Valerie Potter
Kurt Cobain
Krist Novoselic
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Hot Metal Whiter Shades Of Pale Yes

While shopping copies of their new demo around London, Seattle's SubPop superstars Nirvana found time to chat with Val Potter.

My heart always sinks when I arrive for an interview and the tour manager says "I'll just go and get them out of bed," but it's not often that that problem arises as six o'clock at night. Nevertheless, that's what happened when I showed up to meet Nirvana at their London agency.

Twenty minutes later, vocalist/guitarist Kurdt Kobain, bassist Chris Novoselic and new drummer Dave Grohl emerged from the hotel across the street, blinking, shivering and demanding coffee. As we took our seats in a bare basement room, Kurdt looked like he'd just crawled out from under a nearby railway arch, clutching his coffee mug between a pair of frayed, fingerless gloves, hair falling anyhow and black kohl smudged around his tired eyes. By comparison, Chris, a man of telegraph-pole proportions, seemed positively alert and talkative, while Dave, as befits a newcomer to the band, deferred to the other two and largely maintained a sleepy silica throughout the interview.

Chris explained that, as the band had flown in from the States three days before, they were still racked with jet-lag.

"We just woke up after a little nap," he said. "We thought it wouldn't hurt us…"

"We were asleep for one hour and it felt like 10!" added Dave.

"I can't go on," Kurt moaned in a dramatic whisper, curling up in his chair. "Jet-lag is real - it exists!"

Since Seattle-based Nirvana was first formed three-and-a-half years ago they have gone through five drummers and released Bleach on the SubPop label. Together with the likes of Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Tad, they are in the vanguard of the onslaught of local talent currently storming the rock scene in Europe, a scene which has proved more receptive to their Seattle-bred brutal heaviness than their homeland.

"There really isn't enough communication in the States," Chris offered. "There's too much distance between points."

"There's too many closed minds," Kurdt grunted.

"Maybe it's too wild for a lot of people!" said Chris, opening his eyes wide. "Don't hurt 'em, Hammer!"

"Yeah, if Hammer's threatening to hurt people…" Kurdt shook his head in disgust.

Despite the lack of major-label backing, many of the Seattle bands have found the wherewithal to come over and introduce themselves to the European audiences.

"It's expensive, and there's always the threat of not making any money, but we've found out that on this tour we're actually going to make a few thousand dollars apiece from T-shirt sales, which we weren't expecting. So that's fine by us!" laughed Chris.

However, Kurdt rules out the possibility of Nirvana following the Faith No More philosophy of making multiple visits to Europe on the same album to break into the market.

"We don't plan to tour so much that we can't enjoy it or we burn ourselves out," he said. "You can't shove yourself down people's throats. But we don't want to be so mysterious that people don't know what to expect from us."

Apart from playing gigs in the U.K., the band were also using the visit as an opportunity to shop their new demos around the record companies. They're hoping to follow the Soundgarden example of signing to a major before they release their next album, which has already been written.

"We're going to try and wrap up a record deal and then put out a record before everyone's heard it!" Kurt commented. "I'm sure it's already bootlegged, because so many people have heard the demos. They're even playing it in a bar in Seattle somewhere. We don't know how that happened!"

Certainly, I have a copy of the precious demos, and they contain more melody and musical variety while still retaining Nirvana's rough and heavy approach. The band promise that, even with major label finance, they will remain true to the sound of Bleach, recorded in an 8-track studio on a budget of $600.

"The labels that we've been talking to are aware of that," said Kurdt. "They're prepared for a raw record, although it will definitely hold up to more conventional standards than Bleach did."

The coffee was finished and the yawns punctuating the conversation were getting louder, so I switched off the tape recorder and the band stumbled back across the road to their hotel. They had some serious sleep to catch up on…

© Valerie Potter, 1990