Carl Williams Investigates America’s Latest Import, Nirvana
One of the most popular musical styles of the moment in this country is the “Sub Pop” sound, crossing over its audience from the HC scene into indie territory. People are really sitting up and taking notice of bands like MUDHONEY, TAD and many more who simply refuse to follow the rules musically – for the the first time in years something highly original is sweeping the musical world and at the forefront of this wave of new talent is NIRVANA, a Seattle based band whose “Bleach” album received a massive 95 rating from yours truly in MF43 (Metal Forces, number 43), and an outfit who embody the rulebreaking aspect of things, right down to their ‘image’, or, to be more precise, their total absence of image. We’re not talking carefully tended crusty dirt and dreadlocks or a METALLICA ‘let’s dress up like the SAS on a night exercise’, these guys are so ordinary looking that when they arrived after an hour long delay in London’s wonderful one way systems I didn’t realize who they were and they were hijacked by some female from one of the ‘music’ papers, so Williams waits another half-hour before he gets to do his interview.
Anyway, enough of my gripes, on with the show. After being led along an endless corridor to the lush ‘dressing rooms’ at the SAOS near Russell Square, I and several other miscellaneous persons sat down to conduct our respective interviews with in my opinion probably the best new band this year – though NIRVANA have actually been together for far longer playing gigs. So when did you guys (that’s Kurdt Kobain on guitar and vocals, Chris Noveselic on bass, and Chad Channing on drums) actually leave your hometown of Aberdeen(USA) to go out into the big wide world then? A huge argument ensues, and the final figure settled on is three years.
Kurdt: “Our hometown was horrible, there was no kind of social outlet at all because everyone was so negative and macho all the time, so because we hated all that we were just staying in our rooms all the time playing guitar or whatever. It’s very hard to deal with these social cliques, you’re always expected to be in a certain social category for different walks of life.”
Oh, so is “Negative Creep” for instance written about that sort of person/attitude then?
“Naw, it’s just general bitching.” Chris comments. “Sometimes we have to go back and see our parents and we just hate going back at all you know?”
“Ah, but,” says Chad to all of us, “Do you know who still lives there?” Pregnant pause. “Matt Lukin!” (ex-MELVINS and now Mudhoney bassist). “He loves it. That’s the only good reason we have for going back now, to say hi. He’s a great friend of ours, he always has these weird people staying at his house, they just sit on his couch all day long. He doesn’t kick them out or anything, Matt’s such a nice guy, he offers them beer and cigarettes. These places known as crash pads develop, you just sit and drink beer or smoke dope because there’s nothing else to do. There’s no bands, no music scene, or anything like that. These places are all over the US, you can find in Aberdeen anywhere if you look. They all have one store, one gas station, one junkyard and that’s about it.”
OK, to change the subject, you’ve obviously now become a three piece as Jason Everman is not here with you, do you find that difficult at all?
Kurdt: “No, not at all, we were a three piece for over two years before Jason came along, and he didn’t play on the album. I’d like to make that clear.”
Why did he leave?
“Call it musical differences,” says Chris. “He’s a metalhead. He’s with SOUNDGARDERN now.”
What do you think of the UK, this is your first European tour (co-headlining with TAD) isn’t it?
Chris: “It’s very Americanized actually, I was surprised to see Burger King and MacDonalds etc. dotted everywhere here selling gross foods. Though, the other day I was watching a game of your snooker on TV…”
Kurdt: “I love your TV it’s so totally boring you can’t watch it, you have to find and outlet to do something else. Ha! Ha!”
Which song seems to go down best with audiences?
Kurdt “Well, “Negative Creep” seems to be the one.” “We’ll make sure not to write anymore like that I think. Also “Blew” goes down brilliantly as the grand finale.”
“Blew” is out as a 12-inch single now isn’t it?
Chris Ha! We didn’t know it was out. And we saw it in this record store, we managed to get the guy just to put it in the bag you know?
How did you get the ace LP sound on a budget of just $600, even granted that you had Jack ‘God’ Endino give you his skills?
“You love it?”, says Kurdt looking surprised. “A lot of people have said it’s very dry. What did we do? I guess we just recorded it in three days and nights and made sure there weren’t a lot of hi-tech effects on it. We wanted it to be as loud and as in-your-face as possible, as raw as we could. For how expensive the studio was it was very hard to do that, it’s very hard to find a studio that doesn’t sound very hi-tech and eighties, so we just did it as fast as we could. The first day we rushed so much that only “Blew” was properly finished.” “We attempted to record the LP tuned past the D, I don’t know if you know how low that is but it’s very low indeed. Well, we know that we can’t be that heavy.”
Why did you go so much for that rawness and heaviness?
Kurdt: “Well I think a lot of music today sounds far too polished, there’s no energy. It’s too programmed and fake, you hear too much, I want a little mud in my music. LOU REED’s last LP for instance, now he spent about a year looking for a studio that was old enough to give him the sound he wanted, and finally he found one that was built in 1976, but never got off the ground. He just went in, turned up the power and that was it. That’s what we’d really like to do. We’re always searching for something different, in this case to sound kinda older, not because we’re a retro sixties or seventies band, but we just don’t wanna sound as clear as most bands do nowadays. If we could afford it we’d get a mobile studio so we could record ourselves live at every gig! I would think that the kind of people who’d prefer an Eighties sound are the kind of people I wouldn’t really want as our audience.”
Well, as space problems beckon we’ll leave the proceedings there, such snippets as Chad shutting himself deliberately in a lift will have to be left till he comes back and does it again. So, till then the word is that this band is the greatest. They went down a storm with TAD on tour, and they’ll go down a storm on your stereo if you give’em a spin. So go to it!
Source: Metal Forces (UK magazine), number 46, January 1990, Pg 24