The guys in Nirvana weren’t especially representative of the music they made. Known for chaotic, highly energetic grunge, the three members of the Seattle rock band were mostly calm and collected individuals, even taciturn and shy in their own ways.
But like a lot of young adults, the band had plenty of pent up rage. Naturally, that turned to instrument destruction. Originally a spur of the moment release that wasn’t uncommon in the punk clubs that they frequented, the attention that the band got for smashing their equipment made it a gimmick that they happily rehashed once they started to make some real money.
Sometimes the smashing served a practical purpose, as Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show: “We’d play for 45 minutes, maybe 50 minutes,” Novoselic explained. “Because Kurt was so intense, and he’d be out there… and we could get off if we smashed everything.” No equipment, no encore.
Grohl even used the destruction to his own personal advantage. “We were on tour in Chicago and Kurt had been chopping at my drums all tour,” Grohl said. “My drums had holes in them! And they sounded like crap because there were holes them”. Grohl kept asking their tour manager to get a new drum kit, but the manager kept putting it off — so Grohl took action.
“So finally I said to Kurt, at the Metro in Chicago, I said ‘Hey man, at the end of the gig, we have to smash my drum set to splinters, because I need a new one.'” Grohl explains that he and Cobain spent “half an hour” destroying the drum kit, even telling the audience that the show was over and that they could go home. Needless to say, Grohl got a new drum kit for the following show.
You can hear Grohl and Novoselic tell the story to Jimmy Fallon down below.