Rob Clymo
Kurt Cobain
Publisher Title Transcript
Metal Forces Situation Normal Yes

Rob Clymo talks to Nirvana frontman Kurdt Kobain as the Washington state trio laugh their way into a major deal.

We've got a lot of heavy riffs, and a lot of melody too, because we like THE BEATLES as much as BLACK SABBATH. So, we figured why not rip them both off," claims NIRVANA frontman/guitarist Kurdt Kobain as we ponder over the essence of their sound. Indeed, if ever there was a band that has found the perfect balance between catchy pop tunes and good old hard n' crunchy heavy metal then it would have to be this trio from Washington State.

Kobain, plus drummer Dave Grohl bassist Chris Novoselic and assorted road crew, are holed up in a Bremen Hotel room, just prior to another of their tumultuous festival performances, one of many during this current stint through Europe, taking in a couple of Irish dates, not to mention the once prestigious Reading Festival. This is all prior to heading back to the States for a US tour with THE MELVINS, in promotion of their long-awaited debut for major D.G.C.

This affable bunch have come a long way since their "Bleach" debut surfaced on Sub Pop some three years ago, augmented only by a paltry four tracker and single in-between. NIRVANA, however, couldn't care less about this protracted gap in studio output, and are, as Kobain goes on to explain, still reeling from all the attention they've been getting on this side of the Atlantic.

"We were given flowers at one festival," sniggers the frontman in mock disbelief. "And Champagne. We didn't drink it though, we'd rather drink vodka. It's certainty a lot better than the first time we toured over here with TAD. That was for seven and a half weeks in a small van containing eleven people. But it was also a lot of fun though, even if this one is so much better because we're just playing festivals which are a luxury and a privilege in themselves."

Kobain also appears quite smitten with their Reading appearance, although talks a little less enthusiastically about the Irish dates with buddies SONIC YOUTH. "Reading was just like one huge party" he says. "Like the 4th of July, or Christmas or something. A lot of fun, and in fact, probably the highlight of my life. We did Dublin and Cork before that, but they weren't very memorable shows. Nothing exciting happened, there weren't any fights, just not much of a reaction basically. In a few months I probably won't even remember that we played Ireland at all. I really liked the City of Cork though, did a lot of walking around and went to a couple of cathedrals. I felt a very strong vibe there, almost like I'd been there before. I'll probably want to move there someday, I think I'd like it."

The past couple of years, meanwhile, weren't quite so much of a blast, with countless tales of rabid record labels chasing the combo for all their worth. Naturally, Kobain's attitude to all that sort of tedium is pretty much what you'd expect. "D.G.C. are probably more tuned in to what we are as a band than any of the other labels we talked to. There's a lot of excitement there. Most of those other ones we wouldn't even have considered. We just wanted a free lunch. We've been doing a lot of other things though, y'know in and out of detox a few times, collaborating with other bands, writing musicals. We're gonna have a movie coming out soon, by the end of the year hopefully."

"I couldn't possibly describe it," the frontman adds cryptically. "It's a little bit like THE MONKEES "Head". Just a surreal sex fantasy. We might call it "Head Cheese" but as yet we're not quite sure."

The album on the other hand is easier to pin down. Produced by Butch Vig and mixed by Andy Wallace, "Nevermind" is twelve tracks of pure, metallic, power pop. I personally happen to think that the production team have captured NIRVANA's sound to a tee, although if anything, Kobain reckons the disc should've been a lad rawer. "Looking back now, I guess it could have been a bit more raw," he reflects. "But it's really hard to tell what your album is sounding like when you're mixing it, because all studios are different. We recorded it in one studio in LA, then mixed in another so it's just really hard to tell. For our next record we're back into Reciprocal working on an 8-track again. We're gonna try and get a rawer sound."

Whatever, the album's material is NIRVANA at their best, especially when it comes down to subject matter. I get the feeling the trio are always having a laugh, although what at isn't always so obvious. "Oh, we laugh at anyone or anything," chuckles the frontman. "Life in general… even plants…"

You can't help wondering whether it's their humble roots back home which has forced this humour to the surface. Twin Peaks may well have given the area a lot of exposure, but it's sure as hell getting tedious for bands who live in the vicinity. "I never really followed it much anyway," laughs the frontman. "I prefer a lot of his (David Lynch, world renowned weirdo film director and man behind Eraserhead and Blue Velvet to name just a couple) other stuff. His earlier films are great. There's not a lot there otherwise, y'know, like Aberdeen, where we come from. It's totally boring and secluded, unless you're into wood sculpting or working on cars."

"I don't know the first thing about machinery" the frontman grunts. "I've never had a desire to fix a car or a lawnmower, so there was really no reason for me to stay there."

Life on the road, so it seems, is a far more exciting proposition as we come full circle back to the road work, in Europe. "There's a lot more excitement, obviously, because it's a whole different culture over here," says Kobain, enthusing yet again. "There are still plenty of new things to see. The States gets pretty boring, plus the drives between gigs are so long too."

Then is he suggesting major label life isn't quite the luxury five star treatment it's often made out to be? "Well, life is a little bit easier now," he laughs. "But things haven't really changed that much. We're not making anymore money than we were before. On this tour we're not even breaking even. It's just an investment, y'know. We got an advance, we bought some equipment, paid off our lawyer, our accountant, our manager, so we'll throw it at the dartboard and see what sticks I guess. Right now, things seem about the same to me." 

Naturally, the frontman isn't concerned about being spoilt by the sweet smell of success either, as he adds: "I think we can keep ourselves angry, maintain that hunger, no matter what conditions we're under. Just as long as we stay drunk and hate each other. You can never run out of offensive and annoying things to keep you angry anyway."

So alcohol tends to play a large part in their tactics? "Well, I like to drink hard spirits, either, cough mixture or Jaegermeister. Most of the time I can't tell the difference." In which case make mine a double.

© Rob Clymo, 1991