LIVE NIRVANA INTERVIEW ARCHIVE December 13, 1993 - Seattle, WA, US

Stephanie Reader
Krist Novoselic
Publisher Title Transcript
Tacoma News Tribune No Bliss For Nirvana: Parenthood, success may take edge off anger, but they don't guarantee happiness Yes

Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain is rich, influential and has a wife and daughter he's crazy about.

His band's 1991 major-label debut, “Nevermind,” rocked the music industry.

“In Utero,” his band's latest record, has lived up to all the hype.

So is he happy?

Well, he'd probably have a better shot at joy if journalists weren't always dissecting him.

But since he's a big star, I'll ask anyway.

And since he's not doing interviews with anything less than major magazines right now, I'll speculate a little.

It's probably most appropriate to begin by determining if this is a guy who is capable of cheer. In “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle,” off “In Utero,” he moans: “I miss the comfort in being sad.”

So depression pleases him? Maybe. Most likely it's just what's familiar.

Cobain, like many people in their 20s, is the child of divorced parents. According to “Come As You Are,” Michael Azerrad's new biography of the band, Cobain's mom couldn't handle his rebellious side and pushed him from relative to relative. His dad encouraged him to join the Navy.

So the future millionaire ended up living with friends or under a bridge and dining on Jolly Rancher candies, macaroni or fish he'd caught in the river. He called it “the Aberdeen fantasy version of being a punk rocker.”

Not exactly a nurturing situation. No wonder the guy's a little glum.

“Everybody knows if Kurt smiles it lights up the ... room because he usually doesn't,” drummer Dave Grohl says in “Come As You Are.” “I don't know if he's really unhappy or if he's always been unhappy or if he just doesn't know how to be happy.”

Nowadays, Cobain can't help being at least a little cheery. He's devoted to his wife, Courtney Love, the lead singer of Hole. And he loves their daughter Frances. He's still angry about the Vanity Fair article that accused his wife of using heroin while pregnant. And understandably so: “Come As You Are” reveals that he and Courtney lost custody of their daughter for a while and for a month were not allowed to be with her alone. They got her back, but the legal fees passed the $200,000 mark, Azerrad writes.

As the three huddled together before the Dec. 13 taping of MTV's New Year's Eve show, it was difficult to imagine them apart.

“I still hate the majority of the world, but not with as much venom as I used to,” he recently told a British magazine called The Face. “To hate that much is a matter of being naive. Maybe that negativity has to do with not being in love or being lonely or not having a child.”

He shows part of smile.

“Certain things just force you to be more positive, and I'm really thankful for them.”

Grohl knows thankful. Nirvana had a Spinal Tap-like succession of drummers before they found him, and he appreciates his role in-one of the world's most popular bands. “Nothing lasts forever, and there's probably something beyond this, whether it's Nirvana or something else,” he said a couple of years ago. “But I'd be nuts not to enjoy it.”

Krist Novoselic, the band's taller-than-thou bass player, is almost that easy-going. Geffen Records says the band's not doing interviews, but Novoselic doesn't seem to mind talking to reporters. He patiently chatted with a couple who managed to catch up with him hours before the MTV show.

He's that kind of guy.

“We're jealous (of Pearl Jam’s success),” he joked.

He talked about getting recognized when he’s out and about in the Puget Sound area.

“People look,” he said. “They do a double-take.”

They ask if he's in Nirvana.

“I just say no.”

He talked of plans to write his own book, now that several have been written about his band.

So has he read any of the literary explorations of Nirvana's life and times?

“I've skimmed ‘Come As You Are,’” Novoselic said. “But I just can't read a book about myself.

“My life is like a greasy hamburger, and B. Dalton is dishing it out.”

He seemed surprised when someone asked if he's happy. It was the only question for which he doesn't have a glib answer.

“I guess I am,” he said. “Off and on.”

But he's not happy about what's going on in the former Yugoslavia. Novoselic's parents are from Croatia, a place he's visited and written about.

Novoselic said with some eagerness that he plans to go back to war-torn Eastern Europe in March, but the more he discussed it, the more riled he got.

“Let em die,” he said.

What? This sounds a little shocking coming from the guy who organized a benefit for rape survivors in Croatia.

Then he responds to his own shocking comment.

“Oh, you're disgusting me,” he said in a high voice.

He got my attention. That's what he wanted.

Novoselic isn't the only member of Nirvana who likes to shock people out of their complacency.

One of Cobain's few grins on MTV night was a sarcastic one. When a rowdy audience member joined him onstage, he grinned and clapped mockingly.

The singer likes to challenge the people who listen to his music, taunting them with lyrics like “He's the one who likes all the pretty songs/And he likes to sing along/And he likes to shoot his gun/But he don't know what it means’ (from “In Bloom,” off “Nevermind”).

Cobain doesn't want the Nirvana crowd to become a bunch of testosterone-crazed, punk-loving males who don't understand that “Rape Me” is an anti-rape song. He complains when the scene at Nirvana shows seems too macho.

Which may be why he's not afraid to pose for magazine covers in dresses, do an interview in the Advocate and sing lyrics like “What else should I say/Everyone is gay” (from “All Apologies”).

But Cobain is complex. He owns guns. He threatens to seek revenge — we're talking serious bodily harm here - on anyone who hurts his family.

His music reflects the duality of his nature, often offering inviting introductions, then slamming the listener with angry choruses.

It's cathartic. It's powerful.

And on this tour, Cobain plays it with the help of another guitarist. His name is Pat Smear, and he used to be with the Germs, an influential punk group.

Novoselic calls Smear a “hired gun,” and the band is still officially a trio, but the bassist seems glad to have Smear around. When the guitarist creeps past the interview, Novoselic starts jabbering about some trashing a hotel room in Minnesota and doing $3,000 damage. Smear just laughs, leaving Novoselic to shout, “Kurt Loder — he did it.”

This week's shows will be opened by the Butthole Surfers, a constantly touring veteran punk band (Nirvana used to open for the Surfers), and Chokebore, a new group that got the chance to play with Nirvana through a fortunate set of circumstances.

Chokebore is a favorite group of baby Frances' nanny, who just happened to be playing their record around the Cobain house. Kurt heard it and invited the band to play with his.

TAD was originally supposed to be on the bill, but word is they got booted because someone in the group said something less than kind about Cobain's wife.

So why the heck is comedian Bobcat Goldthwait a part of this show? Because he's pals with Nirvana. They're so close, in fact, that Grohl had Goldthwait stand in for him during a phone interview.

Detroit Free Press reporter Gary Graff said Goldthwait was convincing, too. Some of the better quotes:

• “I would like to age gracefully. I question what all the members of Grand Funk are doing right now. I don't want to become the Corey Feldman of drummers.”

• “I feel like I'm living in a Dali painting - Kurt and Krist (Novoselic) are the melting clock and keys.”

• “I just try to live a straight, normal life. I kinda feel like I'm a cross between a rock drummer and Hugh Beaumont from ‘Leave It to Beaver.”

© Stephanie Reader, 1993