LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE September 4, 1991 - London, UK
- Mr Spencer
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
- Dave Grohl
|Siren||Seattleites Of Love||Yes|
NIRVANA are regarded as Gods of molten grunge. The "Nevermind" album heads many peoples' list as LP of the Year. They also happen to be imbeciles.
"There's nothing worse than waking up when you don't remember the night before, and you have bruises all over you. It's so weird, and you're so sore… and then the stories come rolling in, and you go, Oh no! I did that? Nooo… and then the humiliation, Oh I did? Oh well, it ain't the first time, and it won't be the last!"
Nirvana bassist Chris Novoselic shuts up to cram some food into his mouth. To his left, drummer Dave Grohl is mentally preparing his next rapier-like witticism, while opposite sits frontman Kurdt Kobain, bleary eyed and slumped over a bowl of veggie nosh like a man who can think of nothing less desirable at this particular moment, than having to do another Goddamn f***in' interview with the British rock press.
There are two Nirvanas. The highly talented trio most people like to think of as the real Nirvana are, sadly, unable to make it to this interview.
For the uninitiated, the real Nirvana are a truly brilliant power pop band from Seattle; a wonderfully gritty bunch of guitar merchants who manage to balance their fuzzcore roots with tunes of such surprisingly gnarled and careworn beauty that it's tempting to start describing them as one of the great songwriting teams of the post-punk generation.
The real Nirvana recently followed up their SubPop released debut LP 'Bleach' - a drooling, grunge-pop classic - with the remarkable 'Nevermind' (on big label Geffen). It's being hailed by many, quite rightly, as the best album of 1991.
Meanwhile, the false Nirvana are busy slobbing around Europe, doing their utmost to wreck the real Nirvana's heroic status, by being awkward gits in the company of promoters and (mostly adoring) rock hacks, by not holding their knives and forks properly, and by generally acting like some oafish, north-west coast equivalent of the Macc Lads.
Kurdt Kobain (the real one) writes witty but knowing lyrics, and bashes out tunes that melt your insides. He also happens to possess a voice that can turn from a gorgeous croaky whisper to a rasping scream with an case that boggles the mind.
Despite his obvious fatigue, Kurdt is the least annoying member of the bogus trio. At least he attempts to talk some sense. When did you last sleep Kurdt?
(He glances up from his meal) "Last night."
Did you get much?
(Face down again) "Yeah, I think I've been getting too much sleep lately, that's why I'm so tired right now. I'm racked with pain, I'm just totally out of shape."
Chris: "Last night I ran laps around my room, I'd get up like every five minutes and run around the room in my sleep. It's weird, man! I don't know what it was, I was so restless."
Back in August, the Friday of the Reading Festival was made all the more memorable by Nirvana's first U.K. appearance since October '90. They went down a storm, the crowd greeting songs like the emotionally charged 'Come As You Are', and the recent single, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', with that now traditional sign of whole-hearted approval- row upon row of boots, bobbing above the heads of the crowd like a flotilla of filth-encrusted sailing boats.
"It was a beautiful day," sighs the impostor Chris. "We were expecting it to be the highlight of the European tour, but the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium was even more exiting, cos we got drunker than we did at Reading. We had a lot of fun throwing around food in the cafeteria."
False Kurdt: "We broke into Ride's trailer and stole their champagne, and their flowers, and decorated our trailer with the flowers!"
Bogus Dave: "But they stole Chris's t-shirt, man!"
Chris: "Yeah, we're after them! The line's been drawn!"
Kurdt: "We stole Black Francis' name-tag off his dinner table and put it on our door, so everyone thought Black Francis was in our trailer!"
Chris: "So all the fat people kept coming in!"
But that's enough hilarious anecdotes from Belgium. Nirvana's unforgettable set at Reading climaxed with Kurdt (but which one?) hurling his guitar at Dave, then diving head-first into the bewildered rhythm-keeper's drum kit.
"I couldn't move my arm afterwards," Kurdt recalls wearily, "so I went to the medical tent in hope of getting some pain-killers. But instead they just gave me a sling, and some aspirin, so after a couple of hours I just flung off the sling and got drunk instead!"
Do you like touring Kurdt?
"Yeah, but one thing that I don't like about it is trying to sleep in the van, because the seats are situated so close to each other that you have to kinda curl up, and then it throws my back out."
When are you at your happiest?
"When I'm asleep."
Chris: "I'm happiest eating broccoli and listening to The Vaselines."
Do you like flying?
Dave: "I have horrible sinus problems, man. I hate flying."
Chris: "You're in this big tube made of aluminium, flying through the air at like, 500 miles per hour. That's f***ing crazy, man, y'know what I mean?"
Chris says Nirvana is his main hobby, "next to crochet and needlepoint. And I tinker with cars. They never run though, they never get going… " he loudly mimics an old banger trying to start up, then yells at the top of his voice… "GODDAMMIT!!!"
The restaurant falls silent. People brace themselves for an orgy of wild-west style chair breakin', glass smashin', table throwin' mindless destruction. Chris pauses, lowers his voice slightly, and continues…
"I think our biggest hobby is all getting together and going out drinking, going to a bar and just chokin' 'em down, getting loaded. That's about our biggest hobby I think."
Dave: "Glug, glug, glug…"
Have you ever had proper jobs?
Kurdt: "I don't wanna talk about it. Why?"
Chris: "I've never really had any problems with money, because my best friend was a pot dealer- so I've never had to buy pot, and I really didn't spend money on anything else."
Kurdt: "I find it really aggravating now that we have enough money to be able to afford little things when we walk around shops n' stuff, but there's really nothing I want, so I just hoard all this money. I mean, 'all this money' really amounts to about a thousand dollars on average, in the bank, every month…"
Chris (clearly astonished): "You're really saving money?"
Dave (sneering): "Well he doesn't live anywhere!"
Kurdt: "That's exactly it. I don't have a home right now, and not having to pay rent helps. But also just like walking by, like, oh well, you know, there's some sunglasses, maybe I'll buy some sunglasses… Naah, I don't want those. I don't find anything I wanna buy, ever, like, this world has nothing to offer."
Dave: "We don't even have to buy records any more. We've been goin' to the MCA offices (home of Geffen) and taking their Birdland CDs and Simpsons records…"
Chris: "And Adamski. Oh boy, we cleaned 'em out, let me tell ye! They were more than happy to give 'em away."
One of the newest recruits to the Nirvana cause is Kurdt's mum. Never a fan of the intimidating "Bleach" (apart from the un-typically pretty-ish 'About A Girl'), Mrs Kobain has been well and truly bowled over by the searing melodies and catchy singalong choruses of the splendid 'Nevermind'.
Some might scoff, but there's no denying it, you can't beat a good tune. Down with the generation gap!
"I lie to my mum all the time," announces Kurdt. "I tell her we're selling out stadiums, and we've been on the cover of People magazine and Newsweek."
Saints preserve us! May the bowels of hell open and burn us to ashes - the satanic Kurdt Kobain (not the real one) is laughing. Openly.
Chris (aghast): "Are you serious? You really tell her that stuff?"
Phew, had us going there!
Kurdt grins evilly: "I've never done anything, musically, to please my mom. It is kinda flattering that she finally accepts me, and so I'm gonna keep writing Bruce Springsteen anthems until one day we can come to the bonding that we've always needed."
Chris: "It's all very Freudian, the whole mother thing."
Kurdt: "Sometimes I just wanna curl up next to her bosom… God! I thought of this awful dream the other night, speaking of rooms. Like, this guy killed his mom and then crawled back inside of her and hid from the cops, and the cops were looking for him and he was inside his dead mom's corpse, curled up inside of her. They'll never catch him."
Is there a lot of sarcasm in your songs, Kurdt?
"Oh, definitely, every other line is either a disclaimer or a contradiction. I'll usually write a line that's semi-serious, or if it's something that I really feel passionate about, and then I'll make fun of it on the second line."
Dave: "We all get pretty cynical, maybe a bit too much, but then we get cynical about being cynical."
Do you think maybe American sarcasm is too dry for the English?
Chris: "That's what really sucks about coming to Europe and trying to be nice to people, because we're used to… I dunno, I joke around with people a lot, and most of those Europeans don't understand that. It's like they'll walk into the dressing room and I'll go, CAN WE GET SOME F***IN' TOWELS IN HERE PLEASE? And I'll have to sit there goin' I'm joking, I'm joking… (attempts German promoters accent) These fucking guys, the sell-outs!"
Happily, the false Kurdt agrees that, for all it's guitar-driven ecstasies and traumas, and its rollocking kick-in-the-balls brilliance, it is OK to laugh and smile to 'Nevermind'.
Chris disagrees. "You never should be laughing or smiling," he snaps, 'cos that's a sign of weakness. We build on our strength. Our stance is a straight-edged, serious water-drinking band."
Ah… parody! Do Nirvana feel any competition with other bands?
"We don't even feel any competition with ourselves," says Kurdt. "I mean, that's not what music's about at all, that's a really weird idea."
But it could just be a 'matey' kind of competition. You and fellow Seattleites Mudhoney, for example?
"Well, I know that happens with a lot of bands, it's really weird. I've never felt this community bonding in Seattle, like, oh, I'm so proud of my little town, y'know? Like, yeah, we're putting ourselves on the map! Who gives a f**k about the map? I never wanted to be on the map in the first place."
Chris: "F**k the map!"
No matter. The real Nirvana are currently the best band in Seattle, at the very least. The rest of the world will follow shortly.
© Richard Newson/Mr Spencer, 1991