Dave Grohl blows Pharell Williams' mind as he reveals the disco influence on his Nirvana drum parts: “It’s all disco, that’s all it is!”

Dave Grohl
(Image credit: Future)

Dave Grohl has revealed that he took heavy influence from disco drummers, specifically The Gap Band, Cameo and Chic’s Tony Thompson when it came to the drum parts on Nirvana’s Nevermind.

Talking to Pharrell Williams during an interview for Grohl’s series, From Cradle To Stage, the Foo Fighters frontman points out that he borrowed ideas heavily from disco drummers, including the iconic opening snare drum flams from Smells Like Teen Spirit.   

“I wanted to be a drumline kid, but I can’t read music - I couldn’t then and I still can’t now - all I wanted to do was be in a line of drummers, all playing drums.” He tells Pharrell. 

“Stop saying that I’m a good drummer because I’m the most basic fucking drummer. If you listen to ‘Nevermind’, the Nirvana record, I pulled so much stuff from The Gap Band and Cameo and Tony Thompson on every one of those songs. All that [tapping flams on his knees]. It’s all disco, that’s all it is. Nobody makes the connection.”

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As Pharrell reacts to having his mind blown, Grohl reveals that he once got the chance to tell Thompson himself. “He came to my house for a barbecue with somebody, I was like, ‘Man, I just want to thank you because I owe you so much I’ve been ripping you off my whole life.’ He goes, ‘I know’. That big disco flam, it works every time.”

This isn’t the first time Grohl has tipped his hat to the influence of funk and disco on his approach. In the Washington D.C. episode of Sonic Highways, he details how the D.C. Go-Go scene met with punk, leading to Grohl’s pre-Nirvana band Scream performing with the likes of Trouble Funk.

Later this month, Grohl and Foo Fighters are set to release Hail Satin, an album of half-disco covers/half-live versions of songs from Foo Fighters’ Medicine at Midnight under the band name Dee Gees.

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.