- Everett True
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
- Chad Channing
||Sub Pop. Seattle: Rock City
Basically, this is the real thing. No rock star contrivance,
no intellectual perspective, no master plan for world domination. You're talking about four guys in their early twenties from
rural Washington who wanna rock, who, if they weren't doing this, would be working in a supermarket or lumber yard, or fixing cars.
Kurdt Kobain is a great tunesmith, although still a relatively young songwriter. He wields a riff with passion. Nirvana deal
a lot with Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening) type themes—innocence and the repression of innocence. Nirvana songs treat the banal and pedestrian with a unique slant.
"We grew up in Aberdeen. It was real scary; redneck, helltown, backwoods, like a village or a big city for lumberjacks" says bassist Chris Novoselic. "You see Jack
Nicholson in Easy Rider talking about Rednecks? About how if they see something different they don't go running scared, they get dangerous. Aberdeen's like that.
But they were so bone-headed, why shouldn't we be different from them?"
Everett True Thrashes It Out With The Latest Wizards From Seattle's Sub Pop Label Who Arrive In Britain Next Week
Feel the noise. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, Britain is
being swamped in a deluge of long hair, hoary old Black Sabbath
licks and American Upstarts from Seattle. Rich and poor kids with
nothing better to do with their time, now create devastating
slabs of rock'n'roll (some call it hard rock) and blow us away
with their applied use of the wah-wah and suffocating powerchords.
It's music which seems to have no real sense of purpose except to say,
"Hi, we're here and aren't we having fun?" Soon it will be time
to sweep the whole sorry mess under our carpets and wish to god
Jimi Hendrix had never set his guitar on fire, but until then,
I'd like you to welcome in the very best of the new breed on the block,
hot on the footsteps of Mudhoney, Nirvana.
Nirvana are very much a band who would like to say, "Hi, this is us
and we're having fun, too!", but the band are also a little bit
weird. They're a little but gross and a little bit awesome.
And a bit too determined to be content with just messing around.
What else could you be if you grew up in the backwoods redneck helltown
of Aberdeen, a zillion miles away from the isolated capital of the
Their bassist, Chris Novoselic, takes up the story.
"See, Kurdt had this tape, right?" he explains. "And we're living
in Aberdeen and he made it with Dale, the drummer of the Melvins
(a band Matt from Mudhoney originally started in). That was in '86,
maybe. I heard it and I thought it was really cool, so I said to
start this band, so we started a band and we went through three
drummers and we're here today, talking to you."
Chris is over six foot tall, friendly and wired.
A competitive treeclimber, he was born and raised in Yugoslavia
and looks forward to rockin' the Iron Curtain on Nirvana's
forthcoming tour of Europe with Tad. Born to the outdoors,
he worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska for three years,
painted bridges and has Elvis sideburns.
Kurdt Kobain is the vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter behind
the trio, who turned into a quartet for the album "Bleach", but
turned into a trio again after extraneous guitarist Jason Everman
upped plectrums and joined Soundgarden as bassist in July.
He's your archetypal small guy—wiry, defiantly working class
and fiery. His provincial and witty lyrics, bring to mind an
American Mark E. Smith. He has a small goatee and his pet rat once
bit Bruce Pavitt, Sub Pop records supremo.
Chris: "We were branded Satan worshippers back home. Fuck, this
girl came knocking on our door looking for a wallet and she goes,
'You know what all the other kids told me in the neighbourhood?
Don't go there, they worship the Devil.' That's why nobody ever
bothered us in redneck country.
We would neither confirm or deny Satanic affiliations."
"Maybe it was those desecrated cemetery pieces buried in our
front yard," Kurdt wonders. "But you didn't have to do anything
to be considered extreme back there. Just take a lot of acid."
Chad Channing, the drummer, is the quietest of the trio, is any of
this thundering trio can be said to be noiseless. On stage he's a
visual blur. He'd be a cook if it wasn't for this.
He looks permanently stoned.
"I was offered the choice once between a guitar and a bicycle
for my birthday," he recalls. "So I took the bicycle. Why did I start
playing music? Boredom, I guess. I wanted to be able to play the drums.
I still do."
At this point in the conversation, a guy stops by on a bicycle,
hawking tapes. Kurdt asks him how much they are. "One dollar," comes
the reply. "Shit" says Kurdt, "a dollar for a Van Morrison cassette?
There are pawn shops all over here which'll give you 20 bucks for
them." The guy disappears after trying to sell the band some hash.
"We set that one up, actually," Chris boasts.
"To give you a taste of weird Americana. He's the fifth member of
So who do Nirvana listen to? The usual: Aerosmith, Tuxedomoon, NWA,
Herman And The Hermits, Leadbelly, hard rock, punk rock, power pop,
hip hop, Sub Pop—the sensibilities of the late Seventies mixed with
the raw power of the late Sixties. Are they aware of any kind of
"Sub Pop movement"?
Kurdt: "Sort of, but we didn't start playing this stuff to join in,
it just happened that way. Sure we are heavy, but little bit diverse
maybe. The album has a couple of beautiful pop tunes on it."
Chris: "We're definitely not groundbreaking. If there was no Sub Pop
sound we'd still be doing this. If there's anything we're really
close to, it's The Stooges—the momentum and the energy."
Where Nirvana differ from most of their contemporaries is in the
strength of Kurdt's songwriting. Among those in the know,
Nirvana are said to be the cream of the crop (if they get their live
act together). Listen to the wickedly-named "Bleach" Sub Pop LP and
you can hear those roots showing—far from being a melting
pot-pourri of every loud noise imaginable, Nirvana craft their songs
with a diligence not seen in this side of Creation.
"Blew", "About A Girl", "Big Cheese" (the first mind-fuck of a single),
"Sifting"; all these songs are crafted round a firm base of tune,
Okay, so they might smother them a little with licks that'd do
prime-time Sabbath proud, but what the heck? Every boy's gotta
have a vocation.
Jonathan Poneman from Sub Pop appears. A cat walks by on a leash.
I have a five minute coughing fit and nearly asphyxiate. Nirvana
was suitably shocked. So I ask them what their name means to them.
"Big amplifiers," Chris replies, incisively.
"Not giving a shit and having fun. Dreaming. Being free from
distraction and not being uptight. Jamming, having lots of good shows,
being polite, respecting our moms and dads."
Nirvana were once called too complex for their own good by our own
Simon Reynolds—precisely the opposite to how I would describe them.
Kurdt: "Well the track he was describing (off the Sub Pop 200 box)
was pretty much the most complex thing we've ever done. We're moving
towards simplicity and better songwriting all the time. There are
songs on the album which only have two parts on them. That one has
three. Fuck that guy, what does he know? He was probably in a bad mood
or something! He doesn't like Robert Fripp, that's for sure.
He probably doesn't listen to Eno, either, which is stupid! Eno's
Chris: "We just want to make people happy. We just want to ROCK!
Ninety-nine per cent of music out there is bullshit. There are
way too many bands out there and they just get in the way. So quit!
Give it up! Turn your guitars in for shovels! You guys suck!"
Kurdt: "The Pixies are pretty good band though."
Chris: "Yeah, all bands should have shovels or chainsaws, so they can get out there and work the stage!"
Where would you be if you weren't playing music?
"On the streets!"
"Living in Yugoslavia."
"I'd be one depressed muthafucker."
"I'd be one burly moustached guy."
"I'd be in a bowling league!"
"I'd be eating chili dogs and drinking Budweisers."
"I'd have to resort to playing the game and marry a rich heiress and shack up with…"
"Let's start again. My name's Chris Novoselic, I play bass and I'm
in this great new band called Nirvana and we're releasing this album
on Sub Pop called 'Bleach' full of hard rock riffs and beautiful
Nirvana shortly have a limited edition 12-inch coming out on
Tupelo featuring "Blew" from "Bleach", "Love Buzz" from the first
single and two new, Steve Fisk produced, tracks. It's great!
They're gonna be over here any day now, touring with Tad. Don't, for
Hendrix's sake, miss them.
© Everett True, 1989