When you think of the band Nirvana more often than not, it’s singer Kurt Cobain that comes to mind and then the other guys. Of course one of those other guys just happens to be Dave Grohl, you know— the one who fronts one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century, the Foo Fighters.
Recently in an interview with Ultimate-Guitar, producer Butch Vig who produced the breakthrough Nirvana album Nevermind talked about how the album was produced and conceived. He also revealed that Cobain was core, but not the only Nirvana member that was integral to the band’s sound.
Vig recalls the experience:
“We recorded Nevermind pretty quick. We did the whole album in 16 days. I had worked with Nirvana before at Smart when they had come out about a year earlier to do some demos. Well, it wasn’t for demos but they came out to record an album that was supposed to come out on Sub Pop. That was before Dave Grohl joined the band and what happened is we didn’t finish the record ’cause Kurt lost his voice. I mixed the songs they had finished and the band pressed up 100 cassette copies and gave them out to their friends. They ostensibly bootlegged themselves and then all of a sudden all the major labels started calling and they jumped ship and went to Geffen. They had a lot of big name producers they talked to and didn’t like any of ’em. They called me at the 11th hour to go out to LA, so I didn’t really have any preproduction time.”
Once he got to LA and met up with the band, Vig was immediately floored by the sheer power of their sound. “The band was tight as hell,” he recalls. “Contrary to popular belief, they were not slackers. They wanted to make a kickass record. Dave Grohl told me they practiced every day for six months before they went into record Nevermind. We pretty much got every take on that record in one or two or maybe three takes.”
Vig gave a glowing report about Grohl’s drumming, which he believes fueled much of the “loudness” you hear on the album.
“[Dave’s] an incredible drummer. The first day of preproduction in North Hollywood, Kurt had this f**king very loud Mesa Boogie he was playing and Krist [Novoselic] had an Ampeg SVT bass amp and those were both loud as hell.
“I just kept pacing around the room and going, ‘Oh, my god. This sounds f**kin’ amazing.’ Dave is an incredible musician. He really is. People always say, ‘How’d you get that sound on Nevermind?’ and 90 percent of it is Dave Grohl… it’s just how Dave plays and he’s just so, so powerful.”
It’s worthy credit to Grohl since Vig is the drummer of Garbage and knows a thing or two about holding down the fort in the rhythm section.