I’ve had a handful of rather wonderful chats with my good friend Bradley Cook recently! Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about his time engineering Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” and Counting Crows’ Recovering the Satellites. This time, we dove into another single from the same Foo Fighters record, “My Hero.”
If you’ve been following our incredible conversations with Bradley, you’ll know he’s an engineer who’s done albums with countless amazing artists like Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Counting Crows, Isaac Hayes, Ben Harper, Fishbone, and Everclear.
He calls Barefoot Recording a home away from home, having worked there on and off since the studio’s renovation and rebranding in 2000. Bradley assisted Eric Valentine on projects over the years, while also venturing off on major projects of his own at various studios—notably Grandmaster Recorders, which was unfortunately sold for redevelopment nearly two years ago. Bradley brings 30 years’ experience as an audio engineer to the table, and his résumé speaks for itself!
You can learn more about Bradley Cooks amazing career here: Bradley Cook: Recording Engineer (Foo Fighters, QOTSA)
Listen to “My Hero” and other songs featured in this series on Spotify.
Enjoy the complete recording breakdown:
“My Hero,” and most of The Colour and the Shape, was recorded at Grandmaster Recorders in Los Angeles, CA.
Foo Fighters’ sophomore record, The Colour and the Shape, was primarily recorded at Grandmaster by Bradley, alongside producer Gil Norton.
The first sessions for the album took place at Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville, Washington, which wasn’t the easiest or most productive experience. Bradley recalls trying to edit drums with Gil Norton and struggling through the process. By the time the tracks got back to Los Angeles, it was evident that they should be re-recorded.
The band didn’t have a full-time drummer at the time, so it was Dave Grohl handling vocals, guitars, as well as most of the drums. Some drumming was done by William Goldsmith on five songs, though much of his contributions went uncredited. For the 10th Anniversary Edition, current drummer Taylor Hawkins played on three tracks.
For this album, Bradley and the band were recording while finished tracks were being mixed by Chris Sheldon. Tracks “hot off the machine” were sent down the street to Skip Sailor Studios to be mixed. At one point, if the mixing team had a suggestion—for instance, additional chorus guitars on “Monkey Wrench”—the tracks would be sent back to Bradley for overdubs, and back once more to Skip Sailor Studios. It was practically an album assembly line!
The Colour and the Shape was Foo Fighters’ first album as a “full” band.
On the first album as Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl wrote and recorded all of the parts by himself, except for one guitar part by Greg Dulli. The band’s original lineup came together for extensive touring in 1995 and 1996, which was the start of the band’s colossal success.
It was rumored in the press that The Colour and the Shape would showcase Grohl and Foo Fighters’ grunge roots, but it was actually their intention to do a rock record instead. Interestingly, the songs on the album were initially written during soundchecks while on tour for the first record. Bassist Nate Mendel has said “the germ of every song is Dave’s,” with the Grohl coming up with a riff and basic structure. During soundcheck, everyone would jam around on the idea and contribute their part.
Gil Norton produced the album.
Grohl recruited Gil Norton as a fan of his previous production work, especially admiring his ability to “distill a coherent pop song out of all [the Pixies’] multi-layered weirdness.” Norton produced Pixies’ Doolittle, Bossanova, and Trompe Le Monde.
Norton really pushed Foo Fighters to get their absolute best takes, at one point forcing bassist Nate Mendel to practice and get better! Grohl has said of the experience, “it was frustrating and it was hard and it was long, but at the end of the day you listened back to what you’d done and you understood why you had to do it one million times.”
Released in 1997, “My Hero” had actually been played live as early as 1995.
The third single from Foo Fighters’ second album after “Monkey Wrench” and “Everlong,” “My Hero” was in the making for at least a couple years before its official debut. The track hit #6 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and #8 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
According to Grohl, the song is about hardworking, everyday heroes. “My Hero” has often been misattributed to Kurt Cobain… however to further muddy the waters Bradley said Dave told him it was about Kurt! The track has also been covered by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Paramore.