- Celadon Jade
- Kurt Cobain
I've patiently waited for an album like Nevermind. The mature-minded immaturity and naively intelligent rhyming lyrics; the single repetitive beat woven into an intricate sound. My eyes glazed as I sank deeper and deeper into the undulating rhythm. Thank God cds don't wear out!
Getting the interview before Spin, Music Connection, Rolling Stone - and all those other over priced magazines - I wondered what I would do with it. I never would have guessed that Nirvana would now be a household word. I doubt that Geffen even realized that the small time bomb they held would explode. I got the interview with a two and a half minute phone call. It would probably take more than a two and a half minute phone call now.
I was so overly ecstatic to interview Kurt, that my mind was vacuous. I pondered for many long hours over what questions to ask. At last, I received their bio thinking that it would help - alas, to no avail I found it rather hard to believe that they spent their extra time collaborating on burl wood clocks and latch hook rugs. Right! Although growing up in a small town in Washington might drive you to such extremes, I would doubt it! Maybe Nirvana's energy - both live and in studio - stems from the restlessness acquired growing up in a small town. There probably wasn't anything else to do; nothing else to take their attention away from their music, Nirvana's creativity was spawned from boredom and frustration albeit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes may have played some part but that just goes hand in hand with the creative process in some cases. I was fortunate enough to consult some friends, and acquired the help of Monty Luke from KCSB before the big day arrived.
The interview began topsy turvey. An obviously asleep Kurt howled "I didn't ask for a wake up call!" I had woken him up. His voice was coated with cigarette scratchiness and hard core vocal strain. He also sounded as though his mental state was still in r.e.m.
"Yeah, cough cough, wheeze wheeze!"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."
"I have a morning shadow, Do you hear it?"
"I'll try and be easy on you. How did you guys form? What's the history of the band?"
"Cough, cough, wheeze cough. The history, let's see, there's no interesting or exciting story behind the formation of Nirvana. We've been together for about five years. We started in Aberdeen, Washington - a small logging community - close to the shores of the Pacific and about 100 miles away from Seattle. There was absolutely no counter culture, and no appreciation for music or art in the entire town. We felt very secluded, depressed and alone. There was no punk rock music available, so we started a punk rock band - or what we thought punk rock might sound like - low and behold, the first couple of years we were just a Black Flag, Scratch Acid rip off."
"Do you have a new drummer?"
"He's old school. He's been in the band for a year. He's from a band called Scream, from D.C."
Drowning in the mainstream, top forty sounds of Paula, Extreme and bad Madonna clones, I was pleased to hear that Nirvana doesn't care about being on their way to sit next to Martika.
"Now that Nirvana is getting more exposure, many more people are hearing your record; more radio stations who would have never played you before are playing you; MTV has started showing your video, (Which has since skyrocketed to No. 1) How do you feel about that?"
"Cough, cough, wheeze, Barking like a cat with distemper! I'm just avoiding it all. I'm not really... I can't pay attention to it. Unless we start selling like a million records (Which they have - a few times over), then it might sink in. At this point it's exciting and nice and flattering and all that. I just think of how many sh--ty bands have been on the cover of Rolling Stone and Spin and all those other magazines; how many sh--ty bands have been in the top forty before, and it's just no big deal. Really - its never been a goal of ours!"
...Poetry and Secrets...
"Let's talk about the song Lithium. What's that all about?"
"Lithium is a metal that's used in batteries for computers and things like that. It's also a drug for manic depressives. Manic depressant people. This song is just about this guy who is extremely depressed because his girlfriend died. He's sitting around in his house brooding and fantasizing about how great it will be when they're finally together in the after life."
"O.K., so an uplifting tune."
"Oh yeah, uplifting to the heavens."
'What about the song Endless Nameless?'
"Oh, well you've named the song! That's bad!"
"Well, I, well - I mean it's not like anyone knows where it is or anything you know"
"Yeah well if they do know, they shouldn't know the name of it because that isn't the name of it! Its the song that cannot be named! Don't ever do it again!!!!"
"Sorry I apologize."
"How did you get that name though - because that's what we call it on the play list when we play it live?"
"John Rosenfeld told me. I'm sorry we will just edit that part out. I swear I will."
"That's all right, its just a song; you have to somehow refer to the song with a name."
"Why did you guys decide to do that? I don't want people to know how to find it, 'cause they have to find it on their own - actually I didn't someone told me but still…"
"Because it's a surprise. Don't you like surprises?"
Smells Like Teen Spirit - what does teen spirit smell like? This is the song that has lead them down the yellow brick road. Is it that nasty, foul, freshly cut grass, frito, b.o. smell that exudes out of your gym locker on Monday, after you forgot to take your gym clothes home? More than likely Teen Spirit smells like an uncooperative video director, 100 cranky teen extras, and Nirvana to make the whole situation a fiasco.
"How did the video come out did everything work? How was the director - I couldn't believe that guy - was he real?"
"He's got a Napoleon complex. It was really funny because when we were doing our video we had a couple hundred kids in the bleachers. Everyone was tired and cranky, and we'd been there for hours. They (the kids) weren't doing exactly what he (the director) had wanted them to do, so he had said one time in a really violent manner, "All right if I don't get what I want - I'm losing this audience right now!" All the kids just sort of went ooohhh, oaahhh and heckled him. It was just like we were at a pep assembly. It was nice."
"Did you guys end up getting the right color for the video?"
'The overall color. The tint of the video. I don't know - it looks like jaundice. It's really yellow and brown and smoky. Hard to see."
"Is that the way you wanted it?"
"No - that guy's fired!"
... Major Label Deal...
Nirvana making it big was not so much a fluke. They had a small nudge. When they mode the decision to change labels, they were still playing joints like Jabberjaw Coffeehouse in the spring of '91. The move was made and within months they were playing much larger gigs.
"Kurt, now we're going to get into the questions you're probably dreading. Let's talk about the dynamics of you now being on a major label. First of all, how did this whole thing come about? What lead to making the decision switch to DGC?"
"The last tour that we went on while we were on Sub Pop records, we realized that our album wasn't available anywhere. Distribution was so bad that the kids could not buy our record anywhere. We became really frustrated. We decided we wanted to get off of Sub Pop. No other independent labels would approach us because we were under contract with Sub Pop. They (Sub Pop) wanted a lot of money in order for us to get out of our contract, so we couldn't go on to an independent. We had no choice but to go on to a major. We're really happy with the decision and outcome of it. DGC is the best label, the most confidant label that I've ever known or experienced."
"If you had known that Sub Pop was going to go into a deal with Caroline would you have stayed?"
"No. Straight up. No. Hell No!"
"The Sub Pop Label is still on the record. Why?"
"That was part of the contractual buy out."
"What are your plans for touring? Are you going to do your own thing or are you going to hook up with someone major?"
"Well it's kind of weird. I was thinking about that the other day; how many bands we've turned down to go on tour with: The Cult, Rush, Chili Peppers, Guns n Roses, Living Color, and quite a few other bands, can't quite remember all of them. We'd rather headline ourselves than support someone. Its not that we have anything against those other bands at least most of them, or some of them - it's just more fun to be the main attraction. You get more attention that way."
"You're touring right now. How's it been going?"
"It's been really good. Sold out shows. Bigger places, better monitor systems, better P.A. systems - which is pretty much the most important thing with playing live."
© Celadon Jade, 1992