Like Dave Foster, Chad Channing and Dan Peters, Dale Crover was drummer in legendary grunge band Nirvana for a while. He hit the skins somewhere in 1988.
However, Dave Crover is better known as drummer in the much-revered stoner/doom/sludge band The Melvins. Over the course of the Melvins’ 17-year career, the influential trio has been considered post-punk, indie rock, grunge, and now stoner rock. But no one label has ever really fit the lugubrious sonic lava flow that the group so lovingly exudes.
Crover: "We’ve always been oddballs, because we have elements of heavy metal in our stuff, but we’ve always hated the cheesiness of heavy metal. We’re too nerdy for the heavy-metal audience, and we’re too heavy for any kind of alternative audience, but there are definitely people who like us and all the weird stuff that we do. It’s great that we’ve managed to exist off this band for so long and not go away—Buzz and I have been doing this as our day jobs now for 10 years.”
Crover’s desire to play the drums was initially fueled as a young teen by the music of KISS and Ted Nugent. “I took lessons for a while, starting on snare drum, but my drum teacher knew that I wanted to play rock,” he says. “He was like a jazz drummer, so he went out and got me a Carmine Appice book.” Vanilla Fudge veteran Appice and Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward would become major influences on his playing with the Melvins, which may be best described as a slow-motion train wreck delivered with incredible precision, sans click track.
“It is hard to play slow, but I’ve never really had to use a click unless it’s for something where the drums might not start the song, or if it’s with a drum machine,” Crover says. “Usually, if it speeds up a little bit, it’s no big deal. We’re not worried about it being completely in time for the whole song. We’re interested in the feel.”
Other hallmarks of Crover’s playing include heavy use of a ribbon crasher; heavy crashing on a massive 24- or 26-inch ride; heavy pounding with heavy sticks on heavy, oversized drums, and heavy heaviness, period. “I got the idea of wearing gardening gloves from Bob Bert” of Pussy Galore and Sonic Youth, he says. “I’d been using these drummer gloves that cost like 25 bucks a pop and are made of leather died black that bleed all over your hands, but these gardening gloves are totally cheap and I just go to the hardware store and buy a giant box to use for the whole tour.”
In addition to the Melvins, Crover sings and plays guitar with a stoner-rock side project called Altamont. He’s also been branching out into session work, and he performed on several tracks on the debut album by rising country star Hank Williams III. “It was sort of a typical Nashville situation, and the producer was like, ‘Wow, you play drum fills! I can’t get these other studio drummers to play drum fills,’” Crover says. Unfortunately, he’s still waiting for a call-back.
Proudest recorded moments:
“Sometimes some of the simple stuff I think is really good. There’s a song on this record we did called The Bootlicker called ‘Let It All Be,’ and I really like the drum beat to that song—it’s really simple and kind of minimal. Actually, Buzz wrote that on the drum machine and I just took it and made it a little bit different and a little more groovy. I guess any of the slow stuff would also be a good example of a signature sound or whatever, but I think that we can do so many different things and have no limitations that I don’t know if I could pinpoint a single song. If you want to check out a bunch of different styles that I can do, listen to Stag. That would probably be the one album that I would pick.”
“I’ve been playing Tama drums for a while. I have an endorsement, and they made me a drum set five or six years ago with a 26-inch kick, 16-inch rack, 24-inch floor tom, and a 20-inch gong bass drum. I have a couple of different snare drums—brass and wood—and they’re all Artstar Customs. I also use an old 1948 Gretsch kit that’s smaller—24, 13, and 16. I use that a lot for recording because it sounds great. With those three-ply shells, you hit the rack and the floor at the same time and it sounds like a chord, but if I play that too long and then go back to the big set, it’s like driving a tank!
“I’ve gotten some stuff from Paiste—I break a lot of cymbals, a couple per tour—and I don’t use crashes per se; everything’s a crash. I also have a gong, and I try to use it as much as possible — at least enough to make it worth taking on the road. I’m on my third gong now; I break those, too. The day after Kurt Cobain died, we had just come back from Europe and we were in Portland, Maine, and to make myself feel better I went out and bought a gong. That one’s really beat now, but I finally bought a brand new one, a Paiste 32-inch.”