters drummer on March 18, 1997.

1997-1999: Nate Mendel / Dave Grohl / Franz Stahl / Taylor Hawkins

Franz Stahl replaced Pat Smear as the band’s lead guitarist during the Foo Fighter’s tour behind The Colour and the Shape. The moment of transition actually happened during festivities surrounding the MTV Video Music Awards. After playing the band’s hit “Monkey Wrench,” Smear declared to the audience he’d just played his last song with Foo Fighters and introduced Stahl as his replacement. Grohl and Stahl had worked together previously in the hardcore band Scream, but the creative synergy didn’t carry over to the Foos. Stahl was fired from the band during a conference call in 1999, though he maintained that his two years with the Foo Fighters were the best of his life.

1999-2005: Dave Grohl / Taylor Hawkins / Chris Shiflett / Nate Mendel

After Stahl’s firing, the band briefly continued as a trio, with only Grohl, Hawkins and Mendel playing on the group’s third album, 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Chris Shiflett joined as the lead guitarist later that year. A lifelong rock fan, Shiflett started to learn guitar at the age of 11 and familiarized himself with the band’s material before auditioning. “I think that’s why I got the gig in the Foo Fighters. I learned the fucking songs. I showed up ready to go and could have played a gig that night,” Shiflett told Rock Cellar. Shiflett’s first album as a contributor was the group’s fourth, One by One, released in 2002.

2005 (and 2010-2016): Nate Mendel / Taylor Hawkins / Dave Grohl / Chris Shifflett / Pat Smear returns

Smear returned to Foo Fighters as a touring member in 2005 and became a full-time bandmate again in 2010. The band’s seventh album, Wasting Light, was released in 2011 and marked Smear’s return as an official member. In November 2014, the band’s eighth album, Sonic Highways, was released as an accompanying soundtrack to the miniseries of the same name that Grohl directed.

2005-2006: Pat Smear / Rami Jaffee (touring) / Chris Shiflett / Dave Grohl / Taylor Hawkins / Petra Haden (touring) / Drew Hester (touring) / Nate Mendel

Petra Haden (violinist and vocalist) and Drew Hester (percussionist) briefly augmented the Foo Fighters lineup, touring with the group in 2005 and 2006, as the band delved into more acoustic material and broader arrangements. Haden contributed to 2005’s half electric, half acoustic double album In Your Honor and later appeared on the band’s 2006 live LP Skin & Bones. Hester also appeared on Skin & Bones and went on to contribute to the Foo Fighters’ next three albums: Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007), Wasting Light (2011) and Sonic Highways (2014). Even though both musicians were given prominent positions onstage with the band – as well as in the respective recordings – neither Haden nor Hester was made an official Foo Fighters member.

2017-2022: Nate Mendel / Taylor Hawkins / Dave Grohl / Pat Smear / Chris Shiflett / Rami Jaffee

Former Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee had been a touring member of Foo Fighters since 2005, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Grohl acknowledged him as a full-fledged member. “He’s such a big part of the band, too. He’s amazing, if you’ve ever hung out with him, he’s the sweetest guy in the world,” Grohl said in an interview on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show. “He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. He’s amazing, but when we get together and play, it sounds the way it sounds.” Foo Fighters released the Concrete and Gold album in 2017 and Medicine at Midnight in 2021 with Jaffee.

2022: The Death of Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters were touring South America when Taylor Hawkins was found dead in his Bogota, Colombia, hotel room on March 25, 2022, and the band canceled future tour dates indefinitely. Hawkins had performed on the albums spanning 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose through 2021’s Medicine at Midnight. In June, surviving Foo Fighters members announced two tribute concerts featuring “all-star” lineups taking place later that year.

 

(Ultimate Classic Rock)