LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE November ??, 1991 - London, UK

Interviewer(s)
Jeremy Abbott
Interviewee(s)
Kurt Cobain
Krist Novoselic
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Ablaze! Nirvana: Document Number Two Yes

I'm stranded on a roof in South Kensington, held hostage by three angst ridden teen spirits. Unless I ask super questions, they'll be answered very slowly, while little old me hangs from the roof edge. Best I sit down, cling to the floor and quietly sip my Coke. Aberdeen's finest are ready.

"My Grandfather used to have this racist joke he'd play. My Grandpa's a dick. He had a black cat called Nigger. He also used to have this joke he thought was real funny, he'd take a bowl of water, put salt in and then he would put dish detergent in it. Then he'd throw pepper in and the dish detergent would make the pepper separate from the salt and he'd say, 'Oh look, buncha niggers just jumped in the swimming pool.'" Kurt's eyes glint with bitter disbelief, as the rest of us look on aghast. "My Grandpa's Archie Bunker, he looks like Brezhnev. He's got colon cancer. He deserves it."

You've done your indie apprenticeship on the Sub Pop label, did you ever expect to go beyond that?

"We never expected to get on Sub Pop, we never even expected to put out a record. At the time we were recording our stuff, we didn't even know Sub Pop existed," states Kurt emphatically. When we recorded our first demo, we didn't realise they were a label. They'd only put out the Soundgarden and Green River EPs at the time. I didn't take much notice of that stuff. It wasn't like that was our premier goal."

But now that you've left them, do you think people are going to start saying 'Nirvana, oh yeah, Sub Pop sound'?

Chris screeches, "Yeah, we'll try and break away from that for sure, but they'll always be there. Y'know what Jonathan Poneman (Sub Pop guru) told me once? 'Hey, you're always gonna be a Sub Pop band,' and I went, yeah, you're right. We never knew about any Seattle scene, we were a band for a year and a half before we even played there. We were really naive about the whole thing."

"It's like, have you ever tried to pull a tree stump out of the ground and the roots are just so far down? That stump is Nirvana and the roots…" Dave hesitates as he prepares to execute his trippy metaphor "…are Sub Pop and the earth is the general public."

On the second album you've introduced more of a pop element into the band. Will you ever veer off towards a mellow REM sound? 

"We've never really been away from the 'REM sound'. 'About A Girl' sounds like REM. It doesn't matter, so long as we do what we do. We'll never change drastically. I don't see anything wrong with REM, I never have, they write good songs. Nothing bothers me more than people being ignorant about music and only liking one certain style. If someone only listens to hardcore, then they're just as ignorant as the average laymen who only listens to Bruce Springsteen," says Kurt, annoyed.

"There's no big scheme to things either, no big plan plotted out," snorts Dave. "Well, you have Bleach which is heavy grunge rock and the Sliver single which is clever grunge pop and the Nevermind record is a…"

"…collection of REM rip offs." interjects Kurt with just a hint of sarcasm.

As the whole world seems to be reliving punk (It does? - Ed), do you think Nirvana could ever be part of a whole new punk generation, in the way that you're combining pop melodies with hardcore noise as all the original seventies bands like The Damned, The Clash and The Sex Pistols did?

"Yeah, because those are just like really genuine rock and roll bands, they have a lot of melody, they were wise guys too, and they just fit into the punk scene very well. Y'know what a kind of reaction punk was, it was just to pump some fresh blood into rock and roll when things got stagnant," explains Chris whilst rolling his psychedelic bracelet about the floor. Previously he'd been hammering a metal plate against the wall.

You had quite a reputation as a devastating four piece band - was losing a member (Jason Everman) a major turning point in the sound? 

Chris: "We started off as a three piece and were a four piece for about five months. There were only three of us on Bleach. We just put his picture and his name on the record, but there's no Jason Everman guitar playing on that album at all."

"We could never hear him live anyway. His amp wasn't loud enough, so we just replaced him with more amps," drawls Kurt, nasty as usual. "Anyway, whenever we play, we've got a cardboard cutout, with a guitar strapped around it and various celebrities' faces stuck on it… so we're still a four piece."

Suddenly there's a major buzz about the band, how can you account for this?

"That's just kinda happened; the people did that, we didn't. We were talking about it and… woooaahh," Chris shouts, amazed.

Dave continues: "That's one of the things that really bugs me about how, say some band will be together for a couple of years, get all this hype and the press eventually crucifies them because they couldn't live up to the hype, when it wasn't the band that created the hype in the first place, it was the press."

If you could flood MTV with your hits, would you be able to avoid the potential cries of 'sell out'?

"Why would there be any reason not to?" questions Kurt. "Because, as far as I'm concerned, Beat Happening should be number one or the Vaselines or Black Flag. The Sex Pistols should've been for years and had like a blowout."

Does anyone know what number one is?

"Who cares?" demands Chris. "It's just shallow crap. Even if we were number one band, who gives a fuck? Big Deal."

"You always hear about these bands that get asked, 'Where were you when you found out that your song was number one on the charts?' and they say, 'Well, I was takin' a shit when I found out and the shit just fell right outta my ass an' I called up our guitar player and want YFEEAAAHHH." Dave hollers with mock enthusiasm. "It's just so dumb."

On your 1990 tour you dropped your infamous and brutal smash-it-up routine. Why?

"We didn't feel like it. It wasn't on the set list. We just smash up whenever we feel like It. We're not Kiss, they had smoke come out of their guitars, fire, and they spit blood y'know, and that's what was expected of them at their shows every time you saw them," sighs Kurt.

"But the key to all you bands out there who are looking for that 'smash it up' image," offers Dave, "is to rent equipment, smash it. buy it at a discount rate."

"Usually they sucker you for twice the amount it's worth, though." adds Kurt, with the usual dose of paranoia.

So what does the future hold for Nirvana?

Chris: "We left our crystal ball at home and we can't read tarot cards."

© Jeremy Abbott, 1991