Tribute to Nevermind
Ten Years Later
It has now been exactly ten years since Nirvana's legendary album "Nevermind" hit the stores. Released in the US on September 24 1991, the album would change the music scene forever. The album's raunchy opener "Smells Like Teen Spirit" has become an anthem for the 90's, and one of the biggest hits in history. Even today, you will rarely find polls listing the all time greatest songs, where this one isn't number one - or at least in the Top 5. The video for the song has been aired on MTV more times than most videos, and on November 23 the song reached number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The album would hit number one on Billboard's Top 200 chart January 11, 1992. Following in the footsteps of Guitar World, Spin and Rolling Stone here is a little tribute to the album, and a celebration of it's 10 year anniversary.
(Scan courtesy of Maxine)
In January 1992, radio journalist Kurt St. Thomas did an interview with the band. The interview would be one of the longest of their career, and the only one to be officially released as a promo CD by Nirvana's record label. The promo CD also featured clips from Nirvana's show at the Paramount Theater in Seattle on Halloween 1991. Here is some more information on the background of the interview: "Hosted and Produced by Kurt St. Thomas and engineered by 'Boy' Troy Smith, Nevermind, It's An Interview was created in 1992 when St. Thomas was Music Director and Smith was Production Director of WFNX-FM, Boston, MA, USA. Released by Geffen Records as a limited edition, 'promotional use only' CD for radio airplay, Nevermind, It's An Interview is often loosely transcribed on websites from the interview being run off of radio stations. In fact, the main reason why the disc was produced in the first place was so that radio stations all over the world could have a Nirvana interview to air. Nirvana's world-wide popularity had grown so quickly that it became impossible for them to visit all of the radio stations playing their music. Live versions of Nirvana's songs (About A Girl, Aneurysm, Drain You, On A Plain, and School were recorded on the Dogfish Mobile Truck at the Paramount Theatre, Seattle WA on October 31, 1991) were added to the interview, clearly distinguishing it from all other discs and establishing it as the definitive Nirvana interview CD.
All three members of Nirvana were interviewed and recorded on separate occasions. Krist Novoselic's and Dave Grohl's segments were recorded at the Righa Royal Hotel in New York City, right after the band's set for MTV's 120 Minutes on January 10, 1992. Kurt Cobain's segment was taped late into the next night on January 11, 1992 at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York, after the band's debut performance on NBC Television's, Saturday Night Live. What's interesting about the interview process is that all three guys were asked some of the same questions, but without knowing the other member's answers. It was then intentionally edited together to sound like the guys were all in the same room. It is striking how similar their answers are. Nevermind It's An Interview, has been aired countless times on radio stations all over the world, and was never released for sale to the public." Here are some excerpts from the CD;
Kurt St. Thomas: In December of 1988 - Sub Pop Records released a limited 1000 copies of Nirvana's first single Love Buzz - 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 Cobain: Bleach just seemed to be really one dimensional. It just 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, and, but at the same time that we were recording Bleach, 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 the 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 have always had a few songs like that. (listen -- 1:12min)
Kurt St. Thomas: With Chad leaving the band, Kurt and Krist then enrolled friend, and Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters, but Dan only lasted one gig.
Krist Novoselic: 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 you know that's when the future of uh Mudhoney was uncertain, Steve wanted to go to school, and there was all this..it was 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 - 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. (listen -- 1:08min)
Kurt St. Thomas: With Nirvana's line up now set. Kurt, Krist and Dave began rehearsing.
Dave Grohl: We'd been, um, practicing in this really weird practice space. This man built a studio in this like barn in his 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 is carpeted with this like brown shag carpet, and he even had stage lights in there and he 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 and 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, well we'll start putting them on cassette' so we started recording them onto these boom box things, and we'd lose the cassettes y'know, so I mean we wrote so much material, that we just like, forgot about and every once in a while we'll just like, pull one out and turn it around. (listen -- 0:58min)
(Scan courtesy of Alan L.)
Kurt St. Thomas: Since it's release, the album [Nevermind] 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 Cobain: I'll never get over the shock and that's kinda good.
Dave Grohl: It was, um, sort of a really, whatever, organic thing, there wasn't any massive hype.
Kurt Cobain: 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 Novoselic: 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 Cobain: It's not my fault. I never wanted the fame involved. That's, That's a totally different story. I think Paul Stanley (of Kiss) once said something' 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 cause 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 those are pretty much the plans and just get some new shoes. (listen -- 1:39min)
You can read an official transcript of the interview disc here. Now, for the first time ever, we can present some previously unpublished quotes from the very same interview. As mentioned, the interview with Nirvana was done by Kurt St. Thomas in January 1992, and these quotes from it have never been published anywhere before. Special thanks to Kurt St. Thomas for this.
Excerpts from 'Nevermind It's an Interview' that were left on the cutting room floor. January 1992 New York City:
KURT ST. THOMAS: Define Nirvana in your terms.
KRIST NOVOSELIC: Well there's various definitions. There's the textbook Buddhist definition, you know freedom from pain and suffering in the external worlds. The way I see Nirvana, its just a name you know, a name for a band really. I don't have any kind of philosophical application towards the band regarding the name.
KURT ST. THOMAS: How long can all of this Nirvana excitement last?
DAVE GROHL: Well, I mean, anyone that thinks they're gonna be in a rock 'n roll band until, you know. It is disgusting to see The Who up on stage when they're like fifty, or the Rolling Stones you know, like doing their 'Steel Wheels' thing, playing 'Satisfaction' for the 8th billionth time.
KURT ST. THOMAS: What do your friends think about this whole fame thing?
DAVE: They think it is hilarious. They think it is really funny. But, you gotta find it pretty hilarious, just because we're just people and this happened.
KURT ST. THOMAS: You haven't changed since 'Nevermind' exploded?
KRIST: We're not really high profile people. You know, no limousine rides. It's just not sincere. I can't even explain it.
KURT ST. THOMAS: Do people recognize you?
DAVE: No, people don't recognize me. People recognize Krist because he's 6'7. It's kind of weird; the amount of attention. You just sort of like, take it with a grain of salt. Keep a sense of humor about the whole thing and it just sort of goes along, and along, and along.
KURT ST. THOMAS: What would you be doing if you weren't in the band?
DAVE: I'd go to college. That's what I'd do. I haven't been to college yet.
KURT COBAIN: I don't know. I'd like to be something artistic I guess. A painter, a writer, or something like that. I'd like to get in to movies.
KURT ST. THOMAS: Do you want to be an actor?
KURT: I don't know. I could try. That'd be fun. It's not easy for a musician to become an actor, you know? I don't want to be like Rick Springfield.
KURT ST. THOMAS: What's your favorite movie?
KURT: 'Paris, Texas'.
KURT ST. THOMAS: I always thought the soundtrack was amazing.
KURT: Yeah, I was actually looking for that the other day. I'll be able to find it somewhere. I'm sure.
KURT ST. THOMAS: I have it on vinyl.
KURT: Make me a tape.
KURT ST. THOMAS: No problem. Are there any other movies you like?
KURT: 'Rear Window,' the Hitchcock movie. God. I don't know. I like movies. I used to like 'em a lot better when I was young. I can't think of very many movies that I like. I'm usually disappointed by them. I can't wait to see 'Naked Lunch'.
KURT ST. THOMAS: How about TV shows?
KURT: You must be referring to 'Floyd The Barber.'
KURT ST. THOMAS: I also heard you liked the Brady Bunch.
KURT: Yeah, there's a lot of TV I like. Not now. Not new TV. I can't think of anything except for the A&E channel. Arts and Entertainment channel. Documentaries and stuff. Oh, The Simpsons are good. I didn't really get into Twin Peaks. I can't think of anything new. You know, the old dorky sitcoms; 'The Brady Bunch,' 'The Partridge Family,' they're classics. I like 'Leave It To Beaver.' I like 'The Andy Griffith Show.' 'Leave it to Beaver' is probably the most classic TV show ever. There's just something so wholesome about it. It's a well written show. It's really good.
KURT ST. THOMAS: Have you ever been injured by one of Kurt's stage dives?
DAVE: No, I make sure that I have my eyes open at all times.
KURT: No, not too bad.
KURT ST. THOMAS: How do you feel about people saying that you sold out?
KRIST: People think that you sold out cause you made money. You know? I think if you make money and start voting Republican, because you'll get tax breaks, and they're the party of the rich. I mean that's sold out.
KURT ST. THOMAS: What about the future?
DAVE: [in a psychic swami voice] the future...hmmm..I see a lot of touring and a lot of recording. I don't know. I mean there is definitely gonna be a lot of touring. All I know is touring and playing drums. You just get hungry for something else whether its journalism, you know. I have friends that are in college studying journalism or commercial art.
KURT ST. THOMAS: Anything else you want to say?
KURT: No, not really. I guess I could say something really cliché and punk rock to kids (laughs) Start a band. Especially girls. They should start bands. There aren't enough good girl musicians.
After getting these quotes, I sent Kurt St. Thomas a couple of questions of my own - asking about his interview with Nirvana almost ten years ago, and about how he booked them for a show in September 1991. Kurt St. Thomas was the musical director for the Boston radio station WFNX-FM. For the 8th birthday of the station on September 23, Kurt booked Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins to play. He brought the band onstage at the Axis club in Boston and introduced them. Kurt also interviewed Nirvana the same night for a live interview, but unfortunately it was never taped! St. Thomas explains; "I interviewed the band before the show live on the air (the lost tape). I remember I asked Kurt why he spelled his name so many ways and his reply was 'I just learned how to spell.' After the interview the band did the naked Crisco twister stunt for MTV. The band played later on that night, and I introduced them on stage as 'the greatest fucking band in the world'. The opening song was Aneurysm (still one of my favorite Nirvana songs). The line was down the block to see them. It was one of the best gigs I ever saw them play!"
Here is my short interview with Kurt St. Thomas, where we talk more about the Boston show and his interviews with Nirvana.
NFC: Apart from asking Kurt about the way his name was spelled, do you remember any other questions/answers from the "lost" interview?
Kurt St. Thomas: I don't really remember any of the questions without looking back at my notes. It was a pretty chaotic night. However, I remember Kurt being kind of cynical and Krist and Dave being very funny. They were playing with balloons during the interview. Krist kept putting one in his stomach like he was pregnant.
NFC: Could you give us a brief review of the show at the Axis? Do you remember some of the songs they played? (Apart from Aneurysm)
Kurt St. Thomas: Some of the songs they played were School, Come As You Are, In Bloom, Territorial Pissings, and Love Buzz. It was an amazing night all around. It was the night before Nevermind came out. The party was in four clubs on Lansdowne Street in Boston and Nirvana headlined the show in Axis with Bullet LaVolta and the Smashing Pumpkins as the opening bands. Everybody wanted to get into Axis to see that show. You just knew that there was something special in the air.
NFC: Did you ever see Nirvana live again? I believe they did another show at Axis on September 24.
Kurt St. Thomas: They did do a show on the 24th and I couldn't be there because I had to do my (6pm-9pm) radio show. The reason they played the show was because the WFNX show the previous night was 21+ and they wanted kids under 21 to be able to see them play.
Yes, I saw Nirvana many times before and after that show on the 23rd. The first was actually in 1990 at Manray in Boston with Chad Channing on drums. The Bags opened up. I first met Kurt and Krist that night. Krist gave me a Nirvana T-shirt with John Lennon and Yoko Ono's naked bodies with Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman's head's superimposed on top of them. After the FNX show I saw them at the MTV studios in 92 (120 Minutes live performance in the studio), Saturday Night Live 92, Detroit Michigan in 92 with the Meat Puppets, Roseland Ballroom New York (the surprise show) 93 with Jesus Lizard, Fitchburg Massachusetts 93 with the Breeders. The last time I saw Nirvana play live was during the Unplugged taping in 93.
NFC: What was it like to meet Nirvana? What was your impression of them?
Kurt St. Thomas: I have to say that I genuinely like all three members. I always felt they were very real people and they were kind to me. Dave was always friendly and even dedicated a song to me once when I saw the Foo Fighters. Krist is one of the sweetest and most genuine people you will ever meet. I don't think he has a bad bone in his body. Kurt was always nice and had an amazing presence. I don't think he really liked many DJ's or journalists but he didn't show it the times I had a chance to talk to him. One of my favorite Kurt memories was at the Fitchburg show in 93. Backstage Kurt was having dinner. He could have had anything at this point in his career, but he was eating macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. It just seemed so appropriate.
NFC: How did you decide on which questions to ask them? Did you pick the questions yourself?
Kurt St. Thomas: The WFNX interview was very off the cuff and brief. The questions were mostly about the show that night, etc. 'Nevermind It's An Interview' on the other hand was months of preparation. I studied lyrics and countless magazine articles to learn about the band. I got information on Aberdeen through the Chamber of Commerce, etc. I just tried to be as prepared as possible. I scripted questions that would lead to answers about their history. I also constructed a lot of questions about Nevermind. I tried to 'go with the flow' with the band's answers as well.
NFC: What else do you remember about the WFNX birthday bash on September 24? Any funny stories?
Kurt St. Thomas: The night before the show I had dinner with the guys at this restaurant called Division 16. It is kind of a stiff place. During dinner Krist picked up my cheeseburger and smashed it into my face much like you would do with a pie. It was hilarious and we were all laughing. It is still one of my favorite Nirvana moments.
NFC: You interviewed Kurt for several hours and managed to do one of the longest interviews with him [of his career]. Among other things, he told you the "guns in the river" story. Apparently, this incident never happened. At the time, did you get the impression that he was making it up - or was he, well, "believable?"
Kurt St. Thomas: I think that for 90% of the interview he was telling the truth. I also think he took some liberties on certain questions to make himself appear the way he wanted to be perceived. Kurt was very smart and he knew that he could manipulate the press to some extent. If you read the 'Nevermind' bio that was released by Geffen it has funny things like Kurt and Krist met at arts and craft school which obviously was not true, but they knew that journalists would end up asking them about it.
NFC: What do you think about the Nevermind record today? Many sources in the media have named it "Best album of the decade" and whatnot.
Kurt St. Thomas: I still love it. It is my favorite record of the 90's. It's in my top 10 of all time and always will be.
Mr. St. Thomas is currently working on a Nirvana book entitled "The Chosen Rejects". A release date for the book has not been determined yet, but it should be out sometime next year on St. Martin's press. The "reviews" of the book on sites like amazon.com and bn.com are false, and for several months bn.com listed the book as being in stock - even though it had yet to be published. Also, the cover depicted on amazon.com is not the real one.
Kurt was unable to provide details on the book at this time, but he did briefly describe what it was going to be all about; "The book is the story of the rise and fall of the band. It includes a very comprehensive discography, and an A-Z section that lists all of the songs that Nirvana recorded and how many versions there are of each, etc. It will also include some never before seen photos and various pieces of memorabilia." When Kurt isn't writing Nirvana books, he is operating an independent film production company - Corporate Sucker Films - in New York, NY.
In November 1991, a couple of weeks after 'Nevermind' was released, Gilbert Blecken did an interview with Kurt Cobain. The interview was published in the British Kerrang! in 1999. Here is the complete interview transcript, including previously unpublished quotes that didn't make it to Kerrang! magazine. Special thanks to Gilbert Blecken for the following transcript and pictures.
I recently read that even Ozzy Osbourne is now into "Nevermind". What do you think of having him as a fan?
Kurt Cobain: I can understand Ozzy liking us, because we have at least some similarities with his former band. Ozzy was also in the same mixing studio that we were in for our last record. There were a few times when we were coming towards each other and I had to move up against the wall as he was stumbling past. He also asked us to go on tour with him, but we turned it down. It would have been kind of exiting, but we don't really wanna play in huge arenas supporting someone.
No other band has been called the "next big thing" as many times as you have recently. How Do you feel about that?
Kurt: I think it's embarrassing to have so many expectations of us. It's a total superficial label to put on a band, because it is a big let-down if the band doesn't become the next big thing. And it's not our goal in the first place. People are putting that tag on us without us really wanting to do that.
So you're not prepared to become super stars?
Kurt: No we're not, because we're not going to be. We're prepared to destroy our career as it happens.
That sounds a bit like the step Jane's Addiction made. Their singer told the press one year in advance that the band is going to split. Do you really want to go that far?
Kurt: If it becomes so much of a problem, it may be okay. I don't know, it depends. But I heard of a lot of internal problems amongst the Jane's Addiction members which we haven't got at all. We'd probably just break up and then reform under a different name and disguise ourselves, 'cause we really enjoy playing with each other. I've no desires to play with anyone else. I might do a few side projects, but that's about it.
What I find really quite remarkable is that every time it looks like rock is finally dead, a band like you appears and makes it sound interesting again.
Kurt: That's a really flattering comment and quite surprising to me, 'cause I really do feel we sound like Black Sabbath and The Bay City Rollers. At the same time I think it's quite hard for a band to describe themselves because they're probably the last people to realise what their influences are and who they ripped off. Most of our music is definitely written subconsciously.
You've already mentioned the comparisons with Black Sabbath and The Bay City Rollers in your self-written band biography, but let's be honest - most of that bio is a joke.
Kurt: Yeah, most of it is pretty obvious. It was just that I attempted making a bio a bit different from other band's bios that we've read. Most bands are taking themselves much too seriously and are also very egotistical, so we decided to make a joke out of it.
Do you hope to maintain that way of looking at things?
Kurt: Sure, we have to. It's just weird... I've noticed that with a lot of bands you can either be anally serious, sad and depressed like Morrissey, or you can be a big joke like The Butthole Surfers. Usually it's in these two extremes, and I think we feel comfortable in between.
Could you imagine Geffen Records also signed you to get a better reputation as a company?
Kurt: I suppose that's part of it. But I'm convinced that the people who work at DGC are sincerely into our music, they really like us as a band. It's not a false thing so they can be hip.
I've heard that you are also quite experienced with drugs. What was it like when you first tripped on LSD?
Kurt: I think I laughed too much. The next morning I woke up with a stomach ache because I laughed so hard.
Which other drugs have you tried?
Kurt: I think I tried every drug available. PCP, Quaaludes...
Is there one drug experience you remember more than others?
Kurt: They all suck. Quaaludes was probably the worst time I've ever had on a drug because I couldn't control my balance. I didn't feel good at all - I just tried to walk and kept falling down. And then I fell asleep. That wasn't fun at all.
Back to the music. A big difference between "Bleach" and "Nevermind" is that hard parts are now often contrasted with soft parts within your songs. Don't you like the idea of keeping a whole song thrashy any more?
Kurt: Yeah, I think we've been focussing on dynamics a lot more on this record. With the "Bleach" album everything was just straight ahead and simple, and it becomes boring to play that kind of music all the time so we decided to break things down with our songs. I mean, we showed signs of doing that on "Bleach", but I think we're way more focussed now with both of the elements of soft and pretty and hard and aggressive.
Have you already found your style with "Nevermind" or could you imagine going in a totally different direction with your next album?
Kurt: Oh, definitely. The next album will be completely different. We've already started working on a completely different sound. Some of the new songs we've been writing or trying to write don't sound anything like "Nevermind". There'll be a complete change, because what keeps playing music exciting is to change and experiment.
In which direction will it change?
Kurt: It's a lot more psychedelic, and it's very abrasive and weird and stupid. And there won't be much structure to the songs. It's not as if we're going to start playing very technical jazz shit, but it'll be different. I think "Aneurysm", the b-side of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a good example of what it will sound like. And on the CD there is also an extra track that most people don't know about. After the 12th song there's ten minutes of silence and then the 13th song comes on. It sounds like an abortion. Very noisy. That's also a good example of what our next album is going to sound like.
Is there something in particular you would like Nirvana to be remembered for?
Kurt: Writing good music, good songs. That's all I could say, 'cause that's more important than anything else.
Alright, last question. Would you describe yourself as a person who would go mad without the music?
Kurt: I used to think that. But now that we're playing almost every night on tour I feel like I can probably do something else eventually. If I keep going for another five years I might burn myself out and not have much desire to play guitar any more. I don't know if it's like this eternal thing that I always have to do. There's so many other things I'd like to do. Sometimes I like just hanging out with my friends. I also like to write a lot, and maybe I might even wanna act in a movie or something. There are lots of things I can think of I would like to do. Maybe I might just be happy being a janitor. I don't know, I can't say at this point. I feel that way now, but I'm sure as soon as I had two months off I would like to start playing again.
That just about wraps up NFC's 10th anniversary special on the "Nevermind" album. Thanks for visiting. Also a huge thanks to the main contributors; Kurt St. Thomas (you rock too!) and Gilbert Blecken. Thanks to Maxine and Alan for some of the scans.