Biographies of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl
It rains a lot in Aberdeen, Washington. A small blue-collar community, strewn with trailer parks and tough blue-collar attitudes where there isn’t much room or acceptance for being different. Described as “a hellacious place to live” it was a hard time for anyone whose dreams weren’t of being a lumberjack and proving their manhood at every chance. This was the situation a skinny, reportedly pot smoking, musician named Kurt Donald Cobain was born into on February 20th 1967.
Like many small children, Cobain spent much of his time escaping to other worlds through drawing and sketching. Uncharacteristically, he was noted for picking on poorer “weirdo’s” in the schoolyard, only to later reach an epiphany and embrace the non-conformity he once despised. “By fourth grade, I realized that these kids are probably cooler than the higher class children, more down to earth, down to the dirt.”
Raised on classic rock and lead adrift from his peers in his preadolescence, Kurt found the world of punk in junior high, reveling in British acts like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. In senior High School Kurt reportedly found marijuana and would spend his time listening to albums and playing hooky from school. Often, when he wouldn’t be attending classes, Kurt would hide in the local library. “The library never kicked me out, though they knew I was underage.” He became your average high school slacker whose lifestyle would make Beavis & Butthead proud. However, like most parents, Kurt’s mother had no confidence in her son’s musical aspirations, and after a stormy relationship she kicked him out of her home. He was left homeless and adrift working odd jobs and crashing at friends’ houses. He was even known to spend nights under a local bridge, possibly the inspiration for the Nevermind closer “Underneath the Bridge”.
Kurt soon found a gig being a roadie for fellow Aberdeenian, Buzz Osborne and his band, The Melvins. Osborne opened Kurt’s eyes to many things. Buzz took him to his first punk show, Black Flag, and introduced him to a tall lanky bassist named Krist (then Chris) Novoselic.
By December of 1987 the original Nirvana (then known as the “Stiff Woodies”) was born, consisting of Cobain on guitar, Novoselic on bass, and original drummer, Aaron Burckhard. The band recorded a ten-song demo with respected local producer, Jack Endino. Many of these songs would end up on their first Indie-LP, Bleach, and the major label rarities album, Incesticide.
A small floundering independent label named Sub Pop, which was the original home to some of the early 90’s biggest acts, took the band, now officially known as Nirvana, on. For $600 the band financed it’s first LP with short-lived second axe man, Jason Everman.
At first, Bleach, with such classics as “About a Girl” and “Negative Creep”, failed to find its audience. Nevertheless, the band persevered and soon more and more faces showed up in the audience for their gigs. Tracks from Bleach became college radio staples and the band even toured across Europe with the new drummer, Chad Channing opening for Seattle pals, Tad and L7.
Soon after, Nirvana, once again found it’s self without a percussion section. After meeting a “weird” duo of Novoselic and Cobain backstage at a Melvin’s concert, David Eric Grohl signed up with the band after his D.C. hardcore outfit, “Scream”, became history.
Now the final incarnation of Nirvana was set. But as things started to cement, the band believed it was time to move on to a new label.
Nirvana under new management company, Gold Mountain, started to search for a major label to call home. The David Geffen Company (DGC) seemed to suit the band’s needs fine with its reps molded in the artist friendly style from the indies. Their roster included respectable punksters, Sonic Youth (with whom Nirvana would later tour).
The band was set to record their follow up to Bleach in sunny Los Angeles with producer Butch Vig (now creative force for Garbage) and mixed by respected engineer Andy Wallace. On September 24th 1991 Nevermind was released and the Seattle explosion of the early 90’s was underway.
The album was certified gold in less than nineteen days. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became an MTV staple and was hailed as an anthem for the disenchanted offspring of ex-hippies. In just seven weeks the album hit number one (and would re-strike later) displacing the King of Soulless 80’s Pop, Michael Jackson. In droves across the nation, kids were putting down their Mötley Crue and New Kids on the Block albums for the naked baby swimming after the dollar. Things were starting to change.
Suddenly from the smallest clubs in Maritime city a plaid-colored tornado made a dangerous trek across the nation. The Salvation Army became a fashion goldmine. And it all happened under the gaze of the disheveled and unshaven smiling face of the smiling new corporate demon, “Grunge”.
Kurt had finally proven that he could break free from the roots he hated so much. But that very success and being admired by the kind of people he despised seemed to be tearing him apart in the inside as he told Circus Magazine in a 1993 interview: “I was upset about finding myself having to play in front of really rude, sexist jerks. It’s all very well saying ‘Well, you signed to a major, so you should expect that. ‘But we’d seen Sonic Youth put out an album on the same label and they’d barely got a larger audience. They were playing the same clubs, the same smaller venues, and we thought it’d be the same for us.”
Despite his growing disillusion with his new fame, Kurt found time to find his soul mate and he married Hole front woman Courtney Love in Hawaii on February 24th, 1992. They later had their first and only child, Frances Bean Cobain on August 18th 1992.
What should have been a wonderful time in his life proved to be one of the most chaotic. He had a new wife and beautiful healthy new child, however Kurt seemed to be having the most trouble with his fame. And as he always did he rebelled against what he was “supposed” to do.
It was time to record some new material. Instead of recording another radio-friendly Nevermind, the band hired Chicago dissonant punk producer, Steve Albini. The band started the recording of In Utero (original title, I hate myself and want to die) was recorded in February of 1993. Nirvana recorded tracks in sometimes only one or two tries, not even attempting to achieve the polished chorus and grandeur of Nevermind. The result was a harsh, electric, introspective collection of punk rock. And despite the attempts at distancing themselves from their mainstream fan base, In Utero entered the Billboard charts at #1 after it’s release in September, 21st 1993 and the album’s first single “Heart-Shaped Box” was a radio hit.
Kurt found himself in a drug-induced depression he would never escape. Nirvana was forced to cut short a European tour after Kurt overdosed on prescription medication and champagne. He ended up in a coma. After returning home, he experienced disputes with fellow band mates and his wife, Kurt retreated to his Seattle home for two days and lost contact with everyone. The world discovered later on April 8th, 1994 that Kurt Cobain was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Seattle movement was over. Grunge was dead.
David Eric Grohl was born January 14th, 1969 in Warren Ohio to a journalist father and English teacher mother. He was a natural entertainer. He was a child actor in a Washington D.C. theater repertory and he would play his first instrument, guitar in local bands covering Beatles and Rolling Stones tunes. As a teenager he was more prone to banging on his textbooks instead of reading them. Soon he became a respected drummer in musician circles.
Dave first met two skinny punks from Seattle named Kurt and Krist backstage at a Melvins show. They met through mutual friend and Melvins lead, Buzz Osborne. Dave apparently at first found the duo a little too weird to want to be associated with. And at the time he was drummer for at hot D.C. hardcore outfit called “Scream”. However, in the middle of a European tour that band broke up. And when told through Osborne that Nirvana was looking for a new drummer, and they were impressed by Grohl, he figured “why not”.
In September of 1990 Dave Grohl was in [he joined them in the spring of 1990, actually – NFC] and he recorded two singles for Sub Pop – “Sliver” (later a single off Incesticide).
After a historic four-year stint with Nirvana, Grohl started his own project, The Foo Fighters. Dave originally played every instrument on the original self-titled Foo album. Since then he recruited former Nirvana band mate and Germs guitarist Pat Smear (who would later quit the band in 1995 to be replaced by Franz Stahl, who also left - in mid 1999), Bassist Nate Mendel, and drummer Will Goldsmith who were in the respected Seattle band, Sunny Day Real Estate. Since then The Foo Fighters have released The Colour and the Shape and have had several hit singles.
Most people will only remember Krist Novoselic as Nirvana’s tall, goofy bass player, whose miscalculated bass toss cost him a whack in the face live on MTV during the band’s performance of Lithium. But Krist Novoselic was and still is much more. Krist was born on May 10, 1965 in Compton, California. His Croatian parents had immigrated there two years before his birth. Eventually the cost of living exceeded the Novoselic family’s resources and they moved to Aberdeen, Washington. There, Novoselic immediately became an outcast who spent most of his free time sleeping and listening to his clock radio.
In June of 1980 Krist’s depression over living in Aberdeen had reached its peak, and his parents sent him to live with relatives in Croatia. There, Krist discovered punk music, made friends, and gained a new perspective on life. A year later Krist moved back to his parent’s home in Aberdeen, and started taking guitar lessons (coincidentally his teacher was also Kurt’s teacher).
After tooth surgery to cure an under bite, Krist’s jaws were wired shut. He traveled to many a party with wire clippers in hand in case he had to puke. Krist attended the same high school as Kurt Cobain, and over the years the two could constantly meet in passing, until Buzz Osborne, of Melvins fame, formally introduced the two. After hearing a low quality demo that Kurt had recorded, Novoselic decided to join forces with Cobain. Krist and Kurt played in many bands together including The Stiff Woodies, a three piece band with front man Krist, and drummer Kurt.
Krist was a flashy front man, but if you’ve ever heard his vocals in the beginning of Nevermind’s “Territorial Pissings”, you’ll be well aware of why Kurt eventually took over as singer. The pair started a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band aptly called The Sellouts, which also did not work out. But in December 1987 Krist, Kurt and drummer Aaron Burckhard formed the original lineup of Nirvana. The rest as they say is history.
After Cobain’s suicide, Novoselic swore off drugs and alcohol. He helped form JAMPAC (Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Actions Committee), which to date, has lead a fight against a couple of Washington state bills (SB5466 and HB1448), which threatened to limit sales and distribution of music that government committees consider obscene. He has also formed a new band called Sweet 75, headed by singer/bassist Yva Las Vegas, drummer Adam Wade (of Shudder to Think infamy), and guitarist Krist Novoselic. Krist met Las Vegas when the street singer was hired to perform at his birthday party in 1994. Later the pair would find out that they had attended the same high school. Sweet 75 was named after a Theodore Roethke poem, in which the author thanks an editor for paying him a “Sweet 75” for one of his poems. The band’s low key, self-titled debut is quite different from Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters. Sweet 75’s sound ranges from punk, and punkabilly, to blues and traditional styles. Both Krist and Dave Grohl refuses to speak about Kurt’s death.