“I almost burned off my thumb with a bottlerocket”: 13 Questions with Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett

Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett tell us all about firework-based horseplay, witnessing metal history as it happened, and seafood that tastes “like rotting garbage…”

“I almost burned off my thumb with a bottlerocket”: 13 Questions with Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett
Nick Ruskell
Joey Martinez

When he's not playing guitar for Foo Fighters, Chris Shiflett gets busy playing guitar for himself. This week, he releases his new solo album, Lost At Sea, a collection of riffs that add a bit of a country vibe to the man's impressive riffing chops.

To celebrate his solo endeavour, we decided to find out some stuff about the man himself. Almost immediately, we got metal envy when he told us about his first gig…

1Why should people get your new album, Lost At Sea?

“I'm so terrible at answering those kinds of questions. You're supposed to say, ‘Because it's the greatest fucking record of all time,’ really give the hard sell. Well, I do feel strongly about this record. The way we made it was a little unusual; we sort of made it over the course of a year or so when our schedules would align. So we had the luxury of not having to settle for anything, we could just tinker with it till we got everything where we wanted it to be. It's a little bit different than other records I've made before. It's kind of all the things that I love musically, all jumbled together. It's a little bit country. It's a little bit rock’n’roll.”

2What did you want to be when you grew up?

“I actually found my sixth grade school yearbook a few years ago. Everybody wrote what they wanted to be in it, and I wrote I wanted to be an airline pilot. Which is weird, because I have no memory of ever wanting to be an airline pilot. The only thing I remember ever wanting to be was a guitar player. I think maybe that came a little bit later. I mean, I started playing guitar in sixth grade, but I think it wasn't until maybe around eighth or ninth grade that I went, ‘Yeah, I want to do this.’”

3What was the first gig you ever went to?

“Ronnie James motherfucking Dio on the Holy Diver tour, at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, California, when I was 12. I actually talked to Vivian Campbell [former Dio guitarist, now in Def Leppard] kind of recently about coming onto my Shred With Shifty podcast. I mentioned it to him, and he said he thought it was actually one of their first shows as a band. I don't know if it was or wasn't, but I remember them being on fucking fire, and it left an indelible mark. It was such a great show, but I really kicked myself, because I have older brothers who started going out to shows a few years prior to that, and it makes me sick what they saw: Van Halen with David Lee Roth, they saw Black Sabbath with Dio a couple of times… But still, Dio on the Holy Diver tour is a pretty good start!”

4What’s your worst habit?

“Not shutting the fuck up sometimes. Not understanding when to let it go.”

5What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?

“Shark cartilage, on tour in Japan years ago. It tasted like somebody had pulled out some rotting garbage that had been sitting in a in a bin for a few days. It was fucking gnarly. Once it was in your mouth you can't get rid of the taste, it goes into your nose and you can't get it out of there. It was just awful.”

6Have you ever been kicked out of a bar?

“Absolutely. More than once. Although truth be told, I think I probably got kicked out of a lot more parties than bars.”

7If your house was on fire, what possession would you save?

“I've given my kids clear instructions that if the house is ever burning down and I'm not there, they have to grab my 1982 black Les Paul out of the garage and then fucking run. That was my first Les Paul, and it was my first good guitar. I got it for my 15th birthday and it's the one that I'm most sentimental about. It sat in my garage for about 20 years, and it's recently returned to the road, so it's not even in my house at the moment. Even if you have nicer guitars, better guitars, that ’82 Les Paul is mine. I put every scratch on it, I wore all that paint off the neck. It's relic-ed by my blood, sweat and tears.”

8What’s your biggest fear?

“I'm a dad, so my biggest fear is anything ever happening to my children. That's probably the thing that I worry about the most. Apart from running into a burning building to get my guitar.”

9What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had on tour?

“This didn't happen onstage, but it sure fucked up my tour – years ago before I was in the Foo Fighters I was on tour with a band called 22 Jacks, and we were fucking around lighting off fireworks. We had bottlerockets, where you'd hold them and light them and throw them. I didn't time it right, and it launched before I threw it. I had gloves on, and I remember looking down and the glove was just completely burned off [at the] thumb. I basically almost burned my thumb off! It blistered up, and then I couldn't really feel it at all, which is bad because that’s where you hold your guitar pick. I didn't want to tell anybody in the band because I didn't want them to be like, ‘You fucking idiot,’ so I just suffered through it. I couldn’t feel my thumb for a week.”

10What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

“Being a dishwasher at a restaurant hotel called Don The Beachcomber a long, long, long time ago. I also worked phone sales – that was terrible. I also had a job at a bass company in Santa Barbara. My job was to buff bass bodies with these big spinning buffer wheels. Every fifth one, this big buffing machine would grab where the pickups were routed out and smash it against the wall, so I’d pick it up and hide it in the bottom of the box. That job was not was not great, but I'd say dishwasher was probably the worst one.”

11What was your best subject at school?

“I don't know, man. I was a terrible, terrible student. I don't remember being good at anything. Honestly, by the time I got into high school I was not paying attention at all, and didn't really do much of anything. And then I figured out that I could just cut class and go to the coffee shop with my friends. So that was my best subject: drinking coffee and eating French fries at the coffee shop down the street.”

12What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled for the least reward?

“Well, when I was young and playing in bands, it was not uncommon that your set would never happen. That happened at keg parties all the time because the cops would break it up. And I remember one time in, like, 1993 I was in this band called Green Thumb in LA. We drove out to the desert to play a big rave. We got all the way out there, and there was no one there. It was just this big open area in the desert with a DJ and loud techno music, and literally just a smattering of people. We didn't play. I think I just fell asleep in my friend's car.”

13If you had the power to turn off the internet, would you do it?

“That's a good question, man, because I'm old enough to have lived a lot of life without it. It'd be hard to live without it nowadays, though, wouldn't it? I mean, we all bitch about social media and how it fucks up a lot of our world, but I don't know, man, would you really not want to be able to Google? Just being able to find out immediately where to get a good slice of pizza or something? I don't know. That's a tough one. I probably would turn it off. But could you just turn certain things off? Maybe I'd do that. I’d turn off Tik-Tok and leave Surfline on.”

Lost At Sea is released on October 20 via Snakefarm

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