LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE October ??, 1991 - ??, ??, US

Thomas Crone
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Riverfront Times Blissed Off Yes

It would be totally absurd to go out on a limb and say that seeing Nirvana now will ensure your alternative credibility for the next five years. It would be equally foolish to compare the band to, say, Jane's Addiction at a similar juncture in their career. But with a major label debut selling out at record stores all over the area (despite lack of radio support from everyone but college jocks and KDHX), it might be time to start the hype machine rolling. It might just be time to make the bold predictions.

“Seattle's like any other city in the world, just everybody's picking up on it,” says Dave Grohl of the burgeoning Northwest scene that spawned two-thirds of Nirvana. “I think that the city was hot a year-and-a-half ago. A lot of the bands are really just getting out now. It's really a small scene.”

Well, small scene or not, it's obviously brought some of the top acts in college rock today - Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Pearl Jam, just about everyone on the Sub Pop roster. And maybe (here go the foolish predictions again) the best addition to major-label success from the region, Nirvana.

The band has included singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Chris Novoselic through a couple of efforts for Sub Pop, and added Grohl to the lineup a year ago, after a long stint with Scream. Armed with a major-label deal from DGC, the band's Nevermind stands up even after one listen as one of the finest of this year. Crackling with guitars and Cobain's world-weary vocals, the sound isn't grunge, isn't hardcore or punk, isn't even in need of categorization.

“When we were in the studio, we didn't really look to overdubs,” says Grohl. “We didn't want layer and layer and have a blurred mass. There's no one-string riff playing; it's all full chords. So with two guitars playing chords it just makes the sound fatter. And Kurt doesn't play wailing leads, anyway. Thank God he's got some taste.”

What solos do show up fit perfectly within the groove, and shy away from metallic gesturing. Still, both Cobain's vocals and guitar make for some of the angriest sounds in a while. Take, for example, the first single, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Starting out with a gripping hook, the band reins in verse after verse of compelling sound, giving away attention only to the strange words of Cobain.

On others, like ‘Breed,’ the band can notch success for matching power chords with anybody, giving even the most die-hard Metallica fan pause for thought. Add in a couple of slower tracks, like ‘Polly’ and ‘Something In The Way.’ Meanwhile, ‘Lithium’ and ‘In Bloom’ teeter between mellow bass-drum grooves and powered choruses.

Credit part of this uncanny sense of dynamics to producer Butch Vig, whose work with Smashing Pumpkins earlier this year gives him certain underground all-star producer status.

“Butch Vig is beautiful,” says Grohl. “I can't imagine working with anyone better in the studio. He puts no pressure on anyone. He lets you go on at your own pace.”

Still, consider that despite the merits of Nevermind, it was recorded in only three weeks. This is, though, a long time for a band that did its first work, Bleach (Sub Pop), in only six days. Obviously, despite its ascension to a major label, the group's still got its heart in the underground past. The trade-offs are probably familiar to any band in the position. While some amenities - simple but essential things like picking up a manager and roadies - are totally to the group's liking, others, like picking Vig, were more hard-fought.

“We were really close to getting dropped when we were in Europe, just for fucking up on things… long story,” says Grohl. “If they had dropped us, we wouldn't have given a shit anyway. We'd have just started another band, or gotten on another label, or just started our very own label.”

Well, here's one vote for rock rebellion.

Nirvana will be on the road with the legendary Shonen Knife, along with the Melvins, Das Damen, Sister Double Happiness, Mudhoney and Urge Overkill. That last band will be opening the proceedings when the bands stop into Mississippi Nights on Wednesday, Oct. 16. Your attendance is mandatory. Multiple ahead-of-the-curve points given at the door. Go.

Oh, yeah, Dave, was there anything I missed?

“Uh, yeah. Who are you?”

Didn't think so.

© Thomas Crone, 1991