LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE January 21, 1993 - Rio de Janeiro, BR

Zeca Camargo
Kurt Cobain
Publisher Title Transcript

Unknown person off-camera: You brought a zapper! [laughs]

MTV: What is it?

Unknown person off-camera: It's one of those things that electrocutes you.

MTV: What is that for?

Cobain: It's a Taser, it electrocutes people. Here… [reaches across]

MTV: Oh, that's alright! It's alright! [recoiling]

Cobain: [laughs]

MTV: Where did you get it? Here?

Cobain: [pretending to use it as an electric razor] The same place I bought the Dreamer, I can't remember the name of the place… Brain Machine Shop?

MTV: What, is it like an import shop or something?

Cobain: Not necessarily… no, I think most of the stuff they sell is from here…

MTV: And this is the Dreamer?

Cobain: Yeah.

MTV: Did you try it?

Cobain: I've tried it, yes.

MTV: And what did you dream about?

Cobain: Oh, I dreamt about German Shepherds, having sex with my Step-Father, and eating flowers… no, smoking pot-potpourri… how do you pronounce that, "potpourri"?

MTV: Potpourri, right.

Cobain: Yeah, I like to smoke potpourri.

MTV: And can you choose what kind of dreams you have with this machine?

Cobain: No, no, no… it's not necessarily dreams, it's… they're like… [counts] 6 different functions…

MTV: Right…

Cobain: They're programs and they basically just help with stress, insomnia, relaxation, creativity, concentration and meditation.

MTV: That's funny, like, the stress-key, does it take you to a stress situation, a condition, is that it?

Cobain: It would relieve you of stress.

MTV: Right.

Cobain: And these are the glasses and they're… I don't know the technical terminology for exactly how to explain it, but they flash red lights on and off in different patterns and they coincide with your Alpha and whatever… the Alpha and Beta waves in your brain… and there's a sound that goes along with that, also. It's really amazing! It really works!

MTV: Do you have to keep your eyes open?

Cobain: No, you close your eyes. It's just like staring into the sun and going [taps eye]

MTV: You can feel the flashes.

Cobain: Yeah. You can see the flashes and, after a while, you don't see red anymore, you see all these different patterns of different colors and stuff. It's really neat! It relaxes you. [burps] Excuse me… but I can demonstrate it because I have the wrong voltage. But I look like I'm in a techno band like The Shaman or something, don't I?!

MTV: [laughs] It looks like one of those virtual reality machines, have you ever one?

Cobain: Yeah, that's basically what this is. I haven't tried one, no. I'm really interested in that stuff. I haven't found any places where I would be able to try one out yet.

MTV: Do you think something like that would help you when you're in the studio, trying to create or to do something? That's not the purpose that you're using for, is it?

Cobain: Um, I hope so. I've only just tested it for 1 hour today and I was pleased with the results - it really made me feel good.

MTV: Good.

Cobain: It really made me feel relaxed.

MTV: That's good, that's good… I was going to ask you about relaxing, because everybody is taking their time here in Brazil, taking vacation, all the other bands that are at the festival, and you're in the studio working! Why is that? Do you have to?

Cobain: Well, we're not necessarily working, we're just practicing. Just trying to make songs, because the studio was available and we just like to jam sometimes. So, we decided to do a little bit of pre-production for our next record, to see what the new songs would sound like recorded and maybe add some parts and just make up some songs.

MTV: So, Nirvana's not under any kind of pressure to do a new album? That's not why you're working here in Rio?

Cobain: No, no, I don't think we really under pressure. I mean, we have enough songs for the new album, but we would like to have more, we'd like to have more to choose from, definitely! We have about, maybe, 13 songs and we begin recording on the 2nd week of February, so that's pretty soon. And we're only allowing ourselves 2 weeks to record - to record, mix and that's it, that's the album - and if we don't do it in time, we're not gonna put out an album!

MTV: But you don't have any dates, specifically, to put this album out? There are no plans…?

Cobain: No, except we have a date to record. We have to record starting the 2nd week of February.

MTV: 2nd week of February, right… So, in Brazil, here, it was very spontaneous that you were working in the studio, here… And I was wondering, how was the show in São Paulo for you? didn't you feel confident enough to try some more new songs? You tried just one, right? In São Paulo?

Cobain: Hmmm… I don't remember…

MTV: Yes, it was just one, or at least…

Cobain: Hmmm… I think we did a couple of new songs… and then we did some New Wave songs, you know, just jamming and stuff. For most part, we don't want to over-practice the new songs. Actually, it's a good idea to play new songs, you know, to see what the vibe is like live, but… I guess I don't have an explanation why we didn't play more new songs, really! [laughs] Normally we do, but a while ago we got so tired of people bootlegging stuff, and we want the new album to be more-or-less a surprise. We don't want anyone to know what the new songs sound like, because it would be bootlegged like that [snaps fingers] and everyone… it wouldn’t be a surprise, hearing the new songs.

MTV: Well, the press is talking about this new record, they say it’s gonna be more heavy. I mean, can you give us any hint of that? What is “heavy”?

Cobain: Yeah, what is “heavy”? [laughs]

MTV: Yeah, can you define something like that?

Cobain: Um… Who said it was going to be heavier?

MTV: Rolling Stone, maybe…

Cobain: Fuck them! What would they know?!

MTV: Yeah. So, you're not going towards any specific direction, heavy direction, or something…?

Cobain: I think we're going in more of an experimental, New Wave type of direction… it's kind of hard to explain… actually, have you heard the Incesticide record?

MTV: Mmm hmm.

Cobain: That's the kind of band we used to be. We used to be more, like, Gang Of Four, New Wave influenced. Like, more experimental, with more noise and different effects boxes and stuff. And then we started getting too much into straight-ahead garage, grunge music, and that's pretty much what Bleach was like. And then Nevermind was more pop, a little bit more commercial. And now we're kind of reverting back to the first thing, which sounds more like Incesticide, just weirder stuff.

MTV: Was that intentional, this kind of evolution, I mean, you going towards more commercial songs?

Cobain: We just happened to be really into the idea at the time. It seemed like a really challenging idea at the time, because we were playing punk rock underground clubs and we thought it would be really funny to test that out on those kind of people - to see if they'd be able to swallow more of a clean pop sound, to see if we could get away with it. Because we love that kind of music - we like a lot of commercial music that's good, you know? Most of it is old, mostly the old commercial stuff we like. But it was just something to do… We're pretty much bored with that phase now, because you're really limited, especially when you're a 3-piece, because there's not much you can do with three chord guitar rock.

MTV: Well, the whole New Wave culture, when it began, was very pop…

Cobain: Oh, yeah!

MTV: ... if you can name any bands, you mentioned before…

Cobain: The B52’s, Devo, you know… anything…

MTV: They were pretty pop…

Cobain: … The Ramones…

MTV: …and they weren’t betraying anything…

Cobain: No, no. I think one of the grossest periods of music in history is right around the mid-’80s, when this cross-over metal and punk rock thing started happening, where it wasn’t cool to write songs that had melody anymore - it had to be total noise and aggression all the time - I just got really sick of that. Is there an ashtray around here somewhere?

MTV: No. [off-mic, to assistant] Can you get one?

Cobain: Thanks.

MTV: [indecipherable] is senseless or pointless rock, right? Because of grunge and all this new so-called alternative... is that it?

Cobain: For us, do you mean? Or for anything?

MTV: For pop music and for rock, do you think? Because, I guess I have the impression this kind of music will always exist.

Cobain: I think so. I think it revolves in a circle all the time, you know? Everything will always revert back to melody, because that's the most palatable thing to an ear.

MTV: Right, but how do you feel about… Maybe there will be an answer to the sound you're making now - you and all the other bands that are at the top now - a more conservative rock, a more noisy rock, the kind of rock they had in the mid-’80s, will come back? Is there a chance this could happen and how do you feel about it?

Cobain: It's happening already! I mean, obviously, the most popular alternative bands on a national, commercial scale are more “commercial”, they're more “clean”, like Pearl Jam and stuff like that. And that's the same thing that happened with punk rock, you know? Punk rock was really aggressive and raunchy and those bands got signed to major labels and it didn't do too well in the mass media, so then all these punk rock bands turned into New Wave bands, you know? So that's exactly what we are, we're a fucking New Wave band! [laughs]

MTV: Well, the way things go, I mean… well, you tell…

Cobain: Well, I hope… I hope… I don't really like to think of us as just strictly one of those bands who used to be punk rock and then went to a commercial option just for financial reasons or to be played on the radio. It was something that we sincerely wanted to do, we really liked the stuff that we were trying to do at the time.

MTV: And as you said, you were trying to tease your audience, your punk rock audience…

Cobain: In a small way, yeah. It was more of a test. It was more of a test for us, actually, to see if we had enough guts to get away with… the acceptance by the people who we respect, because the people we respect the most are the people in the underground punk rock audiences.

Interview: Now, about what Nirvana is trying to do now is the opposite - I mean, you're trying to challenge another kind [indecipherable] into something completely new for them - is it more dangerous, maybe, for the band or for you?

Cobain: Not for us because we don't give a shit at all now what anybody thinks of us. I mean, we can get away with anything, pretty much… I mean, that's kind of a sad thing, in a way, but… I would definitely like to see the people who liked our band - who liked Nevermind because it was easy to listen to - I would love to see them get into or appreciate the noisier side of our music and then hopefully maybe they’ll look back into some of the old punk rock bands, like Black Flag and Flipper and stuff like that… hopefully that… and there will be other bands - current bands - who will be on major labels and they’ll listen to that stuff too, you know?

MTV: Right.

Cobain: It's not necessarily like a big crusade we're on, you know? Like, I mean, fuck, we're just a band!

MTV: Especially now that everybody seems to be jumping on the wave or the movement that you seem to represent now. I heard yesterday, I was telling you, that Madonna is looking for a grunge band to sign. I mean, is it possible… I mean, just because she has a label, she can [snaps fingers] come with some really original sound?

Cobain: Well, people like that tend to think that they can buy anything, you know? I personally don't think she's really sincerely into that kind of music - I wouldn't know because I don't know her as a person, so maybe she is, but to me it seems kind of superficial - it seems like a cash-in kinda thing and an attempt to be kinda hip and get a little bit more credibility. But in a way, I respect Madonna for the things that she's introduced, because she has introduced some subversive things. And it has nothing to do with Sex, as far as I'm concerned. I'm talking about, like, the introduction to the Vogue dance, which originated in the gay clubs in the mid and early ‘80s and stuff like that… She's always been supportive of things like that, which I think it's really cool. She's just from a different world, you know, so I don't expect her to understand punk rock because… I mean, obviously she knew about punk rock - she had to have - she was hanging out in New York at that time, and she chose to ignore it, so… that was her choice.

MTV: The public, they would buy it anyway just because it’s Madonna’s business now, wouldn’t they? I mean, do they care about superficiality? If they just have a name attached to the record, they will buy, “Oh, this band might be superficial, but if she’s producing that...”. How superficial are consumers and all that? The mass…

Cobain: I don't know. It's hard to say right now because it seems like people… generally, people are looking for things that are a bit more sincere and real now. I try to be optimistic enough to hope that people are looking towards things like that.

MTV: I mean, is this happening with rock? Even, European rock? How much can you say about European rock? English rock, maybe? Because, this is very true with American rock. Um, you mentioned New Wave, a good part of New Wave came from England…

Cobain: I think that's some absolutely amazing and very influential bands came from England and Europe, all over. But that was in the early ‘80s and they weren’t afraid to experiment… you know, bands like The Raincoats and Kleenex and stuff like that… I mean, fantastic music! But the way that I see the current British rock scene is very… I think they're more interested in an interesting character, more interesting characters in the band. Like, people who give better interviews than they do music, you know? And it’s very fashion conscious and very trendy and I don't really dig it at all, myself. There's not very many English bands I can think of that I like. In fact, I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I know there are a few; I know that there are, but I just really can't think of any right now…

MTV: But, English bands from the early ‘80s - I remember an interview with you, where you said the 10 most important records for you and one of them was from a band called The Young Marble Giants, which.... I thought I was the only person who listened to them! It's a very very simple record. Can you say, how close is it to your intentions in music… this record by The Young Marble Giants?

Cobain: I am heavily influenced by them. It doesn't sound like it in our music, but just the emotions they evoked and the feeling, the sincerity and all that. And the song-writing, I think, is fantastic and it’s so original too, you know? No drums, except for the little casio thing… Great, I just love that stuff.

MTV: So, it has to do with purity? Can I say that?

Cobain: Yeah.

MTV: Purity, in terms of music. And that's what Nirvana is all about, the purity of music, right?

Cobain: I would like to think that there's some purity in us, yeah… naive, purposefully naive [laughs].

MTV: Well, the whole attitude during the show in São Paulo was naivety, I think… How much a huge crowd of 50,000 can get this message of purity or naivety? Does it matter how big the show is, for you to send this message?

Cobain: Well, that's kind of a hard thing… that's kind of a hard question to answer, because it's flattering to know that we are affecting that many people, but I'm certain that a very good majority of the people had no idea what the fuck we were doing, you know?! They had no idea that we were doing New Wave covers, trying to have fun, trading-off instruments, and just trying to have a party atmosphere, because most of them only attend those kind of arena large rock shows and they expect a very clean, professional performance from a band, so… But, as far as I'm concerned, I'd rather play in a smaller club because it’s just more intimate and fun. I just really like it - I can hear the band, I'm closer to my bandmates and we can look at each other, I don't have to say, “Hey, Krist!” 100 feet away over there, you know?

MTV: It sounded like you were playing with the audience all the time, like, you would say “Rock and roll!” and the people go “Yeah!”, but you're not serious about it, are you? When you say “Rock and roll” and the people say “Yeah!”, this is a kind of arena attitude, right?

Cobain: Yeah, I guess we're taking the piss out of that.

MTV: [laughs] Right! But that's OK! I mean, that was the only show I ever saw of Nirvana, so is that your attitude at every big show you do lately?

Cobain: Most of the time, yeah. That's one of the only ways that we can really deal with the idea- the reality of playing in front of that many people, because we never ever intended to do that, you know? And I’ve never- hardly ever enjoyed seeing- watching an arena rock show, I think I saw- I’ve only seen a few of them… I really liked Aerosmith when I saw them about 10 years ago and that was a really big show. But that's just because I liked the band so much and I was really familiar with the songs and everything. But I would have rather have seen them in a club or a theater of a few thousand people, for sure.

MTV: Nowadays, do you still go out to clubs to see small shows?

Cobain: I try to, but there aren't very many bands I like right now, you know?

MTV: Don’t you like trying some new sounds? Like, “Let's see if the boys are doing something interesting down here”, Do you have this feeling, like, “Let's see if I find something interesting here”?

Cobain: Oh, absolutely! Oh, absolutely! Definitely! I mean, I'm constantly- I'm always buying records and asking my friends what they like and listening to it. I mean, I buy so many records on tour that I still haven't listened to even half of them, I haven't had the chance to!

MTV: Right. And, umm… When a new band comes to you, or you know that they say that they were influenced by Nirvana, how do you take that? Because you're such a new band to influence other people, aren't you? Or can you say, yes, you influence other bands?

Cobain: Well, I don't know. I’ve never heard a band that sounds like us. I can’t say that I’ve heard a band who sounds like they rip us off, or have been influenced by us. And if they have been influenced by us, I hope that they’ve just been influenced by the sincerity we try to put off… I don't know.

MTV: Well, OK. We’ll finish now… You were giving an interview to a fanzine before us, OK? How much are you still involved with this underground world? I mean, this fanzine stuff… you’d rather do a fanzine interview than...?

Cobain: Oh, much more… any day of the week! Yeah, I’d rather do that!

MTV: Because the big press misquote you a lot?

Cobain: They don't understand and I just don't read those kinds of magazines. I read fanzines all the time, those are the only things that I ever really read. Normally, I don't really even care what my favorite bands have to say, you know? [laughs] Because I know they probably agree- I agree with pretty much the same philosophies and ideas that they do anyhow - if we're into the same kind of music, or basically the same kind of music - so that's just the icing on the cake, that's just like an extra little thing…

MTV: You, yourself, do you see things that you’ve said that are misquoted a lot in the press?

Cobain: Constantly! 98% of the time. But not with fanzines, usually, because they understand us. But with other magazines… There are a lot of magazines that just don't give a shit, they purposely misquote you just to have a funny story, you know? Or just to fuck with you, or to… or just to sell their magazines - that's the only reason they're in it, anyway.

MTV: One final question, because In Bloom is the number 1 video on MTV, so I’d like to ask some questions about it… [indecipherable] You were taking the video watchers with In Bloom, right? Which was a total simple video and all… How intentional was that?

Cobain: Well…

MTV: You don't like videos? How come you made… you maybe made Smells Like Teen Spirit in the same purpose … [cut] Now the In Bloom video is like the beginning of an answer to all that, even to MTV, or to the whole video universe?

Cobain: Hmmm… I'm not sure, because I'm not really opposed to videos. I don't hate them, sometimes they're fun to do. Especially that video was fun to do, because it only took us 6 hours. Normally, a video will take the whole day… just, like, over and over and over… and we only had to listen to the song 4 times, it was great! It was really great to be able to do that and it was totally spontaneous. Courtney had brought some dresses with her, she was taking them to a friend’s house… or, no, she had borrowed some dresses from a friend of hers… and so, I thought, “Hey, let's put some dresses on and dance around in those!” and… everything was just pretty much spontaneous. The basic idea was just to do a video that looked like it came from the early ‘60s or the late ‘50s…

MTV: What about the other version, where you wore suits? It was done on the same day?

Cobain: Yeah.

MTV: You just changed your clothing?

Cobain: Yeah, we just changed our clothing.

MTV: OK. You mentioned that Courtney came along with those dresses and she is recording right here… I mean, do you by any chance interfere in what she is doing? In her work? Or… How much does one interfere with the other’s work?

Cobain: Umm… Yeah, we get in each other's way every once a while! [laughs]

MTV: But, I mean, more intentionally…?

Cobain: Well, we just like to be together all the time, you know? We're best friends, she's my best friend. And so, when she's playing music, I like to listen to it and maybe suggest some things. And she does the same thing with me too. This was just an opportunity for her to… She came with us and Patty, her drummer, came too. It's just a vacation… and this is just a spontaneous thing, for them to just make a few demos and see what they're gonna do with it.

MTV: OK, thank you! Thank you very much!

Cobain: Arnaldo Baptista, is that how you pronounce his name? [holds up several Os Mutantes CDs]

MTV: That's it. Where… where did you hear about them? Who told you to try to look for this band?

Cobain: My friend Bill Bartell, who is… he has a record label called Gasatanka Records. He was in White Flag and he’s friends with Redd Kross. He’s a very nice guy… he has a moustache… and he’s a really nice guy. He sent me a tape of the first 2 records a few weeks ago… about a month ago… and I really liked it and he said, “If you go to Brazil, you have to… you have to say to everybody that this is a great band!” And I agree with him, I think that this is a very influential and cool band for the time…

MTV: How did it sound to you? I mean, does it have, like, a Brazilian kind of sound in the background?

Cobain: Yeah, there's a lot of Latin rhythms in there… in some of this music, yeah.

MTV: Because they came with this idea “Let's mix Brazilian rhythm and rock.” And this is in the late ‘60s…

Cobain: Right.

MTV: Can you sense something typical from Brazil in there?

Cobain: Yeah, oh definitely. I can hear the rhythm and the influence in the music a lot. I just… I respect them so much… I just… I'm not familiar with them very much, because I’ve just started getting into them. But I think, from what I've read about them, they were very revolutionary. I mean, they made their own effects boxes, you know? They made their own fuzzboxes. And they were also really controversial, too, which was… they had a lot of guts to be doing stuff like that in the military society that was going on then! I just think it’s so cool!

MTV: It was totally counter-culture too…

Cobain: Yeah, very! Yeah…

MTV: That's very cool, I like that. And I hope you enjoy the CDs, too.

Cobain: Yeah, I will!

MTV: Thank you again!

Cobain: Alright. Bye!

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