LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE October 6, 1991 - Atlanta, GA, US

Interviewer(s)
Hyun Woo
Michael Haggerty
Interviewee(s)
Krist Novoselic
Publisher Title Transcript
Feedback Factory Press Nirvana Yes

FFP: So how's mom and dad?

Kris: Oh, they're great. Well, my dad's in Yugoslavia. I can't talk to him much, so I'm kinda worried. They're bombing the hell outta those people right now. You been watchin' the news?

FFP: Yeah, the civil war. So how's the $750,000 being spent?

Kris: That's bullshit, man. We didn't get anywhere NEAR that! Spin Magazine nearly ruined our lives by publishing that. I mean, we didn't get a quarter of that after, like taxes, management, and we had to buy Sub Pop out and our lawyer took some money. I mean, we just bought some new gear, Kurdt bought this car for $500, I tried to rebuild the engine in my fastback, and stuff like that really. Ya know, that's about it. We're not like, totally having all this money, right? Counting taxes, last year's taxes… just to pay an accountant to pay our taxes was a mess. I walked in there with this big box of receipts and it costed a lot, too.

FFP: Did you have a big contract with Sub Pop?

Kris: Well we had this contract with them that we were supposed to put out two more records, right? Sup Pop was just fuckin' the dog as far as we're concerned. So, we wanted to get out, and to get out we needed somebody with money. We couldn't have gone to Touch & Go or any of these other labels. That's why Sub Pop got a bunch of money… They got a couple points of the record. On the record, it says Sub Pop, if you noticed. It's all contractual.

FFP: What's the deal with Butch Vig?

Kris: Well, I don't know if you heard it, but we were gonna record an album in April of '90. We recorded 7 songs. One of the only songs that officially made it onto vinyl was "Dive". And on that session, we did a Velvet Underground cover and stuff. We liked working with Butch and the label wanted us to work with these bigger producers and we thought "that's cool". We met guys like David Byrne and they were cool. We found out that they wanted like $60,000 and 3 points off the record. We're like "WHAT THE FUCK?!" That was our first test against the label and we stood our ground. So the label said "Okay, fine then." We did concede to recording in LA., instead of Madison, which is fine. L.A.'s fun, and it was a cool studio.

FFP: Do you feel that Butch saved you from going into the mainstream? (This WAS 4 months ago)

Kris: Yea, I think that had a lot to do with it. He was a terrific guy. He knows where we're coming from and he does a lot of cool bands. He's so easy to work with, and that's the first time we actually worked with a producer. We jammed with Butch for a couple of days, and he listened to the songs. We have a bad habit of making songs too long and repetitive, so he suggested that you guys should do this, and you should shorten this part, and redo the bridge here. If anyone else would have told us that, we would have been like "Fuck You", but Butch is so cool and we like his ideas.

FFP: Are you happy with the new album?

Kris: Oh yeah. I'm glad it's out. We haven't had a full record out in two and a half years. We tried to put a record out, but there was a bunch of shit involved, and this record was our "We just got signed, so let's go to L.A. and make a record" type thing. You know what I mean. I don't think we're ever going to do that again. I think we're just going to do whatever we want next time.

FFP: Where's the baby on the album cover from?

Kris: I don't know, it's some kid. I have no idea. I'd like to meet that little kid. They want us to do a photo session with us naked in a pool, swimming around. I like skinny-dipping, so it's no big deal.

FFP: What was the thing you guys played at over in England?

Kris: Oh, the Reading Festival? In England, they have a lot of festivals… a lot of them are bullshit like Donnington(?) and crap like that, but this was a cool festival. It was Babes In Toyland, Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop headlined, Dinosaur Jr was there. But there were a lot of pompous bullshit there too. But it was fun. Mudhoney was hangin' backstage, drinking beer. It was like a family reunion. Everyone was having fun.

FFP: What's your reaction to being like the next big hip, college top ten thing? I mean, do you think that's good?

Kris: Well, it's good that people have a chance to hear our record. With Sub Pop, you know, lots of times people would come up after a show and say "you guys did a real good show, but we can't find your record anywhere." So I guess now, people have a chance to buy our record. I'm pretty… like back to the question of am I happy with the way the record came out, and I think if someone's going to fork over $12 or something for a CD, they're going to get their money's worth. Especially like kids who are 14 or something. I want that age to buy OUR records, instead of Poison or Motley Crue, or some piece of shit like that. You know what I mean? Because that stuff's just garbage. And MAYBE they'll like our record and in an interview they'll read that I like stuff like Babes in Toyland, L7, the Melvins, or even Dinosaur Jr, and they'll go check that stuff out. I always think the underground, subculture, or whatever you want to call it has some cool values. A lot of people have good political ideas and it might rub off on these kids. And maybe we're the bridge to show people that there’s a lot of cool music out there.

FFP: Do you have like specific themes for your songs?

Kris: Well, Kurdt writes a lot of the lyrics, and he reads and stuff, so he puts some thought into it and there's a meaning to practically every song. Some songs are sorta goofy, but Teen Spirit’s kinda heavy, you know. It’s like not giving a fuck about anything. The same with parents, I mean, there's so much bullshit going on in the world, You're working at Burger King to pay off the Camaro and you're head is still in high school and you don't give a fuck. A lot of songs are about relationship type things.

FFP: Like "Love Buzz"?

Kris: Yeah, "Love Buzz" is a cover song of the Shocking Blue. You ever heard of the Shocking Blue? They're this '60s band. Put out some great records. Have you heard that song "Venus"? That's on that record.

FFP: So, are there plans to release those other songs, you know, the ones that you recorded at the same time as "Dive"?

Kris: Oh well, there's a lot of outtakes, and they're appearing all over the place on bootlegs now. It’s like a fuckin' ton of shit. Some of this shit like, have you seen the acoustic demos of "Molly"?

FFP: Yeah, in a couple of underground record shops.

Kris: Well, "Molly's Lips" isn't even on there? It's just crap. It's stuff like Kurdt just strumming his guitar and it was never meant to be on a record or anything. Someone got a hold of a tape… stole it from Kurdt's house or whatever, and ten dubbing decks down the line, someone gets a hold of it on this shitty sounding piece of vinyl. You know how you lose a generation each time...

FFP: I like what Mudhoney had to say about bootlegs. They just go in and take them out and they'll be on your side and...

Kris: Yeah, there's nothing they can do, nothing they can do. Kurdt did that and tried to argue with the guy like hey… fuck it, you can do it.

FFP: So how did you guys pick up David Grohl? He was Scream's last drummer, right?

Kris: Yeah. Well we were without a drummer because Chad had parted ways with us. We were in San Fran coming back from L.A. Sub Pop wanted us to sign with CBS and they were going to get like 600 grand or 6 mill and we were gonna get like a few bones. So we went to Soundgarden's manager with this contract and went "What the fuck is this? Do you want us to sign or what? We don't know if we want to do this." She said, "Well I'm flyin' to L.A. tomorrow. You guys should go down there." So we hopped in our van and drove down there. We're driving back and visiting the Melvins, and Scream was playing a free show at the I-Beam. I've loved Scream since '83… saw them, bought all their records… they rock. Anyways, Kurdt and I go to L.A. and Skeeter Thompson, Scream's bass player went, flies the coup, and these guys are broke in L.A., right? Dave calls Buzz and says he's broke in L.A. and what's goin on, and he tells him that hey, you should call Nirvana. They need a drummer. We came up, and he's been with us ever since.

FFP: What kind of deal is this with Geffen? Like how long do you have to stay with them?

Kris: They can drop us anytime after two albums.

FFP: Is this all kind of frightening signing all this stuff and having all this...

Kris: Well, it's pretty scary 'cause we don't know anything about the big label business, right? So all these labels wanted to sign us and gave us tours of their companies, and we met all these people and kinda figured out how things worked. Like that 750 grand bullshit. If a label signs you for $750,000, the bottom line is that it's a business. The music industry is a business, and even though they may be cool to you and stuff, you're just an investment to them, so they're gonna make sure they get their money back. There were some labels that wanted us so bad, we coulda gotten WAY more than 750 grand, but we just went the safe route with a really good contract with way less money and more percentage points and stuff. 'Cause if get 750 grand and get like 5 points of the record, it's a rip. So we took the safe route. And if we get dropped, who gives a fuck. We'll find someone else.

FFP: It seems to be selling pretty good as far as, you know, all the record stores seem to soldout. What do you think about putting out videos?

Kris: There's a video out now. It's off the Teen Spirit song. We're gonna be on Headbanger's Ball like at the end of the month. We told him we'd do it, but we're not gonna introduce any videos or anything. We'll just talk to Riki Rachtman. Get down with the Rikster! (sarcastically)

FFP: How do you think Sub Pop's gonna do now?

Kris: I think that whole Sub Pop thing was just a phenomena. Those guys were in the right place at the right time… and it just overwhelmed them. They learned the hard way. The school of hard knocks, and they got every knock… 10 times over.

FFP: So what do you plan to do from here?

Kris: After our tour? We're going to Japan and Australia in January ('92). If the record keeps doing well, we'll keep touring and playing show. If not, it's no biggie. We'll just practice in Washington state. We don't have any real goals or anything. We're thinking about jamming with Eugene and The Vaselines, We've met him, hung out with him and… musically, that last song we played, we're doing more stuff like that. Like noise and stuff. We got some new material we're working on, and we just wanna put out records.

FFP: Anything you want to say to close this out?

Kris: Slack off. In 70 years, the population of the world is going to be 10 billion. There are 5 billion now. It's pretty scary, 'cause the population is reproducing at a geometrical rate. If you're going to have a kid, just have one. And if you can, adopt a kid from a third world country, like Ethiopia or something, instead of bringing up big families. That's what my wife and I are doing. People who are materialistic and are in this big rat race for goodies, junk, tv sets, cars… it's not important. That mindset is our system, and there's gonna be a lot of problems. So if you're gonna have kids, teach them right. And adopt if you can.

© Hyun Woo, 1992