NFC Nirvana Information Articles and Interviews Metal On The Rise

Metal On The Rise

M.E.A.T. - September 1991.

Music styles

By Karen Bliss


"Rap music is the only vital form of music introduced since punk rock," declares Kurt Cobain, vocalist and guitarist for Seattle's Nirvana, Geffen's new signing [available on MCA Canada].

Nirvana's own music, however, isn't rap, but fury-fueled mood-swinging rock.

"I would never attempt rap music. There's no sense in it," Cobain says. "The people that do rap music do it just fine. I'm usually offended by people like Vanilla Ice. The white man has ripped off the black man for long enough. They should just leave the rap music to the African-Americans 'cause they do it so well."

The only similarity to that of rap is Cobain's art-imitates-life lyrical focus. Nevermind, produced by Nirvana and Butch Vig (Killdozers, Laughing Hyenas), tackles the oft soap-opera-like troubles of adolescents and young adults: songs of premature-marriage and unwanted pregnancy ("Breed"), of rape ("Polly"), of lost-love, religious-fanaticism and suicide ("Lithium"), of apathy ("Teen Spirit"), and of basic love gripes.

"They're just ideas I've had, different scenarios, stuff from television, books and characters I meet," says Cobain. "I have a lot of notebooks that I can just use as reference. I can take lines out of things that were written before when I write poetry and stuff like that.

"But a lot of the lyrics were written minutes before we recorded the vocals in the studio. I don't like to take my time on things. I like to just get them done, be as spontaneous as I can. It usually adds to a better creative force."

He cites The Breeders, The Pixies, R.E.M., The Jesus Lizard and Beat Happening as vital contributors to today's non-rap music culture, and finds it "ridiculous" that he's doing interviews for metal magazines.

"I'm not complaining about it; it's kind of fun. But I don't personally like most of the bands that are in those magazines. It's all formula. In fact, most of the heavy metal bands don't even bother with the songwriting. It' probably spit out of a computer."

Cobain finds little else that stimulates him in the way of new music. "I'm kind of picky," he understates.

In the early 80's, Cobain's personal nirvana was punk. He was only about 12 at the time, but would follow the movement through Creem magazine, and wish he could be a part of it. By his mid teens, he was.

"It was really revolutionary to me. Being exposed to music that was completely different from what I was used to before was really exciting. When I was 16, punk meant a lot more to me, and as I'm getting older, it just doesn't seem like there's that enthusiasm and spirit in the underground scene," he laments.

Since forming in 1987, Nirvana - also comprised of co-founder bassist Chris Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl (drums) - have been a vital part of the underground scene.

In 1989, they released Bleach on the Sup-Pop label (Soundgarden, Mudhoney). With perennial roadwork, three major U.S. tours and two jaunts to England, Cobain estimates the album sold upwards of 100,000 copies. In the fall of 1989, they released an EP, Blew, which included "Love Buzz" and "Blew" off Bleach plus two new songs, "Been A Son" and "Stain", and followed it up a year later with the "Sliver/Dive" single.

By this time, Sonic Youth, who had left subterranean life for Geffen, brought Nirvana to the label's attention.

"Just going with a major label is proof enough that we'll have our records in stores, everywhere," says Cobain. "It will probably be available in K-Mart!" - filed right between Nelson and N.W.A.

Their world tour kicks off in Toronto at The Opera House on Friday September 20th and goes to Montreal on September 21st.