Are You Still Punk If You’re Rich? Here’s What Dave Grohl Thinks
Can you still be punk if you experience success and become rich? This is a question Dave Grohl grappled with while guesting on the Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend podcast, alongside his Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic and producer Steve Albini.
Addressing the idea of punk credibility and financial success, O'Brien questions (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 suggests that any such criticism really just boils down to jealousy.
Regarding Nirvana's own success, Grohl responds, "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."
"I know the transition happened really quickly, but you didn’t just wind up with a million dollars in your mailbox the next day," he continues, "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.'"
The success didn't weigh on him, personally, as he's proud he's been able to help out members of his family.
“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," Grohl explains, "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.”
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Grohl is still pretty damn punk, too.
In 2021, he released a documentary What Drives Us, which showcases some of music's biggest stars talking about their early hard-gigging days, getting from show to show in a van.
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Gallery Credit: Joe DiVita