Dave Grohl at Lollapalooza (Credit: Warkoholic)

How Did Dave Grohl Join Nirvana?

Dave Grohl joining Nirvana may have been one of the most influential moves in the whole of alternative rock. His powerful and energetic drumming became a staple of the band’s sound, and we don’t have to tell you about his aptitude for music.

Nirvana would never have been the same without Dave, but how did he end up joining the band? Put simply Nirvana needed a drummer, Dave got in contact, he auditioned, and they liked him. But the story does go a bit further than that.

Just before Dave Grohl Joined Nirvana

A young Dave Grohl playing with the band Scream.
A young Dave Grohl playing with the band Scream. (Credit: Tobby Holzinger)

Before Nirvana, Dave was drumming in the band Scream. He was introduced to the Scream’s line-up in 1986, at 17, after auditioning for the opening left by their recently departed drummer Kent Stax. Dave had lied about his age when he went for his audition (naughty), but he felt he was ready to leave high school and start travelling the world.

Dave would be a member of the band until 1990 when the band would disband due to their bassist Skeeter Thompson suddenly leaving. He didn’t want to hang back and hope the band got back together and he took it into his own hands. He messaged someone, kind of, very important.

How did Kurt Cobain meet Dave?

Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins.
Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins.

Dave contacted his friend Buzz Osbourne of the band The Melvins, who were already well-associated with Kurt and Nirvana. Nirvana had recently let their then drummer Chad Channing go and were looking for a replacement. Buzz told Dave this. 

After being given Kurt’s contact info from Buzz, Grohl would contact Kurt about the position and fly out to Seattle to meet Kurt and Krist Novoselic. Days later he would meet both to audition. It is safe to say that Kurt and Krist were impressed with the latter saying “We knew in two minutes that he was the right drummer.” I think we can say that was definitely the right decision for the band.

Dave would join the band towards the end of 1990.  Soon after the band would begin to look for a deal with a major record label, while simultaneously creating one of the most influential albums of all time ‘Nevermind’.

How Adding Dave changed Nirvana

How Dave's drumming changed the band

Believe it or not, adding a different drummer, especially one as good as Dave Grohl, can completely change the sound of a band. Let’s talk about the drumming initially.

Dave was a more energetic drummer than his predecessor Channing. You can hear it in nearly every song on ‘Nevermind’, from the fills in the song “In Bloom” to the hits in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, everything is more dynamic. This was adding to that signature Nirvana jump from quiet to loud.

Just by listening to Dave’s drumming, you can hear every hit go off with a bang. In an interview with Vulture, Grohl said this about his role “I know what my role in this band is. I need to pound my drums and push these songs out into an audience like a steamroller.”

This in itself allowed for the other two to shine more giving them a sharp and reliable backbone to build off. Just compare Dave’s Nirvana to before. Everything is more defined and it is all a lot clearer, while still having that classic grunge grit.

How Dave's musicianship changed the band

At this point in time (1990), Dave was actually the one with the most musicianship experience. This fact would help Kurt and Krist. Dave had toured so extensively with Scream, that he knew how to bring a stage presence from behind the kit, something many bands fail with. I mean he practically loses his mind in the music on stage!

As we now obviously know, Dave is so much more than just a drummer, he is a very talented multi-instrumentalist. This fact at the time meant that both Kurt and Krist had a third member who was going to input just as much as they were. We can’t deny the impact either. After his arrival, the band would produce two monumental albums. 

Dave’s songwriting was also given the opportunity to shine through within songs like “Scentless Apprentice” and “Marigold”, the latter of which was solely written by him under the project of Pocketwatch. It was this versatility that ultimately made him such a success within the band.

How was Dave's relationship with Kurt and Krist

Dave Grohl performing live (Credit: Miktir via Flickr)
Dave Grohl performing live (Credit: Miktir via Flickr)

While it may be surprising due to the amount of drummers that predated Grohl, the band would actually form a strong bond. Kurt and Dave would establish a strong friendship quickly. When moving to Washington State, Dave and Kurt would live together in an apartment for a while. 

Kurt and Dave would grow closer during the band’s euphoric rise. Not many artists had experienced such a quick jump into the mainstream at the time, and it was only within each other that the band could confine.

Ultimately, Kurt would become more distant from Dave and Krist. This was due to the fact they didn’t get involved with the drug culture Kurt had become wrapped up in. In Grohl’s own words on the Howard Stern show, he said “There were the people that did the drugs and the people who didn’t do the drugs.”

Despite this both Dave and Krist still to this day hold a spot for Kurt in their hearts. This is something obvious when either are asked about the legendary songwriter. 

Dave's legacy with Nirvana

Nirvana were rocketed by Dave’s drumming, so it is safe to say his legacy was already one of great importance. Dave completely changed the trajectory of the band, allowing them to reach that next level of musicianship. What is also important to note is that Nirvana also rocketed Dave’s career.

Nirvana, alongside the others, established themselves as legends within the alternative music scene. Thanks to Nirvana Dave is seen as an inspiration for guitarists, singers, and drummers, that’s something very few people achieve.

In Conclusion

Dave Grohl’s chemistry with Nirvana became a key factor in the band’s success. His powerful and dynamic drumming his complimentary songwriting abilities, and his collaborative attitude influenced the band’s sound and contributed to their iconic status.

Kurt, Krist and Dave’s partnership is something that only comes around once in a blue moon. Only through mixing Grohl’s talent and the creative force of Cobain and the unique bass playing of Novoselic, can you catch lightning in a bottle like Nirvana.

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