Producer Butch Vig first worked with Nirvana when the band was still firmly underground, in the early stages of writing what would become its breakthrough sophomore album.
Vig helped the band craft some demos for Nevermind while drummer Chad Channing was still in the band. Vig loved the band then, but as he explained in a recent interview with BBC 6 Music, Nirvana had another level to attain.
The initial sessions were productive but somewhat rocky. Vig and Nirvana grew to trust and respect one another. But Nirvana was tired, having gone from the tour to the studio. Vig also sensed tension between Channing and Kurt Cobain.
The band worked with Vig for about a week and then headed back out to play more shows and continue writing. Months later when they reconvened, the band was reenergized.
Dave Grohl had replaced Channing at the drum throne and the band debuted an incredible new song for its producer.
"The first time I heard 'Teen Spirit' was in rehearsal in North Hollywood, and I was absolutely floored," Vig recalled. "I walked in the room and they were setting their gear up, and that's the first time I met Dave Grohl."
Cobain often referred to Grohl as the greatest drummer in the world, and it was no wonder he thought so highly of him.
"Dave didn't have any mics on his drums, and both Krist [Novoselic] and Kurt had these incredibly loud amplifiers and they had mics set on them as well, and yet Dave's sound was just as powerful and just kind of floated and rose above the guitar and bass," Vig explained.
The producer could tell that he didn't have to recommend many changes to the song arrangement, but he still asked the band to play "Teen Spirit" again so he could try and wrap his brain around it.
"As it turned out, they had been rehearsing every day for six months and they were really tight and really focused, but I knew from that first day that 'Teen Spirit' was something special."
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