Keith Cameron
Kurt Cobain
Krist Novoselic
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Rock Power Nevermind The Gunners Yes

Possibly the hippest noise-abuse band on the face of the planet, NIRVANA coat their wistful pop ditties with howling guitar and sell records by the bucketload. The world is theirs to vandalise, as Keith Cameron reports.

“Guns N' F**kin' Roses. Wembley F**kin' Stadium. Sold F**kin' Out”.

The poster covers one wall of the MCA interview room and is doubtless intended to impress, nay, intimidate whatever greenhorn outfit is being feted that day. Well nice try, boys, but today's residents are Nirvana, and they're not impressed. Drummer Dave Grohl has seen fit to add his own comment in indelible blue ink: “BIG F**KIN' DEAL”.

We might put such behaviour down to the Natural rebellious instincts of jealous schoolboys but for a couple of irrefutable facts. One is that ‘Nevermind’, Nirvana's second album and their first for a major since fleeing the safe indie nest of Seattle's Sub Pop, has made the US Billboard Top 10 barely a month after its release. Another is that those who get excited by such things are very excited by the fact that it's “gone gold”. And then there's the least refutable one of the lot: Nirvana, three scruffs from Seattle, play rock 'n' roll like no one else on the planet.

It's the dream ticket: mighty metal riffs welded to the sweetest pop tunes and sent down with the scariest abandon that even the best punk bands only hinted at. MTV loves 'em. Metallica dig 'em. And they're on the same level as Cher. Nirvana, typically, are confused by the fuss.

“We didn't even try,” says bass giant Chris Novoselic, scratching his beard. “It just kinda… happened. People just say, ‘Hey your record's gone gold; hey you're at number nine on Billboard.’ Oh great! I'm still in the same mood, I'm still maybe a little bored, maybe a little excited. It's no amazing revelation. It's like, fine, the record's done. I felt more swept up in things when we were recording the record.”

“I've always thought that anything in the Top Ten was shit,” says Dave, “with a few exceptions like REM. I dunno, I can see how people could listen to our record and think it's shit, but at least it's not your typical Mariah Carey stuff. That's what amazes me, that we're up there with Mariah Carey or Madonna - megastars - and we've sold about one fifteenth of the records they have.”

“People say ‘What's it like having your record played on the radio so much?’” adds Nirvana singer and guitarist Kurdt Cobain. “I don't know! I don't listen to the radio.”

Kurdt is the main reason Nirvana are sitting with their feet up at one of the world's biggest record companies. The key to this band lies in the classic nature of their songs, most of which manage to be innocent, sinister, silly and profound all at the same time; and this permanently sleepy young man writes them all. Like all good geniuses, he professes not to have a clue what's going on, and is anxious not to betray his punk rock roots by claiming Nirvana to be anything special.

“I still don't have the patience to learn guitar solos,” he says, sipping a mug of sweet tea. “I just make them up every time we play. That's probably why they all sound the same. Trying to be bad usually comes off as just contrived, but it's still better than trying to be good and not being good, or even being good. If I can say I have a goal in life, that would be it: to eventually go back into the underground and start recording on a boombox again. I would be totally content with that. We've been has-beens before, we'll be has-beens again. We're far past our expectations of achievement already.”

“We've gotten so successful it's boring,” says Dave.

In their brief residence on a major label, Nirvana have earned themselves something of a reputation for rock 'n' roll excess. Hotel rooms have been trashed, tables danced upon, shit thrown. Why should anyone be surprised, a year ago they were still packing their own equipment. Boys will be boys.

“We should start demanding ridiculous things,” says Kurdt. “Actually, it seems like we can pretty much do whatever we want now. I don't see anything more we’d want. I mean, this tea is nice; to have them put cream and sugar in it for you is nice.”

“Oh, I dunno,” deadpans Chris, “maybe they could put it up your mouth.”

“They're just being hospitable; they're just being courteous,” Kurdt insists. “If they were in my house right now I'd make them tea.”

Sip on that, Axl.

© Keith Cameron, 1991