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Pre-Nirvana, Dave Grohl turned down the chance to join both GWAR and Fugazi

Grohl The Storyteller
(Image credit: Simon & Schuster)

Dave Grohl is currently undertaking a promotional tour for his forthcoming autobiography, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music, due for publication on October 5. The book tells of his journey from Washington DC punk clubs through to the stages of the world’s biggest stadiums, detailing his musical adventures with Freak Baby, Mission Impossible, Dain Bramage, Scream, Nirvana and Foo Fighters. It also reveals that the teenage Grohl turned down the opportunity to join both interplanetary warriors GWAR and post-hardcore icons Fugazi.

“At the time Gwar was a  band that would draw like 700 people, right?” Grohl told Rolling Stone. “Which is huge. And then the more I thought about it, am I really gonna invite my uncle to see me play when there’s like fake blood and cum shooting all over the place?”

“Grohl remembers this all wrong,” GWAR frontman The Berserker Blothar tells Rolling Stone. “He used to hang around the track with all the other young punks jacked on gak. This is back before he lost all his teeth. We hired him and then called him back immediately and fired him. He was in the band for around seven and a half minutes. He was holding us back.”

However, The Berserker Blothar’s alter ego, Mike Bishop, offered Rolling Stone a rather more truthful account of the band’s flirtation with the young drummer. “Our guitar player Dewey [a.k.a. Flattus Maximus] was booking shows in Richmond at the time. And we had all seen Dave play with his bands Dain Bramage and later on in Scream. He was already one of the greatest, hardest-hitting drummers I had ever seen. He still is. Dewey called and started the conversation with him about joining GWAR.”

“I was stoked,” Bishop adds, “because I played bass at the time, and I would have loved to jam with him. Just think, he could have been working his ass off playing drums in a rubber monster suit all these years. Boy, did he make the wrong choice.”

Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye also has fond memories of the teenage drummer. Speaking to Grohl’s biographer Paul Brannigan for This Is A Call (opens in new tab), recently re-published in a fully revised-and-updated 10th anniversary edition, MacKaye revealed that he too had invited Grohl to jam in ’86/’87.

“Word got out about this band called Mission Impossible,” MacKaye told Paul Brannigan, “and everyone said, ‘You gotta see this drummer, this kid, he's 16, he's been playing for two months and he's outta control.’ I saw them at one of those gigs and Dave was... maniacal. He didn't have all the chops down, but he was dialling it in from the gods: his drumming was so out of control, he wanted to play so hard and so fast, it was kinda phenomenal. Everybody was like, ‘Woah, that guy is incredible.’ They did a split seven inch with Lunchmeat on my sister Amanda's label, they were a cool band.”

“In about 1986 I started playing with [Fugazi bassist] Joe Lally and we first asked Colin Sears from Dag Nasty to play for us. He played for six months and then went back to Dag Nasty. And then we asked Brendan [Canty, Fugazi drummer] to sit in with us, as his band Happy Go Licky were practising at Dischord House. But then Brendan wasn't sure what he was doing with his life, and he went out west to see his parents and wasn't sure if he was coming back. So I thought, ‘Man, I gotta call Dave, because he's a fucking amazing drummer.’ And I saw him and said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in playing with me and Joe?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah… but I'm already playing with the Scream guys.’ Scream’s Pete and Franz Stahl were friends of mine, so I just backed off.”

“I don't think the circumstances that got him into Nirvana would have occurred if he'd been in Fugazi,” MacKaye adds.

Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (opens in new tab) is published on October 5. The updated edition of Paul Brannigan’s This Is A Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl (opens in new tab) is out now.

Grohl will be appearing on BBC’s Graham Norton show on Friday, October 1.

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