LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE October 27, 1989 - London, UK

Interviewer(s)
Mimmo Caccamo
Interviewee(s)
Kurt Cobain
Krist Novoselic
Chad Channing
Publisher Title Transcript
Radio Onde Furlane London Calling Yes

Mimmo Caccamo: …is how/when Nirvana started?

Kurt Cobain: About three years ago. Uh… Krist and I had met each other in a town called Aberdeen, WA, about 70 miles away from- maybe 100 miles away from Seattle, and we realized we liked the same type of music, so we started a band. We went through about three drummers and within the last two years we've gotten Chad- we've had Chad. That's it…

MC: That ‘Krist’ should be you, Krist, yeah? Is it Krist? Krist, you used to play in other bands before?

Krist Novoselic: No never. Well, Kurt and I, we've always screwed around, for years and years, and finally started Nirvana… I don't know…

MC: Nirvana comes from that Cult song called ‘Nirvana’, or is it just something which comes from you?

KN: We'd never heard of The Cult when we made the band Nirvana. We'd never even heard of them, no…

MC: So you decided to go with Indian religion… Nirvana is something like a tranquil state of mind or death or something?

KC: Freedom from pain, suffering and the external world.

Chad Channing: And desire! And desire!

KN: Desire is a bad thing.

KC: Desire.

KN: Desire has messed up many a man. Desire is a distraction, desire is the Devil! [laughs]

KC: I prefer to hate the word ‘gluttony’.

MC: Sorry?

KC: I prefer to hate gluttony more than desire.

MC: What does it mean, gluttony?

KC: Gluttony is the worst of all evils - wanting more than what you need. That may have something to do with Nirvana as well.

MC: So, another thing I wanted to ask you is why you decided to sign with Pavitt and Poneman's label, the Sub Pop label? Is it because you feel more near this band sound at Sub Pop, included together?

KC: Yeah, that's very true. Also, at the time that we had this band going and we made this demo, we weren't really sure of ourselves, if we ever could put out a record - we always wanted to - and Sub Pop was one of the first labels that introduced themselves to us and asked us if we wanted to put out a record. And at that time, it was like, “Yeah, OK! We'll put out a record! I never thought we'd ever do that…” So, it wasn't- we didn't really have much of a choice between other labels, it just turns out that it happens to be the best label we could get.

MC: I think this new Seattle sound - which Sub Pop includes - is one of the best things to come out. What do you think of this movement that comes around Seattle?

KN: Well, it's weird that people focus on it as a movement. It's just bands, you know? People focus on the movement more than they do the bands, it seems like a lot of times. I don't- Somebody will give us a review and then they'll talk about Sub Pop a lot. It's like, well, when people review Madonna, do they talk about RCA Records a lot? I mean, it's really weird! I mean, if we were on a different label, would that mean that we were a different band, even though we sound exactly the same?!

MC: Right. Also, Soundgarden used to be with Sub Pop - and SST - and they've got the same sound more-or-less as yours, or Tad, yes? And they aren't really part of the Sub Pop label now, because they signed to A&M, and they signed also with SST, they signed also with Sub Pop, but then they signed with a big label, do you think you'll do the same?

KC: We've had plenty of offers from major labels now, but we refuse them, simply because it's too much money to deal with at this point. It's, um… from what I've seen of bands signing to major labels, it's a big investment and it's a big risk. And if they put a lot of money into your band, into the promotion, if it doesn't follow through, you owe them a lot of money. For the rest of your life, you'll be working to pay them off. And a lot of times, major labels will sign bands just for a tax break.

KN: Nowadays, bands get signed to major labels at the drop of a hat. If you're on a major label, you've got to pay these large salaries, you've got to pay for some guy's $2000-a-year cocaine habit, you know, it's so much money! And then, you watch MTV Headbangers Ball and all the bands are really the same! All these major label bands…

KC: [inaudible] the same label. [laughs]

MC: And you might be pushed to sound a bit more commercial than you would want…

KN: You might have demands on you. That wouldn't really please us, artistically.

MC: But this didn't happen with Soundgarden's recent album, Louder Than Love, which still sounds quite good. Another thing I want to ask you is about your influences, the usual question everybody asks…

[CUT]

KC: Um, I would say the biggest influence I've ever had would be The Beatles, because I listened to The Beatles since I was five years old up until I was in 4th Grade - the same three records over and over every night! I sang the songs and I wanted to see The Beatles. It was about 1973 when I heard on the radio that they'd been broken up for three years, I was totally devastated! Then I was introduced to hard rock, such as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, and I got into that. It kinda meshed together when I started playing guitar, it kinda intertwined - The Beatles melodic style and hooks with heavy raunchy guitars. I would say that's probably how our style started.

MC: If your influences are The Beatles, mainly, why did you start your soundcheck doing Bad Moon Rising by CCR?

KC: [laughs]

KN: CCR's good pop songs! They're good songs, beautiful songs… that's what influences us, just good music, it doesn't have to be in any category or anything. Good is good! Like my Dad will look at a picture by Picasso and he'll look at a picture by Raphael and say, “Look at that Picasso, that's a bunch of garbage! Raphael's beautiful!” and I'll be like, “But Dad, do you see this and this? This is really neat, too! They're both equally as good, they're both priceless”. Not that we'll do anything that equals those two Masters, but… that's just a point, I mean…

MC: So, I listened to your record, which is one of the best things I've heard lately, I mean [laughs], among others… I played it as Album Of The Week, yours and the TAD album. Actually, your Nirvana album I got- I was going to Italy on holiday and I asked Anton, “Please, I'm going to Italy for two weeks and I wanna play Nirvana as soon as I get there.” I played it and it was the end of the world, believe me. I mean, I get a lot of phone-calls, people asking about it, and I say I'm most probably gonna get an interview with the group. Now, talking about your influences, The Beatles, there is a song called About A Girl… [laughs]

KC: I have to admit… I have to admit…

MC: Let's say there are some '60s melodies and psychedelic stuff in there as well, it applies your Beatle-love.

KC: Um, most- In my opinion, the best pop songs that were ever written were written in the '60s. And that's why anything that's simple guitar pop music nowadays is associated with '60s music. I do have to admit, the night before I wrote that song, I listened to The Beatles over and over that night. Not intentionally to write a song like The Beatles, but it just flowed out of me the next day and I wrote that song.

[CUT]

MC: There is a song by The Beatles that you like most? Like, I like most The Long And Winding Road.

KC: Oh, really? I like, um…

KN: Norwegian…

KC: Norwegian Wood would probably be my favorite.

MC: Oh, that's beautiful…

KC: Right now- even now, I'm starting to go back to listen to The Beatles. My favorite period is the Rubber Soul period, the guitar and the simple melodies are my favorite.

CC: I like The Beatles For Sale, with Everything Little Thing, I Don't Want To Spoil The Party, Eight Days A Week, stuff like that's pretty cool…

MC: And you?

KN: My favorite songs? I dunno… I Am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever… the crazy stuff!

MC: Quite melodic and quite romantic, in a way. Sorry…

CC: It seems like we all- I just noticed for the first time, we all like a different era of The Beatles. I'm earlier, you're next up and he's next up… it's kinda neat… I just had to say that.

MC: Speaking about Norwegian Wood, I don't know if you ever heard Norwegian Wood by Hourglass? Do you know Hourglass?

KC: Hourglass? It kinda rings a bell…

MC: It's Gregg and Duane Allman's group. You never heard that?

KC: Oh, no.

MC: Beautiful cover version they do…

CC: Gregg Allman?

MC: Yeah, The Hourglass.

CC: Yes, I’ve heard that.

MC: They’ve got a double album on which they do this Norwegian Wood cover, it's very good, yeah…

[CUT]

MC: I read that you're Children's book fans, is that true?

KC: Children's books fans??

CC: H.R. Pufnstuf.

KN: Children's records.

KC: Oh, children's records, yeah. I collect a lot of children's records and obscure soundtracks from TV shows, movies and stuff; I like that better than rock 'n' roll!

KN: I've got a record he wants!

KC: Yeah.

KN: I've got a Meet The Brady Bunch record! He might get it, but he's gotta offer me the right thing for it!

MC: [laughs] Do you have the Muppets Show album?

KC: Muppets Show? No [laughs], I don't a Muppets Show album.

MC: I was thinking to tape one for you, because I got one for my son, my son's got one.

KC: Oh, wow.

MC: What fascinates you about these children's records? Is it because you like children or is it something else…

KC: Oh, I love children, but I'm not ready to have one! [laughs] I don't know. I guess it's just the audacity of a 22 year old, supposed young adult, listening to this stuff, you know? I don't listen to it constantly at home, I just like to collect it and own it, you know? And then maybe make compilation tapes of music that I do listen to and splice that stuff, just little tidbits, in-between the songs.

MC: You should have a son like mine, always, “Daddy, put on the Muppets Show, put on the Muppets Show.”

[CUT]

MC: What does- what inspires you to write a song?

KC: Um… hm, I don't really know…

KN: Sitting around your apartment all day…

KC: [laughs] Sitting around my apartment all day, doing nothing! Feeling, “I'm not producing. I have to start writing songs, or we're not gonna have another record!” [laughs]

MC: And what kind of aspects of life are your songs about?

KC: Well, in the past they've been pretty negative, I must say. Towards… I don't know. They've been pretty negative towards human beings who really bug me. I'm just constantly amazed that people- so many people can have so many conflicts with each other, it frustrates me.

MC: I read you come from Aberdeen, yes? There is quite a lot of bigotism around, is there?

KC: Oh, definitely. I imagine I'd probably be just as mad or negative if I lived somewhere else as well, because I see it all over, I see it on television. I probably try to convey this sound, or this idea in my music without trying to be political, you know? I'd rather be political towards energy and putting out good music, instead of trying to get a message across to anyone in the lyrics.

MC: Writing a political song is a bit hard in a way, isn't it?

KC: Yeah, it also becomes cliche.

KN: If you have a message, then sure people will listen, “Oh gee, they're pretty good, they're speaking about something good.” “We're against wife beaters!” “Were against children beaters!” “Oh, they're a good band, that's a good thing to say.” How can you [inaudible], unless you're like some right-wing guy.

MC: tell me about your song ‘Scoff’, what's that song about?

KC: Um, jeez… [laughs] to tell you the truth, a lot of our lyrics don't have anything to do with anything! Um, I think that has to do with alcoholism, in a subtle way… well, I guess it isn't too subtle, I say “Gimme back my alcohol” in it!

MC: Do you drink a lot?

KC: No, I don't. I don't drink at all.

MC: So why did you write this song then, about alcoholism?

KC: I don't know. [laughs]

KN: You used to drink a lot.

KC: I used to drink…

KN: He used to drink, but his stomach went bad and we had to take him to the hospital, so he doesn't drink anymore. Yeah, it's true, in Minneapolis…

KC: [inaudible], at least I toned down. [laughs]

[CUT]

MC: Did you drink soft drink or occasionally some heavy stuff?

KC: I prefer the heavy stuff, myself. [laughs]

MC: I wanted to talk about a song called Paper Cuts, in this song you always say “Nirvana, Nirvana,” I believe, is it?

KC: Yeah, and that was before- that song was written before we were even Nirvana. It probably gave me the idea to call the band that.

KN: Yeah, that's what gave you the idea to call the band that.

MC: So, what does Paper Cuts have to do with Nirvana?

KC: Um, actually that song is about- it's about this kid- this kid that I used to know and his two- his brother and sister were locked in a house and abused by their parents for years. They were treated as dogs for the first five or six years of their lives. They were kept in a room and their parents would put food into the room and leave and just be one their way at all times during the day. They didn't care for them too much.

MC: Right. If you wouldn't be in a rock band, what would you do?

KC: What?

MC: If you wouldn't be in a rock band, like your band, what would you do?

KC: What would I do?

MC: If you wouldn't be, let's say, a rock musician, what kind of job would you do?

CC: He didn't understand the question.

KN: If you weren't in a band…

KC: Oh, if I wasn't in a band?

CC: A US Senator.

KN: Runnin' the United States Of America… I'd plant potatoes.

MC: OK, thanks so much for your time.

KC: Thank you.

KN: This is Nirvana and you're listening to London Calling…

KC: London Calling.

KN: London Calling radio show.

CC: Something like that.

© Mimmo Caccamo, 2019