“Every time we played it was blood and guts”: Dave Grohl opens up about Nirvana’s early days

The emotive new interview recalls Nirvana's first recordings and early tours.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl has opened up about the early days of Nirvana in a revealing new interview.

In the new interview with The Guardian, Grohl speaks about his first ever recording with Nirvana, the band’s early touring days and how he battled with depression in 1994.

Grohl recalled when he first heard Nirvana when staying at a friend’s house in Amsterdam whilst on tour with his band Scream. Hearing ‘Bleach’, Nirvana’s debut record, Grohl recalled: “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.”

In 1990, Grohl describes how he auditioned for the band in Seattle for Nirvana’s UK tour, recording ‘Molly’s Lips’ soon after which made a John Peel radio 1 show.

Recalling his time on the show and Nirvana’s subsequent tour, Grohl said: “The engineer was Dale [Griffin], the drummer of Mott the Hoople! That blew my mind.

“Nirvana were playing to 600 people a night. I felt like I was in the biggest band in the world already. I was jet-lagged, drinking too much tea, we were staying at this bed-and-breakfast in Shepherd’s Bush: the Dalmacia. It was the first time I had fried toast.”

Nirvana

Remembering the recording of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Grohl said: “Nothing changed my life like Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

“Kurt had a beautiful grasp of songwriting in its simplicity and depth…We spoke to each other in the rehearsal room at volume 10 as we were playing. I knew when the verse was coming because I could see Kurt’s foot getting close to turning off the distortion pedal. We would watch each other’s body language and the song built into this crescendo, then exploded.”

He continued: “We were very protective about our music. We wouldn’t pick up instruments and start singing for no reason. We wouldn’t go play shows that meant nothing to us. Every time we played it was blood and guts. To hear that song on the radio is one thing but to stand in front of us as we did it in the room? Fuckin’ A. It was more than sound. You could actually feel it. Wow.”

Grohl also reflected on ‘You Know You’re Right’, the last song he recorded with Kurt Cobain. “I listened to it for the first time in 10 years [recently]]. Oh God, it’s hard to listen to.”

He continued: “It was not a pleasant time for the band. Kurt was unwell. Then he was well. Then he was unwell. The last year of the band was tough…By the time we got to Europe I remember it being cold. It was the first time I felt depression. There was one day where I couldn’t get out of bed. I started to question why we were even there.”

After laying down vocals on the track, Cobain took his own life soon after. “You look back on [the song] and you read it through a different lens,” Grohl said. “Lyrically, it’s heartbreaking. He was in a place we may not have recognised. Musically, there’s something cathartic…You know, I miss his voice. I miss him…

“I don’t think he was comfortable in the place that he was at the time…I don’t know if anybody was. But his experience was much different. I used to think it sounded like he was singing the chorus. Now I listen to it and it’s like he’s wailing.”

Foo Fighters are currently preparing to headline Reading and Leeds festival the weekend of August 23-25 alongside The 1975, Twenty One Pilots and Post Malone.

Last week (August 9), the band invited fans to put requests forward for their upcoming shows headlining Reading & Leeds.

For help and advice on mental health issues, check out the below organisations: