LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE September 20, 1991 - Toronto, ON, CA

Unidentified Much Music Correspondent
Kurt Cobain
Krist Novoselic
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript Much 30th: Nirvana interview 1991 Yes

MuchMusic: First things first, I guess… I read the first page of your bio and you're talking about punk-rock, now are Nirvana still a punk band?

Novoselic: Well, I like biorhythm machines and I put my hand in one and it was a pretty "punk" readout. It cut my hand!

Cobain: It said, "Lord, you're so punk!"

Novoselic: Huhhuhhuh. [laughs]

MuchMusic: But, I mean, does that term still apply to you guys though? Are you…

Cobain: I don't think so, I don't think we've ever been labelled as punk-rock in the first place, we've just played in the underground circuit. We like punk-rock more than any other style of music, so… yeah, we're punk, right?

Grohl: Well, I think everybody was sorta into punk-rock before the band really evolved anyway…

Cobain: Yeah, before we were a band…

Grohl: So, it's definitely… everyone was sorta bred on the punk thing.

MuchMusic: Now, I'm sure you dislike labels, but then where do you see that your music fits in?

Cobain: In rock 'n' roll.

MuchMusic: [laughs] That's a pretty wide term…

Grohl: But isn't it… I think… what did they call it before? "The Sub Pop sound"!

Cobain: Oh yeah, the Sub Pop sound!

Grohl: Yeah, that's right!

Cobain: Yeah.

Novoselic: Grunge.

Grohl: Grunge!

Novoselic: Grunge!

Grohl: Seattle!

Cobain: I can't decide!

Grohl: Seattle, Sub Pop, grunge… or punk, or rock 'n' roll… y'know?

MuchMusic: But the Sub Pop thing wouldn't apply anymore, though.

Cobain: Why not? They're still a label.

MuchMusic: You guys aren't on Sub Pop now.

Cobain: Well…

Grohl: So?!?!

Novoselic: Yeah, we're DGC rock now! We're DGC hardcore!

Cobain: DGC rock, DGC hardcore…

MuchMusic: There, you found the right term.

Novoselic: Right!

Cobain: And MCA in Europe and Canada.

Novoselic: Right.

Cobain: We're MCA punk.

Grohl: We're MCA here too?

Cobain: Yeah, yeah, we are.

Grohl: Oh, I could tell you some weird stories about MCA!

MuchMusic: Now, I realise you guys dislike the labels, but it's still a case of, I mean…

Grohl: No, we love DGC!

Novoselic: What labels? Like, music labels? Or labels, the way people label people - people of race, creed, colour, national origin?! Brother, we're all on this floating sphere through space! [laughs]

MuchMusic: OK, but this is a little bit different though because I think, to a certain extent, people out there wanna know because it helps them decide whether they like it or not, right? I mean, it's not necessarily a category thing, but it's still like…

Novoselic: We like to say that we're like Black Sabbath molesting the Bay City Rollers or The Knack, maybe.

MuchMusic: Well, that was something else…

Cobain: Then no-one will like us!

MuchMusic: That's something else I wanted to ask you guys about, now you mentioned The Knack and the Bay City Rollers, are there any aspects of those bands in your music and where are they?

Novoselic: Fashion-wise, it's Bay City Rollers all the way!

Cobain: [laughs] Yeah!

Grohl: We don't have any plaid on now, but just you wait till we go on!

Novoselic: Wait till we go on… there's gonna be an inverted plaid cross… it's gonna be [pulls face]… with Ozzy Osbourne with a woody shag-cut crucified on it.

MuchMusic: OK, now, were you guys fans of those bands, seriously?

Cobain: Hmmm, no…

Grohl: Yeah, I was into…

Cobain: I despised the Bay City Rollers when I was 9. My sister liked them, but I didn't.

Novoselic: I bought the Saturday Night single.

Cobain: But I like them now, I have all their albums.

MuchMusic: You like them now?

Cobain: Yeah.

MuchMusic: OK, 'cause I guess you guys also talked about how you're a pop band and yet I wonder how many people would really describe you that way…

Grohl: Well, a lot of people do just because the songs are, y'know… they may be really heavy but they have some sort of melody to 'em. I mean, they're like poppy songs, but… we're not like a "pop band," y'know, but… I dunno.

Cobain: Papa don't preach…

Novoselic: Papa don't preach.

Cobain: Pop music…

Novoselic: Pop music.

MuchMusic: OK, now, how do you feel, though, about the cross-over into the metal market?

Cobain: That's fine, yeah.

Novoselic: Fine. Well, maybe we could, uhhhh… a few of those kids, if they could go from worshipping Satan to being studious and alternative, and some of the alternative people could be like smoking pot on their Camero hoods… hoods of their Cameros? Camero hoods?

Cobain: It'll be a trade-off.

Novoselic: It'll be a trade-off, yeah. It'll be joint forces… "Unite, all! Potheads and bookworms! Come together!"

MuchMusic: OK, now…

Novoselic: That's the rally cry of our revolution.

Cobain: Get off that soapbox…

MuchMusic: Now, one of the things I was reading, you were being interviewed in a metal magazine and someone, one of the members of the band, wasn't very happy about that…

Novoselic: Who said that?!

Cobain: Who said that?

Grohl: I didn't do it… I didn't do it.

Novoselic: Is that a pubic hair?!

Cobain: [laughs]

Novoselic: Yuck! It's curly and crinkly… Oh, I dunno… where did you get that?! Who sent you?!

Cobain: [laughs] What planet are you from, Bro?

MuchMusic: [laughs] Are we gonna be able to get anything out of this interview?

Novoselic: Yeah, we are! We're talkin'!

Cobain: [laughs] This is no front!

Novoselic: This is no front.

Grohl: Hey man, we ain't frontin'.

Novoselic: We are… well, I dunno… y'know, a lot of heavy is… I don't really care for a lot of heavy metal, you know what I mean? A lot of it is just kinda "Ewww" but…

Cobain: "Ewww"

Novoselic: I mean, to each their own, right?

MuchMusic: OK, but then I guess the fact that you're then appealing to that market, are you having the fans of those bands come out to see you guys? Does that bother you, or is that something you'd like to happen?

Novoselic: Oh, we'd like for that to happen, sure! People could come in and check our band out… why not?!

Grohl: Well, if people come and like the music, then that's fine. If they come and think we're a heavy metal band then, y'know… fuck 'em!

Novoselic: I remember one time, I went to this show in Olympia and the Melvins opened for this heavy metal band, and all the punk-rockers and stuff… y'know, the metal people just gave the Melvins a bunch of pahooey, and then when the metal band came out, the punk-rockers who came for the Melvins they got into the metal band, but it seemed like the metal people kinda freaked out… they were weird. I don't know what it was, maybe it was something they ate.

Cobain: That was quite a few years ago, too. Now that Metallica are wearing Misfits t-shirts, I think it's had a big impact on metal…

Novoselic: James Hetfield gave the legions of rockers the "OK" to like punk-rock, so it must be OK now.

Cobain: [laughs]

MuchMusic: Now, being on a bigger label, are you guys involved… I mean, there must be meetings about marketing and stuff like that, do you guys have any say about that stuff, or is it just something you leave up to the label?

Grohl: We have the final say, but we don't go to the meetings.

Cobain: Yeah, they're really boring.

Grohl: You can imagine, it's like going back to school, y'know… we sit that out.

Cobain: Yeah, and the fluorescent lights hurt my eyes.

MuchMusic: So how have things changes for you guys now, being on a bigger label?

Grohl: We get to be on MuchMusic! [laughs]

MuchMusic: You could've been on MuchMusic before, if you had turned up for the interview!

Grohl: Really? Oh.

Novoselic: We're never late now, we're always on time. we're prompt.

Grohl: There you go. We've got watches.

Novoselic: We've bought watches. We have tour managers now. We don't get up at 1 o'clock in the morning… 'cause last time we were here, we were just us 3, y'know? Drivin' around, we'd get up whenever we wanted, "Hey man, that's a pretty long drive to Toronto, we better get goin'!" Like, "Urgh, shut up!" And we'd, like, show up as we were ready to go on.

MuchMusic: OK, now, you recorded your album with Butch Vig, why did you choose him for the producer?

Cobain: Because we'd worked with him before, about a year ago. We attempted to record our album with him. It turned out really well, but we were in the middle of doing the Sub Pop negotiations, trying to get out of that contract and onto DGC, so… It just seemed like the best thing to do, y'know, to work with someone who's familiar with us still.

MuchMusic: You had done demos with a few other people, though, hadn't you?

Novoselic: We did the demos, that's what he's talking about, with Butch…

Cobain: Yeah, those are the demos. We attempted an album…

MuchMusic: No, but I thought there were other producers you guys did a few demos with…

Novoselic: We've worked with Jack Endino, that's about it… nobody else.

Grohl: We talked to other producers but we never did any demos with them, so…

MuchMusic: And was there stuff you'd heard by Butch before you worked with him that kinda decided it?

Novoselic: Sure. Yeah, it sounded really good. There's, like, Laughing Hyenas and Killdozer - pretty crunchy, meaty stuff! We thought, "Yeah, we'll try this guy out!" So we did the demos and nothing came out of that, so we called him again and he flew down to L.A.; we all flew to L.A… we drove to L.A.? Well, I drove to L.A. Yeah, we drove to L.A., he flew and we made this record. It took us about a month. Butch is really hands-on as a producer and an engineer, he's just totally in it all the way, so… he's so easy-going and stuff, too…

MuchMusic: Now, the first one was recorded…

Novoselic: Not an uptight freak!

MuchMusic: [laughs] The first one was recorded fairly quickly, now, were there certain things you set out to do differently this time around?

Novoselic: It was just an entirely different set of circumstances this time around, y'know? An entirely different set of circumstances… [laughs] What did we set out to do different?

Cobain: I dunno.

Grohl: We had a different studio, a different producer, different state….

Novoselic: You know what we did? We just did that whole "major-label-go-to-Hollywood-and-record-a-record" thing, but we didn't get stuck with some goofball producer, we got the producer we wanted, y'know? And we don't really have any regrets about how it turned out, we think it turned out great, what we did… but I think next time around we're gonna choose a different path, 'cause it's such a well-worn path, we're gonna trot off the beaten track…

MuchMusic: What's the different path?

Novoselic: The different path? Uhhh… [laughs] religion! No, we're gonna record in a church… No, a different path? I dunno, I think we might record the next record as we go along, right? We might record it on a boombox, we might record the record in an airplane bathroom because of the dynamic acoustics… just depends, y'know? We did that "go-to-Hollywood", just like I said, we did that "go-to-Hollywood" trip… maybe we'll record somewhere else, maybe some natural… oh, we could record in some Greek theatre, somewhere in Greece, at the Acropolis or something, "Whoa!"

MuchMusic: OK, now, the first one was done more-or-less as a live thing, so this time around was it consciously a studio effort, away from the live sound?

Cobain: Well, I don't think the first album was live. I mean, we recorded it in a studio. We did overdubs.

Grohl: We did record the basic tracks live…

Cobain: We overdubbed our guitar and vocals and everything…

MuchMusic: Oh, I thought it was pretty much done in 1 shot?

Cobain: No.

Novoselic: It was done in, like, 4 days… I forget how many days… under a week: 3, 4, 5 days, something like that. 600 bucks… You know what? When we were mixing it, we were really sick and Kurt went down to the Health Department and he got these codeine cough syrups. So we were just popping those and we were just, like, in La La Land. And then we were, like, hands-on producers, just cooking on this codeine joy juice. I think it had a big effect on how that record turned out. That's the honest truth.

MuchMusic: OK, now, with the cover of the new record, is there a certain concept you guys are trying to put across with the cover?

Novoselic: It's open for interpretation. Y'know, if you think about a baby swimming through water, a dollar bill on a hook… that's the fun part of it, decipher… maybe a person could find a new way of life… we were speaking of paths, they can take off their clothes and bite into a fishhook in water - see how that feels!

MuchMusic: I sorta thought it related to the band, though - this is sort of your first jump in the water towards the huge bucks and all that…

Novoselic: Right on! See, I never thought of that! There you go, that works too! See, it's open to interpretation.

MuchMusic: And that's the whole idea? You guys don't like explaining anything to do with your music or to do with what you're doing!

Novoselic: It's just like Ricky Ricardo said, "'splain, Lucy! 'splain!"

Cobain: [laughs]

Novoselic: But Lucy never did! [in a high-pitched voice] "Ricky… wah!"

MuchMusic: Why don't you like talking about it, though? What's the problem with going on camera and just relating a little story to do with it?

Cobain: There's nothing to be said, it's all in the music, man! It's all in the music! It's all in the meat!

MuchMusic: You don't think that the people who are fans of yours would like to hear what you had in mind, maybe?

Cobain: I'd like to hear what they have in mind, y'know? Like, how they interpret it.

MuchMusic: You would?

Cobain: Yeah, I'd like to get some letters! "This is what my analytical… idea is of what your lyrics are about…"

Novoselic: "My personal critique…"

Cobain: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, man.

Novoselic: Yeah. Y'know, what we do is we get all drunk and we get into these heavy philosophical conversations. What we are is pothead philosophers, with no type of studious background or anything! We're just… [laughs]

MuchMusic: OK, so what's your relationship now with Sub Pop? How are things with them?

Novoselic: Oh, we get along with those guys. I mean, we stop by and say, "Hi." That's about it, really. We're pretty much off the label, we're on DGC. DGC does all the work.

MuchMusic: There was a Sub Pop logo, though, on the first single or whatever…

Novoselic: Yeah, it's gonna be on the record too. It's a contractual obligation, basically, that's it.

MuchMusic: There was a little bit of bad blood at first, though, wasn't there? When you guys were leaving?

Novoselic: Yeah. yeah, yeah, there was. I think a lot of that was lack of communication and assumptions, but now we've put all that behind us and we just get along, because there's no reason to bear a grudge, right? Forgive and forget, huh brother?!

Cobain: [laughs]

MuchMusic: Now, are you gonna come back after a certain period of time and do a freebie single or anything, like Soundgarden did?

Novoselic: A freebie single? Just like my uncle Jim said, "Nothing is this world is free!" [laughs] But, I dunno… we'll probably do something like that, it's always fun to release things. Maybe we'll just go and release something, y'know…. maybe we'll record a record with people on work release. See, because if you wanna get on work release, you have to have a job guarantee, so they'll get out of jail that way. So, we'll just guarantee them a job and they'll get out of jail. We're out to help our friends!

MuchMusic: Actually, scratched into the runout grooves in the Cat Butt 12-inch was something about, "If the man from Geffen shows up, shoot him in the head!" Or something like that - do you guys know anything about that?

Novoselic: No.

MuchMusic: It was something I discovered just recently, I thought it was really ironic.

Novoselic: It's the first time we've heard about it.

Cobain: Was it a Cat Butt single that came out a long time ago?

MuchMusic: A 12-inch Sub Pop thing.

Grohl: It came out a long time ago?

MuchMusic: Yeah.

Novoselic: Maybe they had a bad experience with somebody at Geffen.

MuchMusic: I just wondered if Geffen had been sort of around trying to sign up other Sub Pop bands…

Novoselic: Geffen tried to sign Cat Butt, huh?

MuchMusic: So, we've just got a brand new video from you guys…

Novoselic: Wow.

MuchMusic: Does somebody wanna tell me about that? Or you don't want to explain that, it's just there to… for everyone's own interpretation? Who did you do the video with?

Cobain: Napoleon.

Novoselic: We did it with Max Baer, TV's Jethro and the Beverly Hillbillies. Oh, it was Sam Bayer! Wrong guy! Well, this guy… no, this video takes place in a high-school gym, and it's like a crazy pep assembly; it's plumb loco!

Cobain: [laughs]

MuchMusic: Ok, now, why did you use that song for the video- first single and all that?

Novoselic: We just kinda said… we were asked, "What song do you guys wanna put out first as a single?" And we just thought about it, "Well, I say this song!"/"Well, I say this song!" Then we thumb-wrestled and we thought, "Teen Spirit! Let's do Teen Spirit as our first single."

MuchMusic: Now, isn't "Smell Like Teen Spirit," isn't that from a deodorant commercial or something? Is that where you guys got it from?

Cobain: No, we didn't get it from that. We found that out later. No… it's a pure coincidence.

Novoselic: It is pure coincidence, yeah. It's such a big world, y'know? It's a small world. It's kind of a medium-sized world. Like, if you put the planet Earth between Jupiter and Uranus, which is really small…

Cobain: [laughs]

Novoselic: It's, like, medium.

MuchMusic: OK.

Novoselic: Did you know that the biggest star in the whole galaxy- universe is as big as an atom is small?! Did you know that?! Isn't that wild?! That's more pothead philosophy…

MuchMusic: [laughs] I figured as much. Now, in-between the last Sub Pop thing and this album, there seems to have been a lot of bootlegs released and I just wondered how you guys felt about…

Novoselic: [sighs]

Cobain: We don't mind the live stuff, that's fine.

Grohl: It's just when they start bootlegging stuff that's unreleased and wasn't intended for release in the first place, that's when it starts getting kinda hairy.

MuchMusic: So you actually prefer the live bootlegs to actual studio stuff coming out…

Grohl: Sure. Well, they always sound like crap anyway, whether it's live or…

Novoselic: Woah!

MuchMusic: End of interview! [laughs] That's it, we're outta here….

© Much Music, 1991