LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE October 23, 1989 - Newcastle, UK
- Jim Mawdsley
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
- Chad Channing
- Tad Doyle
- Kurt Danielson
|Boiling Point||The Fat Man Talks||Yes|
I arrive at the Naked Lunch a couple of hours before the gig to find Tad and Nirvana sat tired, jet lagged and hungry, waiting for their tea. It's 7pm, first band on, The Cateran still haven't shown, and all parties seem perhaps a little apprehensive, this being the first date of their European tour.
Tad and Nirvana's rise to acclaim really has been meteoric. No sooner had Nirvana got picked up by Sub Pop on the strength of one tape, than they bring an album out and are touring Europe, much to the panting of impatient noise heads. I wonder… do the chaps realise the game the music media here are playing with Sub Pop?
Chris of Nirvana: "Really, we're called professional rednecks?! Well, that's because they've never actually seen a redneck, so they don't know what the Hell they're talking about. If a real redneck walked in the room, you'd know, because they have a kind of aura."
Kurt, Tad's bassist: "First, they kinda like us, but I realise we're being used by the press."
So the media interest isn't genuine, Sub Pop's just something popular to latch on to?
Kurt: "Jesus, I don't know."
Chris: "There are some good bands an Sub Pop - Mudhoney, The Fluid, Tad…"
How big can you see the label becoming?
Chris: "You never know."
Kurt: "We've got this far, that's amazing enough for right now."
Chris: "Yeah, we're really astonished."
So, maybe this media created hipness is working. Despite the fact as Chris says, that Sub Pop have some great bands, maybe it wouldn't have had such a huge and wide-spread surge of popularity were it not for media hype (of which Sub Pop has no involvement). Kurt remains cynical: "Whenever anything gets popular, there's always a backlash against it."
I noticed Sub Pop got featured in a recent issue of 'Maximum Rock 'N' Roll' "Yeah, that was cool!"
Are there many US fanzines covering this sort of stuff, like there's thousands of hardcore fanzines?
Chris: "There's a local Seattle magazine."
Tad: "Which doesn't deserve to be mentioned."
Chris: "Well, it's alright…"
Kurt, Nirvana's vocalist and songwriter: "But it's nothing like M.R.R or Dischord or any or those things."
Kurt: "It's a regional magazine, not national"
Tad: "There is Rolling Stone wannabe magazine."
Returning to the idea of a 'backlash' just because you are popular…
Chris: "Yeah, there's like fanzines that give you Hell just because you're a Sub Pop band."
Kurt: "And on the other hand, there's mags that'll like you just because you're popular right now."
Chad, Nirvana's drummer: "Most of these people don't even have a view, they just latch onto it 'cos it's big and claim that they like something that they really don't."
Kurt: "They probably don't even know what they're talking about."
Soundgarden recently went major and signed to A&M. Can you ever see yourselves in that position?
Chris: "Bands get signed to a major label at the drop of a hat and, I mean, it's nothing, and all you do is you get on o label and you gotta pay some guys £200,000 a year cocaine habit, and pay their salaries and, like, who needs them?"
Kurt: "It's really not our goal to bean a major label, you know, I mean if we got signed to one, I'd just be so amused, I'd just start laughing. Sub Pop is really the label for us."
Chris: "If you're into music we're there for you. If you're just some kind of suburban carwasher, you know…"
Chad interrupts "We're there for you' Ha, ha, ha, ha."
Chris: "…then you're probably not interested anyway, you know what I mean."
Where do you think your sound comes from? Do you share the late '60s/early '70s influences of most of the other Sub Pop and Glitterhouse bands?
Kurt: "Oh I don't know, I mean the Tad sound just comes from taking the guitar and making a lot of noise."
Chris: "Screwing up the guitar until it sounds kinda cool."
Some of the Tad album sounds like slow Slayer…
Kurt: "Oh, you think so? That's interesting I don't mind Slayer personally, but we're not a heavy metal band, we're a punk rock band."
How did the album get called 'God's Balls'?
Kurt: "Well the album title is derived from a pornographic film, actually, where this priest is getting a blow job and he's going 'Oh God's Balls that feels good! Oh baby, God's balls!!' which is funny and we thought 'Oh this'll be good, so we called it that. But it really has nothing to do with the content of the record or anything like that. People might interpret it that way, but if you do, it's like we're slapping ourselves on the back and saying 'Yeah! We've got God's balls,' you know, that's not the way we meant it."
The songs on the Tad album tend to generally concern some quite horrific, sensual or sexual things.
Tad: "Well we spend a lot of time stabbing babies."
Kurt: "Fornicating with dogs, bombing churches."
Chris: "The breath of Jesus…"
Kurt: "Well, it just happens that the most interesting things in life just happen to be negative, and like, freaky and weird and dangerous and stuff."
Kurt: "Just thrilling, thrilling for us and either the listener can be thrilled or… it's his choice, you know."
You're soon going to be releasing 'Salt Lick,' a mini LP. Tell me about that.
Kurt: "We just recorded that with Steve Albini in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, and it'll came out here in England in January and we have a 12" single preceding that. That will come out on 1 December, and it's a song called 'Wood Goblin' that we recorded with Albini, and it's sort of on outtake from the Salt Lick sessions."
Steve Albini, veteran of Big Black and the controversially named Rapeman, producer of The Pixies 'Come On Pilgrim' and generally a big fish in noise circles. How come you got to do it with him?
Kurt: "Well, er, we went on a US tour, that was in June, and we played Chicago, that's where he lives and he came along and watched the show. We talked to him afterwards and we decided we wanted to work with him, called him up and he said 'Sure.' So we went out there, spent, like, three days recording, like, ten songs in three days - really fast - mixed them all at the same time, and it sounds really good. It's really good to work with him, he's a great guy."
Finally, 'God's Balls' has a dedication on the back of the sleeve to 'Convicted Felon Dick Johnson.'
Kurt: "Dick Johnson, he's the scene maker of Seattle. Responsible for the entire Seattle scene."
Chad and Chris: "Who the Hell's Dick Johnson?"
Kurt: "Not many people know who he is. He's an invisible figure."
Chris: "Is he the convicted felon?"
Kurt: "He's responsible for the whole of Nirvana's success and they don't even know who he is!"
Chad: "Oh! I know who he is."
Chris: "Doesn't he live in San Francisco?"
Chad: "No that's the guy who supposedly wrote the songs on our LP, and we've never seen him."
Chris: "He's the sugar daddy."
Kurt: "He's just an anonymous figure he's a felon."
Do they want to keep it a secret, or don't they know, or are they just taking the piss? Whatever the answer is to these, or the Dick Johnson question, I am certainly none the wiser, so, just to end on a note of tongue in cheek depravity the last word goes to Tad himself.
Tad: "If you talk to Morrisey, tell him I'd love to wrestle with him"
Wrestle with Morrisey?
Tad: "Yeah, publicly."
Chris: "Tell Morrisey when he goes to bed tonight to make sure Tad is not beneath the sheets."
I've got the feeling he'd notice. Would it be mud wrestling?
Tad: "No, Marmite wrestling."
The interview comes to an end and the seven of them ore still waiting for their tea.
© Jim Mawdsley, 1989