Dave Grohl Reflects on Nirvana’s Rise To Success: Before ‘Nevermind’ We Lived In ‘Squalor’

Dave Grohl: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en, Wikimedia Commons
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In an upcoming episode of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Dave Grohl, Krist Noveselic, and Steve Albini reflect on the legacy of Nirvana and discuss an array of topics. In a preview clip associated with this episode – which you can watch below – O’Brien talks about how the idea of “making it” is so celebrated by many artists, but in punk, there appears to be a “shame” of sorts if you “make it.”

Talking to Grohl, Noveselic, and Albini, O’Brien says (as transcribed by The Pit):

“Fame, money, success is great news for a lot of artists in the business; if you come from the punk world, and you are religious adherence to the punk ethos, which you guys were and Kurt [Cobain] was, success is tricky. There’s a whole culture of ‘yay we made it,’ and we throw money around – there’s almost a shame and a trap that’s set if you are part of the punk ethos, isn’t there?”

Albini is the first to chime in, sharing that he has heard such sentiments from people “outside the music scene,” but that he hasn’t experienced hearing such criticism from folks in the punk scene unless it was coming from a place of pure jealousy.

O’Brien chimes in following this, curious to learn how the band felt about their own success. Grohl speaks up, addressing the conditions the band was living in prior to their massive success with Nevermind. Per Grohl:

“Before we made the record Nevermind, we were pretty much living in squalor. I was living with Kurt in this tiny little apartment, and there were just corndog sticks and cigarettes all over the place, and it was pretty fucking disgusting. I would have done anything to have my own apartment and to be able to do that through making music.”

Grohl adds, “I know the transition happened really quickly, but you didn’t just wind up with a million dollars in your mailbox the next day. It went from being like, the per diem went up to $15 a day – I was like, ‘Oh my god, that means I can get two packs of cigarettes.’ And ‘Oh my gosh we’re staying in a motel.'”

Grohl goes on to conclude, “I really didn’t feel conflicted or any guilt or shame in knowing ‘Oh I just paid off my mother’s house’ or ‘I bought my mother a car,’ or ‘Now I can afford to buy a new pair of shoes’ or whatever it was. I think the reason why I personally didn’t feel so conflicted about everything is because I knew that the band hadn’t done anything outside of our true selves to get there. We just did the thing we did and then it happened.”

Dave Grohl, Krist Noveselic, and Steve Albini interview with Conan O’Brien