The best bands often have rocky relationships, and Nirvana were no exception. Although it might have looked from the outside like Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl were best buds, their inner dynamic wasn’t always so friendly. As a matter of fact, Dave Grohl once briefly quit the band.
In the biography This Is A Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl, author Paul Brannigan recounts a time when the drummer, already on his last nerve with inner-band politics and drama, decided to pull the plug and move on after overhearing Cobain insult his playing.
According to the book, Nirvana had more or less split into two warring factions by 1993. One camp, consisting of Grohl and bassist Krist Novoselic, didn’t do hard drugs. On the other, Cobain and Courtney Love were junkies.
On a flight between Seattle and LA to start work on their In Utero tour, Grohl was sitting in a different row from Novoselic and Cobain. The drummer overheard his bandmates talking, telling Brannigan: “Kurt was kinda fucked up and I heard him talking about how shitty of a drummer I was.”
Grohl confronted Novoselic after the flight, who told him that Cobain wanted him to “play more like” Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters, who had been in the band for a short period of time before Grohl. Feeling understandably insulted and fed up, the drummer called Nirvana’s tour manager Alex McLeod and quit the band, telling him, “I just want to fucking play music. I don’t want to have to deal with any of this craziness.”
As history would have it, the tour manager calmed Grohl down enough that he decided to stay. According to Brannigan, it’s doubtful that Cobain ever heard about the incident.
Many years later, Grohl told a different version of events to Vulture, saying: “I talked to Krist, and I said, ‘Is that really what you guys want to do? Because if that’s what you want, maybe just let me know, and we can call it a day.’ I eventually talked to Kurt about it, and he said, ‘No. That’s not what we want to do.’ I just felt like, ‘It’s up to you guys what kind of drummer you really want,’ and they decided I should stay.”
For his part, Brannigan believes that Nirvana would still be a band today if Cobain were alive, but that Dave Grohl most likely would no longer be in it, saying: “Dave was very aware that Nirvana was Kurt and Krist’s band, and that as lifelong friends, they shared a bond which went beyond music. At some point I feel that Dave would have parted company with the pair.” It’s an assessment that Grohl himself has echoed at times, telling Rhythm in 1993 (via Music Radar): “They were very weird. Krist is 6’7”-and-a-half, and kind of a hippie pothead philosopher, hilariously funny, incredibly eccentric, definitely an individual. And then Kurt is tiny and reserved and just quiet. They were both a mystery to me – I did not see myself fitting into that picture at all when they picked me up from the airport.”