Patrick Courtney
Kurt Cobain
Krist Novoselic
Dave Grohl
Publisher Title Transcript
Ablaze! Nirvana: Document Number One, Parts A & B Yes

Notes on recent pop music explosion:

The best band of 1991? After which all is post Nirvana? And the last tour, the most significant event in history since the Sex Pistols?

Well, '91 was a pretty lean year (it was the one, remember, in which Peel's Festive 50 was abandoned due to lack of interest for the first time in living memory) and in the desert the mirage appears to the most desperate.

The facts you probably already know: originating from Aberdeen, Washington state, they joined with Sub Pop, releasing their first LP Bleach, recorded in three days, and enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the label, Tad and Mudhoney. This experience was shared in other towns by other labels and other bands: “I think the idea of being a Sub Pop band is ridiculous. It's like being called a Dischord (Washington DC) or a Touch And Go (Chicago) band.” Leaving the label, which was having financial troubles, to join Geffen, they produced Nevermind, selling 5 million copies worldwide.

But Nirvana are something fresh and new and their superbly crafted songs on Nevermind are no illusions. Human feelings are always mixed, only the simplest souls can pretend otherwise, and Nirvana's lyrics and music capture this beautifully. We tried to piece together the psyche of the three headed noise monster that is Nirvana from conversations with each of the three heads in turn. If the result is like that of the three blind men examining the elephant, then it reflects on the blind men. [Required explanation provided by Chris Trout: “There are three blind men examining an elephant and one of them is at the arse end, someone says “Hey blind men, tell us what this thing is and you can have something or other”, so this one grab the tail and thinks it's a rope and he's wrong. The second one is underneath it and he thinks it's a big skin thing, and the third one is by its head and thinks it's like a tube. The moral is that if a thing's big you can't understand it by looking at just one bit of it.” OK?]

The David Head (tail)
Formerly of Scream, a moderately well-known hardcore band of the mid '80s. An experienced tourer, having travelled the UK four times. Found it depressing and still does. On the subject of “Polly” (their song about rape): “It's just common sense, being against sexism, racism, any -ism. If anyone said I was from a cock-thrusting band I'd be really offended, but if people say we smash or instruments, well that's OK.”

The Chris Head (flank)
Relaxed giant, won't say anything about song lyrics by this, his first band (he doesn't write them), or about the last drummer. He defends Mudhoney’s right to operate in their own domain, musically similar as they are, but otherwise poles apart. For the days when their rapidly increasing rider exceeds their drinking ability, he is prepared…

The Kurt Head (trunk)
Alleged narcoleptic (we're not using the madman-as-genius gambit are we?). [Kurt actually invaded our interviewer, so our notes on this end are sparse, but neighbouring investigations surely fill these gaps for you].

They are certainly playing the publicity machine in the same style as punksters of old: The wrong song on the Ross show; the f-word on The Word; going OTT on TOTP. Disclaiming any master plan for world domination, they are well aware of the system in which they have become enmeshed: “The music press in England (sic) is sensational(ist). They come out once a week and have to have a ‘story’. No-one talks about the Canadian music press…”

Watch out - great thirty-toed three-headed monster is changing the face of your music industry.

(There follows, as a supplement to this odd shaped animal, a mini interviewette with Chris Novoselic:)

Are you feeling nervous about going on stage?
Naw, naw, old hat. It's all old hat.

Are you worried about becoming too big too quickly?
It's already happened. All we can do is just be ourselves. That's it. What else are you going to do? Pretend? Hang around with Bianca Jagger or something?

So are you just going to let things happen?
No, no, we've got control - we're trying to control what happens. Depends what happens, it's kind of a vague… Records are going to sell, people are going to buy them. A lot of the same people who buy Sonic Youth records…

Are you still friends with Tad and Mudhoney?
Oh yeah, totally. Totally friends. Why not? No, see what we've done is… we've denied our friends and now we hang out with all the Hollywood crowd, ride Harley-Davidsons, wear bandanas…

I'm not asking you to answer for them, but you seem to be almost poles apart?
People generalise about the Seattle sound but every band has its own identity, its own sound. Everybody has something to offer. It's not just the same shit.

Were you sad to leave the label?
Sub Pop? No, we were rather glad to go. It was sad… they had to tear us away from Bruce and John; we were screaming, we were writhing… convulsions, tears, uncontrollable. It was just like a separation, like a classic story of three orphaned kids who struggled together and then their welfare agents tear them apart and send them to different foster homes, so they're having this big freak-out, ha ha ha.

What are you going to do as your rider gets bigger and bigger and your drinking capacity levels off?
These are small cans. I drank a whole bottle of Bordeaux, Beaujolais, who knows? Check into the treatment centre. Go and see a hypnotist. Shock therapy. Antabuse pills, take those. Combination of a few of those treatments… uh-oh, I know: the Ludovico technique, that's in A Clockwork Orange. They'll strap me down in a chair and make me watch Dean Martin movies and Matt Lukin. Shoot me with drugs, make my eyes stay open and drop by drop…

How long has David been with you?
Over a year… 15 months. What's this interview for? (panic)

What happened to your last drummer?
Oh well, it's like we just had some differences. I don't want to get into any details. It just didn't work out.
I'd rather read this (Ablaze!) than Q or Raw or…

It's hard work.
I imagine it is, yeah.

(Finally more alcohol arrives and that's it.)

© Patrick Courtney, 1992