LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE:
October 25, 1993 - Chicago, IL, US
- David Fricke
- Kurt Cobain
|Medium||Publisher||Date of Issue||Title||Transcript|
|Rolling Stone||01/27/1994||Kurt Cobain: The Rolling Stone Interview||Yes|
Our man in Nirvana rages on (and on) about stardom, fatherhood, his feud with Pearl Jam, the death of grunge and why he's never been happier in his life.
Shirtless, disheveled Kurt Cobain pauses on the backstage stairway leading to Nirvana's dressing room at the Aragon Ballroom, in Chicago, offers a visitor a sip of his aprŤs-gig tea and says in a drop-deadpan voice, "I'm really glad you could make it for the shittiest show on the tour."
Heís right. Tonightís concert ó Nirvanaís second of two nights at the Aragon, only a week into the bandís first U.S. tour in two years ó is a real stinker. The venue's cavernous sound turns even corrosive torpedoes like "Breed" and "Territorial Pissings" into riff pudding, and Cobain is bedeviled all night by guitar- and vocal- monitor problems. There are moments of prickly brilliance: Cobainís sandpaper howl cutting through the Aragonís canyonlike echo in the tense explosive chorus of "Heart-Shaped Box"; a short stunning "Sliver" with torrid power strumming by guest touring guitarist Pat Smear (ex-Germs). But there is no "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and when the house lights go up, so does a loud chorus of boos.
According to the Cobain press myth ó "pissy, complaining, freaked-out schizophrenic," as he quite accurately puts it ó the 26-year-old singer and guitarist should have fired the soundman, canceled this interview and gone back to his hotel room to sulk. Instead, he spends his wind-down time backstage, doting on his daughter, 1-year-old Frances Bean Cobain, a petite blond beauty who barrels around the room with a smile for everyone in her path. Later, back at the hotel, armed with nothing stronger than a pack of cigarettes and two minibar bottles of Evian water, Cobain is in a thoughtful, discursive mood, taking great pains to explain that success doesnít really suck ónot as much as it used to, anyway ó and that his life is pretty good. And getting better.
"It was so fist and explosive," he says in a sleepy, gravelly voice of his first crisis of confidence following the ballistic success of Nevermind. "I didnít know how to deal with it. If there was a Rock Star 101 course, I would have liked to take it. It might have helped me.
"I still see stuff, descriptions of rock stars in some magazine ó ĎSting, the environmental guy' and Kurt Cobain, the whiny, complaining, neurotic, bitchy guy who hates everything, hates rock stardom, hates his life.í And I've never been happier in my life. Especially within the last week, because the shows have been going so well ó except for tonight. I'm a much happier guy than a lot of people think I am."
Cobain took some long, hard detours to get there over the past year. The making of In Utero, Nirvanaís long-awaited studio follow-up to Nevermind, was fraught with last-minute title and track changes as well as a public scrap between the band, its record label, DGC, and producer Steve Albini over the albumís commercial potential ó or lack thereof. Cobainís marriage to punk-noir singer Courtney Love of the band Hole ó dream fodder for rock gossips since the couple exchanged vows in February 1992 ó made headlines again last June when Cobain was arrested by Seattle police for allegedly assaulting Love during a domestic fracas. Police found three guns in the house, but no charges were filed, and the case was dismissed.
Last year, Cobain also made a clean breast of his long-rumored heroin addiction, claiming heíd used the drug ó at least in part ó to opiate severe, chronic stomach pain. Or as he puts it in this interview, "to medicate myself." Heís now off the junk, and thanks to new medication and a better diet, his digestive tract, he says, is on the road to recovery.
But the roots of his angst, public and personal, go much deeper. Born in the logging town of Aberdeen, Wash., Cobain is ó like Nirvanaís bassist, Krist Novoselic, drummer Dave Grohl and a high percentage of the bandís young fans ó the product of a broken home, the son of an auto mechanic and a secretary who divorced when he was 8. Cobain had early aspirations as a commercial artist and won a number of high-school art contests; he now designs much of Nirvanaís artwork. (He made the plastic-fetus collage on the back cover of In Utero, which got the record banned by Wal-Mart.) But after graduation, Cobain passed on an art-school scholarship and took up the teen-age-bum life, working as a roadie for the local punk band the Melvins (when he was working at all) and applying himself to songwriting.
"I never wanted to sing," Cobain insists now. "I just wanted to play rhythm guitar ó hide in the back and just play. But during those high-school years when I was playing guitar in my bedroom, I at least had the intuition that I had to write my own songs."
For a long time, after Nirvana catapulted from junior Sub Pop-label signees to grunge supergods óthey won the Best Band and Best Album trophies in our 1994 Critics Poll ó Cobain could not decide whether his talent was a blessing or a curse. He has finally come to realize itís a bit of both. He is bugged that people think of him more as an icon than a songwriter yet fears that In Utero marks the finish line of the Nirvana sound crystallized in "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Cobain remains deeply mistrustful of the music business but says he has done a complete U-turn on his attitude toward Nirvanaís mass punk-wanna-be flock.
"I donít have as many judgments about them as I used to," Cobain says, almost apologetically. I've come to terms about why theyíre there and why weíre here. It doesnít bother me anymore to see this Neanderthal with a mustache, out of his mind, drunk, singing along to ĎSliver.í That blows my mind now.
"I've been relieved of so much pressure in the last year and a half," Cobain says with discernible relief in his voice. I'm still kind of mesmerized by it." He ticks off the reasons for his content: "Pulling this record off. My family. My child. Meeting William Burroughs and doing a record with him.
"Just little things that no one would recognize or care about," he continues. "And it has a lot to do with this band. If it wasnít for this band, those things never would have happened. I'm really thankful, and every month I come to more optimistic conclusions."
"I just hope," Cobain adds, grinning "I donít become so blissful I become boring. I think Iíll always be neurotic enough to do something weird."
Along with everything else that went wrong onstage tonight, you left without playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Why?
That would have been the icing on the cake [smiles grimly]. That would have made everything twice as worse.
I donít even remember the guitar solo on "Teen Spirit" It would take me five minutes to sit in the catering room and learn the solo. But I'm not interested in that kind of stuff. I donít know if thatís so lazy that I donít care anymore or what. I still like playing "Teen Spirit," but itís almost an embarrassment to play it.
In what way? Does the enormity of its success still bug you?
Yeah. Everyone has focused on that song so much. The reason it gets a big reaction is people have seen it on MTV a million times. Itís been pounded into their brains. But I think there are so many other songs that iíve written that are as good, if not better, than that song, like "Drain You." Thatís definitely as good as "Teen Spirit." I love the lyrics, and I never get tired of playing it. Maybe if it was as big as "Teen Spirit," I wouldnít like it as much.
But I can barely, especially on a bad night like tonight, get through "Teen Spirit." I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away. I canít pretend to have a good time playing it.
But you must have had a good time writing it.
Weíd been practicing for about three months. We were waiting to sign to DGC, and Dave [Grohl] and I were living in Olympia [Wash.], and Krist [Novoselic] was living in Tacoma [Wash.]. We were driving up to Tacoma every night for practice, trying to write songs. I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it [smiles]. When I heard the Pixies for the first rime, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band ó or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.
ĎTeen Spirit" was such a clichťd riff. It was so close to a Boston riff or "Louie, Louie." When I came up with the guitar part, Krist looked at me and said, "That is so ridiculous." I made the band play it for an hour and a half.
Where did the line "Here we are now, entertain us come from?
That came from something I used to say every time I used to walk into a party to break the ice. A lot of times, when youíre standing around with people in a room, itís really boring and uncomfortable. So it was "Well, here we are, entertain us. You invited us here."
How did it feel to watch something youíd written in fun, in homage to one of your favorite bands, become the grunge national anthem, not to mention a defining moment in youth marketing?
Actually, we did have our own thing for a while. For a few years in Seattle, it was the Summer of Love, and it was so great. To be able to just jump out on top of the crowd with my guitar and be held up and pushed to the back of the room, and then brought back with no harm done to me ó it was a celebration of something that no one could put their finger on.
But once it got into the mainstream, it was over. Iím just tired of being embarrassed by it. I'm beyond that.
This is the first US tour youíve done since the fall of Ď91, just before "Nevermind" exploded. Why did you stay off the road for so long?
I needed time to collect my thoughts and readjust. It hit me so hard, and I was under the impression that I didnít really need to go on tour, because I was making a whole bunch of money. Millions of dollars. Eight million to 10 million records sold ó that sounded like a lot of money to me. So I thought I would sit back and enjoy it.
I donít want to use this as an excuse, and itís come up so many times, but my stomach ailment has been one of the biggest barriers that stopped us from touring. I was dealing with it for a long time. But after a person experiences chronic pain for five years, by the time that fifth year ends, youíre literally insane. I couldnít cope with anything. I was as schizophrenic as a wet cat thatís been beaten.
How much of that physical pain do you think you channeled into your songwriting?
Thatís a scary question, because obviously if a person is having some kind of turmoil in their lives, itís usually reflected in the music, and sometimes itís pretty beneficial. I think it probably helped. But I would give up everything to have good health. I wanted to do this interview after weíd been on tour for a while, and so far, this has been the most enjoyable tour Iíve ever had. Honestly.
It has nothing to do with the larger venues or people kissing our asses more. Itís just that my stomach isnít bothering me anymore. I'm eating. I ate a huge pizza last night. It was so nice to be able to do that. And it just raises my spirits. But then again, I was always afraid that if I lost the stomach problem, I wouldnít be as creative. Who knows? [Pauses] I donít have any new songs right now.
Every album weíve done so far, weíve always had one to three songs left over from the sessions. And they usually have been pretty good, ones that we really liked, so we always had something to rely on ó a hit or something that was above average. So this next record is going to be really interesting, because I have absolutely nothing left. I'm starting from scratch for the first time. I donít know what weíre going to do.
One of the songs that you cut from "In Utero "at the last minute was "I Hate Myself and I Want to Die." How literally did you mean it?
As literal as a joke can be. Nothing more than a joke.
And that had a bit to do with why we decided to take it off. We knew people wouldnít get it; theyíd take it too seriously. It was totally satirical, making fun of ourselves. I'm thought of as this pissy, complaining, freaked-out schizophrenic who wants to kill himself all the time. "He isnít satisfied with anything." And I thought it was a funny title. I wanted it to be the title of the album for a long time. But I knew the majority of the people wouldnít understand it.
Have you ever been that consumed with distress or pain or rage that you actually wanted to kill yourself?
For five years during the time I had my stomach problem, yeah. I wanted to kill myself every day. I came very close many times. I'm sorry to be so blunt about it. It was to the point where I was on tour, lying on the floor, vomiting air because I couldnít hold down water. And then I had to play a show in 20 minutes. I would sing and cough up blood.
This is no way to live a life. I love to play music, but something was not right. So I decided to medicate myself.
Even as satire, though, a song like that can bit a nerve. There are plenty of kids out there who, for whatever reasons, really do feel suicidal.
That pretty much defines our band. Itís both those contradictions. Itís satirical, and itís serious at the same time.
What kind of mail do you get from your fans these days?
[Long pause] I used to read the mail a lot, and I used to be really involved with it. But Iíve been so busy with this record, the video, the tour, that I havenít even bothered to look at a single letter, and I feel really bad about it. I havenít even been able to come up with enough energy to put out our fanzine, which was one of the things we were going to do to combat all the bad press, just to be able to show a more realistic side of the band.
But itís really hard. I have to admit Iíve found myself doing the same things that a lot of other rock stars do or are forced to do. Which is not being able to respond to mail, not being able to keep up on current music, and Iím pretty much locked away a lot. The outside world is pretty foreign to me.
I feel very, very lucky to be able to go out to a club. Just the other night, we had a night off in Kansas City, deal Mo., and Pat [Smear] and I had no idea where we were or where to go. So we called up the local college radio station and asked them what was going on. And they didnít know! So we happened to call this bar, and the Treepeople from Seattle were playing.
And it turns out I met three really, really nice people there, totally cool kids that were in bands. I really had a good time with them, all night. I invited them back to the hotel. They stayed there. I ordered room service for them. I probably went overboard, trying to be accommodating. But it was really great to know that I can still do that, that I can still find friends.
And I didnít think that would be possible. A few years ago, we were in Detroit, playing at this club, and about 10 people showed up. And next door, there was this bar, and Axl Rose came in with 10 or 15 bodyguards. It was this huge extravaganza; all these people were fawning over him. If heíd just walked in by himself, it would have been no big deal. But he wanted that. You create attention to attract attention.
Where do you stand on Pearl Jam now? There were rumors that you and Eddie Vedder were supposed to be on that "Time" magazine cover together.
I donít want to get into that. One of the things Iíve learned is that slagging off people just doesnít do me any good. Itís too bad, because the whole problem with the feud between Pearl Jam and Nirvana had been going on for so long and has come so close to being fixed.
Itís never been entirely clear what this feud with Vedder was about.
There never was one. I slagged them off because I didnít like their band. I hadnít met Eddie at the time. It was my fault; I should have been slagging off the record company instead of them. They were marketed ó not probably against their will ó but without them realizing they were being pushed into the grunge bandwagon.
Donít you feel any empathy with them? Theyíve been under the same intense follow-up-album pressure as you have.
Yeah, I do. Except Iím pretty sure that they didnít go out of their way to challenge their audience as much as we did with this record. Theyíre a safe rock band. Theyíre a pleasant rock band that everyone likes. [Laughs] God, Iíve had much better quotes in my head about this.
It just kind of pisses me off to know that we work really hard to make an entire albumís worth of songs that are as good as we can make them. Iím gonna stroke my ego by saying that weíre better than a lot of bands our there. What Iíve realized is that you only need a couple of catchy songs on an album, and the rest can be bull shit Bad Company rip-offs, and it doesnít matter. If I was smart, I would have saved most of the songs off Nevermind and spread them out over a 15-year period. But I canít do that. All the albums I ever liked were albums that delivered a great song, one after another: Aerosmithís Rocks, the Sex Pistolsí Never Mind the BollocksÖ, Led Zeppelin II, Back in Black, by AC/DC.
Youíve also gone on record as being a big Beatles fan.
Oh, yeah. John Lennon was definitely my favorite Beatle, hands down. I donít know who wrote what parts of what Beatles songs, but Paul McCarrney embarrasses me. Lennon was obviously disturbed [laughs]. So I could relate to that.
And from the books Iíve read ó and Iím so skeptical of anything I read, especially in rock books ó I just felt really sorry for him. To be locked up in that apartment. Although he was totally in love with Yoko and his child, his life was a prison He was imprisoned. Itís not fair. Thatís the crux of the problem that Iíve had with becoming a celebrity ó the way people with celebrities. It needs to be changed; it really does.
No matter how hard you try, it only comes our like youíre bitching about it. I can understand how a per- son can feel that way and almost become obsessed with it. But itís so hard to convince people to mellow out. Just take it easy, have a little bit of respect. We all shit [laughs].
"In Utero "may be the most anticipated, talked-about and argued-over album of 1993. Didnít you feel at any point during all the title changes and the press hoopla stirred up by Steve Albini that the whole thing was just getting stupid? After all, it is just an album.
Yeah. But Iím used to it [laughs]. While making the record, that wasnít happening. It was made really fast. All the basic tracks were done within a week. And I did 80 percent of the vocals in one day, in about seven hours. I just happened to be on a roll. It was a good day for me, and I just kept going.
So what was the problem?
It wasnít the songs. It was the production. It took a very, very long time for us to realize what the problem was. We couldnít figure it out. We had no idea why we didnít feel the same energy that we did from Nevermind. We finally came to the conclusion that the vocals werenít loud enough, and the bass was totally inaudible. We couldnít hear any notes that Krist was playing at all.
I think there are a few songs on In Utero that could have been cleaned up a little bit more. Definitely "Penny Royal Tea." That was not recorded right. There is something wrong with that. That should have been recorded like Nevermind, because I know thatís a strong song, a hit single. Weíre toying with the idea of re-recording it or remixing it.
You hit and miss. Itís a really weird thing about this record. Iíve never been more confused in my life, but at the same time Iíve never been more satisfied with what weíve done.
Letís talk about your songwriting. Your best songs óTeen Spirit," "Come As You Are," "Rape Me," "Penny Royal Tea"ó all open with the verse in a low, moody style. Then the chorus comes in at full volume and nails you. So which comes first, the verse or the killer chorus?
[Long pause, then he smiles] I donít know. I really donít know. I guess I start with the verse and then go into the chorus. But Iím getting so tired of that formula. And it is formula. And thereís not much you can do with it. Weíve mastered that ó for our band. Weíre all growing pretty tired of it.
It is a dynamic style. But Iím only using two of the dynamics. There are a lot more I could be using. Krist, Dave and I have been working on this formula ó this thing of going from quiet to loud ó for so long that itís literally becoming boring for us. Itís like "OK, I have this riff. Iíll play it quiet, without a distortion box, while Iím singing the verse. And now letís turn on the distortion box and hit the drums harder." I want to learn to go in between those things, go back and forth, almost become psychedelic in a way but with a lot more structure. Itís a really hard thing to do, and I donít know if weíre capable of it ó as musicians.
Songs like "Dumb" and "All Apologies" do suggest that youíre looking for a way to get to people without resorting to the big-bang guitar effect.
Absolutely. I wish we could have written a few more songs like those on all the other albums. Even to put "About a Girl" on Bleach was a risk. I was heavily into pop, I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old Ď60s stuff. But there was a lot of pressure within that social scene, the underground ó like the kind of thing you get in high school. And to put a jangly R.E.M. type of pop song on a grunge record, in that scene, was risky.
We have failed in showing the lighter, more dynamic side of our band. The big guitar sound is what the kids want to hear. We like playing that stuff, but I donít know how much longer I can scream at the top of my lungs every night, for an entire year on tour. Sometimes I wish I had taken the Bob Dylan route and sang songs where my voice would not go out on me every night, so I could have a career if I wanted.
So what does this mean for the future of Nirvana?
Itís impossible for me to look into the future and say Iím going to be able to play Nirvana songs in 10 years. Thereís no way. I donít want to have to resort to doing the Eric Clapton thing. Not to put him down whatsoever; I have immense respect for him. But I donít want to have to change the songs to fit my age [laughs].
The song on "In Utero" that has whipped up the most controversy is "Rape Me." Itís got a brilliant hook, but there have been objections to the title and lyric ó not just from skittish DJs but from some women who feel it's rather cavalier for a man to be using such a potent, inflammatory word so freely.
I understand that point of view, and Iíve heard it a lot. Iíve gone back and forth between regretting it and trying to defend myself. Basically, I was trying to write a song that supported women and dealt with the issue of rape. Over the last few years, people have had such a hard time understanding what our message is, what weíre trying to convey, that I just decided to be as bold as possible. How hard should I stamp this point? How big should I make the letters?
Itís not a pretty image. But a woman who is being raped, who is infuriated with the situation ... itís like "Go ahead, rape me, just go for it, because youíre gonna get it." iím a firm believer in karma, and that motherfucker is going to get what he deserves, eventually. That man will be caught, heíll go to jail, and heíll be raped. "So rape me, do it, get it over with. Because youíre gonna get it worse."
What did your wife, Courtney, think of the song when she heard it?
I think she understood. I probably explained it better to her than Iíve explained it to you. I also want to make a point, that I was really, honestly not trying to be controversial with it. That was the last thing I wanted to do. We didnít want to put it out so it would piss off the parents and get some feminists on our asses, stuff like that. I just have so much contempt for someone who would do something like that [to a woman]. This is my way of saying "Do it once, and you may get away with it. Do it a hundred times. But youíre gonna get it in the end."
When you were arrested on the domestic-violence charge his summer, Courtney admitted to the police that you kept guns in your home. Why do you feel you need to be armed?
I like guns. I just enjoy shooting them.
Where? At what?
[Laughs] When we go out to the woods, at a shooting range. Itís not an official shooting range, but itís allowed to be one in this county. Thereís a really big cliff, so thereís no chance of shooting over the cliff and hurting anyone. And thereís no one within miles around.
Without getting too PC about it, donít you feel itís dangerous to keep them in the house, especially with your daughter, Frances, around?
No. Itís protection. I donít have bodyguards. There are people way less famous than I am or Courtney who have been stalked and murdered. It could be someone by chance looking for a house to break into. We have a security system. I actually have one gun that is loaded, but I keep it safe, in a cabinet high up on a shelf where Frances can never get to it.
And I have an M16, which is fun to shoot. Itís the only sport I have ever liked. Itís not something Iím obsessed with or even condone. I donít really think much of it.
How does Courtney feel about keeping guns at home?
She was there when I bought them. Look, Iím not a very physical person. I wouldnít be able to stop an intruder who had a gun or a knife. But Iím nor going to stand by and watch my family stabbed to death or raped in front of me. I wouldnít think twice of blowing someoneís head off if they did that. Itís for protection reasons. And sometimes itís fun to go out and shoot. [Pauses] At targets. I want to make that clear [laughs].
People usually assume that someone who has sold a few million records is really livin Ďlarge. How rich are you? How rich do you feel? According to one story, you wanted to buy a new house and put a home studio in it, but your accountant said you couldnít afford it.
Yeah, I canít. I just got a check a while ago for some royalties for Nevermind, which is pretty good size. Itís weird, though, really weird. When we were selling a lot of records during Nevermind, I thought, "God, Iím gonna have like $10 million, $15 million." Thatís not the case. We do nor live large. I still eat Kraft macaroni and cheese ó because I like it, Iím used to it. Weíre not extravagant people.
I donít blame any kid for thinking that a person who sells 10 million records is a millionaire and set for the rest of his life. But itís not the case. I spent a million dollars last year, and I have no idea how I did it. Really. I bought a house for $400,000. Taxes were another $300,000-something. What else? I lent my mom some money. I bought a car. That was about it.
You donít have much to show for that million.
Itís surprising. One of the biggest reasons we didnít go on tour when Nevermind was really big in the States was because I thought: "Fuck this, why should I go on tour? I have this chronic stomach pain, I may die on this tour, Iím selling a lot of records, I can live the rest of my life off a million dollars." But thereís no point in even trying to explain that to a 15-year-old kid. I never would have believed it.
Do you worry about the impact that your work, lifestyle and ongoing war with supercelebrity are having on Frances? She seemed perfectly content to toddle around in the dressing room tonight, but it's got to be a strange world for her.
Iím pretty concerned about it. She seems to be attracted to almost anyone. She loves anyone. And it saddens me to know that sheís moved around so much. We do have two nannies, one full-time and another older woman who takes care of her on weekends. But when we take her on the road, sheís around people all the time, and she doesnít get to go to the park very often. We try as hard as we can, we take her to preschool things. But this is a totally different world.
In "Serve the Servants," you sing, "I tried hard to have a father/But instead I had a dad" Are you concerned about making the same mistakes as a father that might have been made when you were growing up?
No. Iím nor worried about that at all. My father and I are completely different people. I know that Iím capable of showing a lot more affection than my dad was. Even if Courtney and I were to get divorced, I would never allow us to be in a situation where there are bad vibes between us in front of her. That kind of stuff can screw up a kid, but the reason those things happen is because the parents are nor very bright.
I donít think Courtney and I are that fucked up. We have lacked love all our lives, and we need it so much that if thereís any goal that we have, itís to give Frances as much love as we can, as much support as we can. Thatís the one thing that I know is not going to turn out bad.
What has been the state of relations within Nirvana over the past year?
When I was doing drugs, it was pretty bad. There was no communication. Krist and Dave, they didnít understand the drug problem. Theyíd never been around drugs. They thought of heroin in the same way that I thought of heroin before I started doing it. It was just really sad. We didnít speak very often. They were thinking the worst, like most people would, and I donít blame them for that. But nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Since Iíve been clean, itís gone back to pretty much normal.
Except for Dave. Iím still kind of concerned about him, because he still feels like he can be replaced at any time. He still feels like he...
Hasnít passed the audition?
Yeah. I donít understand it. I try to give him as many compliments as I can. Iím nor a person who gives compliments very often, especially at practice. "Letís do this song, letís do that song, letís do it over." Thatís it. I guess Dave is a person who needs reassurance sometimes. I notice that, so I try and do that more often.
So you call all the shots?
Yeah. I ask their opinions about things. But ultimately, itís my decision. I always feel weird saying that; it feels egotistical But weíve never argued. Dave, Krist and I have never screamed at each other. Ever.
Itís nor like theyíre afraid to bring up anything. I always ask their opinion, and we talk about it. And eventually, we all come to the same conclusions.
Havenít there been any issues where there was at least heated discussion?
Yeah, the songwriting royalties. I get all the lyrics. The music, I get 75 percent, and they get the rest. I think thatís fair. But at the time, I was on drugs when that came up. And so they thought that I might start asking for more things. They were afraid that I was going to go our of my mind and start putting them on salary, stuff like that. But even then we didnít yell at each other. And we split everything else evenly.
With all of your reservations about playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and writing the same kind of song over and over, do you envision a time when there is no Nirvana? That youíll try to make it alone?
I donít think I could ever do a solo thing, the Kurt Cobain Project.
Doesnít have a very good ring to it, either.
No [laughs]. But yes, I would like to work with people who are totally, completely the opposite of what Iím doing now. Something way out there, man.
That doesnít bode well for the future of Nirvana and the kind of music you make together.
Thatís what Iíve been kind of hinting at in this whole interview. That weíre almost exhausted. Weíve gone to the point where things are becoming repetitious. Thereís not something you can move up toward, thereís nor something you can look forward to.
The best times that we ever had were right when Nevermind was coming out and we went on that American tour where we were playing clubs. They were totally sold out, and the record was breaking big, and there was this massive feeling in the air, this vibe of energy. Something really special was happening.
I hate to actually even say it, but I canít see this band lasting more than a couple more albums, unless we really work hard on experimenting. I mean, letís face it. When the same people are together doing the same job, theyíre limited. Iím really interested in studying different things, and I know Krist and Dave are as well. But I donít know if we are capable of doing it together. I donít want to put our another record that sounds like the last three records.
I know weíre gonna put our one more record, at least, and I have a pretty good idea what itís going to sound like: pretty ethereal, acoustic, like R.E.M.'s last album. If I could write just a couple of songs as good as what theyíve written Ö I donít know how that band does what they do. God, theyíre the greatest. Theyíve dealt with their success like saints, and they keep delivering great music.
Thatís what Iíd really like to see this band do. Because we are stuck in such a rut. We have been labeled. R.E.M. is what? College rock? That doesnít really stick. Grunge is as potent a term as New Wave. You canít get out of it. Itís going to be passť. You have to take a chance and hope that either a totally different audience accepts you or the same audience grows with you.
And what if the kids just say, "We donít dig it, get lost"?
Oh, well. [Laughs] Fuck Ďem.
© David Fricke, 1994