LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE February ??, 1992 - Singapore, SG

Ong Soh Chin
Krist Novoselic
Publisher Title Transcript
Straits Times Not The New Kids Yes

Success has not spoilt Nirvana yet. The Seattle trio is refreshingly down to earth, as ONG SOH CHIN finds out.

LET it be known that Nirvana wanted to play a free concert in Singapore during their two days' promotional visit here.

But due to miscommunication (their Los Angeles manager had inexplicably given advance notice that the band was not interested in performing) and red tape (BMG Singapore could not get a permit for a show here at such short notice), there was no gig.

"Find us a huge carpark," they implored, "or a huge open space somewhere."

But there was no way an impromptu concert could be arranged and the band promised it would come back sometime soon to play for the fans.

The Seattle trio, lead singer Kurt Cobain, drummer David Grohl and bassist Chris Novoselic, had flown in on Monday night to a screaming crowd of about 60 fans.

"We didn't expect such a reaction," said a slightly dazed Novoselic later.

After all, Nirvana is not exactly the New Kids On The Block, although its song, Smells Like Teen Spirit, is being played constantly on radio here. The underground band was mobbed for autographs and one female fan even stuck out a Nirvana poster and asked Novoselic to lick it!

But despite the band's phenomenal left-field success (the album Nevermind ha s sold 2.5 million copies in the United States and another million abroad), the members remain refreshingly down-to-earth.

Though not exactly warm, they were polite and cooperative and showed no signs of any rock star attitood. In fact, they abhor the notion entirely.

Said Grohl at the press conference on Tuesday: "We're not out to be a big Guns N' Roses money machine. We're just a band and we put out records, and if people like them, then that's great."

Added Novoselic: "If you say rock star, I think of Axl Rose making 80,000 people wait for two hours because he has diarrhoea or something."

So while music is no laughing matter to them, they certainly do not take themselves seriously. When asked to describe their music, Novoselic replied: "Garbage."

They spent their free time here checking out the Chinese New Year carnival near Funan Centre, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the Chinatown light-up, visiting temples and shopping for electronic goods and compact discs. Certainly not your average rock star activities.

In fact, the only vice they could possibly be accused of is excessive smoking, although a Rolling Stone magazine article did paint them as dangerous anti-establishment.

"Success has definitely affected our private lives," revealed Novoselic in an exclusive interview with Life!

"People give famous people an aura of celebrity. They're sometimes scared of approaching famous people. I understand that because I'm like that too. I was afraid to approach Sonic Youth, for example. When I met them, I was nervous and didn't know what to say. So I myself try to be casual and not put forward any pretentions. I think it'll be gross to play upon that."

Nirvana had opened for Sonic Youth's concerts in the US.

Novoselic is the only married member of the band. His wife will be meeting him in Japan where the band will perform next.

After Japan, the group will fly to Hawaii where they will play a few gigs, and where Cobain will be getting married to Courtney Love, the lead singer of alternative female band, Hole.

Novoselic continued: "We have no problems with groupies. They just know that we're not that type.

"I think an image has taken shape of the band and I like it—that we're unaffected by fame and anti-establishment, but only to the point of not falling into the total rock 'n' roll formula of excess."

Indeed, Novoselic's first big paycheck was used to purchase a nice family home in Seattle.

"It's an old house built in 1922. I'm also going to get a paint job for it and new tires for my car." He drives a 1970 Volkswagen.

In the long term, Novoselic intends to invest his money, but only in "positive things".

"I want to make sure the bank doesn't have dealings with oppressive regimes, deforestation or exploitation or anything like that."

While he claims to support many causes, he is wary of coming across as militant about them.

"A lot of stars manipulate the fact for PR purposes. Let's say Star X is a total goofball dingdong and his manager says he needs positive PR, so why not have him speak up about saving the whales or something. But even if it is manipulative, it's still positive."

But he also believes that causes should not detract from the music.

"We don't want to rant on a soapbox and I don't think we'd be comfortable writing songs dealing with these issues."

In the future, Novoselic intends to branch out from music and start a television show or a cable channel.

"I want to buy air time and produce a TV show where I'll approach bands to perform every week. There won't be a set format and it's going to be an alternative to MTV. In fact, once I get it started, I'm going to attack MTV!"

He feels that MTV is formulaic and the videos shown are cliched, with bosomy women and fast cars. Novoselic actually feels embarrassed about the station's constant playing of Nirvana's video, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and says the station should play the videos of other deserving bands as well, such as Sonic Youth.

But whatever happens, Novoselic, who was a housepainter, an industrial painter, a woodcutter and a dishwasher, before he became part of Nirvana, will never go back to the rat race.

"If I were to go broke tomorrow, I won't go back to it. I might just join a commune or maybe live in a tent with my wife, but I don't want to go back to the rat race.

"But then again, I guess it comes from having money. It's easy to talk now, but you also have to worry about putting food on the table," he says.

© Ong Soh Chin, 1992