In the last 12 months bullshit has followed NIRVANA's every step. Dodging tales of drugs, dirt and disaster they've emerged miraculously unscathed and defiant. In a RAW exclusive, bass-head CHRIS NOVOSELIC puts down his four-string and digs out his trusty old typewriter to fill us in on the band's recent one-off show way down in Buenos Aires, and spills the beans on what life's really like in the world's most talked about Rock band. This is the whole truth, live from the eye of the storm.
WE KNEW when we agreed to do the show, way down in Buenos Aires, that it was going to be one long-assed flight. The first leg of our 18-hour journey took us through Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Talk about futuristic: long corridors with wavy sheet-metal walls, multi-coloured flashing neon tubing winding thru' the ceiling that, combined with the soothing New Age music, made me wonder whether Brian Eno would be at the bottom of the escalators to greet each traveller personally. Maybe this design will be a timeless monument of our era or maybe, 20 years from now, it will be gaudy kitsch like a late '60s space-age ashtray. Next stop, Miami.
Miami Airport was like most other airports; very utilitarian. The only notable thing being that the carpeting was the same purple as my wife Shelli's coat. While shuffling down the starkly lit hallway, Dave and I noticed a tobacco shop. Dave bought a carton of cigarettes that looked like a giant pack of Marlboros and I wanted to get a box of foot-long 'El Presidente' cigars. After a resounding 'forget it!' from Shelli, Kurt and Courtney, I ditched the idea. No big deal, because when you're on the plane they ask you to limit your smoking to cigarettes and you know they mean cigars and pipes, but you jokingly think they also mean pot, so you look around and giggle. That's what nonstop travel does to you! Next stop, Argentina.
AT FIRST glance Argentina was nothing special, old sooty buildings surrounded by new sooty buildings. It's amazing how many Ford Falcons are here. If you Brits don't know, the Falcon was a car produced in the States in the early 60s, and is apparently one of the best cars ever built. The reason why this is so relevant is that Dave bought an old '63 a week before we left, and really thought he had something special until he got here, 'cos every other car was a Falcon!
We decided to step out for a bite, and piled into our van with the crew, instructing the driver to, "Take us to a good restaurant". After a brief spin we landed at a joint, besides which was a giant charcoal pit with whole sides of beef skewered and roasting. Not a good sign for the vegetarians amongst us! On the cover of the menus was a 'mosaic' of meat products—sausages and more beef sides spread out intricately with pork and lamb, enticing carnivores like a zealot to an icon. There was also a diagram of a cow resembling a map, so that you could order any portion of the animal you liked, from tongue to tail. We vegetarians ordered a 'Special Salad,' which turned out to be boiled potatoes with a dash of vinegar! Bon appetit! After eating the stuff in an unbelievable huff we boogied outside, and noticed that our hotel was just across the street. Talk about adding insult to injury! Room service food wasn't bad… considering.
TIME NOW to make a foray into the city to go "clubbing." We ordered Mr. Driver to, "Take us to a good club," and on our way we noticed that hardly any of the drivers had their headlamps on (parking lights only), but this wasn't as unsettling as seeing a petrol tanker bomb past us. Maybe the high beef intake improves night vision! We pulled up at the Hard Rock Cafe, albeit a counterfeit one. Inside the cafe a New Wave kinda band called Los Pirates Industrial was onstage, consisting of a drummer and a percussionist who played three motorcycle gas tanks. They were cool and played a New Order cover, and the owner gave us free drinks all night. Yippee! Perk city and I don't care! Half our party left pretty early, including Alex, our tour manager, who ordered me five double whiskeys on the rocks as he left. Tipping my glass with a "God bless ya son!", I bade him goodnight.
After watching some crummy bands the music was over… or so we thought! Someone walked up to me and said, "Jew chould jam, man." What the heck, I thought. "Hey Courtney, let's go up there." I played bass and Courtney had to totally coax this guy out of a guitar. He probably thought she should have been at home baking pies. So, I started playing this bonehead two-chord Punk riff and we all kicked in. I sang about Joseph Mengele and the C.I.A., partly because it rhymed and partly because there is some connection. Courtney complemented my wailing with screams of "Pula, Pula!" It was now time for the obligatory hand introductions. On drums was a local named Louis, not bad at all. I introduced Courtney as the most notorious woman since Marie Antoinette! (This in light of all the bullshit press she has been getting lately). A couple more bad songs and it was over. I slept the whole of the next day.
"BE AT the venue at 8 o'clock," we were told. We arrived at 9.30 pm. The first band, Los Brujos, had already left the stage. Next up was Calamity Jane, an all-girl group from Portland, Oregon who play Punk Rock-type Rock with a twang. Part of the deal for having us play was that we could bring down any band we wanted, but Calamity Jane didn't go down too well and were pelted with small objects, and left the stage after about half an hour. The 'stay home and bake pies' factor was somewhat in effect with part of the audience. And though I'm sure they'd have met the same reaction in Middle America or, for that matter, many other places, we were nevertheless pretty disappointed with the crowd and went on stage with a had attitude. The first five minutes were a very loose noise jam, then we proceeded with the set. Kurt fucked with the audience between a few songs, starting off 'Teen Spirit' then stopping; unfortunately, we were playing with the passion of a cold fish. It's not that I blame it on the few misguided Argentineans who gave Calamity Jane a hard time, it's mainly that the novelty of playing these 30,000 capacity stadiums has worn thin. Sure, at first it was fun and new, but the limitations of such places creep up on us fast.
Talking to Kurt before the show we put our careers into perspective, "We sure got ourselves in a mess," he said. Call me a whiner, I don't care, but all the fame and fortune (not as much fortune as you might think), all the interviews with our screwy perspectives, all the shows we've played (how many times can a person play the same hit song?), and all the rest of the baggage that goes with 'success' has nothing to do with the music, i.e. songs we created over a year ago. Yes, these kids did pay they hard-earned pesos to see us, but it just didn't happen. Sorry. We left the stage. Being the people-pleaser that I am, for the encore I suggested 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.' Kurt said, "I think it's lame to play something just because people expect it from us," to which I countered, "It might be a way to salvage some of this turkey of a show." Dave interjected, "Let's play the noise song," (the secret song at the end of 'Nevermind'). So be it. It was actually one of the best versions of that song we've ever done, with us just totally jamming and playing off each other, toying with dynamics. I was in musical bliss. After ten minutes we bade the crowd "Buenos Notches," and we walked off stage satisfied and, more importantly, redeemed. So what if they didn't get to hear '…Teen Spirit.' What they and we got during those last few minutes was total expression; something you can't create, something that grabs and affects you enough that you have to release it. Thirty thousand people were shovelled a mediocre performance for an hour-and-a-half, but 30,000 people, I hope, got to share with us for ten minutes the reason why we are in a hand.
The next day we boarded a plane and back-tracked home…