After a successful European summer tour and a sold-out show at the mammoth 45,000-seat Velez Sarsfield Stadium, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, what has the world's biggest punk-rock band been up to?
By Michael Azerrad.
Right now, the band is doing its thing in Seattle, where Novoselic, guitarist and proud papa Kurt Cobain and drummer Dave Grohl are working on material for a new album. Having recorded demos in October with legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino, who produced Nirvana’s first album, Bleach, the band plans to record the album in the spring with Steve Albini, whose résumé includes the Pixies, Superchunk and Helmet The album is due out this fall.
In the meantime, fans can make do with Incesticide, a rarities collection due out on Geffen/DGC Records on December 15th. Nirvana’s first label, Sub Pop, was to release a similar collection, but the project went to DGC because, according to Novoselic, "Sub Pop was going to call it Cash Cow ... that’s violating," adding the band got more artistic control and better distribution through DGC. Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman replies that "Chris has it all wrong ... the record was going to be called Piggy Bank."
Incesticide includes the 1990 Sub Pop single "Sliver" b/w "Dive"; most of Hormoaning, the much-sought-after compilation of BBC sessions released in Japan and Australia (including the live staple "Aneurysm" and covers of the Vaselines’ "Molly’s Ups" and an obscure Devo B side, "Turnaround"); and two unreleased early demos "Hairspray Queen" and "Aero Zeppelin." The cover features a painting by Cobain.
"’Hairspray Queen’ is one of the first things ever did," says Novoselic. "‘Aero Zeppelin,’" he adds, "couldn’t be named anything else; it’s just heavy cock-rock riffs. It gives that song a sense of humor."
Novoselic says it’s hard to say exactly how Nirvana’s next studio album will sound, noting that key Nevermind tracks such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" were written just two weeks before recording. One thing’s for sure: "It’s not going to be as glossy and candy as Nevermind," says Novoselic. "It’s going to be more raw."
Besides beating the bootleggers, the band hopes the raw nature of the tracks on Incesticide will both prepare fans for the upcoming studio album and give them a little history lesson. "We thought it would be something nice for the fans just to see where we’re coming from," says Novoselic. "Some of the stuff’s kind of wild. Maybe the next step we’ll take, because the pendulum is swinging back in that direction, won’t be that much of a shock."
Nirvana will also split a single with the Jesus Lizard on the indie label Touch and Go. "Oh, the Guilt" will be released on January 29th. Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain will supply guitar feedback for an upcoming William Burroughs spoken-word album; he’ll also produce the major-label (on Atlantic Records) debut of the ultra-heavy Northwest riff rockers the Melvins, a key early influence on Nirvana.
Novoselic is working on some side projects of his own. He recently helped win repeal of Washington State's so-called erotic-music law - which would have penalized retailers for selling certain types of unlabeled music to minors - by organizing meetings, attending press conferences and even hauling a PA system in his van. Nirvana itself headlined a benefit concert on September 11th for the Washington State Music Coalition, the organization that lobbied against the law.
The bassist, who has supported decriminalization of marijuana, also has another project upcoming. "All I’m going to say is, I’m working with hemp canvas," he says. "One hundred percent hemp canvas."