LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE September 12, 1991 - Seattle, WA, US

Peter Atkinson
Krist Novoselic
Publisher Title Transcript
Record-Journal Nirvana's earthly goal: to be wildly successful Yes
Mean Street Vol.3 #4 How Do You Spell Relief? Yes

"We want to become a household name", notes Chris Novoselic of his band, the Seattle area trio, Nirvana. "You know, like Lysol. Like Lemon Fresh Pledge."

Given the recent success of Seattle-based groups Soundgarden and Alice In Chains and Nirvana's new affiliation with the major label DGC Records, the gangly bassist and his partners wishes may well come true.

The band, also featuring guitarist/vocalist, Kurdt Cobain and drummer Dave Grohl, is already benefiting from DGC's enormous publicity resources.

The threesome did an exhausting several days' worth of interviews from Seattle last week, two weeks before the September 27 release of its excellent second album, Nevermind.

"It looks like there's going to be a big push for us," Novoselic said matter-of-factly over the phone on September 12. "That's cool."

Nirvana was given nary a nudge by its former label, the legendary Seattle independent Sub Pop, for the 1989 release of its debut Bleach, which was recorded in six days for $600. "There's only so much they can do for you," Novoselic said of independent labels. "It seems like they're always struggling. You have to do most of it on your own."

So Nirvana toured steadily both here and in Europe in the two years after Bleach's release to expand the fan base it had built in the Pacific Northwest. Now, Novoselic chimes proudly, "We're kind of big in England. America will be next."

The band hit the road again this week on a five-week North American tour to support Nevermind. The trio will play an early all ages show at The Moon in New Haven Thursday with opening act Melvins, who are not to be confused with quirky local boys Those Melvins. Melvins are a Seattle-based band Novoselic describes as "thick and heavy as sludge," and which will "possess you like a demon."

Nirvana, on the other hand, is atypical of the sludgy, grungy sound Pacific Northwest bands have become noted for. The trio's music is more rooted in pop, with simple, straight-forward melodies that are punctuated by punchy and powerful, but consistently catchy riffs.

"We can do that real heavy riff, rifforama stuff," Novoselic boasted. Indeed, the band pays homage to its punk rock influences on squalling rave-ups like ‘Territorial Pissings,’ ‘Stay Away,’ and ‘Breed’ from Nevermind, and ‘Negative Creep’ from Bleach.

But, the bassist is quick to note, "We like to delve into different areas and influences from song to song. Influences range from Patsy Cline to Black Flag, and we like to run the gamut when we write," he said. "It keeps things interesting. Being stuck in a rut sucks as far as we're concerned."

© Peter Atkinson, 1991

It was near the end of a long day of interviews for the gangly bassist and he was hurriedly quaffing a couple of cold ones as we spoke to get primed for what would likely be a long night.

“We're just getting ready to relax a little,” Nirvana's Chris Novoselic noted. “It's been a pretty crazy day.”

One of what will likely be many for the Seattle-area-pop-grunge-trio - Novoselic, guitarist/singer Kurt Cobain and drummer Dave Grohl - who now have the resources of the publicity department of major label, David Geffen Company (DGC), at their disposal. "It looks like there's going to be a big push for us," Novoselic notes, adding matter of factly, "That's cool."

DGC is to release Nirvana's snappy second album and major label debut Nevermind at the end of September. The former Sub Pop alums have become yet another Washington-based band to jump ship from the independent ranks to a major last year, following the footsteps of Alice In Chains and Screaming Trees.

“There's only so far you can go on an independent label,” Novoselic said. “It's hard being on one because it seems like they're always struggling. We really wanted to get off our old label. Fortunately we had all of the majors sniffing around, so we had our pick and we're pretty happy so far.”

Nirvana prove themselves worthy of a big label deal with Nevermind, a collection of crunching pop ditties like ’Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ ‘Drain You,’ ‘Lithium’ and ‘On A Plain’ about “the human experience,” as the bassist described them. These are punctuated by the punkish rave-ups ’Territorial Pissings,’ ’Stay Away’ and ‘Breed’ and sinister balleds ‘Polly’ and ‘Something in The Way.’

Novoselic attributes the eclectic nature of Nevermind's track-listing to the band's influences which range from Patsy Cline to Black Flag. “Quality is the bottom line with our tastes and influences,” Novoselic explained. “We try to translate that to our music and we're not afraid to mix these things together. It keeps things interesting.”

Nevermind is miles better than the band's much-heralded 1989 debut release Bleach, which, though also boasting a fine collection of songs, suffered from a hurried $600 production job.

“We had a lot more money and 24 tracks to work with this time,” Novoselic said. “We also had more than three days to get the job done, that certainly does make a difference.”

With the new album and a five-week US tour set to start, Novoselic reckons Nirvana has a pretty good shot of hitting it big by year's end. “I'll see us appealing to a wide cross-section of people and not getting pigeon-holed as just an alternative thing,” he opined.

“Which is good because we want to be a household name, you know, like Lysol,” he laughs, pausing to belch.

Perhaps Rolaids might be more appropriate.

© Peter Atkinson, 1991