The Gear of Foo Fighters

Photo by Jason Merritt/TERM / Staff / Getty Images

Since their very first eponymous album was released in 1995, the Foo Fighters have been rockin’ their way into the hearts of millions of fans on a global scale. After the Foo Fighters broke into the alternative rock scene, drummer-turned-guitarist Dave Grohl was joined by bassist Nate Mendel and drummer Taylor Hawkins to record The Colour and the Shape in ’97, spawning such hits as "Monkey Wrench," "Everlong," and "My Hero."

Over the past two decades, through a series of lineup changes including former Germs guitarist Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, the Foo Fighters have crafted eight studio albums, won eleven Grammy Awards, filmed a documentary, built a studio, and undergone extensive evolutions in terms of their gear. Here, we take a look at the gear of the Foo Fighters from the band’s inception in 1995 up to the present day.

Dave Grohl

"This guitar, I’ve made every single Foo Fighters record with it. This one," Dave Grohl has said of his Gibson Trini Lopez Standard Custom Reissue. Grohl goes on to explain that he saw it in a guitar shop in the early '90s and it was love at first sight. With its singular headstock and diamond-shaped F-holes, the Gibson Trini Lopez has become synonymous with the sound of the Foo Fighters.

Though Grohl obviously favors his Trini Lopez, he has been known to use a fair few other Gibson models, both live and in the studio. For instance, he has used Gibson Explorers extensively through his career, particularly during the Foo Fighters’ early days. Primarily played from the first album through There Is Nothing Left To Lose in 1999, Grohl’s most used Explorers include a ‘70s white model and an ‘80s black model tuned to drop D. Through the early 2000s, Grohl could also be seen sporting a clear Lucite Dan Armstrong guitar.

Gibson Trini Lopez Reissue
1977 Gibson Explorer

In 2007, Gibson announced the release of the Gibson DG-335 designed specifically for Dave Grohl himself. They based the design off of Grohl’s beloved Trini Lopez, and consequently, he plays it frequently. In fact, he even performed his recent, infamous broken-foot solo with a DG-335.

Dave's Amps

Of course, Dave Grohl’s gear doesn’t solely include guitars. Around 2000, the Fighters had a surefire rig for live shows that included both the Vox AC30 and the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier head and cab. Grohl has mentioned his love of the AC30 often, due to its ability to produce a wide range of tones: clean, dirty, bright, fat, you name it and the AC30 will help you get there. The Mesa/Boogie was typically used in their 2000 rig for dirtier sounds, though Grohl frequently pushed the AC30 to get the distortion he desired.

Dave's Effects

For Grohl, three effects pedals have been constants on his pedalboard over the years: the Boss DM-2 Analog Delay, the Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, and the MXR Phase 90, as well as Boss TU-2 and TU-3 tuners. Sometimes simplicity is best when it comes to getting the perfect tone. Keeping a relatively uncluttered pedalboard like Grohl can help create those essential Foo sounds.

Taylor Hawkins

Taylor Hawkins has been a long-time drum loyalist, sticking primarily to Gretsch kits since 2007 along with a wide variety of Zildjian cymbals. Hawkins prefers a more compact kit for his shows with Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, but there are a few pieces that cross over between that and his touring kit for the Foo Fighters.

Though Hawkins uses Gretsch USA Custom drums for both kits, he only uses his notable 6.5"x14" steel Taylor Hawkins Signature Gretsch Snare Drum during his time with the Foo Fighters. Hawkins’ Signature Snare was designed specifically for accessibility, and everyone from total beginners to Hawkins himself have been playing it. The snare also comes with a Remo Emperor X head, as Hawkins has used a myriad of Remos over the years. Hawkins also uses his own Zildjian Taylor Hawkins Signature Series drumsticks in size 5B proving that the gear you design yourself, for yourself, feels the most natural.

Hawkins uses almost entirely Zildjian cymbals in his kits, selecting different models across the board with one exception: the K Custom Hybrid Crash. Lauded for its brilliant but dark sound, Hawkins favors the K Custom Hybrid, which is seen in both of his touring kits. And though the majority of his hardware is by Gibralter, Hawkins uses the DW9000 Series Kick Pedal on the two setups.

Nate Mendel

"I found this ’71 Fender P-Bass back in the early ‘90s and I loved it… I really liked it, it was super easy to play and it was just a great sounding bass and I played it on ten years-worth of records," Nate Mendel says of his oft-used Precision Bass. Because Mendel so rarely deviated from playing this instrument, Fender produced some copies for him that lead to the collaborative effort of designing the Fender Nate Mendel Precision Bass.

Though Mendel is typically seen playing his ’71 P-Bass, he branched out in 2005 for the In Your Honor promotional tour. For this tour, the Foo Fighters performed a number of acoustic gigs in smaller venues, reflecting the mellower acoustic songs on the second half of the album. At these shows, Mendel chose to use the electro-acoustic Ovation B778.

Mendel, like Hawkins, has a penchant for remaining loyal to brands. Nowhere is this more clear than in his use of Ashdown amps. He’s spoken of his love for the durability of Ashdown amps, and has used the BTA 400 and Little Bastard heads, typically with a CL-810 cab. These amps, he says, allow him to match the amplitude of the rest of the band while still maintaining impressive low end - and they don’t ever blow out. More recently, Mendel worked with Ashdown to design the Nate Mendel Signature NM2 Double Distortion pedal.

Chris Shiflett & Pat Smear

Two talented guitarists have been part of the Foo lineup over the years: legendary punk guitarist Pat Smear played with the Foo Fighters from ’94 to ’97 and then took an eight year hiatus, rejoining them in 2005. Chris Shiflett of No Use for a Name and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes has played lead guitar for the Foo Fighters since 1999.

Before his departure from the Foo Fighters in ’97, Smear frequently played a Gibson SG Custom. Today, he almost exclusively uses Hagstrom guitars, including a custom-made black Hagstrom which the company then replicated and branded the Pat Smear Signature in 2013. Smear has also used the Peavey 6505+ amp head, in tandem with the Peavey 2x12 6505 cab, since 2011.

Chris Shiflett tends to stick to Gibson and Fender - in fact, he's worked with Fender to design his own tele, the Chris Shiflett Signature Telecaster Deluxe. Preferring guitars with humbuckers when playing with the Foo Fighters to get a thicker sound, Shiflett has used guitars like the Gibson ES-335 and the Les Paul Custom since 2007, though has considered sneaking his 1962 Fender Telecaster Custom into live sets. As for effects, Shiflett has recently been a fan of Strymon pedals, demonstrated by the inclusion of the Strymon Lex, Strymon Flint, Strymon Blue Sky, Strymon TimeLine, and others, on his current pedalboard.

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