LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE October ??, 1991 - Los Angeles, CA, US

Jonathan Wolff
Krist Novoselic
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Venice Magazine vol.3 #8 Kitty Pettin Flower Sniffin Corporate Rock Whore Chris Novoselic And Dave Grohl Of Nirvana Yes

Maybe you seen them, Nirvana t-shirts that read Fudge Packin Crack Smokin Satan Worshippin Motherf***er - or, Kitty Pettin Flower Sniffin Corporate Rock Whore. Referring to Nirvana's attitude towards the system, they're updates of an old Punk credo, “Fuck you.” But what they really mean is that Punk is alive and well and selling a lot of CDs and cassettes. Nevermind, Nirvana's second record (their first for DGC) went gold in thirty-five days and was already on Billboard's top 10 within seven weeks of release. By press, Geffen had already shipped 1.3 million albums out to stores. Nirvana's a huge, unbelievable overnight success.

The band members are as amazed as their die-hard fans who used to listen to them when they were an underground thing, who already know how intense they are live, and who have already been completely blown away by Nirvana because, well, everything else is just a little too tame.

Voice: Did you ever think you would become this popular?

Chris Novoselic: No, no way. I'm completely amazed.

Dave Grohl: Lately, it's been strange, I'll get into the car to go bowling, and I'll turn on the radio and hear our song on the radio after a Cars song. It's cool because, the way Kurt writes songs, he usually pulls everything together with a really strong melody. While Chris and I are just going at it in the background, making it as heavy and as noisy as possible. I think when people hear it on the radio they don't realise that it's really heavy music because they just sort of focus on the melody.

What's it like playing in Europe for instance?

Chris: It depends on where you are. We played what used to be East Germany and they just sort of stared at us. They don't know any better, you know?

Dave: A lot of time a really shitty crowd can make the show twice as great. You do something to get some kind of reaction out of them, driving across the table or throwing beer bottles at them.

You'd rather have them stage-diving than staring at you?

Chris: Yeah, stage-diving can get really out of hand sometimes though. I kind of think, God, enough already! We need, like, Barricades with flashing lights up there, you know?

So, what are some dumb questions you've been asked?

Chris: This guy in Italy asked, “”What car is your favourite?” and I say, Toyota, I guess Toyota's a good car, and he goes, “no, no, say Oldsmobile or something.”

Dave: People in Europe want to see big American rock acts driving Cadillacs. Kurt's kinda into the Rob Halford trip, but instead of driving a Harley on stage, he comes on in a Lincoln Continental.

One of the main miracles of Nirvana's success is their almost total lack of an attitude, per se. They don't wear spandex, or leather, or skirts - in this town full of “joke” bands (Celebrity Skin, Dread Zeppelin), they are dead serious. They don't claim to worship Satan, or '70s rock n' roll, and they don't preach at or lecture their audiences. Theirs is the triumph of the loser, the misfit, the weirdo - because he's been shoved outside the circle, he can see the hypocrisy of those inside the circle for what it is. They have integrity, not the unassailable integrity of Fugazi or, the other extreme, the full-on hype of Jane's Addiction, but a particular integrity of their own, exemplified in the title of Nevermind. As Kurt explains, “No one wants to address important issues. They'd rather say, ‘Nevermind, forget it.’ On one hand, we're not a political band - we're just some guys playing music - but we're not just another mindless band asking people to forget either.”

People seem eager to label you as one thing or another. How would you tag yourself?

Chris: You mean as if we were laying on a slab in a mortuary with tags on our toes?

Dave: My favourite label is “male.” I don't know. Three white-trash kids from divorced families who can barely play are instruments and drink. If people are into grouping bands up, I'd rather be put in with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur and the Melvins - you know, what's happening now, then be grouped up with a bunch of mainstream garbage.

The guys in Nirvana hate interviews - especially Kurt who was resolutely unavailable for this one. They prefer to let their songs and performances speak (loudly) for themselves. They have been misquoted and misunderstood with the best of them, but, to some extent, they have brought it upon themselves.

Nirvana's songs are subject to a wide range of interpretations, depending on what you think the lyrics are (every Nirvana fan probably has a completely different idea of what the lyrics to the songs are anyway). But whatever the lyrics really are, they're perfect. At the recent Rock For Choice benefit, Kurt chose to introduce a chilling new song, its chorus was, “Rape Me.” Was it unbelievably tactless or incredibly appropriate? Only Kurt knows for sure.

Has there been a lot of equipment smashing going on this tour?

Chris: Yeah, on the last tour there was. We were starting to get belligerent there.

Dave: We got out of it unscathed. We almost got charged, like £5,000 for the stuff we busted, even though we couldn't be blamed for all of it. But we did have to pay a pretty penny. Just for drunken foolishness.

With Nevermind, Nirvana has entered the big leagues. And yet, it is hard to imagine them becoming your basic arena-rock sellout, no matter how many people buy their records or attend their shows. They're just a little bit too wild for that sort of thing. As Kurt explains, “We're experiencing the typical independent-band-going-on-a-major-label-punk-identity-crisis. That's why we're vomiting on stage and smashing our gear more than ever now - all for the kids!”

It remains to be seen how much “staying power” their success has, once all those people who bought Nevermind go to see them live - it's almost enough to scare anyone back to their Black Crows CD. To get a good taste of Nirvana live, listen to the very last song on the CD (unless you own one of the first 40000 that were pressed), the one after Something In The Way, the one that doesn't have a name and isn't listed - you have to fast-forward through 13 minutes of blank space to get to it. When you get there, you're in for a 4 ½ minute extravaganza of anarchy, chaos, and noise - if you can handle that, you're ready for anything.

Are you pretty happy with Nevermind?

Dave: I love the record.

Chris: Yeah, I'm pretty happy with it.

Better than the first album Bleach?

Chris: Oh, no! Bleach has its own merits. Bleach is a different record.

There's nothing like Come As You Are or Something In The Way on Bleach. We're talking ballads.

Chris: Yeah, those slow, grungy ones. But maybe you could play Bleach and Nevermind back to back and you won't be burnt out on Nirvana because there's a different trip going on.

What does the future hold for Nirvana, guys?

Chris: Uh, we're going to try and do more touring and we want to spread the word that there's a lot of cool bands out there that should be heard.

Dave: We had this plan - OK, we'll write these pop songs, sign to a major label… we'll get inside the machine and throw a wrench into the system and destroy corporate rock altogether.

Kurt Cobain as the new Messiah?

Dave: Yeah, that's our plan.

© Jonathan Wolff, 1991