Murray Engleheart
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript

Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl begins in a matter-of-fact tone. "I remember one night when we played in Chicago on the last tour. I'd had the same drum set for four years and it started getting really, really fucked up. And it got to the point where it didn't sound good anymore. I kept on telling the tour manager I need a new drum kit really badly. And the tour manager would say, 'how long can you hold out?' And I said, 'Well I can wait until the end of the tour, but I just want something to sound good.'

"Finally, my bag got stolen in Detroit and I was really pissed off. So the next day I said, 'Okay this is it, this is the last night I'll play on this drum kit, I'm not going to take it anymore.' And Kurt and I sat there for ten minutes in front of a thousand people just destroying the drum kit and handing it to them. So everybody walked out of there with a little souvenir."

It wasn't the first such disruption to a Nirvana gig. During the band's performance at the Reading Festival in the UK, Kurt was moved to dive into the drum kit and sprained his arm. The problem was, the band had several more weeks of engagements to fulfil.

But although things sometimes don't work out for Nirvana, the band once blindly branded as some sort of knee-jerk consequence of Mudhoney are now - as their first album, Bleach, indicated to those with real ears - very much on their own raw, ragged and brutally emotive turf.

And what's more, now this bunch of scruffs and their stunning Nevermind album have grabbed the upper reaches of the American charts. Now that's an achievement for rock and roll. Nevermind includes material written before Bleach was recorded and has firmed up a territory specifically and totally for Nirvana. And it's attracting an increasing number of major league fans. The band were offered support slots with, among others, Ozzy Osbourne and Skid Row.

"It's kind of amusing that all these bands want us to open for them, but there's absolutely no way we'd ever do it. People tell us we're number nine on the Billboard charts in America and we don't jump up around and laugh or jump for joy; we just sort of shrug it off. When someone says a band like Rush want us to tour with them, we burst out laughing!

"But actually, you know what? Someone asked us if we would open for Guns N' Roses, so I think we're going to play one show in New Zealand at some festival or something. That kind of thing is okay. We just wanted to make sure that we never play with some massive travelling cock-rock show all over America. That would just ruin the whole touring experience. So playing a single show with Guns N' Roses in New Zealand in front of forty thousand people, that might be kind of fun."

That event now seems to be off as Guns N' Roses won't be in this part of the world as planned. But the show probably wouldn't have been much of a surprise. Axl went backstage to see Nirvana in Los Angeles and expressed an interest in 'hanging out' with them.

Dave didn't see the second Clash of the Titans tour with Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and fellow local lads Alice in Chains. I mention, with Alice in Chains' genre jumping in mind, that maybe if there was a third Clash tour, Nirvana could join the caravan. Dave is not comfortable with the notion. They want to avoid the heavy metal market as much as possible.

"We'd rather be just Nirvana than Nirvana-the-Heavy-Metal-Band. We did a thing for MTV. There's a show called Headbangers Ball and we were sort of hesitant. We weren't sure if we wanted to do it. Kurt and Krist [Novoselic, bass] went anyway to do an interview on the show and it turned out okay."

I mention to Dave that the night we spoke, AC/DC were doing the last of their Sydney shows and he bubbles with enthusiasm. 'When I was in the fifth grade, I guess I was ten years old, my best friend and I went to see that movie Let There Be Rock. And I had never been to a rock concert or seen a rock movie and that movie changed my life, man. They had a PA system in the theatre that was the same size as the PA system in the local Coliseum.

"It was the first time I'd ever had the feeling of getting up and playing air guitar and killing my teacher, smashing the chairs in the movie theatre, whatever. Total adrenaline. It was so loud it was just like RRRRRRR!"

Going RRRRRRR! is a mode of operation very dear to the heart of Nirvana. It's what their ears do after a show. "The only time you think about going deaf is when you try and go to sleep at night and you can't go to sleep because your ears are ringing so loud. That's when you start thinking about the singer of Soul Asylum having to put a fibreglass thing around the drum set so that he won't hear the cymbals or something like that.

"My problem is a lot of the time I don't hit my ride cymbal like a ping. I just like to crash and wash on the side of it. So my right ear sometimes will just totally go out and I'll be deaf for a minute."

Cymbals create a kind of white noise if you hit them hard enough.

"Yeah, but it's a beautiful sound, though."

© Murray Engleheart, 1992