NFC Nirvana Information Articles and Interviews Nevermind - it's an interview

Nevermind - it's an interview

Full transcript

The interview officially released on CD by Geffen/DGC

By Kurt St. Thomas


Dave - Say hi really loud. Ready? On Three... Ready? Go...

Voice On Phone - Hey!!!!

Dave - That's my sister. Umm, that was pre-recorded for this interview CD.

Kurt - I punctured every speaker and cabinet, and there were, um, 12 speakers to puncture, really, I can't think of anything better to do than to puncture speakers, that's my favorite piece of equipment to destroy. It's a lot of fun.

Dave - I had Kurt's guitar cabinet, like, I was smashing it, picking it - these things are heavy, smashing it onto my bass drum, trying just to completely crack and destroy the bass drum, but it wouldn't do it. I was wailin' on it with guitars, I was throwing it off the risers as hard as I could - drums are hard to break!!!

Kurt - Well, first I wanted to be in a rock band when I was really young, and I decided in about, 3rd grade I wanted to be a stunt man, so, um, oh heck yeah, Evel Knievel was a big influence on that. I'd jump my bikes, and I took all my bedding and pillows out of our house, and put it on the deck, and got up on top of the roof, and would jump off. Yeah, and I took a thin piece of metal one time, and duct-taped it to my chest, and put a bunch of firecrackers on it and lit it on fire.

Krist - Buzz Osbourne, guitar player from the Melvins, he like, discovered punk rock, and uh, he was turning people on to it. I heard it, and it sounded live to me, and um, I borrowed the record - "Generic Flipper", and I listened to it, and it was just, like it was a revelation I was like "wow!", it was just heavy, it was art, I was affected and I've never been the same since..it was like a breakthrough..

Kurt - I was um, 15, when I got my first guitar well, my mother had just gotten married, and this was in the first year of her marriage..my stepfather went out on her, and uh, she got so irate that she took all my stepfather's guns, uh, various guns, pistols, rifles and stuff, and she walked down to the river, and threw them in. And then I hired this kid to fish a couple of them out, and I sold them, and then I got my first guitar with the money.

Kurt - Uh, yeah, I took lessons for a week, I learned how to play "Back in Black" by AC/DC, and it's pretty much the "Louie Louie" chords, so that's all I needed to know. I never did pay the guitar teacher for that week either I still owe him money. But that's it, y'know, I just started writing songs on my own once you know the power chord, you don't need to know anything else.

Krist - Aberdeen's basically just a small town, south west of Seattle, it's on the Pacific ocean, it's main industry is logging, and forest products, there's really no roads going through there, it's kinda just off the beaten path, off the beaten track, and uh, things just kinda change comes slowly to Aberdeen. Everything revolves around the logging industry there, it's all logging if the logging stopped there'd be a ghost town

Aberdeen, Washington, 1987, Nirvana was formed between singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain, and bassist Krist Novoselic. Krist explains the birth of the band...

Krist - A little social group came together, and we just kinda hung out, y'know, talked about things, and then, one thing led to another, Kurt did a tape with Dale Crover from the Melvins, and one of the songs on it was "Spank Thru", and he turned me on to it, and I kinda liked it, it got me excited, so I go " Hey man, let's start a band!". We scrounged up a drummer, and we started practicing. Took it very seriously too.

The band recorded their first demo tape with Dale Crover, of the Melvins.

Krist - He played on our first demo, and a couple of those songs made it over to the "Bleach" LP, "Floyd the Barber", and "Papercuts". We jammed for about a week, put some songs together, and made this tape.

Kurt and Krist then enrolled Chad Channing to become Nirvana's first full-time drummer.

Krist - Chad wanted to express himself in a way that really didn't gel with the band. Chad really compromised his style to suit the band, I don't think he was happy doing that and, uh, it was a good departure, y'know, it worked well for everyone.

1988 - Sub Pop records released a limited 1000 copies of Nirvana's first single "Lovebuzz" - a Shocking Blue cover, with the B side, "Big Cheese". Months later, in June of 89' the first Nirvana album, "Bleach" was released. Kurt, Krist, and Chad recorded the album for $600, with producer Jack Endino. Jason Everman is also listed on guitar, but he didn't actually appear on the album, only on the tour. Kurt on "Bleach"...

Kurt - Bleach is seen to be really one dimensional. It has the same format, all the songs are slow, and grungy, and they're tuned down to really low notes, and I screamed a lot, but at the same time that we were recording, we had a lot more songs, like "About A Girl", in fact "Polly" was written at that same time too, it's just that we chose to put more abrasive songs on the "Bleach" album, so, it really wasn't a matter of evolving, within just a year, y'know, we've always liked pop music, and we've always had a few songs like that.

Seattle, Washington. After the release of "Bleach", the band went on its first national tour, and they were gearing up to record their 2nd album. Krist explains...

Krist - We went to Madison, Wisconsin, to record a record with Butch Vig, in the Spring of 1990. We laid down about, 6, 7 songs, which was like, "Lithium", "In Bloom", "Polly", oh "Dive", B side of "Sliver" majored out, uh "Stay Away". Anyway we went there in the Spring to record a record, right? Right after we finished recording the record we went on this, uh, 8 week tour of the US, starting in Madison, and we got as far as New York, and everything was geared up to y'know, put out this 2nd Nirvana record, and we were gonna record maybe a few more songs in Seattle, this was gonna be Sub Pop, and this was gonna be our second record, and this was supposed to come out the September of 1990 ..and well once we got off that tour, that's when we lost Chad, so there's uncertainty with that, we didn't want to release it , if we did anything we wanted to do it with a new drummer. Sub Pop was doing some wheeling and dealing, they were going to sign a licensing deal with a big label and that kinda scared us, and there were so many variables to consider, that it wasn't wise to put out a record at all. We went and we toured the UK, and uh, we went and uh, toured uh, Western Canada, and uh next thing y'know, we were talking to labels ourselves, so that was just like.."we can!".

With Chad leaving the band, Kurt and Krist then enrolled friend, and Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters, but Dan only lasted one gig...

Krist - Well yeah, it was a great gig too, it was at the Motor Sports Garage in Seattle, there was about 1500 people there..or no, there was a lot more people there there was a lot of people there, and uh, we just recorded the "Sliver" single with him, a couple of weeks before, and he looked like he was gonna be in our band, and that was just another case of compromising his style for our band, y'know, he was gonna go out and buy a bigger drum set and y'know you can really hear his style, it's just Mudhoney, y'know, those snare rolls and well, that was when the future of uh Mudhoney was uncertain, Steve wanted to go to school, and there was all this..y'know, just like, "are Mudhoney gonna break up?" and Dan saw opportunity to join our band, it was a certain thing, so like yeah, we love Dan as a person and we love his drumming. Well it just goes back to the - it was uncertain, and if Dan were to join our band, it would've been certain that Mudhoney was finished, and we didn't want to be responsible for that.

Enter Dave Grohl - not just another drummer...

Kurt - He's the most well adjusted boy I've ever met. He's totally easy to get along with, everyone loves him, he plays drum better than any drummer I've ever heard. I mean, he blows away Jon Bonham, if I had a, y'know, if I had the choice of like, bringing Jon Bonham back to life, or to choose of any drummer of any band I could even think of, they wouldn't be better than Dave He's great.

Krist - He's great, yeah, he's the backbone of the band.

Dave was playing in the Washington D.C band Scream, when things fell apart..Dave explains...

Dave - In 1990, we were on tour, doing a tour of America, and we were halfway through the tour, in Los Angeles.

Krist - Their tour made it as far as Los Angeles, and their bass player flew the coup.

Dave - We got stranded there, there wasn't really much to do, and I called my friend Buzz Osbourne, who um, is a singer for The Melvins, and, we'd known each other for awhile, (mutual friend of Kurt and Krist) yeah..he's actually the one who introduced them to each other, and he ended up introducing me to the band. And he just said that, um, they were looking for a drummer, and that they saw Scream play in San Francisco, and they thought I was really good, blah blah blah, no romantic story!

Krist - We were just blown away by the whole band, especially the drummer, the drummer was really good, he called up and we're like, "Yeah man! Come on up!

Dave - The strangest thing about it was moving up to the North-West, no money, and nothin' I mean I didn't, I still only have like, a bag of clothes and my drums. I've bought a bed, a couple of months ago, so I have a room with this futon on the floor, .but I mean, I don't have anything, so I didn't really have to move, and uh, just y'know, moving up, leaving your best friends in the world.

Kurt - Yeah, it was weirder for him probably cause' he's kinda homesick, y'know.

Dave - I mean I didn't know Krist or Kurt, and I ended up living on Kurt's couch for 8 months and just.

Kurt - He just packed up his stuff and came to Washington state.

Dave - I had every misconception that everyone else had, y'know, all I thought Seattle was, was like, flannel shirts, and blurry Charles Petersen photos y'know.

Kurt - We were living in this little cracker box hell - hole of an apartment, and I'm quite a slob as you can see.

Dave - If you had someone you did not know come and move into your apartment, and you were sorta like you felt this responsibility to like, "OK, well we must get along".

Kurt - It was kinda hard for two people to live in this really small apartment with one bedroom, and just garbage all over the floor, a lotta corn dog sticks lying around.

Dave - Whatever, in like, a month or two, we were out in the backyard shooting stuff with BB guns, and breaking windows at the lottery building across the street. It was fun, it was great, that apartment was great.

Kurt - It was nice, cause' Dave turns out to be just as much of a slob as me.

With Nirvana's line up now set, Kurt, Krist and Dave began rehearsing.

Dave - We'd been, um, practicing in this really weird practice space. This man built a studio in his, in this like, barn, in is backyard but it wasn't a barn, it was this thing that had a studio in it, and then upstairs his brother lived up there, and he was in this really bad, like, Howard Johnson's lounge band. Everything was carpeted with this like, brown shag carpet, and it even had stage lights in there, and they had a massive PA, that he just did not know how to use, and he'd turn it on, and "SHHHHHHHHH" there's just this huge hiss ..and we were practicing a lot, but we were writing a lot of material, we'd write them, they were great for like 2 weeks, "Oh my God, this is the best song ever" and we'd forget them, and so then we decided "OK, we'll start putting them on cassette" and so we started recording them onto these boom box things, and we'd lose the cassette's and y'know, we wrote so much material, that we just like, forgot about and every once in awhile we'll just like, pull one out, and turn it around.

While the band was writing and rehearsing, the major labels started taking interest...

Krist - They were wining and dining us, and there were some labels that we were impressed by, but uh, we thought ,uh, DGC would be the best for us (Was one of the main reasons because of Sonic Youth?) Yeah, we knew Sonic Youth were happy on there, and we've always loved and respected Sonic Youth, so and there's like all these rumours, that we got like, a million dollars, or 700, it was actually, even in Spin Magazine it was printed that, that we got $750, 000, and we didn't even get a quarter of that. What we did, was instead of going for the big dough we went for the strong contract (Which enables you, like, more freedom..?)..more freedom, uh, more percentage points on the record, and there's a lot of clauses in there that are in our favour. Now if our record would've bombed, we woulda kicked ourselves in the butt and said "Maaan, we shoulda took the cash!". But were not in it for the money, we were in it for y'know, let's put out a record and let's do this thing right!

Kurt - I really don't know what the definition of selling out is anymore, I guess I really don't care. We haven't compromised, our record label let's us do whatever we want we think on the same level, there's nothing that we've done, that could be considered a sell out at all, at least not in my eyes. A lot of people were calling us sell out..they forget that y'know, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols were on major labels, so was the Clash, and they all, all those bands were trying to become big stars they didn't even deny it.. God, the Ramones even had a movie out after them, y'know, to help support them.

Krist - Y'know I think that if you make money, and you start voting republican, because you'll get tax breaks, and they're the party of the rich, I mean - that's sold out.

In early 1991 Nirvana entered the studio with producer Butch Vig.

Krist - Yeah, we worked with him in the Springtime, when we, when we did that demo, that I mentioned earlier. He was just easy to work with, laid back, and um, really attentive to what's going on. He works hard, but he doesn't work the band hard.

Dave - It was about time that the band recorded something, finally, it had been so long.

Kurt - It was called Sound City, and the board and the room were really old, the board was from the early 70's.

Krist - All the dinosaurs have recorded there, uh, Fleetwood Mac, uh, Cheap Trick.

Kurt - There's nothing more disgusting, than the late 80's or early 90's slick sound, y'know, you just can't escape it, no matter how retro and old you try to be, or what kind of old equipment you use, you still can't help but sound new.

Krist - We got a warm sound outta that place.

Dave - It'd been two years since "Bleach", it'd been awhile, since the band had gone in and recorded a full LP, so it was more of like, "wow, ok, we're in the studio, let's just get this done! Let's just do it!".

Krist - We made the record we wanted to make, we didn't have any, we didn't wanna make the number one record, we didn't want to make some big hit record, it's, y'know that's, it woulda been the same record if it was on Sub Pop.

Kurt and Dave talk about writing songs...

Kurt - It's usually done on an acoustic guitar, sitting around in my underwear, just picking out riffs, pieces of songs.

Dave - Maybe Kurt'll come in with a melody, a guitar riff, and um, show it to us.

Kurt - We go to practice, and then we play the song over, and over again.

Dave - We just jam! There's no real formula.

Kurt - Krist and Dave have a big part in deciding on how long a song should be, and how many parts it should have, so, I don't like to be considered as the whole song writer, but I do come up with the basis of it. I come up with the singing style during practice and I write the lyrics usually minutes before we record.

(Referring to "Something In The Way")

Kurt - That song really wasn't even written until a week before we went into the studio. And uh, I knew I wanted cello on it, but after all the music was recorded for it, we'd kinda forgotten about putting a cello on it, and we had one more day in the studio, and we decided "Oh, geez, we should try to hire a cellist" y'know, and put something in, and we were at a party, and we were asking some of our friends if they had any friends who play cello, and it just so happened that one of our best friends in LA, plays cello, so, took him into the studio on the last day and said "here, play something", and he came up with something right away, it just fell like dominoes, it was really easy.

(Referring to "Come As You Are")

Kurt - The lines in the song are really contradictory, y'know, one after another, they're kind of a rebuttal, to each line, and they're just kinda confusing I guess. It's just about people, and uh, what they're expected to act like.

Kurt - Just because I say "I" in a song doesn't necessarily mean it's me. A lot of people have a problem with that. It's just the way I write usually, take on someone else's personality or character. I'd rather just use someone else's example, because I dunno, my life is kinda boring, and so y'know, I just take stories from things I've read, and off the television, and in stories I've heard, maybe even some friends.

(Referring to "In Bloom")

Kurt - Obviously I don't like rednecks, I don't like macho men. I mean, I don't like abusive people, and I guess that's what that song is about, it's an attack on them.

(Referring to "Smells Like Teen Spirit")

Kurt - This friend of mine and I were goofing around my house one night, and we were kinda drunk, and we were writing graffiti all over the walls of my house, and she wrote "Kurt smells like teen spirit". And earlier on, we were kinda having this discussion on revolution, and teen revolution and stuff like that, and I took that as a compliment, I thought that she was saying that I was a person who, who could inspire. I just thought that was a nice little title. And it turns out she just meant that I smelt like the deodorant, I didn't even know that deodorant existed, until after the song was written.

Dave - My father said this to me - "I know why you guys've sold so many records..the video shows a buncha kids trashing a gymnasium!" and I mean ..that sorta works like uh, "Nirvana! Spokesmen of the lost generation! They're telling you to go out and destroy your local gymnasium!" I don't really, I don't see it that way, I mean, like, I don't want to hold a responsibility of being a spokesman for anything! I can barely hold my own! I guess it's flattering, and I guess it's great that it acts like sorta, gives people a feeling of sorta like breaking out, and telling um, anyone and anything just to fuck off!

(Referring to the "Nevermind" album cover)

Kurt - One day, Dave and I were sitting around watching a documentary on babies being born underwater .and um, I thought that was a really neat image, so we thought, "Let's put that on the album cover", and then when we got back a picture of a baby underwater, we thought, I thought it would look nice for a fish hook with a dollar bill on it and..so, the image was born.

(Referring to photograph back of "Nevermind" album)

Kurt - It's just a rubber monkey, that I've had for years..and I took that picture. It was in a Bohemian photography stage y'know, taking a bunch of weird, arty pictures, and that's one of them.

Kurt - It's a collage that I made many years ago. I , I got these pictures of beef, from a supermarket poster, and cut them out, and made a mountain of beef and then put Dante's people being thrown into hell climbing all over it, and um, that's pretty much, yeah, there's also, if you look real close, there's a picture of KISS, in the back, standing on a slab of beef.

13 minutes, and 51 seconds after the beginning of track 12, the band put a secret song on the "Nevermind" CD. This mystery song didn't make the first pressing though. Dave explains...

Dave - When we got our first CD, and popped it in, we listened to it, "Oh , Oh! Let's check to see if that track is there!", and it wasn't there. The reason for it, I think the original reason was because, "Something In The Way" is sorta like your slower, whatever song it's the last song on the record, most likely to be listened to by like someone who would have a carousel CD player, and so okay, why not like "screw up their little carousel deal!!!!" I was talkin' to a friend who works in a record store, and he said uh, a person came in with the CD, and said "Y'know , this thing's screwed up .after the last song, there's like, this 10 minutes of dead space, then this total noise song!" He wanted his money back! And the person at that store said, "Well.., I think maybe, it was like a joke of the bands .y'know, put it on after ," and he goes "Well I don't think it's very funny!" .y'know! And he wanted his money back! It was just like!

Inspiration comes in many forms, and for Nirvana, it came in the form of an obscure Scottish band called the Vaselines...

Krist - Kurt and I were totally into the Vaselines, I mean, they were my favorite band, they still are one of my favourite bands.

Kurt - Definitely our number one favorite band.

Krist - We finally got to play with them, they reformed, just to play with us ..and we played Edinburgh, Scotland, in, ah, early winter of 1990 ..So we met Eugene, and kinda kept a rap going with them then we heard Captain America the band, we heard the tape, we were totally blown away.

Kurt - Yeah, that's his new band, Captain America, they're really good.

Krist - Eugene's a great songwriter, so, yeah! Captain America's gotta go on tour with us!

Krist - Since our record has done so well, we can open up doors for other bands, from where we come from, like Sonic Youth or Mudhoney, or the Melvins, or L7, or Dinosaur. Jr .I can just go on and on and on and on.

Kurt - I guess the best part would be, being in the position to take other bands, whom you like a lot, on tour with you. It's definitely a nice thing to be able to do. We took Shonin Knife, a three piece all girl Japanese band on tour with us in England, and they've been a favourite of ours for years, and no one really knows who they are in England, or anywhere in Europe. We've taken the Melvins on tour with us, and in the future, we hope to take Hole, and Jesus Lizard, and a bunch of other bands who we like.

Kurt - But nothing really exciting happens on tour, people think that the "rock star life" is so exciting and it's, y'know you play a show, you usually get into the town by the time it's dark, and you soundcheck, and you don't get to see the city, you play the show and then you leave the next morning. Y'know, you go to the hotel room, and you leave, and do the same thing all over again. It's kinda boring, in a way, I mean still, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do, but, it's not as exciting as anyone thinks. But it's getting harder for me to jump out in the audience now, because the crowds are bigger and some of the people don't realise that .I don't know what they realise actually, because they're putting their hands in my pockets and trying to steal my money and my wallet, and they're they're hitting me really hard and scratching me, so it's .I dunno, after a while I'm probably not going to be able to do that anymore. And that's too bad, cause' it's a fun little bonding thing to do with the audience.

Nirvana says their next album will be different, perhaps even more like "Bleach"...

Krist - Well our next record's gonna be different, it's gonna be way different.

Dave - Well I wouldn't want to put out two of the same record.

Kurt - We'd like to record every song differently.

Krist - These are just ideas..that we have. Y'know, I know, I know it's gonna be a, a record of extremities.

Dave - I think we had our shot at doing the ah, big studio, high-tech Hollywood thing, whatever y'know I mean, that studio to us, was like, pretty like, techno. I dunno, maybe we'll do the next record on 8-track.

Kurt - It will be recorded on 8-track.

Dave - You can get more low amp frequencies out of an 8-track.

Kurt - Go back to the "Bleach" sound.

Dave - Back to that sorta, more along the lines of "Bleach".

Kurt - Cause' I really liked the production of "Bleach", and I, I dunno, I felt kinda weird straying so far away from it.

Dave - We've got this far, with this record.

Kurt - There's definitely going to be some more abrasive songs on our next record.

Dave - Y'know, we're gonna do something, just totally test the limits.

Krist - Really raw and abrasive, to very uh, pretty and candyish.

Dave - All the radio listeners, or the MTV watchers, or whoever, just like, really test them, and shove something totally agro, in their face, and, and see if they can handle that.

Kurt - Almost anything that's musical, is pop music, as far as I'm concerned. As long as it's good, and it's catchy, it's pop. And y'know, a lot of punk rock is pop. I think the only time that punk rock strayed away from pop, was when hardcore came around, y'know, and there was a lot, y'know, real durgy stuff also, like the crossover metal thing..and I really can't consider a lot of that music.

Dave - Y'know, maybe one percent, of the people who are listening to "Nevermind", that ever bought "Nevermind", maybe not one percent, but I'm just saying that this, um, a small minority of people who are listening to our record now, know about punk rock. A lot of people don't know about punk rock...they think about punk rock and they think of that Quincy episode where the guy threw the brick off the building, and...

Kurt - I guess, I dunno, I just don't agree with old punk rock etho's, of like, you have to starve to be an artist. It's bullshit.

Kurt - We don't like to think of ourselves as a political band, because y'know, you tend to become too anal, and it becomes ridiculous, If you shove it down people's throats y'know, we just ask people to be aware a little bit, and I think the songs kinda reflect that.

Krist - It's just another issue, another topic, like we could talk about racism, we could talk about feminism, nationalism, I don't really subscribe to that way of thought, at all.

Kurt - There's just so much corruption going on with the government, and the Reagan years have definitely set us back, to where the average teenager feels kinda lost, and there isn't much hope. They're still at least, aware of the mistakes that our parent's generation has made...and I just think that it'll take a little bit of time for kids to start doing the duties that they're supposed to do, which is challenge things, like corruption.

Dave - The way American's money is budgeted by our government, it leaves nothing to the education system. Teachers are dealing with the future, y'know, teachers are dealing with kids growing up, who are gonna take care of me or you, someday. Just the education system in general, in a lot of places, is really screwed.

Krist - Y'know, it's great to get information like that, so you can um, form your own ideas. It'd be neat, if like y'know, the 60's had a like, Abby Hoffman, or ah, John Sinclair y'know, Timothy Leary to an extent. And they were spokespeople, and they were shaking things up, and nowadays, there's not really anybody.

The multiplatinum release "Nevermind". Since it's release, the album has topped the billboard charts, and the first single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" has become a top-ten hit. The success of "Nevermind" has taken a lot of people by surprise including the band.

Kurt - I'll never get over the shock and that's kinda good.

Dave - It was, um, sort of a really, whatever, organic thing, there wasn't any massive hype.

Kurt - I mean there is definitely no big million dollar investment, in, in promotion behind this record at all, it's totally organic, and it just happened.

Krist - Y'know, whatever's happened, is, was surely out of our control, and I'm glad it's happened y'know it's nice to sell that many records, it's nice to turn on people to something different. People tellin' me "Oh yeah you guy's record. I think you guys are gonna go platinum!" and we're like "Oh man, c'mon, y'know, if we get a gold record outta this, that'll be amazing."

Kurt - It's not my fault. I never wanted the fame involved. It's, that's a totally different story. I think Paul Stanley once said somethin' like "Only thing that money gives you is relief of not having to worry about money". Only thing I'd really like to do with it, is to invest in some bands that I like, I , I don't wanna start my own record label God, I know I couldn't do that. But I'd like to give some money to some labels who're putting out great music, help in that way. And um, probably gonna buy a house. Hopefully we can have a recording studio too a little 8-track recording studio, so we can make good demos. And that's pretty much the plans and just get some new shoes.