- Randy Hawkins
- Dave Grohl
|The State Press
||Washington's Pounding 'Teen Spirit'
“Nirvana: any place or condition of great peace or bliss.” — Webster's New World Dictionary
It's 2 p.m. in a Kansas town, and Dave Grohl, Nirvana's drummer, has just rolled out of bed. He's exhausted after playing a sold-out show to a bunch of “SGA's,” or Student Government Association-types.
“It was fun,” Grohl says, in his detached monotone. “It was one of those sterile, play-at-the-college things.”
Grohl, along with vocalist/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Chris Novoselic make up the Washington band, which plays either punk rock or hard rock, or alternative rock, depending on who you ask.
When asked to describe the band's sound, Grohl sighs. “I hate that,” he says, but grudgingly volunteers his 2-cents-worth anyway. “I don't know, it's just really heavy pop songs played by punk rock children. I think that to give it a definition would be a contradiction. Punk rock is just freedom.”
Punk rock or not, Nirvana's latest release, ‘Nevermind,’ boasts an incredibly tight sound that rockets back and forth between acoustic strumming and all-out thrash guitar attacks, sometimes within the same song. The first single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” has been getting some airplay and threatens to make Nirvana a household name among the alternative rock set.
This increase in popularity is hardly a threat to the band's “I don't care” attitude, but it has an effect on the crowds that show up at Nirvana's concerts.
“The crowds are a lot bigger now,” says Grohl, who adds that every day he sees more and more “kids” and “12-year-old girls” at the shows.
It's ironic that the youth of America are hanging out at Nirvana gigs considering the fact that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is about the apathy of today's youth. “Here we are now/Entertain us,” screams Cobain during the chorus, an anthem for kids everywhere.
The live shows, as could be expected, are “just like chaos,” says Grohl. “It comes across really well. There's 20 times more energy and it's about 20 times as loud as anyone could listen to it at home.”
Grohl isn't shy about naming the band's influences, which include Black Flag and Bad Brains, who Grohl says was “the most incredible live band I had ever seen.” Nirvana also feels a kinship with “(Washington) D.C. hardcore outcasts” The Void, who “were so bad, they were the best.”
In stark contrast to the sonic anarchy exhibited on much of “Nevermind,” the song “Something in the Way” is a beautiful acoustic piece, complete with cellos. “It's not like we had some scheme,” Grohl says defensively. “It's just a song.”
Grohl refuses to examine the song any further. “We're the last ones to analyze anything we're doing,” he says. “Other people are a lot better at deciding what we're thinking than we are… Let them spend their own time doing that — I've got better things to do.”
‘Nevermind’ may be the perfect album title for Nirvana, since it seems to accurately reflect the attitude of at least one band member. Even the story of how the band chose their album title is a telling example of this apathy. According to Grohl, the band members were stuck between ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Sheep’ as album titles. When finally confronted by an exasperated record company executive, they just said the title that came to mind first.
“That's how all of our decisions are made,” Grohl says, not the least bit sheepishly.
This apathetic attitude carries over somewhat to song writing. Grohl and Novoselic allow Cobain to come up with the melody, then the trio starts jamming. “We keep on doing it until verses, choruses, bridges come out of that,” he says.
This unique songwriting approach has its drawbacks. “We've written so many songs that we've forgotten about,” Grohl confesses.” We know nothing about music. I mean, none of us know how to write it.”
To keep from losing any more songs, the band has taken to tape recording its practice sessions.
Although the band has only three members, Grohl doesn't think the minimalist lineup inhibits the band in any way. “It should be exactly the opposite,” he says. “There should be a lot more space.”
The small roster isn't about retention of creative control either, insists Grohl. Continuing his never-ending championing of the punk ideals, Grohl says, “we're not into ‘control’, we're into ‘creative,’ but I don't think there's any such thing as ‘creative control.’”
Grohl suddenly develops an indifferent sort of interest when he hears about After the Gold Rush, the club Nirvana is playing at tonight. After learning about its disco-meets-metal décor, Grohl interrupts, “there's nothing wrong with a good disco ball.”
In fact, after listening to a '70s compilation disc he purchased recently, Grohl goes so far as to say, “I realized disco wasn't so bad after all.”
A secret love of disco isn't Grohl's only surprise. One of his favorite memories of Nirvana's latest tour is the visit he paid to the Bowlers Hall of Fame in St Louis. “That was amazing,” he says, “I bet you didn't know that bowling went all the way back to ancient Egypt. Did you? Did you?” He smugly persists.
Other than travelling to wonderful places like the Bowlers Hall of Fame, Grohl says the band isn't aiming for much of anything in particular. “We don't have any goals. Once you start setting goals, you start expecting things and you can get disappointed.”
Pausing, Grohl adds, “I just don't really care. I think that's what sets us apart.”
© Randy Hawkins, 1991