LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE July 23, 1993 - New York, NY, US
- Don Kaye
- Krist Novoselic
|Kerrang!||Here We Are Now… Entertain Us!||Yes|
With the release of their hotly anticipated new album, 'In Utero,' only six weeks away, the world's Number One Grunge gurus NIRVANA hit New York for a 'secret' club gig, showcasing a whole host of new songs to an eager and select bunch of harcore fans, and revealing their new guitarist, ex-Exploited axe-grinder and roadie, 'BIG' JOHN DUNCAN! And the Big K! Was there too! DON KAYE dissects the live show, and lanky bassman CHRIS - pardon KRIST! - NOVOSELIC gives a glimpse of what life's REALLY like in the eye of the Nirvana hurricane…
Two years ago, we came to play this town. We were a just-signed Indie band. Now, we're the flag-bearers of the alternative Rock MTV-televised revolution - which is a crock of shit."
Krist Novoselic's long and lanky frame stretches out on a couch in the bowels of New York's Roseland. Even after the goldrush, it's still the same old Chris, excuse me, Krist, having taken back the original spelling of his forename given to him by his Yugoslavian parents. A half-hour before Nirvana's due to take the stage to a packed-to-the-gills sweatbox, he's surprisingly at ease.
The show's only been announced for four days, yet not too surprisingly has become the talk of this week's annual New Music Seminar. Ironically enough, Nirvana played a Seminar show in 1991 as part of the SubPop showcase at the Pyramid, a packed Lower East Side watering hole.
Nirvana's world has undeniably exploded, been turned topsy-turvy and seemingly put back on keel since.
"It's pretty weird," the bassist admits, running his fingers across his Abraham Lincoln style beard. "We're like an established band. We're up there with Guns N' Roses, but we're not."
Upstairs, Krist's band-mates are watching Chicago's aural anarchists, The Jesus Lizard, slither and scowl through their paces. Tonight is Nirvana's first show since April's Bosnian Women's Relief Benefit gig in San Francisco, and their first since completing their third album, 'In Utero.' It's an album he's anxious for people to hear, when it finally hits the shelves in September. A record made by a band who still regard bands like the 'Lizard, the Breeders or Mudhoney as contemporaries. Not Guns N' Roses.
"I really want people to hear this record. I get really idealistic about it. There's a lot of 'alternative' bands out there, and their music would basically fit in the repertoire of Rick Springsteen or some serious mainstream stuff. They're marketed as alternative, and they're confusing people."
"It's all part of that weird MTV-televised music revolution bullshit. I think it is happening with bands like the Melvins coming out with their record, but it's off to a really slow start. There's a lot of shammery and trickery going on. Exploitation. People just have to fend for themselves - watch out for wolves in Grunge clothing!"
Any examples that get under your skin?
The bassist pauses for a second, choking something back.
"It seems like when I name names, I get into trouble. I don't have the balls to name names…"
"I think our new record really has something to offer people," Novoselic insists with the same sort of earnestness he possessed before his band became a household name. "It's got a real jagged edge. People are just coming out of listening to Poison and Motley Crüe all of a sudden. Pop Metal, y'know? I hope they can get off on what it is."
What it is, is an excellent Nirvana platter; plaintive and powerful. On quick listen, the tales of a record company clean-up by the wicked Sir Rapeman, Steve Albini, seem wildly blown out of proportion. Scott Litt's remixes on 'Heart Shaped Box' and 'All Apologies' barely dull the album's often atonal edge.
"That was pretty amazing, that was just a bunch of hot air," Krist admits, somewhat diplomatically. "I really liked the record after it got mastered. I think Albini did an amazing job - he's an amazing producer.
"Albini actually worked out great for us; he's really good at getting things in the first take, just getting a really great live sound. He's just an opinionated guy. If someone's gonna ask him about something, he's gonna speak his mind, and a rabid press is gonna jump on anything they can about us. All these factors contributed to that debacle."
Oh, you mean Nirvana, the current event? What other trio straight out of garage-land would get Newsweek magazine to devote a full page to some supposed scandal?
"That was hilarious! Some establishment news magazine! You read something like that, and it's some kind of funny Cinderella story or something.
"It's just this stupid little controversy, because some people change their minds along the way, and some people don't know what the fuck they were talking about - especially those phantom 'inside sources'. They're non-human beings, who live in another dimension and only float in and out to talk to reporters!
"I thought it was kind of cool to have a full-page ad in Newsweek. How much does Marlboro or Reebok pay for that? We got a full-page ad for nothing!"
How strange and ironic it's all become is a notion barely lost on Nirvana.
"It's just been a strange trip, y'know? Sometimes I think about my life, and it's really weird. 'Will wonders ever cease?' - I'm always saying that!"
If one aspect of Nirvana's reluctant fame has proved rewarding, it's Krist's ability to speak out on the war and the atrocities against women in his parent's native Yugoslavia, to exploit his position to speak his mind and effect change.
"I definitely do that," he emphasises. "I try and exploit that, but I try not to be heavy-handed about it. I don't want to be this angry young man obsessed with idealism. We did that benefit, something that had to be done.
"I'm still active in that, too. I got this deal going called The Balkan Women's Aid Fund. There's no nationalism at all with it - we help Serbians, Croatians, Muslims - I think it's crime against all women.
"I work with these two women who are in Croatia now. They're on a fact-finding mission, going to refugee camps and women's centres. What we do here is raise money, and consciousness.
"We're working from the ground floor up over there. We're not going through any governmental agencies or any humanitarian aid organisations, we're our own organisation. We have direct ties to the women in the trenches."
Novoselic shrugs his big shoulders and sighs.
"Believe me, we're not pounding our chests saying, 'We feel good now.' I don't feel good at all. I was talking to this lady on the radio today, and I started talking about the Balkan Women's Aid Fund, and shamelessly gave her the address. She goes, 'I think what you're doing is great.' I go, 'I think it's a shame that I have to do this, in this day and age.' I don't get any heartening feeling from it at all, I'm so pissed off about it."
Drummer Dave Grohl has walked into the room, plopping himself down to look over the night's set list. On it, he makes notations on where the band will employ a second guitarist - long-time roadie and ex-Exploited chord-grinder, 'Big' John Duncan. Ironically, it was almost three years to the week that the band fired its last second axeman, Jason Everman. Why recruit the services of one now?
"This is just kind of an experiment. No strings attached, we're just having our roadie play a couple of songs. I want to try it out. Kurt said he wanted to maybe take some songs and thicken them up, see how it words. Besides, John was in The Exploited! Brownie points for that!"
Another experiment for the evening includes the introduction of a cellist.
"Yeah, we had some cellos on that album, it's just something different. We're gonna do some acoustic songs. We jammed with the cellist earlier and it just had a really good spirit about it. Her name is Laurie; just someone we met in Seattle."
The sight of The Jesus Lizard drenched in sweat, shuffling down the hallway, forces Novoselic to wind things up.
Someone shouts something about being onstage in 15 minutes, the lanky bassist shrugs and takes one more question.
It does certainly seem like 'the process' Krist and his band-mates started two years before, all over again.
"The 'process,' yeah!" he chuckles to himself. "The eastern philosopher J Krishnamurti, who didn't believe in gurus or anything, used to go through this ordeal called 'the process.' At first he had to go through agonising pain.
"We know we are entrenched in the music industry, and there's no use resisting it, although of course you have to resist the bullshit. We'll just go through it, do interviews, play live. I just really want people to hear this record.
© Don Kaye, 1993