Dave Grohl has been the superlative Foo Fighters frontman for decades now, but that wasn’t always the case. He famously got his big break as the drummer of Nirvana, although he wasn’t a prolific songwriter back then. On Nevermind and In Utero, the band’s two studio albums on which Grohl performs, he only received co-writing credits on two songs: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (which is admittedly a big deal) and “Scentless Apprentice.” Now, though, a 1992 demo tape featuring Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and drummer Rey Washam has surfaced, and it includes an early version of “Scentless Apprentice,” offering a glimpse at what Nirvana could have sounded like if Grohl was the frontman instead of Cobain.
Washam, who was in bands like Scratch Acid and Tad, recently shared the 30-minute instrumental demo tape on YouTube, and wrote in the description:
“At the Nirvana rehearsal studio. Dave was obviously new to guitar, but had some songs he wanted to try out with a band. I had just quit playing in Tad and Dave asked me to come over and ‘jam.’ I had never met Dave or Kurt and Krist even though I had heard Kurt was a fan of a band I used to be in, Scratch Acid. The jam was very low key, but I had to play Dave’s drums the way he had them set up for himself. Krist showed up and fun was had by all. This is only a portion of a two hour jam session. […] I think the tape speaks for itself. Dave made the right decision to have Taylor play drums in Foo Fighters and not me. He never asked me to play with him again after that night. I still think he’s a good guy.”
Cobain previously said of the song, in the 1993 book Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana, “It was such a cliché grunge Tad riff that I was reluctant to even jam on it. But I decided to write a song with that just to make him feel better, to tell you the truth, and it turned out really cool. […] I think most of the reason that song sounds good is because of the singing style and the guitar parts I do over the top of the basic rhythm. But hell, that was great — he came up with the beginning of the song and we worked off that and that was really different. We’ve never done that before.”
Listen to the demo tape above; The early version of “Scentless Apprentice” begins at 24:35 into the video.