Interview with Chad Channing's parents
Introduction: This is an interview with former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing's parents, Burnyce and Doug. It was done during late September and early October of 1998. The interview is mostly about Chad's childhood and about his time in Nirvana. It also focuses on his band at the time of the interview, The Methodists.
Note that some answers were by Burnyce, others were by Doug and finally some by both of them. A very special thanks goes out to the Channing's for doing this interview and for being incredibly nice and helpful throughout.
The interview is copyright ©1998 The Internet Nirvana Fan Club, Burnyce Channing and Doug Channing. Below I am "NFC", using this font color, and The Channings are "Channing", using this font color.
NFC: Just for the record, how long have you been married ?
Channing: We will be celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary the 8th of October. We look forward to our 50th one day!
NFC: How did Chad's musical career start ? Did he come home from school one day saying "I want to be in the music biz!" ?
Channing: As a youngster, Chad was always interested in sports, especially soccer. Music was not a great part of his life although he probably enjoyed whatever the kids were listening to at the age of fourteen. He had a terrible accident in the gym at school one day that shattered his upper left femur (the largest bone in the body). This resulted in 8 surgeries and five years of recovery. During this time he was in and out of casts, was unable to go to school and had a home tutor. He was naturally frustrated with the inactivity. Wondering how to help him, we bought him a bright candy apple red bass guitar for one of his birthdays. He seemed delighted and within a couple of weeks we could hear guitar riffs that we thought were coming from a Van Halen record. He was incredible! When he was out of the leg casts we knew he had to use those legs and make them strong again so we bought a used drum set, very nice, cobalt blue with good sound. Again, he was a natural and as parents we were quite astounded. We knew something special was here! He began to jam with friends, had several "garage bands" and finally started playing a few gigs in the local clubs. When he was able to go back to school he joined the band there and learned to read music as well.
NFC: What do you think of his current band, The Methodists ?
Channing: We both think The Methodists are terrific and part of that is the fact that all the guys have known each other for many years even though they have played in other groups. They are all very close and hang out together even when not performing, something that never happened when Chad was with Nirvana. They were boys together and are now men together and they enjoy a camaraderie which becomes apparent in the "tight" sound of their music. They seem to have an uncanny "feel" for each other's musical senses.
NFC: Have you ever seen The Methodists perform live ?
Channing: Yes at a local nightspot here in downtown Seattle called "Gibson"s. It was our first time to see them live and they "blew us away"!
NFC: Do you remember how, and when, Chad got involved
with Nirvana ?
Channing: Chad had been playing several local clubs and his popularity as a drummer was becoming widespread in the Seattle area. Sub Pop, Nirvana's first label, heard Chad, I believe at the now defunct "Gorilla Gardens" and suggested he audition for the drummer less Nirvana. He did, they liked his work and said "welcome to the club", and the rest is history! They were all good buddies for most of Chad's tenure with Nirvana, they vanned around the country during their US tour and traveled Europe doing some 40 plus shows in 46-48 days. Their first full length album "Bleach" we believe, is still the true "essence" of the sound of "Nirvana"!
NFC: You mentioned Van Halen - which other musical influences did Chad have ?
Channing: Well, I mentioned Van Halen because I was very familiar with his sound and the riffs he so often used and I equated that sound to what I heard coming from Chad's room in those early days. I don't mean to imply that Chad was a particular Van Halen fan. That was a long time ago and I would have to say that he did listen to Metallica, Sex Pistols, the Melvins I believe, Black Sabbath, he liked Radio Head, Sugar Cube, there were several but if I try to name them now, I may be putting my foot in my mouth so it would be best to ask Chad that question.
NFC: Did you ever meet the other members of Nirvana; Kurt, Krist and Jason ?
Channing: Yes we did meet them and liked Kurt (whom once spelled it Curt) and Krist (whom used to be known as Chris) and even Cobain was at times spelled with a "K". I suppose that sounds like an identity crisis but musicians often change their names around for one reason or another. Even our family surname was legally changed a couple of decades ago. As for Jason, we did not know him other than to exchange a few words. We were not real close to Kurt and Krist as far as them hanging out at our house etc. but usually bumped into them at the "Sub Pop" offices from which we live just a block away to this day! Gave them a hug at times and kidded around some but, Kurt especially, was very quiet and seemed to me almost shy. Super nice guys though ... Super!!
NFC: Did you ever get to see Nirvana live ? If so, where and when was it ?
Channing: Yes, at the "Moore" Theater in 1989 or 90 was it? They didn't even have first billing at the time, Tad had that but when it was over, I think everyone knew they had just witnessed something great in the making. This was at the time their "Bleach" album was released and the very first and best collector copies were cut on white vinyl! We have donated most of our Nirvana paraphernalia to the new rock museum being built here in Seattle, including our white vinyl album.
NFC: It must have been the 6/9/89 show at the Moore Theater. Chad was in other bands besides Nirvana, Fire Ants and now the Methodists ... but do you remember which ones ?
Channing: Well, I wouldn't lay down and die for these answers but I sure will make a stab at it. There was the "48 School"... "The Magnet Men"..."Stone Crow"..."Tic Dolly Row", oh gosh, I know the list is missing some but those are a few. We really liked "The Magnet Men" and "Stone Crow". The hardest part in making a go of a band is getting members that are all insanely dedicated to their goal of greatness. It never works if you have a lagger!
NFC: In Michael Azerrad's "Come As You Are" book there is a picture of a letter written to you, Burnyce, from Chad - how did it end up in that book ?!
Channing: Good question! During Chad's Nirvana days, like alot of mom's might do, I kept a scrapbook. It contained every bit and scrap, article, picture, letter I could get my hands on. I probably hounded the poor guys at Sub Pop for foreign pictures and write-ups, and I had posters large and small, well the list was endless, it was a fantastic scrapbook and ended with a baby picture of Kurt inserted by Chad after Kurt died. How the book got into the hands of Mike Azerrad's, I do not know but it seems that Chad most likely let him borrow it for his book, thinking that Mike would certainly use some discretion in what he used. That was a laugh. The book is full of errors and is a prime source of bending truths. I suppose I should say that this is my god given right to my personal opinion. All I'm saying is that my name was used in the credits to suggest that I may have endorsed the contents when in fact, I was not even aware of the book let alone contacted before it was in the bookstores. Guess you can tell the book is a sore spot and caused us much tribulation!
NFC: Yeah, well when did Chad get his famous "North" drums ?
Channing: I can't give you an exact date but they were bought from a large music company in Yakima, Washington. This place was a famous stopover for touring groups to pick up supplies, instrument parts, cymbals, drum sticks, you name it, they carried it! His North set was absolutely wild looking and had a terrific sound and Chad was using them at the time he first joined Nirvana. The future rock museum here has contacted us several times to try to locate those super cool drums to put on display but Chad sold them a long time ago and no one knows their where abouts now.
NFC: What did you do when Chad dropped out of High School ?
Channing: Well, we didn't exactly do anything. We could see it coming and we had chatted with him about it from time to time. After Chad's terrible accident, he missed alot of school and even though he often times had a tutor provided by the school district, it just did not make up for the classroom experience. High school was a hit and miss ordeal and if he had continued to graduation, he would have been twenty years old, due to all the time he had missed while lying in a hospital bed or in a full body cast at home and always in terrible pain. He suffered something fierce let me tell you. We knew our son had something else that was very special and he had always been a good thinker where living life is concerned. He had always been a little eccentric, peaceful and yet very determined in what he wanted to do. We felt that he had more on the ball than alot of graduates we knew so when he finally wanted to drop out, he had our blessings and support and still does to this day. He has done well with his life to this point, is wise in business and we see no reason why he would not continue. He is an extra ordinary son and we are extremely proud of him as are his sisters and other family members.
NFC: Burnyce, you mention Chad's sisters - how many does he have
and does he have brothers as well ? Are they in the music biz too ?
Channing: Doug and I have three children, Kyrstie (Chad's sister) Chad and then the youngest (Joelle). Kyrstie is the eldest, is married to a US Navy Seals Master Diver and Medic, she is a registered nurse, they have two young sons and are stationed in Hawaii. Nine months and twenty days younger is Chad. The youngest is Joelle. She is a Naval Air Traffic Controller, married for about a year and a half to a Navy man. Right now she is a Naval Reserve Recruiter, no children as yet. Neither sister is connected to the music business but are huge fans of their brother!
NFC: Doug, do you have a funny story from Chad's childhood that sticks out in your mind?
Channing: When Chad was about four years old, our whole family was driving across country in our pickup truck. The three kids rode in the back as it was covered with a camper shell. The kids had to make a "potty-stop" so we pulled into a gas station in a little town in the middle of nowhere. We all used the facilities and I filled the gas tank while we waited for the kids to climb back into the truck. Then off we went down the highway. Chad's mom would check on the kids through the slide window in the cab and about twenty five miles out of town she noticed that Chad did not appear to be in the truck! We pulled over and questioned the girls and certainly scolded them. At first was the nightmare that he may have fallen out but then we realized in a panic that he must still be back in the town. We raced back, questioned the station attendant, looked everywhere then ... there was this tiny figure sitting on the curb against a telephone pole. It was Mr. Chad (we have called him Mr. since he was born, a name his grandparents tacked on) sitting quietly, no tears, just a kind of quiet resolve. Needless to say we were relieved beyond imagination. We asked him how he felt and he answered in a pathetic little voice ... "I thought you didn't want me anymore!" Then followed another round of hugs and kisses!!!
NFC: I haven't heard much about that new Rock Museum being built in Seattle - can you tell something more about it ?
Channing: It is being built in the Seattle Center near the space needle where the world's fair was held in 64 I believe. The financial backing is from Paul Allen, former partner of Bill Gates of Microsoft. Allen also owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers and properties too numerous to mention. It was originally called the Jimi Hendrix museum but I believe it will now be called The Music Experience. It will house everything one can think of that deals with all the famous pacific northwest musicians. That of course will include Nirvana! It is quite a showplace with bright splashy colors, a really wild shape, not everyone is thrilled with it. We like it and look forward to seeing the finished product.
NFC: Maybe this is a question for himself, but besides music and sports what did Chad spent his childhood with ?
Channing: In a full body cast!! He loved sports until age 14 and then the accident changed his childhood forever! Chad was quite an expert on herbs and knew many of the herbs that were good for you. We lived mostly in the country and had goats, rabbits, chickens, dogs, cats, herb, flower, and vegetable gardens. When he was older he had lots of friends and our house was always a gathering place for teenagers and jam sessions.
NFC: Nirvana is perhaps one of the most important bands ever in history, a band that has sold millions of records worldwide. Your son was in this band for several years, how does that feel ?
Channing: Pride...a great deal of pride! Part of that is the fact that he remained free of the drug and booze culture that surrounds so many rock bands. Aside from having a few brews with his band buddies and of course parties and the usual fun stuff ... he is a pretty clean, straight guy. He doesn't drink coffee, doesn't agree with him. It is a strange experience to have a well known offspring. We find it odd that when someone meets us and finds out we are Chad's parents, they just don't believe it. It's as if we should be dripping in diamonds or draped in furs or anything but ordinary people. Most teenage responses are "no way man!" I often tell people that it is quite possible for ordinary parents to have extraordinary children. I suspect most parents of "show biz" offspring feel that way. There is of course a down side. Things that are written by either the press or book writers can be just awful. Everything you say and do is slanted to sell the book, from off center truths to downright lies. It hurts...alot! Our entire family has become very guarded and for the most part, no longer give live interviews. We also keep a hard copy of all written interviews. But, overall, it is quite wonderful to have Chad do what he loves and be successful at it? What more could a parent want? His history will live on in the rock museum long after all of us are gone ... that's not half bad is it!
NFC: How do you think it was for Chad to be replaced by Dave, in Nirvana ?
Channing: Terrific! Chad called me the day he was officially "out" of Nirvana. This was something that was coming to a head for some time. He really liked Krist and Kurt and they remained good friends but there was this thing called "artistic independence" and while in Nirvana, everything had to be done the way Kurt wanted it. Friction between Chad and Kurt became too much and it was a mutual agreement, find another drummer! They did of course find a fine drummer in Dave Grohl and he and Chad got along just fine when they saw each other and they all rode in the limo at Kurt's funeral from what I understand.
NFC: Do you think Chad is more happy in the Methodists than he was in Nirvana ?
Channing: Absolutely! For one thing, each of the guys has that all important artistic freedom to contribute to the Methodists sound. Second, they are all old friends and good buddies. I believe that more of the "right stuff" has come together with this group than any other.
NFC: Ok last question! Do you ever "surf" the internet and if so, what is your
impression of the many web sites for The Methodists and Nirvana ?
Channing: Yes! I do not believe there is a better web site than this one. (nirvanaclub.com) - I am not in the habit of giving out "unearned" compliments but it has factual information, it's mature in the approach to Nirvana and their impact in the music world, it is well researched, and I believe the webmaster is very discerning and capable. As for the Methodists, webmasters John and also Pandora have two fine sites. We wish all of you the very best of luck and fun!