LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE October ??, 1990 - London, UK
- Steve lamacq
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
|New Musical Express||Nirvanarama!||Yes|
King of the US Transit Van Bands, rattling across the States via the yellow(ing) brick road, Seattle's NIRVANA have eclipsed their Sub Pop contempories and, on the release of their new single 'Sliver', invite STEVE LAMACQ into their world of turtles, TV and crap bumper stickers.
Nirvana's West London hotel room looks like across between cardboard city and a teenager's homework den.
Dirty laundry sprawls over three beds, empty lager cans sit disconsolately on a table by the bay window, and a pair of shabby boots guard the door. Just to add a touch of The Surreal a mini-TV, screwed uncomfortably into one wall, is burbling out the millionth re-run of The Wizard Of Oz.
"I don't believe it," moans bassist Chris Novoselic indignantly, crashing out on one of the three beds. "I stop drinking alcohol for one day and I get a cold. I should have had lager for breakfast instead of coffee."
This germ-ridden, listless TV scenario has been home for Nirvana - Chris, guitarist/singer Kurdt Kobain and new drummer Dave Grohl - for five days so far. But they're here for a good reason. After a confident, increasingly successful 1990, the US hardcore front-runners have outgrown the home of Sub Pop and are in England discussing deals with various major labels.
Apart from the jet-lag hangover, the flu and the stupefying meetings, the three-piece having engineered their way out of the Obscure Yank Rut, find themselves poised to take over Mudhoney's crown as Seattle's fave kings.
Their latest, much-delayed single 'Silver', likely to be their last for Sub Pop/Tupelo Recordings, is to many people's surprise (mine included!), a shockingly good boy-ish pop-guitar-thrash-along. Following 1989's generally acclaimed debut LP, 'Bleach', 'Silver' sees them matching their raucous, unrestrained aggression of old with a sort of REM-ish melody.
Its release sets Nirvana up to be one of the most interesting American bands of the year. And on top of this, one of them keeps very strange pets.
"ILL TELL you what I miss most, being away from home," says Kurdt, who's strangely reminiscent of the Oz scarecrow. "I really miss my turtles. I bet they're all dead."
"I have great big, huge sea-green turtles in my bath-tub at home. I mate them… well, no, they're not huge actually, but I do have small turtles as pets, they fascinate me.
"They have no personality at all and I like that in a pet," he adds. "I have one that's this big (about ten inches) and I let him out all the time. He'll lay on my chest and close his eyes. They're more affectionate than you might imagine.
"I used to keep them outside in a kid's swimming pool, but they all escaped. Then I had a dream one night that they came back… and two days later they did. Spooky. Some people keep cats and fish and birds, I like turtles, I dunno, I just like them because they haven't evolved since the days of the dinosaurs. They haven't changed at all."
Just like most of the American punk bands who get washed up on these shores. They haven't evolved since prehistoric punk days. This is what makes Nirvana (and certain other exceptions, like The Lemonheads) appear afar more testing, determined proposition. Nirvana's first break in Britain came via the ultracredible Sub Pop explosion of '89 But although the rasping sound of Seattle put them in the spotlight, it's been their diversification since which has maintained their momentum.
"Most of the stuff we saw on MTV were all these schmoozy bands," explains Chris (the Oz lion!), drooling out the word 'schmoozy' like it's a distasteful sip of cough mixture. "And we thought, 'F- it, man, let's screw some record company and be obnoxious bastards because we were grossed out by what we were seeing. Like all these punk Metal bands, just cashing in…"
Hence the embittered contortions of 'Bleach', one of Sub Pop's landmark records which, though a credible LP, twisted the rules of thrash into a disfigured, but steely bright mangle of melody and brute force.
Now they're broadening their horizons (praising, along the way, Sonic Youth's first major label LP 'Goo') and in the process are starting to challenge the usually predictable, stifling hardcore parameters.
"We're finally coming out of the drains and saying 'we like pop music'," says Kurdt through his Worzel Gummidge haircut. "I like REM and I like The Smithereens and I'm not afraid to say that any more. And so if we want to write a song like REM, we'll do that, or if we want to write a song like Godflesh, we'll do that."
"We're into a montage of sounds," adds Chris wryly. "Maybe we're turning into a covers band, doing rip-offs of other people's songs. We're going to be a bat band from now on." (Oh dear - Ed)
NIRVANA LIKE Scottish underground cult The Vaselines, plus The Beat Happening and Pixies. They don't like American car bumper stickers (the equivalent of our own foul car sticker craze! After Garfield puppets, the nightmare continues…)
"In the US, a dollar buys you this stupid, worthless point of view," says Chris. "So Joe Blow, sheet metal worker, only has to pay a dollar to think wow, now I have my own personal joke. Then all these people will go up to him and say 'Hey, that's a funny bumper sticker you've got there, we must share the same sense of humour, let's have a beer together.' "You know like here they have I Love My Car with a heart instead of love. In America they have vandal stickers with a picture of a screw which you stick over the hearts… I Screw My German Shepherd."
So once you've got your bumper sticker, you're walking round the service station and what do you see? Shelves full of knick-knacks.
"You can go to really weird places like in Montana where the gas stations sell Jackalopes. They're these rabbits' heads which have had horns stuck on them."
WAKE UP, WAKE UP, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME! Nirvana, unlike the convoy truckers, are coming to get you.
© Steve Lamacq, 1991