LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE August 23, 1991 - Reading, UK
- Rick Hankey
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
- Dave Grohl
|MTV||Hangin' With MTV||Yes|
© MTV Networks, 1991
Krist: We met each other because we kinda… we lived in a small town and then all the kinda disenfranchised- disenfranchised kids kinda found each other… and then we found punk rock.
Kurt: I was supposed to go to Texas or New York to go to art school and… I decided I'd rather be in a band.
Kurt: Yeah, I had been playing guitar for about three years before I started a band. I couldn't find anyone in my hometown to play with till I met Krist.
© MTV Networks, 1992
MTV: First of all, can you guys tell… I thought it was really cool, the story of why you chose your name, sort of the real meaning of “Nirvana” and how you tie it into punk… can you guys tell us that story?
Novoselic: You tell us the story! Is there a story?!
Cobain: I don't know… where did you hear the story?
MTV: Oh, it was something I read…
Grohl: You know the bio is just one big joke!
MTV: What the actual word “Nirvana” means…
Novoselic: Here's a story about a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls…
Cobain: It's just an Aesop fable… there's no story to it…
MTV: There's no…
Novoselic: Deep allegory, kinda like connotations…
MTV: There's no story, like what punk means to you and what Nirvana means? That's totally bogus?
Novoselic: Oh, that punk is musical freedom…
MTV: That's it.
Novoselic: And “Nirvana” is freedom from pain…
Cobain: Well, when I…
Grohl: Well, that's all a lie because everyone knows that punk is just money.
Novoselic: [laughs] Yeah!
Cobain: Or not.
Grohl: Or not.
Cobain: When I did the interview for that bio, it was 9 o'clock in the morning and I was hungover, so I don't know what I said, I don't even remember.
MTV: Well, the way it went - that I read it - was “Nirvana” means freedom from pain and…
Cobain: Suffering in the external world. That's just the Webster's Dictionary… I mean, that's just right out of the Webster's Dictionary…
MTV: Right, and you said, as far as you could tell, that's what punk means to you, so it was a perfect name…
MTV: That's not why you chose the name then?
Cobain: Now I remember! Yeah, that's why, sure.
MTV: I don't want to harp on about the name…
Cobain: Yeah, it doesn't matter…
Cobain: It'll be a household word in no time.
MTV: OK then, if there was a second definition…
Cobain: [whispers] Dave, do you have a light? Does anyone have a light?
MTV: Yeah. If, ummm…
Cobain: Oh, I'm supposed to be hurt. [laughs]
MTV: If Webster was a big Nirvana fan, then, and he felt inclined to put in a second definition saying what you guys…
Grohl: Yeah, but once he got that TV Show, he totally sold out!
Novoselic: Yeah, Emmanuel Lewis…
Cobain: Yeah, that guy…
Novoselic: Has the most amazing vocabulary, let me tell you!
Novoselic: You know, that little guy is pretty impressive!
MTV: What do you think Webster would write if he was gonna describe you guys? What would you have him write?
Novoselic: [laughs] Webster?
Grohl: [in a cartoonish voice] “Three bad ass dudes, rockin’ the world around and around.”
Novoselic: He would say that we were the Gary Coleman of the [laughs] music scene.
Cobain: Gee, you took it right off my tongue! [reaches over to Novoselic] Oh, I'm supposed to be hurt!
Novoselic: Oh, I don't know what Webster would say! “When was the last time you read a dictionary?” Oh, Nirvana would be… oh, it would be… uh…
Novoselic: [blows raspberry] How do you spell that? T-p-p-p-p, right?
Grohl: [blows raspberry]
Novoselic: No, T-t-t-p-p-p.
MTV: It would be a first.
Novoselic: Right, that's what Webster would say.
MTV: Which would you say you guys have most in common with, Hard Rock or Punk? I mean, the songs are certainly melodic as well…
Novoselic: Well, what we have in common is two guitars and a drum set, you know?
Novoselic: Distorted guitar…
Grohl: I think everyone has… one of the main things in common is just the Punk thing, you know?
Cobain: We're white boy guitar-oriented Rock, nothing new. I mean, we have something in common with anything or any band that has electric guitars in their hands, plays drums…
MTV: You seem sort of pessimistic about the whole Punk philosophy - a lot of people are, because of what it turned into - originally though, when you started, was that sort of what got you going, the idea, “Hey I can do this too”…?
Novoselic: Well, it's a long story why Punk Rock was so appealing. Probably where we lived was such a shithole and we were just… our environment, people's attitudes were like really screwy… along came Punk Rock, it was just was “Raaaa”… we were young and…
Cobain: Oh, the good old days…
Novoselic: The good old days! The music was just so powerful, so wild and it was educating too. You'd listen to MDC, you know, these totally political bands… and where we lived, we didn't have any exposure to like- you know, we didn't come from Berkeley or San Francisco where there's a lot of radical politics, so this stuff was like… we started learning about the… ‘right on’ mentality…
MTV: Were you all originally art students or was it just two of you? That's how you met…
Novoselic: We never graduated from High School, man!
Grohl: I didn't even graduate from High School…
Novoselic: We're drop-outs! [laughs]
Grohl: I was never an art student! The closest I got to art was smoking pot in my bedroom and scribbling band logos, you know…
Cobain: If we would have graduated, we would have been art students.
MTV: But that's what you had in common from the beginning, is that kinda how you met?
Novoselic: Well, Kurt would have had… was gonna have an art scholarship.
Cobain: I won a scholarship…
Novoselic: But he dropped-out two… he dropped out in May, senior year!
Cobain: It was too much reality for me! I was supposed to go to Texas or New York to go to art school and I decided that I'd rather be in a band.
MTV: Were you able to use the money for anything else? Did they give it to you?
Cobain: No, they didn't give it to me! I was supposed to take it, but I didn't.
MTV: You should've stuck it out another couple of weeks!
Cobain: Well, yeah. I can barely fingerpaint, anyhow. Where's Dave Kendall? I thought he was gonna interview us.
Novoselic: Yeah, where's Dave Kendall?
MTV: He's off with a camera shooting Dinosaur Jr…
Grohl: Oh, that fuckin' Limey.
Cobain: He doesn't like us.
Novoselic: He doesn't like us, no. You can tell Dave Kendall, we're after you!
Grohl: We're after you, buddy!
Unidentified person off-camera: They'll splice him in later.
Cobain: Oh, they will? They'll splice Dave in later. He'll ask the questions.
Novoselic: So, Dave, err… [knocks Cobain's arm]
Cobain: Ow! Ow!
MTV: [inaudible] between questions, keep the beers in front of y'all.
Novoselic: So we don't advertise?
MTV: It's actually not so much about advertising, it's just you're on camera…
Novoselic: Oh. [downs beer]
Cobain: Just put one of those blurry things… oh, yeah. [takes a drag of a cigarette] This could be a joint for all you know, kids!
Novoselic: Yeah. Did you know that it's against the law to smoke a flower? And that flower is marijuana.
Novoselic: Marijuana has done more for me than I can… than I can…
Cobain: Than you can say on television.
Novoselic: What's my name again?
Novoselic: Marijuana has done more for my memory than I can remember. [laughs]
MTV: Being into art is actually how you guys met, is that right? Even if you weren't at school, is that how you sorta met each other?
Novoselic: No. We met each other because we kinda… we lived in a small town and then all the kinda disenfranchised- disenfranchised kids kinda found each other… and then we found punk rock and we had this scene going and it was really cool.
MTV: When you met, were you playing instruments?
Cobain: [pulls a face at Novoselic] Do you remember that Chevy Chase show? Remember, it was on SCTV- no, no, it was on Saturday Night Live, when Emily Litella was doing a commentary and he was making faces to her?
Novoselic: Oh, yeah, yeah! He was going “egh” [pulls face]
Cobain: Ok, now what?
Novoselic: Can you itch your balls on camera?
MTV: Were you guys playing… [inaudible]
Cobain: I can't hear you.
MTV: Were you playing instruments when you met? Were you a band pretty soon after that?
Cobain: Yeah. We were playing in our bedrooms for years before.
MTV: So how long did it take after you met to form the band? Did it happen right away, or?
Novoselic: It didn't happen right away.
Cobain: Yeah, I had been playing guitar for about three years before I started a band. I couldn't find anyone in my hometown to play with till I met Krist.
MTV: What were you listening to growing up? What do you think is most responsible for the way you sound? Or was it even music?
Cobain: Well, first it was The Beatles, then it was punk rock, that's about it…
MTV: Well, the melody is certainly there in your songs, I can see that.
MTV: Umm, you guys had the record out on Kill Rock Stars …no, on Sub Pop… the other two that are… oh right, on Sub Pop and this new one's is your major label debut - did you take the same kinda shit that maybe Sonic Youth took or something for…
Novoselic: I dunno, we haven't really got it.
Grohl: Well, everybody crucifies bands when they sign to a major off of an independent because they immediately think, “Oh, big sell out, big cars, big fast…”
Grohl: You know, it's just, you know…
Novoselic: Maybe we just wanted to keep our lights on every month. All of our money went to pay for bombs and missiles, we got taxed so heavily, but what's wrong with a band that has good music, like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., to be readily available to people to buy? Like, totally promoted, instead of most of the garbage that's out there? It's a crime! It's just total sappy junk pushed down people's throats, so, here's some stuff, you know, with substance. What's wrong with that? Putting it out. I don't know, they're probably jealous of us, of our success…
Cobain: [laughs and coughs]
MTV: Was that even in the back of your head when you went to make the record, or?
Novoselic: No. I don't care.
Novoselic: No. I mean… [sighs and shakes head] No, it wasn't in… we didn't think about it. It's so insignificant, copping an attitude like that. It's like, a song's a song, you know? And then somebody asked us are we an “anti-big money band…”
Grohl: “Big bucks,” “big bucks.”
Novoselic: An “anti-big bucks band,” like, what kind of question is that?! What if Donald Trump wrote good songs? You wouldn't listen to 'em? I think I'd listen to 'em.
Cobain: What if McDonalds made good hamburgers?
Novoselic: What if McDonalds made good hamburgers? Would you eat 'em?
MTV: You're probably right about the jealousy thing…
Novoselic: I wouldn't eat a McDonalds tofu burger, though.
MTV: First of all, it'd be real tough to get signed to a label like Geffen. Did you either send a tape and they liked it, or did Sonic Youth...?
Novoselic: No, they came and chased us down. Wined and dined us. Paid off my… Bought us drugs.
Cobain: Burped and diapered us.
Novoselic: They got us really loaded, see? They were really sneaky. So we were all “eghhh…”
Grohl: Krist thought he was signing an autograph when he was actually signing a contract.
Novoselic: I thought I was signing an autograph. “David Geffen would like your autograph, Krist.” “Really?! Hey, alright! Where do I sign?” Next thing you know, it was a contract. So the next 100 records are gonna be on Geffen… at a quarter of a percent royalty- a quarter of a point royalty.
MTV: Do you think anything has changed on Nevermind from Bleach? Are you better song-writers, or better musicians? Is there any progression?
Cobain: We're worse musicians because we don't practice anymore. Now that we're on a major label, we don't have to practice. We could hire musicians if we wanted to.
Novoselic: I don't know, it has… Nevermind is, like, err… kinda mixed up, like me. I'm a mixed up teen. I'm like a mixed up teen, but without the acne. Who am I? What am I? I'm contemplating suicide. I'm waiting for my first sexual experience, but I lie to my friends about it. I say that I've had sex, but actually I've never had sex. But I'm uptight about it, I masturbate frequently. [laughs]
MTV: The stuff you were saying about people giving you a tough time, about stuff like that happening to you, or whatever, now that you're on a major label, what are the good points, aside from what you said about records being in stores?
Cobain: That's about it.
MTV: Do you have more time to record?
Novoselic: Yeah, more time to record.
Novoselic: Well, they're really good, DGC's really good, they don't really screw up. We don't have to worry about them screwing up stuff, like, calling them up goin' “What the heck are you doin'?!” They work for us, they're our slaves! We walk in there and we throw them scraps! You know, we loosen up the chains when we're feeling benevolent!
MTV: Is that at least partially the reason you called the record Nevermind? Or is it more to do with society itself?
Novoselic: It's open to interpretation.
Cobain: Yeah, that's it.
Novoselic: I mean, Nevermind… yeah. Oh…
MTV: I don't know, does it have anything to do with apathy?
Novoselic: Sure it does, yeah.
Novoselic: [shakes beer can and opens it]
MTV: I think that's the first time I've ever seen someone shake a beer before they open it!
Novoselic: [holds frothing beer can in front of his crotch, while blowing a raspberry. Tumbles over in his chair, accidentally kicking Cobain's arm on the way down]
Cobain: Ow! You've hurt my arm!
Novoselic: Hey! Fuck you, man!
Unidentified person off-camera: Hey, that was just Dave Kendall.
Unidentified person off-camera: There's Dave Kendall right here.
Novoselic: No shit.
Unidentified person off-camera: Thee Dave Kendall.
Cobain: I hurt it when I jumped into the drumset.
Novoselic: [moves to replace his chair]
Grohl: The tour's over man, the tour's over. I'm ruined!
Cobain: [speaks to Novoselic] Sit on the floor.
Grohl: [speaks to Novoselic] No, cuz that had beer on it.
Novoselic: [speaks to Cobain] That guy's a prick, man.
Grohl: [makes loud snorting noises into Novoselic's lapel microphone]
Novoselic: [whispers into microphone] Dave Kendall sucks.
MTV: OK, Reading Festival. Have you guys played festivals before?
Novoselic and Grohl: No.
MTV: Is this your first one?
Novoselic and Grohl: Yes.
MTV: What do you think?
Grohl: It's great, everybody's drunk… the weather was awful when we got here, then the bands started playing and the weather turned great…
Novoselic: It's perfect weather, there's a cool breeze flowing on everybody… it's pleasant!
Grohl: It's cool because you don't need those fans, you know, like fans that blow your hair while you're playing for that image thing… it's more of a Mother Nature deal.
Cobain: It's better than a Puppet Show.
MTV: What's the biggest audience you've played to before this?
Novoselic: The biggest audience? Well, this is it!
MTV: No, before this.
Grohl: Before this. Boing!!!
Novoselic: Oh. Somewhere with Sonic Youth. I think, in Los Angeles with Sonic Youth.
MTV: How does it compare to small gigs?
Grohl: To smaller gigs? There's a lot more people.
MTV: Nothing else?
Grohl: There's a bigger PA.
Novoselic with a sock puppet: Well, I think at smaller gigs, it's a lot more intimate… it's a lot more intimate with people…
Grohl and Cobain: [laughs]
MTV: Do you get nervous, or do…
Grohl: I was pretty nervous.
Novoselic with a sock puppet: I felt pretty good… or he felt pretty good… [laughs]
Grohl: [sniffs sock] God, Krist!
Novoselic with a sock puppet: Because he had had a few beers and it kinda loosened him up; he actually likes playing in front of people.
Cobain: He's a people person.
Novoselic with a sock puppet: He's a people person.
Grohl: [speaks to sock puppet] Talk into the mic.
MTV: One question, there's a feature we're gonna be doing pretty soon on the Sex Pistols, are you guys fans of theirs? I guess it's a stupid question.
Grohl: What are you doing a feature on the Sex Pistols for?
MTV: We actually finally got videos…
Grohl: Oh, wow.
MTV: So can you do a quick bit about them, how they've been an influence on you, how important you think they've been?
Novoselic with a sock puppet: Never Mind The Bollocks is one of the most brilliant Pop records and it is a Pop record.
Cobain: [in an English accent] It's Pop.
Grohl: Yeah. You've gotta give them some credit, cuz they were able to scam off a couple of major labels at the same time, so…
Novoselic: Yeah, that was good!
Grohl: I mean, that was cool.
Novoselic: And the music was totally great.
Cobain: [inaudible] the hype, the music was great.
Novoselic: The music was great, that's a great record.
MTV: How important do you think they were [inaudible]
Cobain: How important were they? As important as Led Zeppelin or any other big Rock band.
Novoselic: That's true. But still the corporate ogres prevail, as we are a testimony to that.
MTV: What about, I mean, not even the music, just the whole scam that went on?
Novoselic: That was art!
Grohl: Well, you've gotta give them some credit, cuz they were one of the first bands to come out that didn't give a shit about anything. You know, they weren't into the whole business aspect of…
MTV: Just the fact that, you know, [inaudible] had spiked hair
Grohl: Are you talking, like, a fashion influence or…?
Novoselic: You're gonna see girls in High School, about four years from now, are gonna have coloured hair!
MTV: I don't mean fashion so much as attitude…
Novoselic: But Farrah Fawcette hair!
Grohl: Yeah, but…
MTV: Can you do an ID for 120 Minutes
Novoselic: Oh, yeah.
MTV: You say your names and “You're watching 120 Minutes on MTV”
MTV: You don't even have to say your names, you can say “We're Nirvana”... This is right to the camera.
Grohl: OK. You say it, Krist.
Novoselic with sock puppet: These song's are Nirvana… and you're up very late on a Sunday night… and watching 120 Minutes! I see your lips movin'! I happen to know who you are! Where's my Father? Where's my Father?
Cobain and Grohl: [laughs]
Grohl: Alright, thanks.
© MTV Networks, 1991