Nirvana, Al's Bar, Downtown Los Angeles, June 1989
photo: unknown

June 1989

A very early Nirvana interview

By Al (The Big Cheese).

Seems to be the rage across the land - retro rock. And yeah, these Sub Pop bands fit right in, but as the Sub Popians say themselves, "So fucking what, as long as you like it". So, I like it, I like it... Ok, here we have Nirvana, slightly older dudes (like me!) who are influenced by a lot of the same bands that influenced my own childhood daze (like the Coop!) and hating a lot of things that I did (like the Pelvis). They fucking thrash and jump around like I would if I was in a guitar band and they approach gigs like thereís no tomorrow. If you like to totally lose yourself on occasion, giving in to loud thundering grungy rock and then fucking diving into brick walls Ďcause it feels good, then Nirvana can be just the band to take you there. -Al

Chris - bass
Jason - guitar
Kirk - guitar
Chad - percussion

Krk: Your album sounds really different than you do live, did you do that on purpose?

Chris: Lack of funds... why is it different?

Krk: It was just a lot mellower, it doesnít really slap you in the face it just kind of kicks you.

Kirk: We didnít do hardly any guitar overdubs and we recorded it in three days.

Jason: The studio is a pretty sterile environment, you can t get really psyched in the studio, but live itís different. It was really new material too, we just decided to go out on a limb and record 5 new songs.

Chad: We wrote down the lyrics on the way to the studio.

Chris: We were trying to be spontaneous.

Krk: Was the single the same way?

Chris: No, actually those were older songs.

Kirk: Weíre really new in the studio, we never recorded before.

Al: Didnít you have enough songs that you play live to put on the album?

Chris: Oh yeah, yeah. But we wanted to do new songs. We had a demo tape that was going around Seattle and we were going to put all of those songs on the album but we just decided to do new songs. It was just a whim. We make decisions like this (retarded voice) Yeah, letís do it".

Chad: Weíre the most indecisive band in the world.

Chris: All four of us have been walking around here for an hour deciding what to do.

Kirk: If we smoked pot weíd be dead.

Chad: Weíd be hopeless then...

Al: You look like a bunch of pot smoking...

Krk: Was there a reason for not smoking pot?

Kirk: I kinda reached my end of things to do as far as acid and pot and stuff, I just reached a maximum on that stuff.

Chris: Itís fun for awhile but I just watched my friends deteriorate until they were virtually brain-dead.

Kirk: Once you go past the learning experience, then you go into the downhill part. I never took drugs as an escape, I always took drugs for learning.

Chris: I just did it every day for a looonnnng time...

Krk: Is this band like an experiment and one day youíll do something else?

Chris: No, we canít do anything else.

Chad: If it wasnít for the band I donít know where Iíd be unless I had a girlfriend to support me or something.

Kirk: Someone told us that they wouldnít even hire us at MacDonaldsí (laughter) So weíd better pull through.

Chris: Job experience, letís see, Iím a janitor.

Jason: Industrial painter...

Chad: I was a commercial fisherman in Alaska for 4 years.

Kirk: Iím a good chef, Iím a totally good cook.

Chris: Weíll all vouch for that.

Al: Youíre right they wouldnít hire you at MacDonalds.

Chad: If some idiot told me to cook Big Macs faster, Iíd just, fuck... One thing we all have in common is a pretty healthy resentment for authority. Weíre all pretty stubborn and weíre all anti-authoritarian.

Chris: Anti-culture! The culture of the whole world just sucks!! The malls, the expensive cars and peoples values are just fucked. They donít care about love or nothing, they just care about their fucking selves. Especially Los Angeles California!!

Kirk: Weíre all pretty psyched on the Batman theme for this summer.

Krk: So what is Seattle like compared to LA.?

Chris: A lot more laid back.

Jason: Itís a lot smaller and more closely knit.

Al: Seattle is getting pretty popular as a music scene lately.

Chris: Yeah, it wonít happen again for probably another 100 years, but itís great!

Al: How do you guys fit into the whole Seattle music scene?

Chris: I donít live in Seattle, I live in Tacoma, I just go there to play.

Kirk: We live in a like a radius around Seattle. I live 35 minutes away.

Chris: But we appreciate it, and we think that every band that is getting the hype deserves it.

Jason: Seattle in the past has been totally overlooked, and there are a lot more quality bands in Seattle per capita than anywhere else.

Krk: Why do you suppose that is?

Jason: Because it rains all of the time and we have nothing better to do.

Chris: It never rains in Southern California.

Kirk: I think the environment has a lot to do with it. Itís pretty rounded. We drown all the time but we bake every now and then.

Al: Do you think there is a general "sound" that is coming out of the Northwest?

Kirk: Thatís really hard to say because weíre inside. Most of the shows that you see in Seattle are really high energy. Our send off show was insane!

Krk: Do you think that being on Sub Pop opens a lot of doors?

Chris: Oh yeah. They have a lot of clout.

Jason: Itís cool for the opportunities that itís brought, as far as being pigeonholed as a Sub Pop band, thatís not very cool.

Chris: Our sound just happened, we were doing this for like 2 years.

Jason: We definitely didnít jump on the Sub Pop bandwagon. (We are rudely interrupted by a giant Cockroach which Krk promptly stomps into the pavement.)

Krk: I hate those motherfuckers!!

Chad: You can freeze those things, then put them into water and they come back to life.

Chris: You can take a fly and put it into the refrigerator for a minute or two until it gets really slow, then you take it out and get a hair and tie it around it and when it comes back to life youíll have it on a leash!

Kirk: We wonít pull our hair out, weíll just tie a fly onto the end of each hair...

Jason: It will be kinda like GBH, but more like a Van Der Graft Generator effect...

Al: But when you head bang youíll smash them all together.

Chris: Then theyíll all calm down for a minute.

Kirk: Yeah but they only live for like 3 days...

Chris: Thatís only some flies, some of them live a little longer...

Al: 4 days...

Jason: I had a fly die in my hand once. (another Cockroach attempts to consume us...)

Al: So what kind of a name is Nirvana for a kick ass rock and roll band?

Jason: It has a nice ring to it.

Chris: It does you know, itís a real effective name. Thereís two other bands named Nirvana. Nirvana means...

Kirk: "Freedom from pain and suffering in the external world"

Chris: Itís neat to go around and not be distracted, not to be distracted by emotions or desire...

Chad: Itís not being dominated by people we donít like or respect.

Kirk: I think emotions in general.

Jason: Itís a musical escape.

Krk: Is that a big concept behind the band?

Chris: Oh no, weíre just a rock band.

Chad: I think we all have our own personal political and spiritual opinions, but regarding our music, itís rock and roll, no message, no direction.

Chris: When you leave your house everyday and you see all this bullshit, when you go to a show you donít want to see a band telling you all about it. We just want to have a good time and hope that everybody else has a good time.

Al: Does the whole band write lyrics?

Kirk: I write most of the lyrics. Half the time I canít finish a subject so Iíll turn the rest of the song into something else.

Al: What do you end up writing about?

Kirk: I donít know, itís really hard to explain... "About A Girl" is "About A Girl"... I donít consider lyrics a big deal at all, as long as it has a good melody line, a hook and live energy is far more important...

Al: Do you play the vocals like another instrument?

Kirk: Yeah, like what you get out of the Gyuto Monks from Tibet is not what theyíre saying. Itís the power of their vocalizing. They are one of the only things that Iíve ever been affected by off of a record to where it really made me feel spiritual or it made me feel human, like someone was really directing their energies.

Krk: Yet you couldnít understand what they were saying?

Chris: No, they reproduce 3 tonal chords in their voices which is supposed to be impossible but they do it and it takes over 50 years to develop this, itís chanting, it has a very eerie effect on you.

Al: Are you guys into Eastern stuff, what with your name and the Monk influence?

Chris: No. Itís a coincidence, we checked it out and we dug it.

Kirk: Itís that energy weíre trying to put out, weíre not tight and we donít practice very often but itís the energy and the fun we try to project, not some heavy message in the lyrics.

Al: Whatís the deal with the "Elvis Cooper" poster you put up when you played?

Chris: Nothing, we just got this Elvis tapestry and turned it into "Elvis Cooper."

Krk: Thatís not a musical influence?

Chris: I fucking hate Elvis! Alice Cooper is cool.

Kirk: Itís not like we donít like old time rock and roll, but Elvis and the Dead just donít cut it for us. (We end the interview with Nirvana looking through an L.A. Rock Review, commenting on how lame that scene is and going through a pretty complete slagging of Junkyard.)