Dave Grohl on the first time he played with Nirvana

Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl took a huge risk when he traveled to Seattle in 1990. Though the young drummer was only 21 years old, he had already paid his dues. He spent his adolescent years as a member of the punk legends Scream from Washington, D.C. for almost five years. After the sudden dissolution of Scream, a vanished Grohl contacted Buzz Osbourn, the singer of Melvins. Osbourn, in turn, referred him to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, and the rest is history.

Nirvana sought a new drummer just as Scream disbanded, aligning fortuitously in their quest for a replacement. For their upcoming second studio album, the band had worked with drummer Chad Channing on a few demo recordings. However, Channing left the group before they could finish any sessions. Dave Grohl went west to try for the open drum position; he didn’t have many other options at the time.

Grohl’s memory was clear when Uncut asked him in 2021 if he remembered the first time he and the rest of Nirvana played. “Definitely. Grohl clarified, “It was in a rehearsal space in a warehouse district south of Seattle. “I was aware of the album Bleach but committed it to memory before I flew up for the band’s audition. We instantly clicked when we took the stage for the first time in this tiny, musty, filthy rehearsal space. I believe it belonged to either Tad or Mudhoney.

Dave Grohl continued, “Kurt encouraged me to sing the backup melodies that he had put on the album but had never sung live. Plus, they hadn’t had anyone to sing backup vocals before.” We realized this was the right thing to do in less than a minute. There are very few instances in life when everything fits together perfectly. Them Crooked Vultures was the same. You can tell something is intended when it feels so natural and at ease.

While Cobain was busy writing songs for the band’s upcoming album, Grohl made it easier for him to play along with the previously released material found on Bleach. Before coming to Seattle, he had been a huge fan of the album. Though he was unfamiliar with the local grunge scene, he connected with Cobain’s music regardless.

I had only listened to Bleach until I joined the band in September 1990.” I was really fond of that record,” Grohl said. Mostly because of Kurt’s sense of melody, it truly stood out from all the other music I was listening to. But Nirvana stood out from the crowd despite the abundance of noise, heavy riffs, and punk rock present. The band’s wide range of dynamics, both melodically and musically, was so impressive in the Bleach song “About A Girl” that it kind of blew everyone away.

I had not heard any of the music they had recorded with Butch Vig months prior [in April 1990 in Madison, Wisconsin] when I joined.” Grohl added, ‘We originally intended those recordings to be the next Sub Pop record, but that fell apart.’  “They called ‘Breed‘ ‘Imodium‘ when they played me those demos, which they thought were demos. I adored the chorus, the melody’s simplicity, and that riff.

Actually, the songs had a Scream vibe to them, so looking back, it was obvious that the future Foo Fighters member was a good fit for the group. No matter how much Cobain’s screaming distortion covered up the melodies, Grohl’s drumming has always been rooted in the ’70s AM radio rhythms. He even claims that when he was in Nirvana, he was ripping off disco beats.

There was “Lithium” and “In Bloom.” “‘In Bloom‘ was the song that they had put the greatest faith into,” Grohl stated, referencing the beginnings of later groundbreaking hits. “They had produced an incredible video for it, and it looked great. “Wow, these guys have really taken a giant leap from Bleach to this new material,” was my initial thought upon hearing those songs. He was going to involve him from the beginning. Fortunately, the band took to it right away.

























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