Brett Oaten
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
The Drum Media #70 Smells Like Spleen… Nirvana Yes

"SORRY you had to wait but I've been working on my bike. It's a cheap piece of shit really, a Nighthog 550, and it hasn't been running for six months, just sitting here in the Seattle rain. Me and my room-mate are trying to get it started. We're so close but it just won't do it."

AND when you do?

"I'm gonna get the hell outta here. You heard of Tad? He's a DJ at a club downtown tonight… a big grunge night. I'd ride to that but it's so cold I dunno if I could do it on the bike. But he is the biggest DJ in town…"

DAVE Grohl drums for Nirvana and, between enquiries on the progress of the bike, he's on the phone from Seattle, which Dave says is "f***** freezin". He's very friendly and only too happy to talk about what's been a very busy, maybe even frightening year for the band. He doesn't talk about lyrics because "you gotta ask Kurt about those'; which is fair I think. He also laughs quite a bit and in the opening exchange about the weather, bikes and Tad Doyle you realise that that question, the really obvious one about whether success has change(sic) him, really is a waste of breath. That conviction only gets stronger when I ask him if the band are still living in Olympia, the small town in Washington State where two-thirds of Nirvana moved to from their even smaller hometown of Aberdeen:

"NA, I've moved to West Seattle and Chris is about a half hour away in Tacoma. Kurt doesn't actually live anywhere, he kinda lives out of his car at the moment."

IT seems almost trite to recount that Nirvana were still in Mudhoney's shadow when they released Bleach on '89 on Seattle's Sub-Pop label, subsequently bought out their Sub-Pop contract and signed to David Geffen's DGC label, the home of Sonic Youth and lately the Teenage Fanclub, to release Nevermlnd. Nevermind has now sold 125 million copies in the US alone, taken the band to No.1 and seen Smells Like Teen Spirit receive the king of MTV rotation usually reserved for the most dire kind of corporate lapdog. You also don't need to be told that Nevermind took the perfect melodies that Bleach used sparingly and combined that with the frightening crunch of Sliver to be far and away the best record of '91.

AND now they find themselves headed tor Australia, presumably of a time when they could have named their price on the US and pressure was on to do other things. It's great then that Dave seems genuinely rapt about coming. It also speaks volumes that they've chosen to tour with an independent promoter.

"EVERYONE'S really excited, especially 'cause it'll be summer and some friends of mine in Fugazi had a great time out there. Doing it the way we are is fine with me. I mean, we trust independent people more than we would a major production company. There's always pressure to do stuff but none of that fuckin' matters. We just wanna play and we do what we want to."

INCIDENTALLY, Dave is a relatively recent addition. Having ployed in DC band Scream before joining Nirvana on 1990. Was he a fan?

"YEAH. I'd heard the music and had friends who were really into the music but I didn't have the record 'cause I don't own a record player and I never buy records. Usually the stuff I listen to I've had for ten years. I go into record stores but I can never find anything I like. Too many times I've heard stuff that people say is great and I've been disappointed."

What about lately?

LATELY it's been good. I love the Pixies record, The new Melvins 4-track (Egg Nogg) is great and so is the Teenage Fanclub album.

AFTER releasing Bleach the band toured heavily and spent some tome arranging the move from Sub-Pop to DGC. This along with a "generally lackadaisical attitude" and the release of the Sliver single ("which gave people a chance to see where we were headed") is the explanation for the two year wait for Nevermind. But while the enormity of Nirvana's success may have been unexpected (and perhaps even unwanted) the wisdom of their move has never been doubted:

"DGC are great. People tend to think of it as some massive office block with hundreds of employees, a huge corporate factory pumping out commercial shit. Really it's just a small staff based in a little house on Sunset. The reason we signed is because they know exactly where we're coming from and what sort of people we are. Everybody there is a music lover and whether it sells or not they're willing to get good music to the masses."

"THE whole problem in America is that great bands can't get their music to people. Bands like the Melvins, Jesus Lizard, Urge Overkill and Hole all have distribution problems but hopefully it's finally opening up."

SO why did Nirvana's album break when other great records couldn't do it?

"I THINK it's so long since a band come and did totally what they wanted to without worrying about outside elements. This record would've sounded the some if it came out of DGC or on K Records in Olympia. There's no reason and no formula… things just happened. Some songs were two years old and some were two weeks old. A lot has to do with chance and the fact that the American music scene is totally flooded with shit. People can only take so much."

AND Dave, like everyone else, hopes that Nirvana's success can serve to blow some cobwebs out of an all-too corpulent and complacent industry:

"I REALLY hope we con open some doors. Bands like Mudhoney and Sonic Youth created opportunities for us and and the best thing that could come from this is if some of the young bands behind us took over and steered the whole bullshit scene in another direction. The interest in Sup-Pop has been a good thing. Maybe it was blown out of proportion by some people but you can't deny that a lot of bands are great. You know, like Beat Happening and Mudhoney. Mudhoneys are a totally fuckin' great band."

YOU will be happy to know that after blowing out the last leg of their European tour when Kurt lost his voice, the band are now well rested and primed for their Australian trip. The only remaining commitment being a trip to New York to appear on Saturday Night live:

"WE toured for four months, five shows a week and in the end we were haggard and totally ragged out. The touring routine was driving everyone insane so we had to cool out. Now we're all ready again. It's great to be home even if it bugs me to be congratulated all the time. I think it's kinda redundant and boring."

"SATURDAY Night Live? Yeah, it's weird but at least we get to see the show I guess. We'll be doin' Teen Spirit but I dunno what else. Maybe a C&C Music Factory song." laughs Dave. "Over here they're trying to tag Teen Spirit as the new teen rebellion anthem thing but I don't think it's relevance is that strong. It's just fuckin' music, man. It does have a good beat, though."

FINALLY, we're running out of time so I asked Dave about his perceptions of Australia: "Well I just wanna have an open mind. All US perception of it seems shaped by either Mad Max or that stupid fuckin' crocodile movie."

KIND of like us thinking that the Pacific North West is one big Twin Peaks?

"BUT it is! You know I was in a bar one night and saw the girl who plays Laura Palmer. I was drinking pint sized Whiskey 7's and I was really drunk, it was ‘Wow, that's her’ and then she left. It's weird enough getting stared at as it is, but being on TV every week…"

LIKE getting calls from metal stars who want to jamm with you I guess?

"THEY just don't understand, they think we're just another band out for a buck. I'm excited about playing with the Violent Femmes and I'd love to do something with R.E.M. but there's not many big bands we admire. We just ignore it cause we're comfortable doin' our own shows. Personally I'd be happy doing small theatres for ever, rather than three nights at the Enormodome."

AFTER the revelation, spare-time wise, that "I like to go bowling once in a while", Dave's gotta go. "The motor's running and I've gotta get this warmed up for tonight. We can't wait to get out there. You should come along to one of the shows."

YOU know, I might just do that…

© Brett Oaten, 1992