- Paul X Kimball
- Kurt Cobain
- Krist Novoselic
||Nirvana: The Short Trip Up
I remember hearing of Nirvana for the first time about three years ago. They had just played a party out at the Caddyshack in Olympia with a local band called Lush and everybody was raving about them. I was very skeptical. I mean, come on, Nirvana? That's the most stupid name I've ever heard! Like some kind of bad seventies cover band or something. And they're from where? Aberdeen? Jesus, what a joke. The fact that no one raved about my band like that might have had something to do with it, but I doubt it.
In the months that followed I had a few chances to see them, and whether I liked them or not depended entirely on how drunk we were (they and I). The sound was really heavy back then, much less poppy than the more recent material, and very repetitive. Something about it was interesting, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I continued to be a skeptic. I couldn't stand the guy's voice.
Then the Sub Pop thing happened. One minute I heard they had a single out and the next minute I couldn't find one in the stores anywhere. It was pretty good. I still thought the vocals were too whiny, but it sounded big and hairy in a way that reminded me of vintage KISS, so I was won over. I had met the guys in the band shortly before the single came out, so I was a little more inclined to like it since I knew who they were. But the next time I saw them play, in Olympia's Capitol Lake Park, with My Name, Swallow, and Soundgarden, I was not particularly impressed.
Then my band had a gig with them at a new place in downtown Olympia called REKO MUSE. It was an old garage bought by an eight-woman collective for photography shows, but rock helped pay the bills. We played a good set and I took a cool-down toke on a pipe offered to me by a friend while we waited for Nirvana to set up. They were sporting a new guitar player that night, the near-famous Jason Everman. The sound was huge with the extra guitar and I became an instant convert. The vocals were all there this time and sounded very powerful. I stood on a chair at the back of the room and let myself get swept away. It was rock ‘n’ roll transcendence at its finest.
After Bleach came out (with a cover photo taken at that very same REKO MUSE show) it became harder to see them at parties; the few they played were so packed that breathing was difficult and movement was out of the question. They played a great show with the Melvins and Beat Happening out in the Garage Hall on Steam Boat Island around that time. Chris was in a hippie dress and Kurdt's arms were horribly scarred with needle tracks, causing more than a little shock amongst those of us in the audience who didn't realize that they had been painted on prior to the show. Nirvana started turning up on huge bills in Seattle, where it was rumored that they had become the biggest draw in town. They had lost their second guitarist on tour long ago (he was here a minute ago...?) and later replaced Chad, their third drummer, with Dave from Scream. They could now be found smashing equipment in crowded rooms all over the country. It seemed only a matter of time before they took the next step in what could only be described as “up” and sign on to a multinational record label.
This has now come to pass. Nirvana's major label debut, Nevermind, is out on DGC and God only knows what's next. I have heard it a few times, and it can only be describe as an incredibly strong record from start to finish. I was able to talk to Chris and Kurdt the day before they left to go on tour to support Nevermind about where they're at now in a career that many eyes and ears have followed.
Hype: How do you like dealing with DGC so far?
Kurdt: Well, our Geffen rep in Seattle is really nice. She lets us drink in her house, she buys us drinks, and she let me destroy a Nelson gold record... we took all the Nelson CDs and made a huge domino thing in her front room. It was real extravagant. But I did not put the Nelson tape in the toilet and clog it up, though she thinks I did.
Hype: Your schedule was pretty tight for tonight. Have you guys been doing shitloads of interviews?
Kurdt: Constantly, everyday.
Chris: We're gonna fly into Toronto Thursday night, all day Friday we're gonna do interviews until soundcheck. It's just something you gotta do if you wanna get promotion.
Hype: How much does the record company do for you?
Chris: Oh, shit. Promotion wise, they do it all.
Kurdt: We don't have to be burdened with the everyday boring part of being a band. We don't have to hope and hope that you're gonna get an interview sometime this week, call up your label and hound them about it three or four times...
Chris: They just take care of everything. They call us up and say, “You have to do this-and-this many interviews,” we just do 'em. We have a lot of fun.
Kurdt: They do everything for us, they buy us drinks, they burp and diaper us, tell us when to wake up...
Chris: And on occasion smoke us out...
Hype: you're heading to Toronto tomorrow. Is the tour beginning there, or what?
Chris: Yeah. The tour's for five or six weeks.
Hype: Are you headlining?
Chris: Yeah, headlining tour.
Kurdt: The Melvins are going with us for a couple of weeks, then Hole, Sister Double Happiness...
Chris: Is Hole gonna do shows with us?
Kurdt: Yeah, they're doing a few, I think.
Chris: Oh, wow! And Urge Overkill.
Hype: What were you guys doing when you were out of town last spring?
Chris: Last spring... um... we recorded a record last spring!
Kurdt: Yeah, we stayed at a McDonald's-like apartment chain.
Chris: You can get a furnished apartment for a month in L.A.
Kurdt: It's a place where kids who are auditioning for Star Search stay.
Shelli (Chris' wife): Yeah, they had a piano bar, there was free beer and wine, and we saw a show they put on, little kids singing songs from Les Miserables.
Kurdt: Fitz of Depression booked a tour and came down and stayed with us for a few days. We had to have a Fitz of Depression benefit show to get ‘em back home.
Chris: Yeah, and we got all of our guitars stolen.
Hype: Some benefit. So, are you getting some kind of tour vehicle from DGC?
Chris: Yeah, just a rental van. They took two of the back benches out and we're just gonna throw a futon back there. We got a trailer, and that's it, really.
Kurdt: We’ll have a lot of comforts; a foot massage, a water pick, a humidifier.
Chris: Yeah, we're gonna be using a humidifier all the time 'cause we're so sickly.
Kurdt: We're gonna be shooting up aloe vera and warn milk speedballs.
Hype: I saw the cd5 of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and it's got the Sub Pop logo on it, what's the deal with that?
Kurdt: That was part of the buy-out agreement. In order for us to get out of the contract they got so-much money and the privilege of having their name on the back of our next two albums. Which is fine. I mean, promoting Sub Pop is fine with me.
Hype: Is Geffen booking your tour or...
Chris: We have our booking agent, Triad. We keep all the money from the shows. DGC has nothing to do with it. A lot of bands they do. It was part of the deal.
Kurdt: We get to choose who goes on tour with us and how long we tour. If we just wanted to do a two-week tour this whole year there's nothing they could do about it.
Chris: But they have their ways of doing something about it. They can say, “Okay, you guys don't participate, neither will we.” All of a sudden, no promotion. You gotta work together with them.
Hype: Was it fun to take time to put together something as professional as this record is?
Kurdt: It was fun, yeah. It was very, very casual.
Chris: Yeah, that was the best thing about it.
Kurdt: We drank Jim Beam everyday and lay on the couch for hours. We wasted a lot of time. We could have recorded three Bleach records in the time we were just playing pinball.
Chris: We had the studio locked out for two weeks, but it probably would have taken four days, working continuously.
Kurdt: But we didn't really spend that much money on this record. Not even a quarter of what most bands on majors spend.
Hype: When you record, are you going for your live sound or what?
Kurdt; When we recorded this record I wanted it to sound like a studio, like a Pretenders album or something like that. I wanted it to sound like a studio, like a Pretenders album or something like that. I wanted it to sound very tight.
Hype: Are you going to have trouble recreating those studio sounds live?
Chris: Oh no, I think it comes across really well live. We've been playing those songs for a while and they sound fine.
Hype: What appealed to you about DGC in the first place?
Kurdt: It didn't seem like anyone cared or knew about us, that's what appealed to us.
Chris: But there were some people there that worked at, like, Rough Trade and SST...
Kurdt: Who generally seemed to know about underground music.
Chris: And Sonic Youth is there too, and that's cool. We went on tour with them in Europe. We just happened to get the same manager.
Hype: Sonic Youth had vinyl out for their last record, are you going to do that too?
Kurdt: As many as we want.
Chris: We already have this [picking up the 12” version of the Teen Spirit single].
Kurdt: The only screw-up that DGC has made so far is the tongue on out smiley face logo. The tongue was supposed to be up, like he’s licking something, not like he’s on drugs.
Hype: So where are you taking it from here?
Kurdt: (singing) “One day at a time, Sweet Jesus...”
Chris: Well, the gospel record. We're gonna cover that song. Then we're gonna do Vegas.
It seems to me that Nirvana is playing it pretty cool right now and just waiting to see what will happen next. I’ve heard a few people expressing the usual dismay about a local band turning big league, but I’ve always felt that the music speaks for itself. In Nirvana’s case, the music is still sounding very true to itself and it rocks unquestionably. But, of course, I never doubted them for a minute.
© Paul X Kimball, 1991