Dave Grohl: “It is one of my life’s greatest heartbreaks that Kurt isn’t still here”
As each member of the Foo Fighters has taken their turn to host an episode of Medicine At Midnight Radio on Apple Music Hits, frontman Dave Grohl seized the opportunity to fondly share his memories of Nirvana during his own segment, remembering his late friend and bandmate Kurt Cobain and describing him as “the greatest songwriter of our generation”.
Reflecting on the release of the life-changing Nevermind in 1991, Dave recalls that the band “were still in our van and we were just watching this happen in front of us”. “The shows were getting bigger,” he explains. “The crowds were getting bigger. The crowds outside of the shows were bigger than the crowds inside the shows. We could see that something was happening, but we really never expected that it would turn out to be as big as it was. I don’t think any of us expected that.”
Detailing how he felt when the world lost Kurt and the band ended, Dave continues, “Of course, it was an incredibly challenging experience and ultimately one of the greatest heartbreaks of my life that Nirvana isn’t still here today making music. Whether it would be called Nirvana or something else. It is one of my life’s greatest heartbreaks that Kurt isn’t still here to write more amazing songs because it’s pretty clear that he was blessed with a gift. I think it’s safe to say that he was the greatest songwriter of our generation. I’m very proud to say that I got to be his drummer and play those songs every night.”
The frontman explains that he “wasn’t entirely sure what to do” after Nirvana, with Foo Fighters really not in his immediate plans at all.
“I didn’t necessarily want to just go join another band,” Dave says. “I was in mourning and just the thought of sitting down at a drum set or playing music, it just made me very sad. It was even difficult just to turn on the radio. I kind of blocked it all out for a while, but my whole life I’d been recording songs on my own, by myself, where I play all of the instruments and I kept it a secret. I was so insecure that I didn’t want anyone to hear it. I didn’t like the songs. I didn’t like the lyrics. I didn’t like my voice, but I felt like it was necessary as some sort of creative exercise or outlet. Even when I was in Nirvana, I had a studio in my basement. My best friend from Virginia was my roommate in Seattle when Nirvana was a band and he was a recording engineer. His name’s Barrett Jones and we had an eight track studio in our basement. So every once in a while, I’d say, ‘Hey, I have some song ideas. Let’s go down and do them.’ ”
Elaborating on this process and how it ultimately turned into Foos’ self-titled debut album, he continues, “When I would record songs by myself, I’d play the drums first. I would sing the melody in my head. As I played the drum track, that would take four minutes, five minutes. Barrett would hit stop. I’d run into the control room, pick up a guitar, hit play on the tape, the drums would start playing and I would play over the drums, put the guitar on. That would take four or five minutes. Then I’d put a bass on. That would take four or five minutes. Maybe one more guitar and then do a vocal. In half an hour, I’d have a song. Really for no other reason than just to do it. I eventually realised that this was going to be the thing that was going to help me get out of this funk that I was in.
“Music had been saving my life, my whole life and it’s what I needed,” Dave adds. “Instead of just going in and recording in the basement, I decided, ‘Okay, I’m going to book a week, six days at the studio down the street from my house in Seattle. I’m going to choose 13 or 14 of my favourite songs that I had recorded by myself over the last five or six years and I’m going to record them with Barrett in a 24 track studio.’ We loaded in the first day and by noon, everything was good to go. By the end of that day, we had three songs. By the end of the next day, we had eight songs. By the end of the next day, we had 14 songs. Then the next few days I put vocals on them. I think we spent the last day mixing and that was that. I took those tapes to a cassette duplication place, Downtown Seattle. I said, ‘Hey, can you make 100 of these?’ They said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I sat there picking out the colour of the insert for the cassette and the font. To me, it was one of the most exciting things I’d ever done because I truly was just doing it for the sake of doing something with no expectation and really no plan…”
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