LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE November ??, 1991 - London, UK
- Kurt Cobain
- Dave Grohl
|Kerrang!||"Maybe We Should Put On Kiss Make-Up"||Yes|
It's not often that when MÖRAT interviews a band, he has problems getting them to speak, but such was the case with Metal prima donnas NIRVANA. Awkward sods to a man, the trio might have made one of the year's best LPs in 'Nevermind', but getting 'em to talk was tougher than pulling yer teeth out with a pair of pliers… and no anaesthetic!
"Maybe We Should Put On Kiss Make-Up"
…Opines vocalist/guitarist KURT COBAIN, when he could work up the energy to actually say something. Or maybe, thinks Mörat, a firework up the jacksie might be just the job…
If you haven't heard of the name Nirvana yet then there's a good chance you've either had your eyes closed and your ears plugged for the last six months, or you've picked up the wrong magazine and you really want Classic Crochet Patterns two shelves down. Nirvana are big news in the music world with a capital B, a capital N and perhaps even an expletive and a couple of exclamation marks.
In an unkempt Bayswater hotel room that reeks of stale bodies and Kentucky Fried Chicken, I join vocalist/guitarist Kurt Cobain and drummer David Grohl with a view to discussing the current Nirvana phenomenon. But after a brief conversation with David about despatch bikes the pair all but ignore me and sit blank-faced watching the TV.
Hey, no problem. If that's what they want then we'll talk about TV; like, what do they think of it here in Britain?
"Well, the colours are sharper," Grohl sucks on his chicken bone. "You got a higher resolution. Other than that it's total shit."
"But that's good," adds Kurt, "because then you never want to watch television."
"Exactly," grunts Grohl. "There's nothing on so it'll make you go out and do some other things besides sit around." He changes the subject: "Who did that tattoo of a skull on your arm?"
Michelle Attard from Reading, I tell him. It's the logo of a band from Portland, Oregon, a place close to where you live. They're called Poison Idea. Maybe you've heard of them?
"F**k yeah, they're great!" he beams, suggesting that we've got something in common.
"I remember seeing them about seven years ago," says Kurt. "They weren't so fat then but they'd breathe fire and he (Jerry A) would cut himself…"
He stops mid-sentence and doesn't start again, but at least we're on the right track. How do they feel about their current trendy status?
David stares stupidly. "What do you mean?"
Surely even you must have noticed that Nirvana seems to be the name to drop at the moment?
"They don't drop it to us," shrugs David. "I don't know… we don't really pay attention to that."
"Sometimes we have no choice, though," says Kurt in his whispering drawl. "I guess we're so trendy that we can't even escape ourselves, cos people are always telling us! At the end of shows, backstage there are always these radio geeks coming up to us and shaking our hands and saying, 'Your album went to Number Two in our charts'."
Did you expect all this media attention?
"No," Kurt finishes his chicken and rolls himself a cigarette. "There wasn't a set promotional strategy with our label at all. I mean, they didn't go out of their way to promote us, it's just that it caught on naturally, mostly by radio programmers liking our music and wanting to play it."
Has it made a lot of difference being signed to Geffen?
"I suppose it has," mumbles Kurt. "We do a lot more interviews, get a lot more exposure. You know what I noticed…"
He ignores me again and has a lengthy discussion with Grohl about how many interviews Hole are doing at them moment and how much Courtney Love likes doing them. Finally, his head points in my direction again so I assume he must be addressing me.
"When we were on SubPop…" (their former label) "…in the States we got three interviews out of a three-year career," he frowns. "That was kind of distressing at the time, but now that we're floored with interviews all the time I'd almost love to go back to that. Like, today is just a full day of interviews, one after the other. It's really boring after a while but that doesn't mean we have to keep doing it. There were times on our tour in the States where I just refused to do any for days at a time."
I'm beginning to wish this was one of those days but f**k it, I can take a hint! We'll talk about something else. Everyone's got an opinion about religion - maybe we could try that…
"Obviously there's energy on earth," says Kurt, sipping a bottle of cough medicine. "Whether or not that's a God I don't really care. I don't agree with that stuff. I'm not in any organised religion. I don't need to be reminded that you're supposed to be a good person."
"I went to a Catholic School for two years, strictly for reform reasons," says David like he's suddenly just tuned into the right frequency. "And I'd never been to church. All these people went to church every Sunday, gave their money away, strived to be better people so they could go straight to heaven when they died.
"And they were the biggest bunch of f**king bastards I'd ever met in my life!"
The conversation stalls once more like a car starved of petrol. They sit looking dumb and smelly, one drinking cough mixture - presumably to get out of it - the other drawing on the sheet on the bed with a biro. Tour manager Alex McLoud has entered the room and is ranting down the phone about one of Nirvana's forthcoming appearances on television.
For Christ's sake, they must have something interesting to say - even if it's telling me to f**k off…
Perhaps there was some weird concept behind the stunningly visual album cover?
"Dave and I were sitting around one day watching a documentary on childbirth under water," drones Cobain, "and I thought, 'Gee, that's a good image', and then I thought, 'Lets put a dollar in it as well!'"
No other reason than that?
"It just looks nice," says Kurt blankly.
It's just that it came across as being very pessimistic; I thought that might have been intentional?
"I don't know," frowns David. "Everyone's pessimistic. Everyone I know is pessimistic, but not all the time. I'd rather be pessimistic just to be safe than be totally optimistic and get f**ked up the ass every day."
What's the deal with you smashing your gear up at shows? Is that spontaneous or just pre-planned attention-seeking?
"I think every white guitar-orientated rock band has those feelings at times, to break things," opines Kurt. "Sometimes it's out of frustration, sometimes it's because we're having too much fun. It's definitely not just to get attention."
It's becoming a bit of a trademark though. People are starting to expect it.
"I guess so," grunts Cobain. "Maybe we should put on Kiss make-up!"
"Well, imagine how the guys from Poison Idea feel," puts in David. "It's like, 'Well, I don't feel like cutting my head open tonight or blowing fire', and then after the show someone says, 'That sucked, man - you didn't blow fire! Why didn't you cut your head open?'."
"People are starting to look at it as part of the act. Y'know," Kurt bleats sarcastically, "we mark certain areas of the stage with tape to make sure we're standing in the right spot for it.
"We've has special guitars made for us so that they break up easy."
Nothing would surprise me. As tour manager McLoud gets louder and Kurt's voice fades, David changes channel on the telly.
"This is good English TV," he exclaims at the sight of 'Tales From The Riverbank'.
"Oh yeah," agrees Kurt, "I watched this the other day. They were looking for his button; it fell off his coat. 'That's not my button…'" he mimics.
I give up. Nirvana might have made some damn fine music, but I've met more interesting trainspotters. I've had nicer people give me a hard time at customs and insist on looking up my arse, and I hear Madonna's got a smaller ego.
Nirvana might be very trendy but by total coincidence I saw a far more worthwhile band at the Stick Of Rock the same night. Never Mind.
© Mörat, 1992