LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE November 30, 1991 - Glasgow, UK

Catherine Hardy
Kurt Cobain
Publisher Title Transcript
Glasgow University Guardian Nirvana Interview Yes

Seemingly oblivious to critical acclaim in the wake of commercial success, high energy chart-topping rockers Nirvana represent the modest, nonchalant flipside of the glam and sham of Guns N Roses and their ilk. During their recent visit to Glasgow Catherine Hardy took the opportunity to ask rock's newest and most reluctant stars what all the fuss is about.

Hands up; who had heard of Nirvana two months ago then? Not an impressive show I should think. So why are they suddenly being hammered to death on every peak time radio show in the country?

That is a question most record companies would give their right arm to know the answer to. But the phenomenon of Nirvana is inexplicable in commercial terms - there was no strategy, no hype, no ‘Big sell’, these guys have made it to the big time on the strength of their music alone - bizarre eh?

Nirvana are: Kurt Cobain, lead singer and guitarist - blond, blue-eyed and beautiful enough for the screaming girlies; Chris Novoselic, bass player - think of Shaggy from “Scooby Doo” and you're on the right track and David Grohl, drummer and general mad boy about town. They originate from the charismatic little town of Aberdeen, Washington (“Twin Peaks * to you) and signed to the cult Seattle label Subpop in 1989. “Bleach”, their debut album, was released in the same year, a mind blowing cacophony of noise with thumping bass lines and label mates Mudhoney inspired guitars. “Nevermind”, the notoriously difficult follow-up was released about three months ago, and with its gentler, (not much) more melodic sound the first single from it: “Smells like teen spirit” raised them from the pit of obscurity to the dizzying heights of the top ten and Jakki Brambles’ Drive Time.

The question everybody's asking now is, can they maintain their present popularity without compromising their music and, do they want to? Well, the success of a band is an unpredictable thing and the whims of Joe Public are so haphazard that Nirvana's long term fame is unassured. One thing is for sure though - this band are not about to sell out at the cost of their musical integrity. I talked to Kurt about Nirvana's recent signing to major label Geffen for $250,000 and whether this signified a new ‘money conscious’ aspect to the band? He replied, “No independent labels could afford to buy us out... We just wanted to give people a chance to buy our records.” Well. they certainly did that: over a million copies of “Nevermind” were sold in the first six weeks of its release.

With this success, was Kurt jealous that the Stone Roses allegedly got a $4 million deal from the same company? He was adamant in his response, “I don't give a flying fuck about that kind of stuff, how much money somebody gets, that has nothing to do with why we went onto a major... we've never written a song for money, that's obvious.”

Kurt couldn't explain their meteoric rise to success “We didn't try, it's not in our control.” How much control over your records do you have? "We have complete artistic control, we designed the t-shirts, chose the support bands. designed the record sleeve.” Kurt himself writes “80 - 90%" of the lyrics and melodies with Dave and Chris working out their drum and bass parts respectively.

When I asked which contemporary bands inspired him, the list was predictable: “The Pixies. The Breeders, Captain America, Mudhoney” and his favourites “The Vaselines”.

However Nirvana certainly have a sound of their own and with two very distinctive albums already under their belt and a third “very different” one on the way I just hope they continue to get the critical and commercial recognition they deserve even though to Kurt, “having money just makes you not have to worry about it”.

Nirvana: American rock phenomenon of 1991 are not only a band of sound ethics, but one of the best live bands around too. If you missed them at the QMU then you missed out. Despite Kurt's sore throat and cold, the 1,400 strong crowd were blown away by the power and polish of their live performance. The atmosphere was electric and the hour long (should have been longer) set steamed through classics like “Polly” and “Smells like teen spirit” in fantastic style. Tracks from “Nevermind” interspersed with both those from “Bleach” and a couple of new songs, they were played with energy and confidence sadly missing in many of today’s lack-lustre, shoegazing “Indie” bands.

I don't care that Kurt does “not like interviews” and lived up to his infamously sullen, hard to handle image. If he can write and perform music like that then he is alright by me.

Nirvana are the band of the nineties, they have wide-ranging appeal because they are unclassifiable and they've got the credibility to take the piss out of TOTP. Excellent.

© Catherine Hardy, 1991