by James Crotty
October 30, 1992
GO FOR THE GRUNGE
was 1986. A new voice was emerging as the seeds of decline
Decade of Greed began to sprout and bear fruit. By the Crash of
world would be changed forever. From the rubble of discarded
and junk bond junkies, a new weird order of supersonic youth
discarding the aggressive Pollyanna of unbridled yuppiedom, finding
in a stance of casual offhanded irreverence.
unique twenty-something ethos was sprouting up everywhere
it seemed to crystallize most strongly in that final frontier of
pop culture, Seattle. It was a magic moment. For the best bands
heard were in Seattle. The wackiest minds you ever imagined
were in Seattle.
And the finest beer you ever drank was in Seattle.
beneath this creative cauldron was a young man in Inverness, a
town near the Olympic Mountain Range. His name was Kurt
Cobain. Kurt saw
no romance in his own real life Twin Peaks. Only bigoted,
brains, who couldn't see the forest for the trees. In an entirely
way he challenged the incestuous and stuck small town world
by the likes of David Lynch.
the logging community of Inverness and journeyed to the
hotbed along the Puget Sound. And, with his friend Chris Novoselic,
to express through music the angst of young people caught in the
of pious PC platitudes on the one hand and narrow-minded
the other. Finding in a stance of sullen imperfection and casual
a perfect twenty-something rejoinder to a pivotal cultural impasse.
true Monk style their barbed and potent reply to the ever-present
they saw all around was ironically entitled...Nirvana.
a quiet room off of Eban Ritchie's Suite at the Hotel Sorrento, Kurt
lovingly holds his baby, Frances Bean Cobain. He sits on a couch,
beading on his face. He looks fragile, sensitive and intense. He
right at us when he talks. It's the Kurt Cobain stare that is
out our authenticity.
me about Aberdeen. That's where you grew up,
it's a coastal town about 100 miles away from Seattle. It's a really
place. A very small community with a lot of people who have very
minds. Basically if you're not prepared to join the logging industry,
you're going to be beaten up or run out of town.
that's what happened to you?
I was run out of town. They chased me up to the castle of
torches. Just like the Frankenstein monster. And I got away in a
balloon. And I came here to Seattle.
this metaphor or literal reality?
a wet dream.
there an incident that really pushed the button that got you and
at loggerheads, as it were?
what started the witch hunt was I decided to take some acid one
and spraypaint "queer" on the side of four by four
local rednecks' trucks. And so one of them saw me from his
started chasing me and started screaming "there's the queer
I'd been doing it for awhile. But that night I decided to really go for
it and do a lot, a lot of vandalism. So they caught me and chased
cops caught you or just some of the local toughs?
locals. The local toughs, right. (he laughs)
did they know who your were?
Just that crazy skinny kid who never went to school. Who was
I wasn't attracted to Courtney I'd be a bisexual.
(his wife): Faggot!! (Laughter)
they ran you out of town.
you ever go back?
um, every time I've gone to Aberdeen lately I've felt a real big
Actually, Chris was beaten up at a Denny's one night. Some locals
giving him the eye and I don't think it was sexual. They started
him up in the men's room saying "some local hero you
thing he remembers he was dancing on a table.
you got run out of town because you went up against the logging
the logging mentality, of your local town.
Kurt: I was
the guy who screamed "save the spotted owl!" Kurt
actually did say it one time somewhere?
I did, at school.
school? And the loggers sons and daughters came after you with
chisels. They weren't advanced.
so they ran you out, where'd you go first?
Kurt: I went
to Olympia and became a hippie.
didn't go to Evergreen.
I didn't, but I hung out with a lot of friends from
He couldn't afford it.
Kurt: I couldn't
afford it. I was a janitor.
were you a janitor at?
Kurt: I was
a janitor at Lemons Janitorial Service.
wonderful. Looking back at Aberdeen do you have a place that
was the quintessential
Aberdeen place for you?
bridge of Aberdeen going over to the south side of Aberdeen. I
hang out with the bums and share Thunderbird wine with them
they recognize you if you went back today?
absolutely, if they're still alive. There's a little tent bum community
there. They live in tents and just drink wine and roast
hang out under the bridge.
there a Seattle scene or is this all a myth?
but it's in Portland.
Seattle scene's in Portland?
(Laughter) It started with Greg Sage and the Wipers in 1977. It's a
dirty, grungy place.
Seattle is one of America's cleanest cities.
there's nothing grungy about it at all. But Portland is extremely
It's a real industrial, gray, dark town.
do you want to be when you grow up?
nirvana through janitorial services?
power of Lysol.
a janitorial perspective, what is grunge?
a fine mixture of cleaning solvents, not to be used in the toilet. It
doesn't go well with porcelain. When I was a janitor I used to work
these guys Rocky and Bullwinkle. They'd clean the toilet bowls with
bare hands and then eat their lunch without washing their hands.
were very grungy.
a Kurt Cobain musical perspective what is grunge?
mixture of hygiene paraphernalia - bleach, Lysol, bubble gum
toothpaste, isopropyl rubbing alcohol 90%, hand and body lotion,
your favorite food?
favorite food is water and rice.
of this band called Nirvana?
they're English, they're British. They were a hot group from the
we recently had to give them about $200,000 for using their name.
we recently gave $100,000 to a local Christian band named Nirvana
County. We had to go to court over it. Now we have to call
UK anytime we play in L.A.
would you describe Dave Grohl?
is in really good shape although he smokes two packs of cigarettes
is the horror of the stars. He has no shame whatsoever in
the likes of Wynona Ryder and Johnny Deppe.
him, he complains too much.
you believe in reincarnation?
you're really a mean person you're going to come back as a fly
poop. You'll come back as a fly or Matt Lukin.
would you title your autobiography?
Kurt: I Was
Not Thinking, by Kurt Cobain.
messages for the youth of America?
bowing down gracefully and taking off my crown and I'm giving it
to Eddie Vetter of Pearl Jam. He's now the representative of the
there a changing of the guard now?
caused this, because you're a family man and you're embracing
he stole my look... And he uses it better than I.
the Seattle Coliseum
do you want to be when you grow up?
Toys 'R Us kid. No, an Opinions 'R Us kid.
Opinions 'R Us kid is somebody who is really opinionated, to where
really wants to know their opinion.
that summarize your generation? A lot of opinions, no
don't even think there's even a lot of opinions, really.
you a Slacker?
I've always been motivated. Established dialogues.
Old or Young Elvis?
Old Elvis! Why?
he's like a Ford Mustang. In the 60s the Ford Mustang was slim and
and in the 70s it just got big and bloated... a gas guzzl'n hog, you
but still a Mustang.
intermixed with a sense of futility and boredom there's a strong
message in your songs. What's the antidote? How can you get
to be apathetic?
the plate away from in front of their faces.
well fed in this country?
You get fat and lazy, you know. We all sit and do interviews and
for 45 minutes about rock and roll and there's people who can't
do you do on a typical day?
to wake up and make my day meaningful.
I do yoga... when I'm not hung over.
getting hungover, is getting a little bit drunk essential to playing loud
it shouldn't be, but sometimes it sure seems like it.
you play it without anything in your system?
yea. I've done that before. I went for three months. But a lot of
I have a few beers, relax. Kind of block everything out and focus. I
know, beer helps me do it.
you writing music?
write a little bit, but not for the band. Because I can't
do you write?
stuff for myself, kind of campfire guitar, pick'n. Got a Buck Owens
a red, white and blue guitar just like on Hee Haw.
you believe in reincarnation?
God, I just don't know what the hell I believe in. I'd like to believe
in it. I believe there's something out there. But I don't think I'll know
for sure this lifetime. Maybe next lifetime.
teen spirit to you?
something the men in corporations spray in rabbit's
Monk: I understand
you're a vegetarian.
you must be the most PC member of the band?
I try not to have an attitude about it.
you weren't doing Nirvana what would you be
be just hopping from job to job.
saved your life?
it did. I had a steady job for awhile, but I was pretty much at the
of my rope. I was an apprentice painter.
do you want to tell the twenty-something generation? Do you
have a message
you wanna get out?
man, what do I say without sounding like overkill.
your chance. What's the Chris message?
a good one.
his friend's house in West Seattle, watching videos.
I'm Nirvana's fifth drummer. But they've really only had one other
drummer, Chad Channing. He left the band, and they were offered
a tour with Sonic Youth. So they asked Dale Crover to act as a
for that one tour. Anyway, they were in San Francisco rehearsing,
came to see my band play, and thought I was really good. They
and Buzz of The Melvins that if I was ever available they'd want
play drums for them. Couple weeks later I called up Buzz just to
and tell him our band had fallen apart. He said, well you know,
needs a drummer. So I called them up. But they already had
named Dan Peters from Mudhoney. And I said, oh, that's cool, I
works out. If you need anything give me a call. And they called
night and said, well, maybe you should fly up here and join the
I didn't really have an audition or anything. I flew up here, we had
rehearsal, and we pretty much knew that was it. Two weeks later
England. It just snowballed from there. And we had the greatest
months of rehearsing every fucking day. We would practice every
like four hours. We wrote so many songs we've forgotten. We
wrote a new
one every practice. We were just so stupid and burned out or
we'd never remember them. So we got a boom box and recorded
cassette tapes and then we'd lose the tapes, so Nevermind is
a collection of songs that we happened to remember.
Why did you guys stop practicing?
We started touring June of 1991. And didn't stop touring until
So that whole year we did about six months of non-stop touring,
we'd have about a week off in between tours. And it just killed us.
burned us out big time. None of us was ever cut out to be big rock
Now my big problem is people burn.
Too many people around the band?
Just too many fucking people in this world. I hate saying no to
Hard to keep your space. Because you're now in the
Especially in this rock arena situation, where you have people
and worshipping you like you're some God. It's
coming on stage and bowing down to Kurt.
I felt bad for Chris. What does Chris feel like or you feel
Fortunate! Look, my phone isn't ringing off the hook. And I didn't
completely slagged in a Vanity Fair article. I just try to keep away
all that shit. And even just walking onto a stage and hearing 10,000
"ahyahayaha!!!" going nuts, it feels good for maybe the
couple seconds. After that you feel like you're under a microscope,
everyone's honing in on you. I just hate having anything expected
It's more than you bargained for...
Well, no one bargained for it at all.
But I tell you something. You guys handle it pretty well. You're
not trying to be rock posers or rock stupidstars...
Well, the thing I like about playing live is... You see, people come to
see Aerosmith to hear Dude Looks Like a Lady exactly as it does
record. And, if it doesn't, they think something's wrong. But we're a
sloppy fucking band. Chris and Kurt are very sloppy musicians. I
recently started appreciating the worth of being totally sloppy. I
this two week European tour we did we were sloppier than shit.
get it together. But it was pretty fun and pretty great, and we kind
rolled with it and laughed. And I don't say that like, hey, we just
off 5,000 people because we were totally sloppy. I think people are
to realize that we're not out to be a Rush Fusion Rock Experience,
perfect tempo, on time, on the beat, no fuck-ups. Next time you
us play watch Kurt because he usually tries to figure out the song
before we play it.
He did that on MTV.
Well, actually, that's a whole different thing. That's a big story. We
were asked to play on the MTV Music Awards. We were
supposed to be the
first band on. They wanted us to play Smells Like Teen Spirit. So
to the rehearsals and we have these two new songs. A song
Me and a song that doesn't have a name yet. So we go up and we
that. We had a 4 minute and 20 second slot. And all the stage
and everyone said "Oh you're not gonna do Teen Spirit."
we're going to do these two new songs." "Well, do they
the four minute, 20 second slot?" "Yea."
Next day we get a call from MTV saying "Look, if you don't
Like Teen Spirit you're not going to be on our awards
So we said, "fine, fuck you, keep your awards
then they offered, "look, if you want to be on the show you
Lithium later in the set." So, we thought, "okay, cool, we'll
tell 'em we'll play Lithium, and we'll go up there and we'll do the two
new songs and say 'MTV go to Hell' or
That would have bee great!
It would have been great until we found out that if we were to do
but Lithium a good friend of ours, who works at MTV, would have
Because that's the way MTV works. Mafia Television, maaan. Just
had us exactly where they wanted us.
I think you guys should have just done it.
I think we should have just done it too. But then there was this
from our label saying "if you guys don't do what you're told to
you will have burned pretty much every bridge..." It was
So when you got out there, what happened?
So we went out and started into that song Rape Me. Just to get
palpitation going in Mr. Big Cigar.
You should have gone a little bit longer.
We should have fucking done the whole thing.
So this whole episode left a really bad taste in you?
For me personal, I fucking hate MTV. I hate it. I really hate it so
because it's, you know. "Video Killed the Radio Star." It's
true. It's so true. Like last night we're smashing up equipment cause
all these people see our Lithium video, which is pretty much a
of all these shows in the past where we have destroyed our
jumped around and dove into drum sets or whatever. People
expect us to
destroy everything at the end of the show. Last night was like
them what they want and destroy the
So I sense a real cynicism about this. You're not into supplying
with what they want.
As selfish as it may sound, I just want to do what I want to
What would you have done instead last night?
Told about 8,000 people to go home and played in front of 1000
in a tiny place where you could at least sweat.
So, honestly, how long do you think this Nirvana thing is going to
I give it a couple more years.
You're not going to be the Beatles. You're not going to be around
Last thing in the world I want to do is be like Mick Jagger jumping
in yellow tights when I'm 45 years old.
Do you prefer the young or the old Elvis?
I hate Elvis Presley.
Do you have a rock dream team?
Wow. Well, I guess it would pretty much just be The
The Melvins are the dream team! I like that.
To me there's no better drummer. And there's no cooler guitar
This band seriously changed my understanding of
What is it about 'em?
From a drummer's standpoint Dale Crover turns all conventional
on its side. And plays against the beat. They're very slow, they're
heavy, and they're extremely tight. Pretty much the first band
ever heard where there's sort of a stuttered pause and then
It's the biggest Boom of any band. It's an experience. You don't
go around humming Melvins songs.
Alright, grunge, define it.
Grunge is not flannel. Grunge is not long hair. Grunge is not Alice In
Chains and whatever. I think Grunge is just a bunch of friends
a lot of Henry's and trying to play music when you really
Is Nirvana bigger than Christ?
Not yet. Not until we sell 100 million records.
How much do you guys make off a show like last
I know for a show like the Redding Festival, which is forty thousand
the band made about $250,000, of which each of us comes home
$30,000 for one performance.
Tell me one thing. How would you describe Kurt
Kurt is... I don't know if I'd want to call him a genius. He's a great
songwriter. He's a great guy. He's a quiet person. A lot of the times
you can take his quietness as unnerving. Sometimes it seems as if
really pissed off, but he's really not. He's sort of hard to understand.
Kurt, I've never met anyone else like him. I suppose if you took
acid you might come close to understanding Kurt Cobain. I'm not
When you first met was it great living with him for eight
Oh yea, it was wonderful. When I first moved in there, Kurt and I
know each other. We'd sit in this apartment, no t.v., no radio,
no noise, for hours on end, sitting there completely silent. That's just
sort of the way it was.
You have an enormous amount of respect for him.
Oh yea. He has this way of writing songs, really simple, almost
songs that stick in your head. Kurt can write songs that are so
that you will never get them out of your head.
And that's really an art.
Sure. A lot of bands think that they have to prove their
by twiddling a million notes per second, but with Kurt it's a less is
What's you purpose in life? Give me the Dave Grohl mission
I think I'm here to balance out everyone's insanity.
What do you have to say to your generation?
I don't know whether to tell kids to go to college. Don't know what
that would do. Just mind expansion. Get beyond the 9-5 grind.
your materialistic needs, just save your fucking soul. And keep