LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE September ??, 1991 - ??, ??, US

Maureen Odell
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
B-Side Vol.5 #6 Fishin' With Winona Yes

"All I wanna do is fish," states drummer Dave Grohl, the latest in Nirvana's seemingly never-ending revolving door of stickmen. "My ultimate goal is to go fishing with Winona Ryder. You see, I've been having these dreams about Winona Ryder for the past four days and it's weird because I don't really think about her at all. I saw a picture of her last week, but there's no obsession or attraction. I've been having these weird dreams about being on a fishing boat and fishing with her… and hanging out with her at a Hole show." Yes, this man was born to be a member of Nirvana.

David Grohl is Nirvana's fifth drummer and has been a member of the Seattle-by-way-of-Aberdeen, WA-based trio for a year and a half. Therefore, seeing as how he's the new young guy, founding members, songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Kurt Cobain (formerly referred to as Kurdt Kobain) and bassist Chris Novoselic (two gentlemen who usually revel in frustrating pesky journalist-types by discussing anything and everything… except what they were asked), have punished him with the dreaded interview-duty. "It's like a big blur," groans Dave. "You sit and do interviews for three hours and all you do is talk about yourself for three hours, and… it just gets a bit weird. It's just sort of strange." (Welcome to the corporate rock world of DGC Records, babe.)

Born and raised in Washington DC, Dave was sitting behind the kit for a local punk band called Scream, when, while on cross-country tour, the band found themselves stranded in Hollywood. Taking a cue from the rapidly deteriorating surroundings in which they found themselves, Scream fell apart, leaving Dave Grohl in the position of a man in search of a band. Having heard that Nirvana was in need of a drummer (so what else is new?), Dave made a phone call and a plane reservation and soon found himself slamming cymbals for the finest band in the land.

Nirvana's extraordinarily melodic pop-punk-garage-grunge riff-o-rama was unleashed upon a power-starved public in early 1988 in the form of a Shocking Blue cover called ‘Love Buzz.’ Released on Sub Pop and produced by the infamous Jack Endino, the single's limited edition of 1000 quickly vanished and Cobain, Novoselic, and Chad Channing (Nirvana's drummer number three) began invading clubs with their near-legendary, gear-smashing, manically-energized live shows.

One year after the ‘Love Buzz’ single, Nirvana released their much anticipated debut LP Bleach. For a total recording cost of $600 the band surpassed the highest of expectations and created a brilliantly raw, punk-inspired, '60s-tinged (yet wonderfully melodic) debut. Tunes such as ‘Floyd The Barber,’ ‘School,’ ‘About a Girl,’ and the classic ‘Negative Creep,’ were soon college radio staples and Nirvana were immediately considered forerunners of this thing called "The Seattle Sound."

Along with Mudhoney and Soundgarden, our heroes were immediately hyped solely as a "grunge band" by numerous hearing-impared music journalists who completely ignored Cobain's truly gifted pop-craftsmanship in favor of rapid categorization. "I don't know who invented this ‘grunge’ term," says Dave. "I don't know who came up with the ‘g-word.’ I mean, people will ask (adopting an irritating nasal-whine), ‘Oh, what's this band sound like? Oh, you know, sort of grungy.’

"There's definitely a label being on Sub Pop. It's not like one token sound, which a lot of people believe. Someone said that we'll be a Sub Pop band for the rest of our life just because of that (grunge) thing. You know, who cares, it's all fucking rock-n-roll anyway."

Following the release of Bleach, Nirvana, now a quartet with the addition of second guitarist Jason Everman, undertook a mammoth tour schedule. The band criss-crossed the States three times, England twice, and elsewhere in Europe once. Along the long and winding road, Everman's stint proved to be short-lived as he made a fatal career move by leaving Nirvana in order to (temporarily) play bass for Soundgarden (Soundgarden has a seemingly never-ending revolving door of bass players, similar to that of Nirvana's oft-vacated drummer slot.) Late in 1989, Nirvana, once again – and forever after – a trio, released an EP called Blew, as well as a terrific single entitled ‘Sliver’ the following November. It was during this period that yet more personnel changes occurred as Channing abandoned his drumming duties and was (briefly) replaced by Mudhoney's Dan Peters. Peters was subsequently ousted and that's where our man, Dave, comes in.

Dave entered the Nirvana camp just as Cobain and Novoselic were fielding offers from numerous major labels anxious to call the "fudge packing, crack smoking, satan worshipping, motherfucking" trio their own. In the end, Sub Pop wound up losing the most important band they will ever have by relinquishing power to the mighty David Geffen Company. "That move was as I joined the band," states Nirvana's newest member. "It was kind of mid-way through the whole thing. There were six or seven different labels that wanted to sign the band and the band was still under contract to Sub Pop and we had to go through the whole thing legally.

"We had to give Sub Pop a lot to get out of the contract," admits Dave. "But there's no hard feelings. It's not like some feud or something. It's just sort of a legal transaction… which is a bummer because that is what everyone is against. Everyone is against this whole business-aspect, corporate rock thing. But when it comes down to it, that's what everybody's livin' off of right now so it's sort of ridiculous – sort of hypocritical," he confesses.

With Nirvana being a band who's always held the belief that, "This Whole business is full of shit," separating the really horrible labels From the simply awful ones must have been one hell of a horrendous undertaking The standard cliche response, "Of all the labels we looked at, Geffen seemed the coolest. They knew where the band was coming from," should fit nicely about now. Elaborating further on his painfully trite response, Dave says, "They weren't old fogeys – big, old, fat men with cigars in their mouths sitting up in their President's offices looking at how much M.C. Hammer is making. You know," he explains, "we're signed to DGC which is a smaller, more close-knit operation. It's the David Geffen Company, it's in the same building, but it's sort of sectioned-off to keep away from the real label people – the Whitesnake label people. See, we're the Sonic Youth label, they're the Whitesnake label people."

Once the contracts were signed and the business bullshit taken care of, it was time for Nirvana to (finally) create some new music. Following two weeks of L.A. recording time (as compared to the three days it took to record Bleach) and a brief bit of mixing, Nirvana emerged with their remarkable second LP Nevermind. "It's kinda strange," says Dave of the Nevermind recording process. "'Cause Bleach was recorded two years ago, so there's a really big gap in-between records. Half the songs (on Nevermind) are two years old and the other half were written about two weeks before we were to record them. So the feel of the whole record was… I don't know if I should say 'spontaneous,' I mean, we took a couple weeks in the studio. It took about three weeks to do the record, which was a lot more time than Bleach took, but our producer, Butch Vig (Smashing Pumpkins, Killdozer), was really great to work with. He didn't put any pressure in the wrong places. He was just easy to work with and the record came out just as we wanted it to. Everybody's really happy with the way it turned out."

Apart from Nevermind being recorded on 24-track equipment (whereas Bleach was recorded on 8-track) Nirvana decided to shun all of the high-tech gizmos now at their disposal, instead opting for the type of studio-environment utilized during the decade where they cite many of their influences – the 1970s.

"The studio we recorded in was really excellent. It hadn't been touched since like 1974 and all the equipment was really old and fucked-up and it had corkboard all over the walls. This was a studio called Sound City. It's a great studio. It's fuckin' excellent," enthuses Dave. "All the equipment we used was analog," he elaborates. "None of it was digital so (Nevermind) got this beefy, warm, fat '70s sound to the basic tracks and then we went into a real high-tech 1990s studio to mix it and it just didn't work. So we had to move on to another studio to mix it in. Eventually it turned out great." According to Dave the drummer, that beefy, warm, fat sound captured on Nirvana's major label debut is as much late '70's / early '80s punk rock as it is early '70s corkboard-studio-era hard rock. "I listen to a lot of Black Flag and Bad Brains, and I listen to a lot of Melvins. I think Kurt and Chris were really into the Flipper, Butthole Surfers kind of noisy, non-hardcore bands," he adds.

"After I had been doing the punk thing for a while," continues the cymbal slammer, "I was in a bunch of bands and, um, started… smoking pot. I started smoking a lot of pot when I was about 14 and just started playing more guitar – I started playing guitar when I was 11 and didn't start playing drums 'til I was, like, 15, I guess. I just started listening to melody and song structure and stuff and taking a bunch of acid and smoking a lot of pot and listening to Led Zeppelin. You know, just your typical type of high school stoner shit."

Dave further expounds on how marijuana broadened his appreciation for 1970s hard rock, fondly recalling, "I'd sit there with a bong in my hand and listen to ‘Rain Song’ or something. There was this little group of all my friends, we were all in bands and we were all going through our little drug-experimental-sort-of-freak-out phase and we rehearsed in my friend Barrett's house and he got a CD player (CDs are what turned Dave onto Zeppelin… Give him a break, he was born the same year Led Zeppelin I was released.) and we would sit around every Friday night listening to CDs and selling pot to each other."

Strolling further down Avenue #13 (and even further into prime Kurt Cobain interview territory) Dave confesses, "I was the high school stoner. But see, I was the Vice President of my freshman class, but still like a stoner. So, I was this real weird, sort of, mutant, intellectual, stoner-type. My mom was a teacher at the school and my sister was a senior so I couldn't really flaunt my 'stonerness' around school. I definitely had to keep it behind closed doors. And you know, holding a responsibility, such as being the Vice President of the freshman class, you can't just let some scandal like that slip out." (Was this guy born to be in Nirvana or what?)

These days, our favorite former freshman class V.P. / stoner (he's since learned to 'just say no') is spending his Friday evenings on the road, pounding the hell out of his drum kit for a rapidly expanding Nirvana appreciation society – a society which our young Dave would like to keep at a numerically comfortable level. "There's definitely going to be a lot more people finding out about Nirvana," he warns. "I think there's been this, kind of, live show reputation. You know, Nirvana's done a little bit of touring and now I think radio is going to be some tool," he predicts less than enthusiastically. "I think the label is probably going to use it to get bigger shows going and more press."

"Personally," he continues, "I don't really like playing to big crowds. I mean, playing the Reading Festival was cool and everything, but it's one of the most impersonal things you can ever do – play to a crowd of 35,000 people with a distance of about 20ft. between you and the people in the front row. It's just sort of perverse and disgusting – like a circus show – and it's really not my idea of a show. Playing in arenas or concert halls is fuckin' ridiculous. It just turns into a fuckin' doggy show."

Nirvana's less-than-flattering comments regarding the music business and its bigger-is-better mentality have been well-documented over the last few years. Therefore, it should not come as a huge surprise to find that many long-time devotees may view the trio's new major label status as hypocritical – a sell-out for everything the band has been so vehemently opposed to since the beginning. (Nevermind, pardon the pun, that the band has not compromised their heavenly heaviness one iota for the likes of corporate big-wigs..) "There's always gonna be the cynic. There's always gonna be the person screaming, ‘sell out!’" Dave scoffs in his finest I-could-care-less tone. "You know, if people want to slag us off and call us sell-outs for doing what we're doing before even hearing it, fine. Fuck 'em. Those are the people we don't really care about. Whatever. It's open to anyone's interpretation. If they want to slag us for signing to a major, cool. That's fine. If they don't, great. No big deal. No skin off my back.

"People are under the impression that we're doing this for all the wrong reasons and they're just wrong," he further continues. "Kurt wrote a lot of really good songs and Kurt's got a real good pop-sensibility – if you want to call it that. But people think Kurt's writing these pop songs to make a buck, which is stupid. It's completely ridiculous. It's the music we all love to play and has nothing to do with money. It's almost expected, you know?" Dave admits that he's a bit frustrated / perturbed when addressing the issue of potential cynics questioning Nirvana's motives. In fact, he admits that he's a bit overwhelmed by his sudden thrust into the big bad world of corporate rock. "See, this thing is like a first for me," he explains. "It's like this new experience and it's something that I never really expected to happen. But now that it's happening, I'm sort of thinking, ‘Well, maybe it's not that I didn't expect it, it's that I really didn't want it to happen.’ I just want to go out and play music to people who are gonna dig it."

And fish, of course.

© Maureen Odell, 1992