Scream And Scream Again: Dave Grohl

In 1987, DC hopeful Dave Grohl finally scored what he thought was the best gig in the world: drumming for hardcore legends Scream. But what the teenage tub-thumper encountered was a band undergoing a slow, painful death, as proved by this extract from Jeff Apter’s The Dave Grohl Story (Omnibus Press).

FOR THE NEXT couple of years, Scream was Dave Grohl’s life. The way [DC promoter] Steven Blush saw it Grohl had joined a great band that was fading fast. “It was like INXS: Rock Star,” Blush said, “he’d joined a band past its prime. Your fucking bass player is pawning your gear – it’s a ridiculous situation. But Dave kept the Stahl brothers going; the Stahl brothers are an important part of this whole Grohl thing.”

Evictions and disconnected phone lines, as well as “missing” equipment, were the norm in Scream’s world. Whenever [bassist] Skeeter Thompson bottomed out he’d be temporarily replaced. One of Scream’s short-term bassists was Ben Pate, from the band the Four Horseman, a supergroup of sorts pieced together by Def American label’s Rick Rubin. However this couldn’t put the brake on the band’s unstoppable slide.

Thompson, who has since recovered and now lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with his three children, had plenty of supporters in DC, including DC historian and activist Mark Andersen. “I liked – and like – Skeeter a lot,” he told me, “he is a genuine, good-hearted guy, or at least as much as anyone could be who had some of his addiction issues… Skeeter wasn’t the only one who indulged, but he was the only one whose life got fucked up a result.

“I suspect the coke started coming in when they were exhausted on the road, as they often were, as a pick-me-up for their energy-drenched gigs. Alas, in Skeeter’s case, it apparently went from snorting powder to free-basing and then into crack. As they tend to, drugs came as a dinner-party guest who then moved into the spare room, then took over the whole house – with terrible implications for the whole band.”

Scream were also the victims of bad timing. The days of Revolution Summer were well and truly over and key DC bands, such as Minor Threat had split.* Government Issue, Void, Faith and others had also broken up. As Blush saw it, “Scream were hanging on to the ghosts of the scene. And the other guys [in the band] were getting old, it was really falling apart.”

Scream made an impact on people, for better or worse. In the midst of the Banging The Drum sessions in London, the band stayed at the flat of Peter ‘Pinko’ Fowler, a Southern Studios employee and part of the label’s strong connection to Dischord and the DC underground. Thompson, every inch the ladies’ man, would proposition local girls from the apartment window, advising interested parties that they should “come around and ask for Pinko”. The next day, a posse of neighbourhood men did just that, advising a startled Fowler that he’d best stop propositioning the local ladies “if he wanted to keep the use of his legs”. By then, of course, Scream and Thompson had moved on.

Grohl got the chance to document an eventful day in the life of Thompson with ‘Just Another Story About Skeeter Thompson’, a track which appeared on the rare and much bootlegged Pocketwatch tape of 1993. To the backdrop of what sounds like a speeded-up Velvet Underground guitar drone, Grohl documents a misadventure of Thompson’s that occurred while Scream were squatting in Amsterdam during Grohl’s second European trip with Scream. It transpired that Thompson hooked up with a good-looking, well-heeled local, who began buying him clothes and supplying him with “the best herb, the best hash”, as Grohl spells out in his droll, spoken-word style. She also had a little secret that she didn’t let Thompson in on. One day, while Grohl was absently flicking through a copy of Maximumrocknroll, “reading my little [Xeroxed] punk magazine, not really paying attention”, Thompson walked in, dropped his stash on the coffee table and proceeded to unzip. When Grohl looked up, “he’s standing there, with his dick in his hand”, which he then pointed in Grohl’s direction, before asking the teenage drummer: “Does that look like pus to you?”

During Grohl’s time in the band, Scream racked up five tours of America and visited Europe three times, recorded a live document – 1989’s Live at Van Hall in Amsterdam – and continued to play as many Positive Force DC benefits as humanly possible. They also contributed a track, ‘Ameri-dub’, which opened State Of The Union, a 16-track benefit sampler compiled by Mark Andersen for the ACLU & Community for Creative Non-Violence. *

In spite of all this, the Stahls knew that something had to work in the band’s favour soon, or else they’d have to start considering other, more fiscally rewarding, forms of employment. It was at this stage in Scream’s slide that Glen E Friedman had a key conversation with [Dischord chief] Ian MacKaye.

Since his early involvement capturing the anarchy and energy of the DC underground on film, Friedman had become involved with the music business, managing seminal Venice Beach punks Suicidal Tendencies, and producing their self-titled 1983 debut album. Still considered a hardcore classic, the album was a huge breakthrough for the punk underground: not only did it sell mad amounts – according to Friedman, “we thought we’d sell 5000 copies, if we were lucky; it turned out to be the biggest punk rock record of the decade” – but its standout track ‘Institutionalized’ gained widespread MTV airplay and made the soundtrack of the cult classic flick Repo Man. The song also turned up in the more mainstream Miami Vice with the Cali punks even scoring a cameo in the slick dick drama.

It was during this time that Friedman met John Silva, who, as part of the Gold Mountain team, would go on to manage both Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Silva was then a managing hopeful, who’d looked after The Three O’Clock and Redd Kross and had once been a housemate of Jello Biafra’s. Silva was in a relationship with Lisa Fancher, one of the first women in LA to run her own record label, Frontier, that put out both Suicidal Tendencies and the first Circle Jerks record. As Friedman recalled, “[Silva] never made a penny; he’d leeched off her for years.” Friedman did admit to liking Silva, though, “before he became a manager”, but he found the guy odd. “He used to get around in Beatles boots and paisley shirts, like he was straight out of the ‘60s, looking like a real pansy. And,” he added, “the Suicidal Tendencies record was making a lot of money for Frontier Records, so the way I saw it, John, through Lisa, was living off the record.”

Things went sour for Friedman and Suicidal Tendencies, even though Friedman had been a close pal of frontman Mike Muir (he’d known his brother from the time he was first involved with the Dogtown skate crew). “I’d gotten them on MTV and everything,” Friedman recalled, “but halfway through their run on MTV they became, well, I don’t know how to put it politely. I’d turned the worst band of the year, a real bunch of assholes, into the biggest-selling punk band of the decade. I’d help create the monster, but I had to leave it.” After the experience, Friedman swore blind that he’d never get that close to a band again.

Back in DC, Friedman had a fateful conversation with MacKaye. “Ian had mentioned to me that it was really time for these guys [Scream]; they want to be big, DC isn’t big enough for them. They want to move on. Ian asked me if I wanted to help out, because I was associated with Def Jam, and bigger stuff, at the time.” MacKaye, renowned for his reluctance to document the DC scene, has no clear recollection of the conversation. “I don’t remember steering Glen in the direction of Scream,” he admitted to me, “and it’s not like me to push for management or label-seeking. After all, I co-own a label and I’ve never worked with management – whether for my bands or any other bands on Dischord. I think Glen probably approached them on his own as he was a fan of the band and wanted to help them out.”

Friedman had gotten friendly with New York hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, and super-savvy producer Rick Rubin, and, with their help, was planning his own label, to be called World Records. As far as Friedman was concerned, Scream were the ideal first signing for the label. “I really thought Scream were great,” he told me, “I loved their earlier records and thought that the new demos they had, which would become the Fumble record, were [also] great.”

Friedman was especially smitten by Grohl, the youngest and by far the most zealous member of the band. Grohl livened up even more when Friedman signed the band to a production deal, with a view to making them World Records’ first release. Friedman readily used $10,000 of his own money to sign the band. “He [Grohl] was totally exuberant and really excited about having me on board and trying to get them a label deal. Dave called me more than the other guys, and we became good friends. Everyone wanted it, but Dave really wanted it.”

Grohl became Friedman’s go-between, as he tried to set up showcases for Scream. “Dave was always the nicest, hardest-working guy. And he was a bad-ass drummer.” Friedman actually arranged two such showcases in Canada, where he travelled to meet the band, but bad weather screwed up his plans. As Friedman remembered, “One A&R guy, who years later signed up Britney Spears, couldn’t come, and all these different problems happened.” It seemed as though Scream couldn’t shake off the bad luck that had delayed the release of various albums and burdened them with a crowd-pleasing bass player who had issues offstage. “From what I heard,” Friedman admitted when I asked about Skeeter Thompson, “he had serious problems with addictions, but seemed to be a really nice guy. On stage he was like so many DC bands of that era: energetic, all over the place.”

Yet Friedman persevered, handing out demo tapes wherever he could, but when he did get A&R people interested, he’d have to deal with typically short-sighted responses. “They’d say, ‘Well, I don’t know about Pete, he’s losing his hair’ – which hurt me because I thought Pete was amazing, but record company people at major labels say that kind of stupid shit. [Then they’d say] ‘But that drummer is incredible. What’s he doing?’ People were asking about Dave separate from Scream, which I thought was an abomination.”

While Friedman dealt with the sharks, Scream kept touring, hoping things would work out with both their troublesome bass player and a new manager. In the rare periods of band downtime, Grohl hung out at Barrett Jones’ Laundry Room studio. Jones was now working with another band, Churn, and Grohl would drop by the studio and try out ideas on Jones’ 4-track set-up. Grohl quickly learned the best methods of recording. “I realised that if I were to write a song, [I should] record the drums first, then come back over it with a few guitars, bass and guitars. [Then] I could make it sound like a band.” Once he mastered this DIY technique, Grohl boasted that he’d laid down a trio of songs in less than 15 minutes. “Mind you, these were no epic masterpieces, just a test to see if I could do this sort of thing on my own. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship [with Jones].”

Grohl was being overly modest, because at least one of these tracks was much more than a dry run. ‘Gods Looked Down’, which ended up on the final Scream record Fumble in altered form, was the first clear sign that Grohl was far more than a heavy-handed, lank-haired, tub thumper. Jones described ‘Gods’ as “incredible”. When I asked him about the song, many years after it was first recorded, he hadn’t changed his mind. “It is still one of my favourites [from his sessions with Grohl],” he told me. “I don’t remember exactly what the Scream one sounds like, and of course I am a little biased, but I still like that one better. I listened to it recently and it’s very raw – it’s the first thing he ever recorded [with me], but it’s still great.”

Clearly excited, Grohl kept working on these sonic sketches, some of which appeared on Fumble, while others were “hidden away for later use”. He also kept attending gigs, taking in the Monsters of Rock, his first genuine stadium show. The line-up, featuring Metallica, Van Halen, Dokken, Scorpions and others, was extremely hairy – and Grohl was extremely high, having dropped some choice acid. The experience was more than enough to reinforce his punk rock, keeping-it-real outlook, where the only thing separating band from audience was a few feet of sticky, beer-stained carpet. “I found the whole thing extremely comical, and couldn’t for the life of me understand the appeal of something so contrived and phoney,” Grohl said, ironically adding, “Good thing I would never have to do that.”

By spring 1990, Scream left the States for what proved to be their final European tour. Skeeter Thompson’s situation hadn’t improved. As the band shuffled through another customs check in yet another European airport, Thompson would brazenly carry his stash in a large brown plastic bag, on full display. “He was the craziest person I’ve ever known in my life,” Grohl surmised.

Grohl described Scream’s last European tour as “a real ballbuster”. The band played 23 shows in 24 days, while crashing at the usual assortment of squats and hovels. One member, presumably Thompson, disappeared after a couple of weeks, but the band soldiered on, even cutting another live album, this time in Germany. However the craziness was taking its toll on Grohl. After a show in Germany, he got involved in one of the few fistfights of his life. “This guy stole T-shirts from our stand,” he explained, “and we kicked him out [of the gig]. As we were leaving he was banging on the windows of the van and I just had a total loss of control. I just beat the shit out of his face.” Since then, as much as he can, Grohl has sworn off violence – he’s a lover not a fighter.

The entire band must have wanted to punch the shit out of someone when they got back to DC. Pete Stahl was bravely sharing a place with Thompson, and among their unread mail was an eviction notice, dated one day hence. The only solution was to get back on the road, so the band fuelled up the van and headed off on what would be their final American tour. In hindsight, Grohl admits that the tour was booked “rather hastily”, which helped explain the low crowd numbers and numerous cancellations. “It was apparent,” he said, “that something had to give. That something would be our bassist Skeeter.”

The underground scene was also changing, as a groundswell of new bands started to emerge from another unlikely spot, the Pacific Northwest. Bobby Sullivan, whose post Lunchmeat band, Soul Side, had also bounced between squats and gigs in Europe, thanks to various Scream contacts, felt that Scream’s latter-day hard rock sound alienated an audience getting more into punk rock.

“If Scream had not evolved and had kept their punk sound,” Sullivan figured, “they may have become a lot more famous. This pre-Sub Pop disposition to incorporate more rock and roll elements into the hard edge sound that punk had was not welcomed by the punk community. It wasn’t until there was more of a mainstream interest in punk/indie music that the Sub Pop phenomenon happened. It’s too bad that Scream and King Face, two immensely important bands in the DC scene, didn’t get to ride that wave.”

Sullivan and Soul Side got to catch an unforgettable Scream set, when they shared a bill in St Louis. Sullivan’s bands had spent so much time playing shows and hanging out with Scream that “they were like our big brothers, so it was a big moment to see Dave playing with them. I remember seeing a picture from that night of Dave, and his hair was flying off his head in a perfect S-shape, due to the way he was shaking his head while he was playing. I don’t think you could have gotten a picture of his footwork without it blurring. He was really fast.”

Friedman hadn’t given up on Scream, despite their diminishing returns. As their new manager and with $10,000 of his own money invested in them, he started fielding calls from the band who, at the time, were heading towards the west coast. They needed money, badly. It wasn’t really the sort of news Friedman needed to hear. “I wasn’t the kind of guy who handed out money. I was just trying to get them a deal.”

The next despatch from Scream to Friedman bore even worse news: Skeeter Thompson had once again gone AWOL. The band was falling to pieces. “I heard that Skeeter had to get back home, or got lost, or something like that,” Friedman told me in late 2005. (Officially, Thompson’s defection has euphemistically been put down to “girlfriend trouble”.) “I also heard that he’d fallen back into some drug problems. It was all fucked up. They were stuck in LA with nothing to do, no place to live [and] they had no money to get home. They were in pretty bad shape.”

Thompson’s defection left the band no choice but to blow out the rest of the tour. The remaining members limped to LA, where they crashed for a month at the house of the Stahls’ sister, Sabrina. It was September 1990 and the band was stranded. Admittedly, there were some diversions: Sabrina lived in a fine Laurel Canyon house that she shared with two female mud wrestlers working at the nearby Hotel Tropicana, who supplied Grohl with free drinks when he came to watch them perform. The only money coming in was courtesy of one of the crew, a Canadian roadie called Barry, who’d receive the occasional welfare cheque from over the border. This didn’t last long, so the ever-pragmatic Grohl found some labouring work, helping his friend “Lumpy” build a coffee shop in Costa Mesa, tiling floors.

In one of his few interviews, Pete Stahl – who, like Barrett Jones, agreed to speak with me only on specific subjects – admitted this was the lowpoint for a band who’d had their share of despair. “Man, that was a really depressing time,” he said in 2004. “We were all so broke, just sitting on my sister’s couch, all of us wondering if that was it.”

Gluttons for punishment, the band briefly started searching for a new bassist. Grohl put in a call to Buzz Osborne from the Melvins, whom Grohl had finally met a few years earlier. Their friendship started with a joke: while on tour with Scream in Memphis, Grohl bought an Elvis Presley postcard and tracked down the King’s uncle, Vester Presley, for an autograph. He sent it signed to the Melvins, then based in San Francisco, inviting them to an upcoming Scream show. Grohl’s warped sense of mirth appealed to the indie iconoclasts. Just prior to the show, Grohl discovered that Scream would actually be sharing the bill with the Melvins. They bonded over backstage beers and have been friends ever since.

When calling Osborne, Grohl asked whether he could be put on the doorlist for their upcoming LA show, and if he knew of any bassists-for-hire. Osborne didn’t, but he did mention that a couple of guys he knew from Aberdeen were looking for a drummer. “Maybe you should give them a call,” Osborne said.

What Grohl didn’t realise is that he’d already met Kurt Cobain and Chris Novoselic, albeit briefly, on a few occasions. Both were huge Scream fans and had seen the band play in Olympia, Seattle. Scream was invited along to a post-gig after-party, hosted by “Slim” Moon in a nearby apartment. There were roughly 20 people squeezed inside, with the women standing on one side of the lounge room, the men on the other. Grohl wasn’t impressed by the gathering. Speaking in the Nirvana bio Come As You Are, he described the crowd as “total Olympia hot chocolate drinking Hello Kitty people” – in short, indie posers who’d fallen under the spell of K Records label boss and Beat Happening leader Calvin Johnson.* Grohl tried to turn them onto a Primus tape, which he fetched from the band’s van, but it made no impact.

The men from Scream were standing around, sipping beer, feeling out of place, when a woman shut off the stereo and plugged in her guitar. She began playing what Grohl described as “total bad teen suicide awful music”. Unimpressed, Scream quickly headed for the door. As it turned out, the woman with the guitar and the morbid hang-ups was Cobain’s then-girlfriend, Tobi Vail. (Grohl subsequently found out about the relationship when halfway through a tirade about the “sad little girl with the bad fucking songs”. Cobain – who remembered the Scream crew as “real rocker dudes; I thought they were assholes” – replied: “Oh, yeah, that’s my girlfriend.”)

On another occasion, during a San Francisco stop on Scream’s 1990 swansong, Grohl went backstage after a Melvins show, where Cobain and Novoselic, in town rehearsing with then-drummer Dale Crover, were also hanging out. Although he didn’t speak with either, they did leave an impression on Grohl. Novoselic, who was partial to a drink or 10, was exceptionally rowdy. “Who is that guy?” Grohl asked Osborne, pointing to the tallest, drunkest man in the room. Cobain, meanwhile, sat in a corner, scowling.

Scream played a show at Frisco’s I-Beam on that same trip. Osborne, who was one of Scream’s loyal supporters, recommended the band to Cobain and Novoselic. Already fans of the band, they were blown away by Grohl’s warp-speed, no-surrender style of playing. According to Nirvana biographer Michael Azerrad, Novoselic left the gig full of praise for Grohl. “Wish he’d be in our band,” he told Cobain.

As fate would have it, Novoselic also mentioned this to Buzz Osborne, which led to his tip-off to Grohl. A few days later Grohl called Novoselic. After polite preliminaries, the lanky bassman said that he did remember Grohl from his playing in Scream, but there was a problem: they’d recently hired Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters and were already in rehearsals for an upcoming UK tour. Grohl wished Novoselic luck and told him that he should get in touch when he was next in LA. After all, it didn’t look like Grohl would be leaving the City of Angels anytime soon; he was still marooned on Sabrina Stahl’s couch, in between lugging building supplies for “Lumpy”. Later that same night, Novoselic called Grohl back, and asked him if he could possibly fly up to Seattle and meet with him and Cobain. They’d changed their minds about Dan Peters.

Once again, Grohl had to make a key decision: just as he had to choose between Dain Bramage and Scream, he now had to figure out whether bailing for Nirvana, a band with a serious buzz but who were virtually unknown to Grohl, would be worth the risk. Grohl realised that he owed a lot to the Stahl brothers; they’d hired him to play with his favourite DC band, and they’d also given Grohl some crucial lifestyle lessons about getting by on very little. They were the closest he’d ever come to real brothers. “It was the toughest decision I ever had to make,” he admitted afterwards. Once he’d made up his mind, Grohl couldn’t get to the airport quick enough. “I got the hell out of LA and there was no looking back.”

Of course, there were plenty of reasons to move on from life in Scream, Skeeter Thompson being several of them. As great a band as Scream undoubtedly were, they were past their prime, and the frequent album release delays had also stalled any genuine forward momentum, a problem Grohl had already lived through with Dain Bramage. Fumble, the album that featured Grohl’s ‘Gods Looked Down’, wouldn’t be released until July 1993.

It was a tough decision to leave Scream, but also inevitable. As Steven Blush told me, “By 1988, no-one wanted to know about this [hardcore] stuff until a few years later when Bad Religion made a comeback and people got interested in punk again.” Blush, for one, knows Grohl made the correct decision. “It was the right thing to do. Nobody could blame him for leaving that kind of situation. This great band had gone to shit and he bailed. He was smart.”

Mark Andersen agreed. “It was just a matter of time before their fiery crash – or, alternatively, the un-glamorous, unceremonious grinding halt. It just seemed like the centre of the band was gone, it was coming unglued. There is almost a magic involved with a great band, [but] when it is gone, it is gone. Like Humpty Dumpty, it’s so hard to put back together again.”

However, there was a problem: Grohl hadn’t told his Scream bandmates about his decision. Friedman was still shopping around the Fumble demos while trying to make the most out of the cash he’d invested in the band. He only got news of Grohl’s departure second-hand, and even then, all he knew was that he was heading to Seattle “to help these guys out”.

“Scream, meanwhile, were floundering. We didn’t know what was going on – it was a tough time. And I wasn’t with a label yet, I didn’t have a corporation behind me; I was still trying to shop this demo into a record deal. I’d put some money into this, and I needed to know if Dave was leaving [the band]. Without their incredible drummer it’d be hard to get them a deal.”

The unfortunate final act in the story of Dave Grohl and Scream, which dragged on for over a year after he left the band, has not been fully recounted before. Initially, it was purely a case of Friedman trying to reclaim his investment, which eventually played out as an abject lesson in the uncomfortable relationship between rock and roll, big business and loyalty.

Friedman became especially incensed when he found out that not only had Grohl signed with Nirvana, but the band had also inked a deal with Geffen a few months after, receiving a handy $300,000 advance. “I thought, ‘What the fuck is that about?’ It was huge news back then. I never actually had contracts with anyone before, but because of my experience with Suicidal Tendencies, I thought I should have a contract with these guys [Scream], if I am going to get them a major record deal.

“But for at least six months, maybe a year, all the guys from Scream were on their own not knowing for sure what Dave was doing with Nirvana. So Nirvana had signed this deal and Dave Grohl was in the band, although I was told he was not a signed member, he was just a hired hand. But he was signed to my contract with Scream.”

Friedman then received a call from John Silva, his old acquaintance from LA, who was now managing Nirvana. “He asked did I want to take up my option on Dave, and if I did, I’d have to support him. I said, ‘Look, I don’t want to ruin the guy’s career, I’m not that kind of guy, I’m not going to ask for a piece of the recording’. A year goes by then I saw Dave in the ‘[Smells Like] Teen Spirit’ video, wearing a Scream T-shirt. I thought, ‘This is fucking great. This is amazing, I really liked it. Then all of a sudden Nirvana starts selling.”

It was at this time that an acquaintance of Friedman’s reminded him that he still had Grohl under contract; surely this was the opportunity to at least reclaim his seed money. “So I approached John,” Friedman said, “who was now Mr Pseudo Big Shot, who was [also] managing Sonic Youth and the Beastie Boys – whose music I’d probably introduced him to – and he told me to fuck off, basically. ‘Gee,’ I thought, ‘that’s really cool.’ I was put in touch with their lawyers, and I had to hire a lawyer, and my lawyer was afraid of theirs, and no-one wanted to burn any bridges over $10,000.

“I learned some ugly stuff about lawyers,” Friedman added. “All the lawyers were talking shit, saying ‘Fuck you, you don’t have any rights to anything.’ Even though I did have a contract with Dave, I had a pussy lawyer who worked at a big firm that didn’t want to burn any bridges.”

With negotiations ending in stalemate Friedman realised his money was as good as lost. It took several months before he changed his tack, hiring “some hungry guys who work on contingency”. They were no fools: by this time Nirvana’s Nevermind was selling millions, and there was obviously serious money to be made, although Friedman insisted that this was never his intention.

Friedman’s luck changed when he had a chance meeting with Silva at the Capitol Records building in LA. Friedman, who’d photographed the cover art for the Beastie Boys’ album Check Your Head, was there to oversee the final layout of his image, and entered the building just as Silva was leaving. Friedman stopped him. “I said, ‘Hey, you guys have known me for all these years, but you’ve told me to fuck off, you’ve ignored me, Dave hasn’t returned any of my calls, and all I want to do is get back the $10,000 I put into these guys. And now I’ve had to spend more money on lawyers.’ I wasn’t asking for anything else, I wished the guy the best of luck. If you look at those contracts, [Grohl] was signed to me when he was in Nirvana. I thought it was only fair that I ask for a little more for my further legal fees and headaches.

“So I said, ‘Hey man, guess what? I’ve hired some hungry lawyers and we’re suing you for a million dollars – unless you get Dave to call me’. That’s what it took to get a call.”

Not long after, Grohl called Friedman, “and was the nice guy that he always was. I said, ‘You could have called me a year ago. We’re lucky that you called me on a good day when I’m in a good mood. But let me tell you this – your manager represents you, he speaks on your behalf. If he’s an asshole, I only see you as being an asshole.”

“We talked for a few hours. I asked him to send me a cheque for this amount that I thought was fair and more than reasonable. At that time he hadn’t received his first [Nirvana] royalty and told me that what I was asking for was more than a family member would make in a year. He didn’t know anything [about the music business] – or pretended he didn’t. I’m not free to disclose the amount – and it wasn’t very much, relatively speaking – and I told him how I’d had all these fucking headaches.

“There’s a point where people tell you to fuck off, and then you see them making millions of dollars, and it gets under your skin. What I was asking for wasn’t even a tiny fraction of their advance. Obviously he’d called to take care of the business, because of the million-dollar threats, but towards the end of the conversation he said, ‘My lawyer said that you really don’t have that much of a case’. I told him that if he wanted to take that risk, it was up to him, but I was willing to say, ‘Fuck all the lawyers, we’ll do all this without them’. So I gave him a figure and said, ‘You get me a cheque by the end of the week, we’ll call it a done deal. I’ll be fine with it’. So we cleared it up on very friendly terms.”

Although years have passed since the conflict, it has obviously left a scar on Friedman. There is no love lost for John Silva. “Silva – could you believe it? He was this guy who totally owed me from the old days and didn’t give a shit.”

Like many others still close to Grohl, Pete Stahl is understandably guarded about the situation with Friedman. However, Stahl revealed that he was unaware of the $10,000 Friedman had sunk into the band, which seems unusual if not improbable. “He was supposedly shopping our demo around – which I paid for – when we broke up,” Stahl told me via email.

John Silva and Gold Mountain refused to go on record about what they referred to as my “Glen Friedman question”, despite several formal requests. Michael Meisel, responsible for the day-to-day management of Foo Fighters and with the firm since it signed Nirvana in 1991, was as guarded and protective as Stahl and Jones. “One of the things that I respect most about John Silva,” Meisel wrote by way of a polite brush-off, “is his adamant refusal to ever give an interview. His point being that there is no shortage of managers who love to see their names in print – and [Silva doesn’t want] to be one of those managers. I can therefore promise that John will not want to give an interview.”

Grohl’s attorney, Jill Berliner, was unable or unwilling to shed any more light on the question of Glen E Friedman, Scream and Dave Grohl, explaining she only became involved with Grohl’s career in 1994 and wasn’t his attorney at the beginning of his time with Nirvana. “I do not have access to any relevant documents,” she wrote to me, effectively closing any further correspondence.

Only once has Dave Grohl referred to this unpleasant situation. While speaking with The Face magazine in 2002, he obliquely mentioned how he “made serious mistakes when I was 22, signing contracts for shit. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.”

Friedman’s money arrived on time, effectively ending his relationship with Grohl, despite a mutual promise to keep in touch. “I heard from a friend that Courtney Love, whom I’ve never met, had something on her wall that said ‘Glen Friedman is the Devil’.” By the time Friedman was finally compensated, Grohl had moved beyond DC – he was reaching Nirvana.


Excerpted from The Dave Grohl Story (Omnibus Press 2006). Jeff Apter is the former Music Editor of Australian Rolling Stone and the author of Never Enough: The Story of the Cure.

© Jeff Apter‘The Dave Grohl Story’ (Omnibus Press) , 2006

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