LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE July ??, 1993 - Seattle, WA, US
- Gavin Edwards
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
- Dave Grohl
|Details||Heaven Can Wait||Yes|
It took two weeks for Nirvana to record In Utero, but two years before they could begin. After the multiplatinum success of Nevermind, the band was plagued by self-doubt, the pressures of unexpected fame, and Kurt Cobain's heroin addiction. Gavin Edwards watches them pick up the pieces.
Kurt Cobain answers his front door wearing a black cotton dress with a large white pinafore collar and cuffs. He’s sporting thermal leggings, bright red fingernails, and a sly grin. "Can you zip me up?" he asks.
Kurt looks slim and comfortable in women’s clothing, although his choices in transvestism are often less flattering than this dress, a thrift-store number that no longer fits his wife, Courtney Love. Courtney’s not home; she’s on a two-week tour of Europe with her band, Hole. Kurt and Courtney’s year-old daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, is on tour with her. One of the Cobains’ nannies, Cali, has stayed behind. A twenty-year-old hipster with long dark hair, he’s taking fashion guidance from Kurt: He wanders around the house barefoot, wearing a watermelon-print dress.
Kurt leads me through the house, a hillside estate overlooking a lake in northern Seattle. Most of the other homes in this upscale suburb are owned by executives at Boeing and Microsoft; Kurt and Courtney have noisily crashed the upper middle class. The tan carpeting is plush, and every flat surface gleams, but the decorating scheme is accumulated clutter: scattered notebooks, PlaySkool toys, randomly placed statues, broken platinum records.
This castle of punk-rock attitude in the bosom of upscale American normalcy is, appropriately enough, only a rental. Kurt owns another house about twenty miles north, in the hamlet of Carnation. He’d like to buy another within the Seattle limits and build a home studio. "According to my accountant I can’t afford it," he shrugs.
After Kurt shows me the ten thousand rounds of ammunition in the hall closet and a fridge full of Hungry-Man TV dinners (his staple food), he takes me to the dining room, where he has dozens of dolls in rows on a blanket. They’re not Barbies or Raggedy Anns, but rather plastic models of fetuses from medical-supply stores, thousands of dollars’ worth. "We’ve lost housemaids because of things like this lying around," Kurt reports in his typical half-deadpan fashion—not insincere, just detached enough to let you know he has some distance. "They think we’re satanic."
Kurt climbs up the staircase. The second-story hallway underscores that we are not in a typical suburban split-level. In large red block letters on the white wall, from ceiling to floor, Kurt has painted: NONE OF YOU WILL EVER KNOW MY INTENTIONS. He makes it clear that he doesn’t want to interpret this message. He wrote it at 5 A.M. last night after a long phone conversation with Courtney. "Therapy," he explains. Then he smiles. "Guess we won’t be getting the deposit back on the house."
Frances Bean’s room looks much like any infant’s bedroom: Fisher-Price toys, assorted dolls (including a couple of New Kids on the Block action figures), and a childproof barrier across the doorway. "Kids are like snakes, aren’t they?" Kurt jokes in a hick voice. "You leave them in a room, throw in a couple of live rats, and that feeds them for a few days."
Kurt takes great joy in showing me snapshots of Frances Bean, and gives me one picture of her as a punk: hair moussed up into spikes, smiling in her high chair. Kurt and Courtney might not make ideal parents if they couldn’t afford nannies, but everyone seems happy with the current arrangement, including Frances Bean.
Two years ago, when I last spent time with Kurt, I wouldn’t have bet on the baby and the house and the nannies. He could barely summon up the energy to go onstage, let alone marry or procreate. Although he still tries to avoid leaving the house, now it seems a place of renewal rather than retreat. After a two-year sabbatical at home, Kurt has given up on making himself unfamous and has come to terms with his chosen profession. "I always hated bands like Poison when they would say, ‘We just want to give these hardworking blue-collar people an escape for a couple of hours.’ We don’t necessarily want that," Kurt says, "but I’ve finally admitted that we’re in the entertainment business."
For a long time, Kurt was disgusted by the idea that the redneck jerks who beat him up in high school were now loyal Nirvana fans. Although Nirvana knew they were making accessible music, they never considered the possibility that some fans— people unlike them—might ignore any meaning in the songs and just groove on the heavy-metal crunch. Or woefully misinterpret songs. The most disturbing aspect of Nirvana concerts is that when the band plays Polly, a harrowing song about a rape, the audience cheers and sings along.
Kurt used to obsess over how many of Nirvana’s followers were "real fans," and belittle those who liked the band for incorrect reasons. Now he knows he should make amends. "The thrill and embarrassment of becoming international pop stars was too much, so we opened our mouths and put our foot in sometimes," Kurt says haltingly. "I wish I could tell our audience that we don’t hate them without sounding cheesy. I don’t want to have a rapport with the audience in an embarrassing way, like most rock stars onstage [he screws up his face]: Howzit goin’, Detroit?"
The challenge is for Nirvana to have any sort of rapport with their audience. They don’t hate their fans, but they also don’t seem to pursue any close connection with them, or to grasp the role "Smells Like Teen Spirit" played in so many lives. When I ask Kurt a question about his relationship with his fans, he looks momentarily panicked. And then he finds an answer. "The only memorable fan encounter I had was when this eighteen-year-old boy came up to me and said, ‘Man, I love your music so much. When your record came out, I had just broken up with my girlfriend and it saved my life. Thanks.’ It was such a great compliment I couldn’t even respond to it."
Kurt never listens to Nirvana’s blockbuster album Nevermind; he likes the songs but hates the production. Nevertheless, he emphasizes that their new record, In Utero, is not meant to drive away fans of Nevermind—contrary to the group’s stated plans when they had their first rush of fame. "Let’s face it, we already sold out two and a half years ago," Kurt says. "There’s no sense in trying to redeem yourself by putting out an abrasive album and pretending that you’re a punk rocker."
Kurt’s already outpaced most of the punk-rock heroes of his childhood. He’s shaken the establishment and gotten rich in the process. Looking for role models who address his position as a reluctant insider, he turned to Frances Farmer, a Hollywood starlet of the late ‘30s. Born in 1914, Farmer grew up near Seattle, hated the fame thrust upon her by Hollywood, and regarded the entertainment industry that a glorified her as dishonest and artistically shallow. Her refusal to submit to the studio system led to her being tarred by the press as difficult and eccentric. At the age of thirty, Farmer was wrongly committed to an insane asylum, where she spent some six years under inhuman conditions, regularly abused and raped, until finally she was lobotomized and released. She recanted her independent ways and died a sad, alcoholic zombie.
Kurt hasn’t been committed or lobotomized, but otherwise he doesn’t flinch at drawing romantic parallels between Farmer’s life and his own. This hints of hubris, but it demonstrates the degree to which Kurt feels hounded. When he married Courtney Love in February of 1992, Courtney wore an old dress of Farmer’s. Frances Bean Cobain is named after the actress. ("Bean" comes from her shape when she was a fetus, as seen on her first sonogram.) And In Utero includes a song called "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle." For once, Kurt is happy with his lyrics: "Our favorite patient, a display of patience, disease-covered Puget Sound / She’ll come back as fire, to burn all the liars, leave a blanket of ash on the ground / I miss the comfort of being sad."
Kurt knows what people think of him. Misanthrope. Poser. Screw-up. Junkie. The standard response of a celebrity with a backlog of negative press clippings is to shrug and insist that he really doesn’t care what people think. Kurt doesn’t do that. He takes every printed innuendo and casual cruelty to heart, so much so that he turns his anger inward and talks about breaking up Nirvana. Anybody else would acknowledge that this impulse is self-defeating—inside the head of Kurt Cobain, it’s just common sense. "Maybe I’m just too self-conscious," he muses. "I wanted to quit a lot of times in the last two years. It didn’t have anything to do with the band. But nobody deserves to have their personal life pried into like I did—and no one else deserves to hear me whine about it so much."
Kurt’s self-destructive impulses extend beyond his frequent, methodical demolitions of guitars, or even his heroin use. He trashes his house; he makes statements guaranteed to alienate large chunks of his audience. Aside from insulting all heavy-metal fans a couple of years ago, he recently infuriated the U.K. by saying that he had no respect for English people. Perhaps most damaging was Kurt’s refusal to tour America after Nevermind hit number one in 1991. That album opened the floodgates for "alternative rock," or at least music that identified itself as such, and got Kurt acclaimed as rock ‘n’ roll’s latest savior—at which point he disappeared. Holing up in a Los Angeles apartment with Courtney, he cut himself off from friends, managers, and bandmates. Kurt medicated himself and sought to be alone with his pain. He was exploring the comfort of being sad.
As A child, Kurt could have expected to end up working for the armed forces or the local lumber mill. That’s the range of career options available in the small logging town of Aberdeen, Washington. "Up until the age of eight, I was a really happy kid," he says. But adolescent pain came early. His mom was eighteen when she had him; parenthood’s given Kurt insight into some of her trials. He muddled through high school, periodically getting ritually beaten up by jocks. After he saw the film Over the Edge, Kurt entertained himself with vandalism, including spray-painting graffiti around town. He idolized the Melvins, a local punk band, and followed them around. In 1987, he met bassist and fellow Melvins fan Chris Novoselic; they began Nirvana in a spirit of mutual alienation toward Aberdeen, which they quickly demonstrated by leaving town for Olympia and Tacoma. Two years later, they were signed by Sub Pop, who put out their debut album, Bleach, recorded for $606.15.
After an endless parade of drummers, they signed up Dave Grohl, formerly of the D.C. hardcore quartet Scream. He moved to Seattle in 1990, living in an unheated apartment with Kurt; they survived on corn dogs and macaroni and cheese. Dave grew up in suburban D.C. with his mom, a high school teacher. All of Nirvana’s members come from divorced families—they like to say that Nevermind’s emotional turmoil was directly aimed at other children of divorce, and they’re only half-joking.
When Nirvana signed with Geffen Records and released Nevermind in September 1991, they hoped it would bring them success on the scale of Sonic Youth; instead, it sold eight million copies worldwide. The royalty checks accumulated quickly. "I don’t know why everyone thought we were special," Kurt muses today. "Nevermind is no different from a Cheap Trick album."
One of the myths around Nirvana is that they are slackers who garnered a multi-platinum record without particularly exerting themselves. In fact, they worked the promotional machinery as hard as any other band—they just complained about it more, and tried to put sugar in their record company’s gas tank at every opportunity. Some call this ambivalence, others call it hedging your bets. "I’m nor going to go as far as U2 and make a big joke out of it," Kurt declares. "I’m not going to say, fine, I’ve accepted that I’m a rock star and people don’t appreciate me or the band as much as they do the entertainment.
"I don’t want to see COBAIN IS GOD spray-painted on the wall, either," he continues. "My ego is already inflated way past the exploding stage. I feel embarrassed saying this, but I’d like to be recognized more as a songwriter. I don’t pay attention to polls and charts, but I thumb through them once in a while and see, like, Eddie Vedder is nominated number-one songwriter in some magazine, and I’m not even listed."
"We’re thought of as a band, but since I have to deal with so much more stress and take the pictures for the album covers and design the album covers and the T-shirts and write the lyrics and 90 percent of the songs, I’d like to be validated a little bit more. Dave and Chris can walk around without being hassled, and I have to deal with all this shit that’s written about my personal life. So I feel blessed, and also cursed. But not as cursed as Courtney..."
Kurt and Courtney were married in Hawaii in February 1992, only a few months after Kurt had announced their relationship on the British TV show The Word by pronouncing Courtney "the best fuck in the world." With contractors working on their house in rural Carnation, Washington, the newlyweds stayed in a Los Angeles apartment. Chris bought a farmhouse outside Seattle and Dave took up residence in North Carolina’s oceanfront Outer Banks.
In August, Courtney gave birth to Frances Bean; in December, Nirvana released an odds-and-sods collection, Incesticide. Meanwhile, the band became almost invisible. Despite the occasional live appearance at a benefit or festival, rumors flourished that the group had broken up and that Kurt was missing in action, a heroin casualty.
Kurt claims to have been off heroin for over a year, but he’s aware that people doubt him; after all, he denied using it when he was on it. While people who know him tread lightly around the subject, except to offer reassurances that Kurt is absolutely, positively off smack, he jokes about his junkie reputation and is keenly aware of its news value. He’d love to buy Leadbelly’s guitar, but doesn’t have the $100,000 needed and has despaired of finding a patron to give him the money. So he’s toyed with the idea of raising the cash by selling The National Enquirer an old Polaroid that shows him shooting up. His record company urged him to tour for a couple of extra weeks instead.
Asked why he began using heroin, Kurt sighs. "I know this sounds like a cop-out or a lame excuse, but I’ve been suffering from chronic stomach pain every day of my life for six years now. I’ve been to about eight different gastrointestinal doctors and it’s always been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. I’ve had ten or eleven endoscopes, where they stick the fiberoptic tube with a camera down your throat, and they always find a red, inflamed piece of tissue in my stomach.
"Imagine the worst stomach flu you’ve ever had, every single day. And it was worse when I ate, because once the meal would touch that red area I would hyperventilate, my arms would turn numb, and I would vomit. I was suicidal on our last tour—I really wanted to blow my head off. And so when we got home I decided to do heroin every day because obviously a heavy narcotic is going to stop the pain. The whole time I was doing drugs I didn’t have stomach problems."
Kurt used heroin on and off for about eight months. Courtney had been shooting up for about half a year when she found she was one trimester into her pregnancy. Planning to get an abortion, they visited specialists to find our how much damage had been done to the fetus. When told that the baby could be born totally healthy, Courtney immediately quit heroin and alcohol. Kurt didn’t. "I wasn’t finished with my little junkie excursion." For a few months more, he shot up every day—in the car outside, so he wouldn’t tempt her.
"It’s not my fucking fault that anyone knows that I did heroin," insists Kurt. "I’ve never talked about it. When I’m high, it’s really obvious. That’s why I’ve never gone out in public on it. I tried as hard as I could to keep it from everyone. I just hope to God nobody is influenced to do drugs because of me. I definitely have a responsibility to talk negatively about heroin. It’s a really really evil drug—I think opiates are directly linked to Satan." I look Kurt in the eye as he says this. He is serious, and doesn’t care if his preaching sounds overwrought. "I was a successful junkie for about a year—the only reason I was able to stay healthy and didn’t have to rob houses was because I had a lot of money. I was up to $500 a day and it didn’t do anything but keep me alive. When I finally quit, I had thirty days of excruciating pain."
After trying everything for his stomach from pills to a vegetarian diet to a chanting regimen, Kurt is ecstatic to have found a doctor who’s prescribing him an experimental gastrointestinal medicine that works. He says he doesn’t want to give the name because the medicine hasn’t actually been approved by the FDA, but it’s reduced his stomach episodes almost as effectively as heroin. "But now if I take heroin it makes me vomit right away," says Kurt, "so that doesn’t do any good."
Before Nevermind, Nirvana toured constantly and spent virtually every hour together; now they sometimes don’t speak for months at a rime. It’s nor that they dislike each other—like an old married couple, they’re used to each other’s company but don’t always have a lot to say. Fat with success, the trio have all found ways to fill their time besides music. "We’ve become a little more distant," says Dave. "When we’re practicing together, there’s a good vibe, kind of like it used to be ... but not really."
Nirvana’s supposedly a democracy, but Kurt often dictates their lackadaisical pace by virtue of his status as the songwriter and resident invalid. In the studio, he worries that he’s holding up the recording process whenever he spends a few hours writing a new set of lyrics or a bridge.
In the spring of ‘93, Nirvana resurfaced in the woods of Minnesota, recording an album with notoriously abrasive producer Steve Albini. It was widely assumed that the record, tentatively titled Verse- Chorus- Verse, was a grunged-out noisefest designed to alienate all the fans who had bought Nevermind. These suspicions were stoked by Newsweek, which reported that Geffen had rejected the album, recorded in two weeks, as "unreleasable."
When word leaked that Scott Litt (R.E.M.’s producer) had been hired to remix the record, opinion was divided on whether the band had come to their senses or just knuckled under. Meanwhile, Albini touted a contract that stipulated nobody could remix his work.
Kurt confirms that Albini spoke of drawing up contracts that would allow remixes only if he approved of them. "But we never got around to signing them," Kurt smiles. As it turns out, the final record—eventually retitled In Utero—is largely the album Nirvana left Minnesota with; two tracks, "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies," have been remixed by Litt but sound just like the rest of the LP.
Although In Utero is louder and nastier than Nevermind, it’s by no means the dissonant, off-putting album touted in various rumors: Kurt doesn’t want to shut our the rest of the world altogether. He’s knitted scars into melodies, from the acerbic, semi-autobiographical "Serve the Servants" ("Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I’m bored and old") to the quiet, moving "Dumb" (a song expressing envy for anyone simpleminded enough to be happy all the time). Kurt once revealed nothing of himself in his songs, even those written in the first person; now he’s let his life enter his music.
Kurt initially tries to be polite when talking about Albini. "For the most part, he was surprisingly pleasant to work with." Pressed only slightly, however, he spills his bile. "He had never even met my wife and he had opinions on her. There was no reason for him to call her a talentless cunt. [Albini denies that he said this, claiming "I have no feelings toward her whatsoever."] It just proves to me that he’s the asshole I was prepared to meet." Kurt stops and contemplates this sentence. The abuse seems oddly distant—Kurt’s detached enough to dissect his own insults. " 'Asshole.’ That’s so tame, isn’t it? He calls my wife a cunt, so I call him an asshole. Nothing he says surprises me, but it shows that he’s the misogynist dick I expected him to be."
Nirvana are rehearsing at midnight in a room on the deserted top floor of what used to be Seattle’s pre-eminent jukebox factory. Most of the power outlets are stone dead, so the band stumble over extension cords and amps as they try to set up their equipment in shadows and moonlight.
They haven’t played together since they finished recording In Utero, but they need to prepare for a surprise show at the New Music Seminar in New York City next week. Stifling a yawn, Dave settles in behind his drums. Kurt grabs a chair and tunes his acoustic guitar, which is decorated with a NIXON NOW bumper sticker. He can’t quite adjust his mike and asks Chris for help. Chris is the band’s resident technical expert; if he weren’t around to plug in cords tonight, they might just pack up and go home. Also watching Chris fiddle with amps are guitar roadie "Big" John Duncan, who will play rhythm guitar with Nirvana at the New York show, and Lori Goldston, a cellist who has been enlisted for an acoustic set. Tonight the band are learning the ironic lesson that they can’t play unplugged without electric current.
Kurt says to nobody in particular, "I haven’t played the guitar for months. I haven’t even picked it up." At 1 AM., Nirvana finally begin to play "Dumb." Despite their long separation, they make an acoustic set sound graceful, effortless. The cello bolsters the group’s sound, but as usual, the most powerful instrument is Kurt’s voice: Thick, raspy, and knowing, it snakes through every song. Even when Kurt’s lyrics are incomprehensible, his singing makes you want to decipher them. The band unplug "On a Plain," "Heart-Shaped Box," and "Been a Son."
When Dave and Kurt lived together, they sat around playing acoustic guitar for hours at a time. Tonight they’re returning to their essence as a band. Without the world watching, Nirvana are rediscovering the pleasures of playing together and the knowledge that they can perfectly anticipate each other’s cadences. At a Nirvana concert, the audience is too intent on moshing for such subtleties. The group are playing some of their best music in this loft—and nobody’s around to hear it, except maybe the teens who sometimes scale the wall of the factory to listen at the windows.
Most chilling is "Something in the Way," the last cut on Nevermind. Kurt performs most of the song alone with his guitar. Every time he plays it, he does it a little slower, until his drawling, hesitating words of alienation are floating through the loft, as eerie as the nighttime glow of the Seattle Kingdome trickling through the windows.
After an hour, the band decide they’ve had enough for the night. Kurt invites Big John to stay at his house. "I’ve got two extra bedrooms. And we’ve got lots of frozen food." I give Dave a ride home.
Dave’s only in Seattle this week because he’s playing at the Crocodile Club with his first band, Scream. He’s spent the last couple of months with the Scream reunion tour, traveling around America in a van, recapturing the small-scale feel gone forever with Nirvana. Immediately after the show tomorrow night, he’s catching a midnight plane to Michigan for an engagement party in Grosse Pointe—he’s meeting the relatives of his fiancée, Jennifer Youngblood.
I drive past urban strip malls and motels as Dave perches his feet on the dashboard and smokes. Of Nirvana’s three members, Dave’s changed the least since Nevermind: He’s just as affable and easygoing as when I first met him two years ago. He points out the dealership where he bought two go-carts; he rides them in his backyard. He strongly implies that this is a healthier hobby than the firearms that Chris and Kurt now both own. Twenty-four years old, Dave’s still coming to terms with being an adult. Despite getting engaged, owning a house, and investing money with Merrill Lynch, he doesn’t feel grown up.
He recognizes that people don’t have any image of him beyond "the drummer in Nirvana," which is the way he likes it. He knows he lacks "star quality": "I get in front of a camera and I have the same smile I did for my class picture sophomore year of high school." Being a celebrity disorients Dave. "This is all crazy and amusing, but not anything I’d want to put on a résumé." Would he have been happier if Nevermind had sold half as many copies? He laughs. "Well, yeah, but then it still would have sold four million."
For reasons that he hasn’t fully understood, maybe because he’s struggling with the meaning of fame, Dave has been having recurring dreams about Eddie Vedder. For example:
"My sister and I are at the zoo. We see this guy painted silver, wearing a Speedo bathing suit, with a bathing cap on—all silver—and it’s Eddie Vedder, trying to disguise himself. I walk up to him and say, ‘Eddie, I know that’s you.’ He goes, ‘Dave, how ya doin’, man?’ And then he takes my hand and puts my finger in his mouth, and he keeps talking while he’s sucking on my finger… Paging Dr. Freud!"
Chris Novoselic’s driver’s license now identifies him as Krist Novoselic. The name smells like punk blasphemy, but "Krist" is actually the name his Croatian parents gave him at birth. He changed it in junior high school because other kids were teasing him (in addition to his unusual name, he was a self-described "tall goofball"); at age twenty-eight, he feels comfortable changing it back, although everybody still calls him Chris.
"Chris has mellowed," says Dave, "plus he’s stopped drinking so much." Chris denies that he’s moderated his alcohol consumption but admits that he’s not as tightly wound as he once was. "I’m the happy-go-lucky bassist," says Chris. This is a pleasant contrast to his former role as the band’s political orator. Chris hasn’t misplaced his conscience; he spends his spare time raising money for Bosnian rape victims. But he’s learned not to make everything an ideological confrontation: Now when he’s worried about a developer clear-cutting the forest next to his house, he knows he’ll get better results if he calls the lumberyard as a citizen worried about his property values than he will by screaming bloody environmental murder.
Chris and his wife Shelli spent enough years in poverty, living off government cheese and cornmeal, that owning two houses, one in Seattle and one in the woods of Washington, still seems comically improbable to them. Posted in Chris’s den is a fax from Kurt that underscores the unlikeliness of the group’s sudden wealth. It’s a copy of his letter from the Publisher’s Clearing House, beginning: KURT COBAIN, YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON TEN MILLION DOLLARS!!!
Chris and Shelli now indulge themselves, gleefully spending money on toys: a Kiss pinball machine, jukeboxes stocked with Shonen Knife singles, a BMW motorcycle that Chris crashed while doing eighty-five on a dirt road.
"I’m always happy," Chris says, and he seems to be right. "That’s my claim to fame. It’d be pretentious not to be happy."
Kurt, so often impassive, glows whenever he mentions Courtney. He’s very much in love. Courtney does more than loan Kurt her clothing; she challenges him. "It’s a whirling dervish of emotion, all these extremes of fighting and loving each other at once. If I’m mad at her, I’ll yell at her, and that’s healthy," Kurt says. "If we weren’t married, just living together, there would have been three or four times when one of us would have walked out on the other. But because we’re so committed to each other, we’ve never had a fight last longer than an hour. We make up every time." While constant conflict may indicate instability in the relationship, it also shows that Courtney can break through his detached facade. When Courtney calls Kurt from England, a transatlantic shouting match soon begins. I discreetly leave their bedroom for twenty minutes.
At times, the Kurt-and-Courtney show has threatened to overwhelm Nirvana. Chris ended up not attending their wedding; Courtney wouldn’t let Shelli come. Asked about that two years later, Chris mutters, "That was fucked up, but I don’t want to dwell on it. It was resolved, more or less." Kurt says he doesn’t want to prove to the world that he loves Courtney, but that he needs to defend her against media attacks. The latest installment of "As the Cobains Turn" is a lurid A.P. story about his going to jail after battering Courtney in an argument over his firearms and a juicing machine.
Kurt’s version of events is more coherent: He and Courtney woke up around 3 P.M., as is their wont, and began writing songs together, with the amps turned up loud. Some of the neighbors, either annoyed by the noise or mistaking punk-rock screams for a pitched battle, made a domestic-violence call to the police. The cops arrived and informed Mr. and Mrs. Cobain that under Seattle law, one of them had to go to jail. At that point, Kurt and Courtney did start to argue—each of them wanted to be the one to go to prison. When the police asked if there were any firearms in the house, Kurt swore that he didn’t have a gun, but Courtney admitted to the presence of two handguns and an M-16 rifle. The police confiscated them and took Kurt to jail, handcuffed in his pyjamas.
Although he is not alone in his affection for Courtney, the feeling among those who know her is hardly unanimous. By all accounts, she’s volatile and provokes strong reactions. "Smart but insane," says one friend. "She does a lot of nasty shit, and I truly believe she will be the demise of Nirvana," says another person close to the band.
Kurt objects to the misogynist overtones of making Courtney the scapegoat for everything that might go wrong with Nirvana. And he sneers at the suggestion that he’s under Courtney’s thumb. "Everyone thinks of me as this sad little spineless puppy who needs to be taken care of. It sickens me. When I first met Courtney, I thought of her as this totally independent self-serving person and I really respected her for that—that’s why I fell in love with her. Since we’ve been married, I’ve found that she’s a bit more insecure. I’m glad—it’s nice to know she isn’t going to take off one day. I didn’t think I’d ever have a best friend, let alone a mate."
So is Courtney the best fuck in the world?
Kurt stands up without saying a word. He turns around and hikes his black pinafore dress up around his chest so I can see dozens of red scratches on his back, furrows from Courtney’s fingernails.
Kurt concedes that being married to Courtney has meant losing his single-minded focus on all things Nirvana. He doesn’t care. He dreams of just writing his songs and selling tapes by mail order. If he can’t get up the enthusiasm he once had for Nirvana, it’s partially because the band have achieved every pinnacle of success they ever wanted, and several that they didn’t. He’s ebullient about the music that he and Courtney write together— he finds it rejuvenating, like playing with a band for the first time. Leery of being a modern John and Yoko, he doesn’t think they’ll release any collaborations.
Dave’s put aside a chunk of money so he can go back to school someday. He’s a high school dropout but wants to finish college. Chris thinks he’ll end up at his farmhouse, growing apples and potatoes, "running with the elk." They both know nor to expect a lifetime with Nirvana. Kurt also wishes he had gone to college. "I’ll probably go back to school when I’m forty," he says.
"I’m looking forward to a few more years of playing with this band. Then a few years later I might say a few years more. I don’t try to predict the future, burl know I’m not going to be rich for the rest of my life. I have money now, but within ten years we’ll blow it. I’ll have to get a job or have a solo career or something equally embarrassing."
© Gavin Edwards, 1993