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

Tom Ackerman
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Mean Street Vol.3 #4 Corporate Rock Whores? Yes

Back when Nirvana was the second ugliest grunge band to have hailed from Aberdeen, Washington (next to the Melvins), they printed t-shirts labelling themselves as “Fudge Packin', Crack Smokin', Satan Worshipping Motherfuckers.” But now that Nirvana has been signed by the Hollywood based David Geffen Company and released their major label debut, Nevermind, new t-shirts have surfaced (with the DGC logo) with a new phrase: “Kitty Pettin', Baby Kissin', Flower Smellin', Corporate Rock Whores.” It seems that moving to a major label has made Nirvana a little defensive.

“Being on a major label has had no effect on Nevermind,” insists guitarist-singer Kurt Cobain in Nirvana's press kit from Geffen. “Except that it was nice to take more time. We recorded Bleach (their first album; Sub Pop records) in six days. We did this one in three weeks. Otherwise, it's the same as if we put it out ourselves. Sure we felt the pressure to stay underground, but that's why we're vomiting on stage and smashing our gear more than ever now - all for the kids!”

Nevermind is Nirvana's second album and their first on Geffen and it is likely to surprise both the seasoned Nirvana fan and the newly enlightened. Nirvana fans of old will discover, possibly to their chagrin, that over half the album contains pop songs reminiscent of “About a Girl” from Bleach. And no new Nirvana fans, accustomed to the pop favor of the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” single, will be shocked by such classic Nirvana bashers as “Territorial Pissings,” “Breed” and “Stay Away.”

“This album is different because the band is different,” begins drummer Dave Grohl, long distance from Seattle with a mouth full of barbecue potato chips. “Bleach was recorded two years ago and a band undergoes a lot of changes in two years. Half the stuff on Nevermind was written over a year ago and the other half was written two weeks before we recorded. What people have to realize is that a band is just three people and people change.”

Nirvana formed when Cobain, a sawblade painter specialising in wildlife scenes and seascapes, met bassist Chris Novoselic at Grays Harbor Institute of Northwest Crafts. Both had come from nearby Aberdeen and Novoselic had a passion for gluing seashells and driftwood on burlap. Novselic recalls, “I liked what Kurt was doing. I asked him what his thoughts were on a macaroni mobile piece I was working on. He suggested I glue glitter on it. That really made it.” The incident formed the basis for Nirvana and even inspired the song “Swap Meet” from Bleach.

From there Nirvana signed with Seattle's infamous Sub Pop Records and released the “Love buzz”/”Big Cheese” single and later their critically acclaimed Bleach LP.

“We were just amazed that we were putting out a record,” says Cobain. “We were, and are, still learning. But we've never cared much for professionalism as long as the energy was there. Like our live shows: we are out of tune and use a lot of feedback. That's not on purpose or because we don't care, we're just musically and rhythmically retarded and we play so hard that we can't tune our guitars fast enough.”

After four drummers had come and gone since the band's conception in '87, Grohl, formerly of the Washington DC-based band Scream, joined Nirvana In the fall of 1990 and explains how he was taken back a bit by the band. I heard they were looking for a drama so I gave them a call. They had seen me play with Scream and liked my style so I flew to Seattle. When I met Kurt and Chris, they wore berets, sunglasses, sandals and had goatees. Chris walked around with these poetry books by Rod McKuen and Kurt would do interpretive dances while Chris recited McKuen's poetry.”

Nirvana's immediate future plans are to tour America in September, Europe in November, and Japan sometime early next year. The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video is also sure to be on 120 Minutes/Buzz Bin MTV rotation soon. “We're really excited about the Japan thing,” adds Grohl.

When asked about how Nirvana came up with the title for the song “Teen Spirit”, which Cobain describes as “a song about apathy, personal or otherwise,” Grohl offers a serious explanation.

“Oh you want a rock and roll story,” begins Grohl facetiously, “well, we all laid down about 2 pounds of coke on a mirrored floor and spelled out ‘Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Then Kurt used one of those paper towel rolls and snort it all in one big lungful.”

“You know Kurt has a saying, “Don't read everything you believe.”

© Tom Ackerman, 1991