Dave Grohl On The Rise Of Nirvana: “It Was Entirely Pure. It Was Just Kids Banging On Instruments…”
Ahead of the release of his new album Letter To You, Bruce Springsteen recruited two fellow titans of rock – Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder – for the second episode of his Letter To You Radio Show on Apple Music Hits. And the interviews make for compelling listening, with The Boss chatting to the pair about their respective journeys to mainstream success.
When asked about the difference between making it big with Nirvana and then Foo Fighters, Dave begins by explaining one key facet to Bruce: he started playing music because “something catches your heart”.
“For me personally, it was The Beatles,” he continues. “And I never imagined that I could be a Beatle. I never imagined that I could be one of the rock stars that I had in my record collection, or on posters on my wall. I just thought, to me, it was this puzzle. There was something about the puzzle of harmony, and composition, and arrangement. And I was obsessed with this idea that multiple instruments could create something emotional, or something that could make you feel.”
Read this: The 20 greatest Foo Fighters songs – ranked
Dave remembers being this “skinny, nerdy, suburban Virginia kid” who then “fell in love with the underground scene, the punk rock music scene in America”. It was a passion that would then continue for years to come.
“The first time I ever saw a band was at this little dive bar across the street from Wrigley Field, called the Cubby Bear,” he recalls. “And I mean, it was a hole in the wall, in the ’80s. And I saw this Chicago punk rock band, and then, I had that Ramones moment, where a lot of people saw the Ramones, and they were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s three chords, man. And the songs are two and a half minutes long.’ It’s like, ‘This is not ELO. This is not Genesis. This is real.’ And so I saw that and I went home to Virginia, tried to convince my friends that is the new thing, and this is the way we should play. Didn’t really work out, but I started playing in bands, and that type of music, there was no sort of commercial success. It was just like, ‘Man, I got to play this music because it’s what’s in my heart.’ ”
And that mindset never faltered when the musician then found fame in Nirvana.
“Kurt [Cobain] obviously was an incredible songwriter, and he was in touch with himself, and the listener was in touch with what he was singing,” Dave begins. “But we still functioned like one of those bands driving around in a dirty, old van, playing those dive bars. Really, with no idea that what was to happen was even possible. I loved playing in a band, but I didn’t think that it would become what it became.
“And so, it was entirely pure. It was just kids banging on instruments. And then, when Kurt passed away, there was a period where I just didn’t even want to play music, man. Even sitting behind a drum set, broke my heart. And then, I realised that music was the thing that healed me when I was young, so music has to be the thing that’s going to heal me now. And so, that’s when the Foo Fighters began, it was kind of like starting over.”
For Pearl Jam’s vocalist, meanwhile, the idea of simply making music on that same pure level kept him inspired as the grunge legends were getting worldwide attention.
“I thought if people like this record or this batch of songs, because really, there was a lot of attention just from the first one [Ten] and we hadn’t even made the second one yet,” Eddie says. “I just wanted to make the next record and have the next record be better. I was like, ‘If you like this, then I think we got even more that we can better that one.’ Yeah. I just wanted to make more records.”
Listen to both audio snippets below:
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