Nathan Gregor "Nate" Mendel (born December 2, 1968) is an American bassist for the bands Foo Fighters, The Jealous Sound, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Fire Theft. In 2015, he announced he is the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for his new project, Lieutenant.
Life and career
Mendel was born on December 2, 1968, in Richland, a mid-sized city in southeast Washington. His first instrument was the violin. As at the age of 13, Mendel started to get interested in rock music and joining a band, a friend who played guitar suggested him to play bass guitar. Mendel stated that "as I picked up that bass guitar I went on a 20-year detour into punk", helped by his town usually having concerts of DIY punk bands such as Scream. This led to a "pretty limited musical education", as despite taking some lessons with a bassist from a local band, Mendel mostly taught himself to play, and "it was all hardcore punk rock, like Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains. Instead of studying the bass playing of someone like John Entwistle, which would have given me a foundation of how to play. I just wanted to play a lot of notes really fast."
Mendel began his musical career in the hardcore band Diddly Squat, which only recorded a 7" single but did a national tour during the 1988 summer vacation. After Diddly Squat ended, Mendel moved to Seattle, where he spent four months on the straight edge band Brotherhood. Afterwards he joined the band Christ on a Crutch, which included bandmate Glen Essary and lasted until 1993. In 1992, Mendel and his University of Washington housemate Dan Hoerner decided to form a band, and invited drummer William Goldsmith to form the group that would end up being named Sunny Day Real Estate. Mendel added that SDRE was an attempt to "play more intricate, interesting music". While Mendel toured Europe with Christ on a Crutch, Jeremy Enigk jammed with the remaining members and eventually became a full-time member of SDRE.
Just prior to Sunny Day Real Estate disbanding in 1995, Mendel and Goldsmith were invited by Dave Grohl to join his band, the Foo Fighters, during the week of Halloween in late October 1994. He has remained a bandmember ever since, being one of the only original members in the Foo Fighters current line-up along with Grohl and former Nirvana live guitarist Pat Smear. Although Sunny Day Real Estate reunited for two more albums (How It Feels to Be Something On and The Rising Tide), he stayed with the Foo Fighters. After Sunny Day Real Estate disbanded once more, he joined with other Sunny Day Real Estate members Jeremy Enigk and William Goldsmith to form The Fire Theft, who released a self-titled album in 2003. In 2001, he played with Juno.
He scored a role in the indie movie Our Burden Is Light, in which he also played a minor role as the main female character's best friend's boyfriend and bassist. In the movie, Mendel plays in a band named Bleeder, consisting of himself, Jessica Ballard, and Taylor Hawkins.
In June 2009, it was confirmed that Sunny Day Real Estate plans to reunite again, with Mendel back in the fold. The band toured in 2009, confirming a new album in the works.
Mendel at first considered the bass a melodic instrument, and thus liked to input more personality in his bass parts. Bass Player described Mendel's style in Sunny Day Real Estate as "heavy-handed and fleet-footed, rooted in punk rock but prone to melodic flights that encircled the band's airy arrangements", and Mendel added that in his first years of the Foo Fighters he tried "to make these songs as complicated as I could and put as much bass on there as possible". He eventually changed his priorities to the more traditional bass style where the instrument acts as "the bridge between the melodic element and the percussion", saying that he "alter[ed] the way I play bass so it works in this band, so I can support Dave's songs as best as possible." The priorities he learned to take with his playing was to "play tight and lock better with the drums" adding that when Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins decide to redo the drum tracks, at times Mendel would have to remake his whole basslines.
Mendel is known to use a pick almost exclusively. His preferred style was alternate picking, but on the fifth Foo Fighters album, In Your Honor, he started to employ downpicking because "with this kind of music, you need the consistency and percussive sound you get from playing with downstrokes." For the acoustic shows, Mendel played fingerstyle.
Nate is rarely seen singing. However he sang backup with Chris Shiflett on Monkey Wrench at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia in 2000 while supporting There Is Nothing Left To Lose. He and Shiflett sang the outro backing vocals ("fall in, fall out"). He is also seen doing backing vocals on "" at Bizarre Festival in 2000. Also, he sang backing vocals at Bucknell University in 2000 on "".
Mendel's main set-up consists of Fender Precision Basses with GHS strings, played through Ashdown amplifiers. Mendel described the Precision as "iconic" in both its looks and its sound. The bassist's preferred P-Bass is his first, a 1971 model sold to him by the lead singer of Christ on a Crutch which Mendel adapted to be easier to play. Mendel also plays Lakland basses, particularly the Bob Glaub Signature, one of which was employed on the Foo Fighters' seventh album, Wasting Light. He uses a Fulltone Bassdrive pedal, though Mendel downsized the usage of effects pedals as the Foo Fighters rose its number of musicians – "Now that we have three guitar players, there's a lot of distortion going on, so I try to keep it clean and stay in line with the kick drum. That way, I know that even if we're playing a big echoey venue, at least the bass will come across with some bite and precision."
He is seen playing the Lakland Bass in the video for "The Pretender". He used a Gibson Ripper bass in the "Best of You" video and in the "Long Road to Ruin" video he is seen playing a Red Fender Jazz Bass with a black pickguard. He also uses a white and pearloid red Fender Jazz Bass in the "Monkey Wrench" video.
Nate on occasion also plays Gibson Thunderbird Basses.
Nate uses JHAudio JH16 in Ear Monitors.
He has one son, Noah, with his former girlfriend. In September 2011 it was reported by Billboard.biz that Mendel was dating Sub Pop publicist and director of marketing, Kate Jackson. They married in October 2014. Nate attended Hanford Jr./Sr. High School in Richland, WA. He was an avid skateboarder as well as BMX racer in the Washington St. Region. He also regularly contributes to the official Foo Fighters blog. At the Foo Fighters Oklahoma City, Oklahoma show on September 30, 2015, Dave Grohl introduced the band and stated that Nate flew home for the birth of his Son, Cormac Bloodmoon Mendel, and back the next day to be in Oklahoma City to play the show.
Connection to AIDS denialist movement
In January 2000, Nate Mendel organized a sold-out concert in Los Angeles to benefit Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a group which denies that HIV is the cause of AIDS. At the concert, the group's founder, Christine Maggiore, gave a speech attributing AIDS to drug use, stress, and medications, and implying that people should not be tested for HIV, nor should they take antiretroviral treatment if HIV-positive.
Responding to coverage of the Alive & Well benefit in Mother Jones magazine, Mendel wrote that "...popular ideas about AIDS are based on a hypothesis that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny." He further condemned HIV tests for what he felt was their inaccuracy and HIV medication for its "unproven efficacy and proven toxicity." None of these statements reflects current mainstream scientific theories. The Foo Fighters no longer list Alive & Well as a supported charity on their website as of 2008.
- Foo Fighters (1995) (Doesn't play on the album, but appears in photos in booklet)
- The Colour and the Shape (1997)
- There is Nothing Left to Lose (1999)
- One by One (2002)
- In Your Honor (2005)
- Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)
- Wasting Light (2011)
- Sonic Highways (2014)
Sunny Day Real Estate
The Fire Theft
- The Fire Theft (2003)