David Bowie was an artist that really couldn’t be labeled into only one music category. He was really changing all the time from record to record, which really made him a unique musician who people really couldn’t guess what he would do next.
It wasn’t only his songwriting and career which covered many different genres and ideas. His musical taste was also really broad and even decades after being a famous superstar, he kept paying close attention to new bands and supporting them. So Rock and Roll Garage selected the 6 Alternative Rock bands that David Bowie said that he liked.
The 6 Alternative Rock bands David Bowie said he liked
One of David Bowie’s favorite Alternative Rock bands of all time were certainly The Pixies. It was in an interview with Carson Daily in 2002 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) that he mentioned most of the bands from this article. He began praising The Pixies and explained why all these bands deserved more recognition. “A major band for me in the 80s in this country was The Pixies. I thought they were absolutely necessary, a very, very important band.”
“Black Francis is a fantastic songwriter and they produce some really exciting music. Obviously Nirvana was terribly influenced (by them and) a number of other bands were influenced by them. But having never played on American radio, they never sold any albums and they broke-up. I’m seeing that beginning to happen again over here.”
“They don’t get played, they don’t sell albums. If you’re not careful, they’re gonna go under and many creative and inventive artists will disappear after two or three years. Because nobody is out there supporting them. Radio is not supporting them as it should be. There is crap on American radio, real crap!” David Bowie said.
The Pixies were formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. Their most famous albums are the two first ones: “Surfer Rosa” (1988) and “Doolittle” (1989). Bowie had the chance to meet them and even cover some of their songs. He played the song “Debaser” live in the 90s and in 2002 recorded a studio version for “Cactus”. That cover was released on his album “Heathen”.
Nine Inch Nails
Another American band praised by David Bowie was Nine Inch Nails, which was formed by Trent Reznor. It was after seeing a video clip from their debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” (1989) on MTV that David Bowie first heard their music.
A few years later, in 1995, Bowie decided to invite Reznor for a tour called “The Outside”. The United States leg of that tour had Nine Inch Nails as the opening act but their set was connected with Bowie’s show in order to form a continuous show. In an interview with MTV’s Kurt Loder in 1995, Bowie explained the whole story.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) It was MTV’s fault, because I saw the video that you banned and I thought: ‘That’s really good! That’s a great video’. What happened was because of that I then really gone into what he was doing and then ‘The Downward Spiral’ (1994). I thought it was just an exceptional album, really excellent.”
“(So I rang Trent Reznor later) after Virgin Records asked me if I was going to support the album (he released back then) outside. I said: ‘Of course I will’. I was trying to work out the kind of thing I really wanted to do. Because as you know I really like to be quite adventurous in terms of what I do on stage as well as on the music. On the off-chance I phoned up Trent’s management to find out if there would be any interestet (in him) working with me on the tour,” David Bowie said.
Reznor ended up making an alternative remix of Bowie’s song “The Hearts Filthy Lesson” in 1995. Two years later he also remixed the track “I’m Afraid of Americans” and appeared in the official video of the song.
Grandaddy was formed in Modesto, California in 1992 is also a band mentioned by Bowie that deserved more exposure on American radio. The group’s line-up remained intact for almost three decades, with Jason Lytle, Aaron Burtch, Jim Fairchild, Kevin Garcia and Tim Dryden. It only changed after the death of Garcia, who suffered a stroke in 2017.
They were active from 1992 to 2006, releasing five albums during that period. The group reunited in 2012 and has been active since then, having released two more new albums. The most recent one is “Biu Wav”, released in 2024.
The singer and multi-instrumentalist Jason Lytle talked in an interview with Under The Radar in 2024 about their relationship with Bowie.
“I think one of the most well-known notables that became a big fan was David Bowie. He actually came to a few of the shows and hung out backstage. He was really awesome. We’ve had a few moments like that, and you wonder how you would behave. It was so surreal. I was just drinking it up. He was so nice, and I think he had that ability to put people at ease,” Jason Lytle said.
One of the older bands mentioned by Bowie, Flaming Lips was formed in Oklahoma City in 1983, releasing “Hear It Is”, their debut album, three years later. In 2012 they curiously released a song called “Is David Bowie Dying?”, which was inspired by rumors that the musician was sick.
In February 2016, one month after Bowie passed away at the age of 69, the American group paid tribute to him during their concert. They simply included eight of his songs during their set. They were “Space Oddity”, “Life On Mars?”, “Five Years”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Fame”, “The Man Who Sold the World”, “Golden Years” and “Ashes To Ashes”.
Formed in Buffalo, New York in 1989, Mercury Rev is also another band mentioned and praised by David Bowie. The group has been active for more than three decades and released 12 studio albums. The two only constant members since their foundation are Jonathan Donahue (Vocals and guitar) and Sean “Grasshopper” Mackwowiak (Guitar, keyboards).
The longtime David Bowie producer Tony Visconti worked with Mercury Rev on their 2001 album “All Is Dream”. He was the one who connected the band with Bowie at the time.
The band’s vocalist Jonathan Donahue talked about that story in an interview with UK TV back in 2002 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage). “We were on the phone ironically just talking to Tony Visconti. (We were) just talking about maybe meeting up at a bar and see his new studio. He said to Grasshopper, who got the call, ‘There’s someone here who would really like to talk to you’ and on the phone came David. He spoke with Grasshopper for half-an-hour, 40 minutes,” Jonathan Donahue said.
As mentioned by The Denver Post in their interview with David Bowie in 2004, the British musician liked the band Interpol. Formed in New York City in 1997 and released their debut album “Turn On the Bright Lights” in 2002.
Bowie also went to see them playing live as the band’s vocalist and guitarist Paul Banks told Vulture in 2016. The British artist knocked on their dressing room just ten minutes before the show.
“Early on, we used to say a lot when people would ask how things were going. ‘Give me about ten years to think back on it. Then I’ll have some kind of perspective, because right now it’s all fucking crazy.’ At the moment, I don’t remember having a real clear, articulate thought on. What does it mean that David Bowie just gave us his blessing?”
“Long-term, it just kind of said, Bowie was awesome. Bowie stayed involved, and he went out of his way to support young artists, as we’ve seen after he came to our show. I just think that it’s cool, the same way that Elton John seems to be super up on new music. Bowie was an artist all the way. A generous one who liked to tell other artists that he was a supporter. That was such a great gift for someone of his caliber to give to a young band,” Paul Banks said.