Foo Fighters guitar man Chris Shiflett on solo album Lost at Sea, Irish shows and covering Thin Lizzy

David Roy quizzes Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett about his new album, Lost at Sea, his early musical influences and chasing Keith Richards...

A phot of Foo Fighters' guitarist and solo artist Chris Shiflett, with his signature Fender Telecaster guitar cradled in his arms, standing in front of a hedge
Chris Shiflett The Foo Fighters guitarist has solo shows in Ireland lined up
Hi Chris, hope all’s well. Are you looking forward to coming back to Ireland and (more importantly) making your Belfast debut?

Yes, indeed – we’ve been rehearsing, ordering t-shirts, packing up the gear, etc, looking forward to the trip!

I see you played a few solo shows ‘down under’ at the end of last year – any particularly good Aussie/NZ audiences and/or unusual incidents to report?

Australia and New Zealand were both fantastic. I’d never done solo gigs down there before so didn’t know what to expect, but all the shows sold out fast and the crowds were great.

That’s the funny thing with acoustic gigs - they’re sort of mellower by definition, but those ones had a wild energy to ‘em.

Tell us a bit about the new album, Lost At Sea: did you approach this one any differently than your previous records in terms of what you wanted to do?

Yeah, the process of making it was quite a bit different to any record I’d made before, because touring was opening up again after the lockdown and both Jaren [Johnston, producer] and I were pretty busy, so we’d fit in recording sessions when we could.

All in all, we got most of it done over the course of six months or so, so there was plenty of time to reflect, tweak, re-do here and there. You don’t normally have that luxury when you’re making a record.

What’s your favourite song from the record to play live?

Depends on the night – we’ve been opening with Dead & Gone which always seems like a good way to kick things off. Overboard is fun, and Damage Control is our groovy surf number.

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Santa Barbara native Chris Shiflett, lead guitarist with Foo Fighters
Chris Shiflett, lead guitarist with Foo Fighters
You’re fronting a band for your solo tours: do you enjoy the extra work involved in taking on that role with having to sing, play guitar, ‘lead’ the band and also gauge how the audience is reacting all at the same time?

Singing and playing guitar always diminishes both a little bit, so you have to make some hard choices.

If the crowd’s into it, then the gigs are fantastic and it all just floats along.

You’ve just done a countrified cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song for a new EP. Are you a big Lizzy/Phil Lynott fan, and what else is going to be on the EP?

Yeah, I love Thin Lizzy and had been wanting to figure out a way to cover Cowboy Song for a long time. We also covered Hanoi Rocks Don’t You Ever Leave Me which is a band/song that means a lot to me too.

The EP is a range of stuff: there’s also a couple of live tracks and a couple of acoustic versions of songs from the new record.

I read that you used to skateboard - did skateboarding influence or inform your early musical tastes at all, and when was the last time you went out for a roll around?

Sure: all those skate videos from back in the day had great soundtracks. I remember in particular the Vision skate video used to be on repeat at our local skate shop and that was definitely where I first heard Agent Orange.

Skateboarding and punk rock/rock ‘n’ roll have always gone hand in hand. We built a mini-ramp in our yard when my kids were little and I used to have a go, but slamming on the flat bottom hurts a lot more when you’re a middle-aged dad.

As a music fan and then as musician performing in bands, you’ve had a front-row seat for seismic times in LA’s music scene. Was it eye-opening to see how the music biz repeatedly pivoted to the ‘next big thing’ during that time?

I started going to shows when I was in junior high and the way the Los Angeles local music scene changed over the years moving into my early-20s was just night and day.

It was vibrant when I was a kid but completely dead by the time I turned 18 and moved to Hollywood. When you’re young I don’t think you realize in real time just how quickly things are evolving because you’re wrapped up in it.

Can you remember where you were the very first time you ever heard the Foo Fighters? Having now been with the band for over 20 years, what’s been your proudest moment with them?

Jeez, that was a long time ago. Can’t say I remember exactly but I do remember a cassette tape of the first record being passed around before it came out.

Proudest moment? Too many to mention!

You’re also well respected as a podcaster. How much are you enjoying doing Shred with Shifty at the moment, where you get to nerd-out with fellow guitarists, and how close are you to getting Keith Richards on there?

It’s been really fun putting this first season together so far. I’m a guitar obsessive at heart so talking shop with my fellow players is a hoot. Keith Richards is at the top of the list of dream guests, of course – but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

Finally, you’re well-known for your guitar playing, but what other talents do you have that you feel deserve more recognition?

I don’t really have any other talents, but I do have lots of hobbies. None of ‘em deserve much recognition though.

Chris Shiflett, Wednesday March 20, The Academy, Dublin / Thursday March 21, The Limelight, Belfast. Tickets on sale now via ticketmaster.ie
A poster for Chris Shiflett's Belfast show at The Limelight
Chris Shiflett Limelight poster

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