MEDICINE MAN
Bass Player|March 2021
The Foo Fighters return with a new album, Medicine At Midnight, with the low end taken care of as always by the great Nate Mendel. Has he fallen for a five‑string yet? Find out here...
Joel McIver

The Foo Fighters’ forthcoming album, Medicine At Midnight, is their tenth, which may surprise readers who still think of them as a pretty new band. You won’t have to be an established fan to like its nine songs—they’re recognizably Foo-ish in nature—but if you’re familiar with the stadium-rock quartet’s early hits, ‘Learn To Fly’, ‘Breakout’, ‘Times Like These’, ‘Monkey Wrench’, and the rest of them, you may detect a slightly funkier edge to the music than usual.

“There’s no good adjective to describe the sound,” chuckles bassist Nate Mendel, a band-member since the former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl formed the group in 1995. “‘Funkier’ and ‘dancey’ fall short of describing what we’re trying to do. We’ll have to come up with a better word.”

Given the new edge to the songs, did Mendel consider deploying some slap and pop on this album? We obviously don’t mean this seriously for several reasons, but he still considers it, replying: “No, but if there was ever a moment for a popped note, it would be on Medicine At Midnight, because this album was inspired by albums like David Bowie’s Let’s Dance—we wanted it to be up, and breezy, and almost dancey. That’s a bit of a different sound for us, and we have some different instrumentation, too.”

As you’ll know if you’ve read Mendel’s previous interviews in BP, his background— punk and alternative rock to the core—forbids fripperies such as headless or fretless instruments, extended ranges or, God forbid, the aforementioned slap. “In the environment I grew up in, five-string bass is a bit illegal!” he says. “Look, I’m not judgmental about it—those things can be great—but in my style of music, it wouldn’t go over too well. The super low notes would be out of place in this music. If I need to, I’ll tune down.”

The new album was recorded before the current pandemic and originally timed to tie in with the Foos’ 25th anniversary in 2020. The coronavirus had other plans, though, hence the delayed-release and the absence of any tour dates until late this year, or even 2022. “Thank goodness the album lyrics aren’t pulled right out of the headlines, so we have the ability to push it back six or eight months,” he notes.

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