The unedited version of my interview with Kurt Cobain
I recently read that even Ozzy Osbourne is now into “Nevermind”. What do you think of having him as a fan?
I can understand Ozzy liking us, because we have at least some similarities with his former band. Sure, I respect the man, I have always loved his music except for his last five albums or whatever. I didn’t pay attention to most of his solo stuff besides “Bark At The Moon”, whenever that one was. Ozzy was also in the same mixing studio that we were in for our last record and we met each other in the hall sometimes. We didn’t speak, but there were a few times where we were coming towards each other and I had to move up against the wall and wait for him to stumble past me ’cause he was so fucked up. He also asked us to go on tour with him, but we turned it down. It would have been fun and kind of exciting to be part of his last shows, but we don’t really wanna play in huge arenas supporting someone.
Is it true that you also said no to an offer by Guns N’ Roses?
Yeah. And Rush, Skid Row and a bunch of others also asked us. Those kind of bands.
How does it feel to be surrounded by so many people calling you the “next big thing”?
I think it’s embarrassing to have so many expectations of us. It’s a total superficial label to put on a band, to state that they are the next big thing 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 for that?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
On the inner sleeve of “Nevermind” you turned small parts of all the song lyrics into one. Is there a connection between the songs lyrically?
No, there is no connection, it’s not a concept album. We just decided to take out our favourite lines of each song and put them together. But since the record’s been out, we realized that people would have prefered to read all of the lyrics. In our fanclub we’ll have that available, so if people wanna write us, we’ll send them the lyric sheet.
It seems that as a band from Seattle, it is almost a necessity to be signed to Sub Pop at some point, isn’t it?
You don’t have to sign with them if you don’t want to. There are quite a few bands in Seattle signed to other labels like C/Z Records, the K Label and also PopLlama and Estrus.
Could you imagine Geffen Records also signed you to get a better reputation as a company?
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 staged 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?
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?
I think I tried every drug available. PCP, Quaaludes…
Is there one drug experience you remember more than others?
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?
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. Everything we do is 50/50.
Have you already found your style with “Nevermind” or could you imagine going in a totally different direction with your next album?
Oh, definitely. The next album will be completely different. We’ve already started working on a completely different sound. I have new guitar effects and we’re going to trade off instruments as well. 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 that’s what keeps playing music exciting is to change and experiment.
In which direction will it change?
It’s a lot more psychedelic and new wave at the same time. And it’s very abrasive and weird and stupid. There won’t be very 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 track comes on. It’s a seven-minute song that 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?
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?
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 be a stunt cyclist. 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.
The interview took place backstage at the Loft club on 10 November 1991. It was late afternoon and just before Nirvana were about to do their soundcheck for the Berlin concert.