Dave Grohl talks us through his landmark songs, from the ‘blood and guts’ of Nirvana to an anthem for a doomed election
Nirvana first came on Grohl’s radar when he drummed in Scream. “I was staying with a friend in Amsterdam,” he recalls. “Whenever Scream toured Europe we’d stay in his apartment, buy hash, and get high listening to records.” Nirvana’s 1989 debut Bleach was in this collection and Grohl was immediately struck by the aesthetic. “I loved the dissonance and the chaos, and then there was this beautiful song About a Girl right in the middle that could have been off a 60s Beatles record.” At the time he was dating a girl who was a fan. “It may have been one of the first times I knew a girl who liked a band I liked.” Excerpt from the Guardian, to read all click here
Scream disbanded in LA in 1990, and Grohl had no money to get home. He was 20 and doing tile work at a coffee shop. A friend – Buzz Osborne from the Melvins – told him that Nirvana were looking for a drummer. Grohl had seen Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic backstage at a Melvins show. “Novoselic is 6ft 8in and Kurt was quiet in a corner.
I said to Buzz: ‘Who’s that?’ He said: ‘That’s Nirvana.’ I laughed. As with everything Nirvana, it didn’t make sense.” He auditioned in Seattle for Nirvana’s UK tour. Thirty minutes in, it was a done deal. Molly’s Lips was his first Nirvana recording, made in a session for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show in London.
Grohl, now 50, spent his youth in Virginia before flying by the seat of his pants all over the US in the name of rock’n’roll. He lived in Washington DC and LA with hardcore band Scream.
“Nothing changed my life like Smells Like Teen Spirit,” says Grohl. It is the song that defined Gen X, yet radio stations refused to play it back in the day.
Nirvana changed my life for ever but there were times when I wanted to escape it. Just picking up an instrument or turning on a radio made me so sad. Then I realised that doing the thing I’d always done – go to a basement, record by myself – might restart my heart.”
This song was written in Grohl’s basement in 1992 after the Nevermind tour ended. On a trip to New York to play Saturday Night Live, Grohl went to Cobain’s hotel room to share it with him. “He was having a bubble bath,” recalls Grohl. He pressed play and left Cobain to soak in it. “I went back in and he kissed me! That might have been the only time I ever felt validated by the band.” Some resented Grohl’s decision to keep playing. “I didn’t imagine I was gonna pick up where Nirvana left off. I didn’t imagine myself to be Freddie Mercury,” he says. “I made 100 cassettes and handed them to friends. I called it Foo Fighters because I didn’t want people to think I was trying to be Tom Petty.”