Chad Channing Recalls His Time in Nirvana Without Regrets
What happens when you leave a band right before it hits big? If you're like Chad Channing, the original drummer for Nirvana, it means one of the highlights of your tenure is driving the tour van — with your teeth.
Channing played drums for the band between 1988-90, and was on their 1989 debut, Bleach. He left just before Nirvana hit the mainstream in a huge way with 1991's Nevermind, but three decades later he's at peace with his decision to leave over musical differences, he said in a new interview.
His exit made way for Dave Grohl's entrance into the band, and today he has a positive attitude about the entire experience. "I have no regrets because I always thought that things just sort of fall in place for a reason," he recently told KaaosTV. "For example, I was that perfect puzzle piece for the band at the time, and then they needed another piece to do other things and stuff."
Channing was playing a show in Helsinki with the Nirvana Experience when he was interviewed. "Our differences were strictly on a musical level," he explained. "We always stayed friends. In fact, I remember the first time I saw them with Dave at this place called the OK Hotel. It was the first time I'd seen the guys in probably a year or so, and it was really good to see them. It was like, 'Hey, how's it going?' It was very friendly."
You can watch the interview below.
Channing's attitude about leaving is just as relaxed as his memory of joining Nirvana, which he said was never a conscious decision. His previous band had opened for Nirvana, and a few months later frontman Kurt Cobain and bass player Krist Novoselic reconnected with him. "We sort of jammed together," he recalled. "And then they had this other show, so they said, 'If you want to come to the show ... .' We ended up making arrangements to jam again. It's funny because there never really was a point where it's, like, okay, cool, you're in the band. We just sort of continued jamming and I just sort of fell into the band."
Citing "Swap Meet" and "Sifting" as his favorite tracks from Nirvana's first album, Channing noted they made music their way for the joy of it, not with any expectations for sales or stardom. "Like, 30 years ago, I wouldn't have expected to see myself sitting here talking to you and finding out, Oh, gee, Nirvana's still relevant," he said. "That's kind of like 'whoa.' It kind of trips me up."
Asked about his best memories of his two years with the band, Channing seemed to recall the between-gigs shenanigans more than the music, including the long drives from show to show. "We were driving through Montana, which, it takes a long time to drive through that state," he remembered. "I was kind of bored and so I decided to drive with my teeth. I had my teeth on the steering wheel. ... I had been doing it for a long time. Krist woke up and he looked at me and was like 'What are you doing? Don't drive with your teeth!' I said 'Okay, okay,' but I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd been doing that for almost two hours."