Exclusive: Butch Vig Talks ‘Primal, Raw’ Foo Fighters Album

Producer also recalls reuniting with surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic after nearly 20 years.

On Wednesday, MTV News spoke to producer Butch Vig about his current project: a reworked version of “Go Pack Go!,” the fight song of his beloved Green Bay Packers. Thanks in no small part to the team’s run to Super Bowl XLV, the song has become a rock-radio staple all around Wisconsin, and Vig is pretty pleased by its success.

Of course, in between his praise of the Pack — and near-constant digs at the Minnesota Vikings — we also got Vig to answer a few questions about the project he just finished: the Foo Fighters’ brand-new, back-to-basics album , which is due this spring. And, echoing Dave Grohl’s sentiments that the still-untitled disc would be a snarling, “shredding” affair, Vig said the Foos have pushed themselves further than they’ve ever gone before — by ditching everything they’d previously done.

“[Dave] has an amazing studio not too far from his home, in the Valley, and it’s a great, kick-ass studio, but I think he felt that if he went in there, what would he do different on this record? They’d be recording in the same room, using the same board, getting the same sort of vibe,” Vig said. “So he mentioned to me, when they played Wembley [Stadium in the U.K.] at the end of last tour, they were like, ‘Holy sh–, I can’t believe how big we are.’ … And he was thinking what to do next, and so he said, ‘I want to do something really primal sounding.’ And had me up to his house, and when I got there — this was nine months ago — he opened up his garage door and went, ‘I want to record the record in here.’ And I said, ‘Uh, OK … ‘

“So, literally, we got a drum kit and put it in there, and he started banging on it, and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s really intense sounding,’ because it’s a small garage, just drywall, you know?” Vig continued. “And then he said, ‘Cool, well, here’s another thing: I want to do it on tape, 24-track tape. I don’t want to use any computers.’ And I said, ‘Look, I totally understand this, [but] it’s going to be a lot of work, because you guys have got to play really good.’ Because you can fix anything with computers, Auto-Tune everything until it becomes perfect, and he said, ‘I want the record to sound rawer and somewhat imperfect. As good as we play, that’s how good the record will sound.’ And, you know what? It sounds great. They’re f—ing badass players. It’s an honest record. It sounds real.”

While crafting a crackling, live-sounding album was a thrill — Vig proudly proclaims that it remained completely analog “until post-mastering” — his biggest jolt came from being in the same room with Grohl and his former Nirvana mate Krist Novoselic (who, along with Pat Smear, plays on the record) and watching the two exorcise old demons on a track called “I Should Have Known.”

“We had Krist Novoselic come in and play bass [on the song], and I’m not exactly sure what the song’s about, but to me, it seems there’s definitely some references about Kurt Cobain, and it’s one of the most primal, raw things the Foo Fighters have ever done, and I think it’s one of the best tracks on the record,” Vig said. “It’s distorted and raw, and Dave, the take on the vocals is like the first take he did at the end of the song. He’s just blowing his lungs out. … We played the record for some people yesterday, and the whole record is great, but that song, God, it’s quite an emotional roller-coaster ride when you hear it.”

And then, after the song had been recorded, Vig got another thrill: getting to reconnect with two of his oldest friends, a pair of musicians with whom he’ll forever be linked, even if they haven’t been in the same room together in nearly two decades.

“When Krist came up to Dave’s house, we sort of sat down and it was like, ‘Holy sh–, man, we hadn’t been in a room together — the three of us — in almost 20 years,’” said Vig, who produced Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind. “So Krist did his bass overdubs, and he added a little accordion part at the start and end of the song, and then we just sat around and shot the sh– for three or four hours. Dave and I were sipping on some wine, and Krist started drinking some bootleg whiskey, and it was great. … One story would lead to another story, and it was an amazing experience, just to be there, to open up all these things you may have forgotten about. It was really a pretty special part of the album.”

What are you expecting from the new Foo Fighters album? Let us know in the comments!