Interview and Article By Jon Savage
The interview you are about to read transpired late on the July 22, arranged as part of Nirvana's U.K. press campaign for the then soon-to-be released In Utero (DGC). In contrast to their almost total silence in the American media, Nirvana had five U.K. interviews and photo shoots slotted into their brief stay in New York, culminating with a showcase concert at Roseland on the evening of the 23rd. This would have been an unusually grueling schedule for even the most unflappable of groups. But then, hardly anything associated with Nirvana was usual.
The affable, straight-ahead presence of Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl notwithstanding, the atmosphere surrounding Nirvana at the time was strongly reminiscent of the feeling that accompanied the Sex Pistols in 1977. Here, too. was a group the hottest group of the moment who were about more than just music. and who were refusing to play the game. Judging from the hysteria that greeted their return after a year of silence, Nirvana acted as a kind of psychic lightning rod: a focus for everyone's fears, hopes, loves and hates. Few knew where they were coming from, nobody knew what they would do.
Much of this pressure rested on Kurt Cobain, who-just to keep things interesting was at once charming, arrogant, vague and unpredictable. Getting him to Sit down for the interview was hard. I managed to pin him down backstage after an extraordinary Melvins show we both attended. "Do I have to do this now?" he asked me. "Yes," I replied simply and that was that. We subsequently adjourned to my room at the New York Palace hotel, where once he relaxed, Cobain was intelligent, cogent and as candid as he could be, given his situation.
The interview seemed to provide Cobain with an oasis of calm in the middle of the madness. I warmed to him, and wanted to believe what he said. My ultimate feeling confirmed by the Roseland show the next night was that here was a person and a group poised on a knife edge between considerable, positive power and self-destruction. Here is a record of that pivotal moment.
Jon Savage: Tell me about your background.
Kurt Cobain: I was born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1967, and I lived between Aberdeen and Montesano, which was 20 miles away. I moved back and forth between relatives' houses throughout my whole childhood.
Jon Savage: Did your parents split up when you were you young?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah, when I was seven.
Jon Savage: Do you remember anything about that?
Kurt Cobain: I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn't face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that.
Jon Savage: Have you made up with them now?
Kurt Cobain: Well, I've always kept a relationship with my mom, because she's always been the more affectionate one. But I hadn't talked to my father for about 10 years until last year, when he sought me out backstage at a show we played in Seattle. I was happy to see him because I always wanted him to know that I didn't hate him anymore. On the other hand, I didn't want to encourage our relationship because I just didn't have anything to say to him. My father is incapable of showing much affection, or even of carrying on a conversation. I didn't want to have a relationship with him just because he's my blood relative. It would bore me. So the last time that I saw him, I expressed that to him and made it really clear that I just didn't want anything to do with him anymore. But it was a relief on both our parts, you know? Because for some years he felt that I really hated his guts.
Jon Savage: You can't duck it.
Kurt Cobain: That's what I've done all my life, though. I've always quit jobs without telling the employer that I was quitting: I just wouldn't show up one day. I was the same in high school I quit with only two months to go. I've always copped out of things, so to face up to my father-although he chose to seek me out-was a nice relief.
Jon Savage: Have you written about this stuff at all? The lyrics on "Serve the Servants" sound autobiographical.
Kurt Cobain: Yeah. It's the first time I've ever really dealt with parental issues. I've hardly ever written anything that obviously personal.
Jon Savage: What was it like for you growing up?
Kurt Cobain: I was very isolated. I had a really good childhood, until the divorce. Then, all of a sudden, my whole world changed. I became antisocial. I started to understand the reality of my surroundings, which didn't have a lot to offer. Aberdeen was such a small town, and I couldn't find any friends that I was very fond of, or who were compatible with me, or liked to do the things that I liked. I liked to do artistic things and listen to music.
Jon Savage: What did you listen to then?
Kurt Cobain: Whatever I could get a hold of. My aunts would give me Beatles records, so for the most part it was just the Beatles, and every once in a while, if I was lucky, I was able to buy a single.
Jon Savage: Did you like the Beatles?
Kurt Cobain: Oh, yeah. My mother always tried to keep a little bit of British culture in our family. We'd drink tea all the time! I never really knew about my ancestors until this year when I learned that the name Cobain was Irish. My parents had never bothered to find that stuff out. I found out by looking through phone books throughout America for names that were similar to mine. I couldn't find any Cobains at all, so I started calling Coburns. I found this one lady in San Francisco who had been researching our family history for years.
Jon Savage: So it was Coburn?
Kurt Cobain: Actually it was Cobain, but the Coburns screwed it up when they came over They came from County Cork, which is a really weird coincidence, because when we toured Ireland, we played in Cork and the entire day I walked around in a daze. I'd never felt more spiritual in my life, It was the weirdest feeling and I have a friend who was with me who could testify to this I was almost in tears the whole day. Since that tour, which was about two years ago, I've had a sense that I was from Ireland.
Jon Savage: Tell me about your high school experience. Were people unpleasant to you?
Kurt Cobain: I was a scapegoat, but not in the sense that people picked on me all the time. They didn't pick on me or beat me up because I was already so withdrawn by that time. I was so antisocial that I was almost insane. I felt so different and so crazy that people just left me alone. I wouldn't have been surprised if they had voted me Most Likely To Kill Every one At A High School Dance.
Jon Savage: Can you now understand how some people become so alienated that they become violent?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah, I can definitely see how a person's mental state could deteriorate to the point where they would do that. I've gotten to the point where I've fantasized about it, but I'm sure I would opt to kill myself first. But still, I've always loved revenge movies about high school dances, stuff like Carrie.
Jon Savage: When did you first hear punk rock?
Kurt Cobain: Probably '84. I keep trying to get this story right chronologically and I just can't. My first exposure to punk rock came when Creem started covering the Sex Pistols' U.S. tour. I would read about them and just fantasize about how amazing it would be to hear their music and to be a part of it. But I was like 11 years old, and I couldn't possibly have followed them on the tour. The thought of just going to Seattle which was only 200 miles away was impossible. My parents took me to Seattle probably three times in my life, from what I can remember, and those were on family trips. After that, I was always trying to find punk rock, but of course they didn't have it in our record shop in Aberdeen. The first punk rock I was able to buy was probably Devo and Oingo Boingo and stuff like that; that stuff finally leaked into Aberdeen many years after the fact. Then, finally, in 1984 a friend of mine named Buzz Osborne [Melvins singer/guitarist] made me a couple of compilation tapes with Black Flag and Flipper everything, all the most popular punk rock bands, and I was completely blown away I'd finally found my calling. That very same day, I cut my hair short. I would lip-sync to those tapes I played them every day and it was the greatest thing. I'd already been playing guitar by then for a couple of years, and I was trying to play my own style of punk rock, or what I imagined that it was, I knew it was fast and had a lot of distortion. Punk expressed the way I felt socially and politically. There were so many things going on at once. It expressed the anger that I felt the alienation. It also helped open my eyes to what I didn't like about metal bands like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. While I really did enjoy and still do enjoy, some of the melodies those bands have written, I suddenly realized I didn't like their sexist attitudes-the way that they just wrote about their dicks and having sex. That stuff bored me.
Jon Savage: When did you start to think about sexism? Was it an outgrowth of your interest in punk?
Kurt Cobain: No, it was before that. I could never find any good male friends, so I ended up hanging out with the girls a lot, and I just felt that they weren't being treated equally and they weren't treated with respect. I hated the way Aberdeen treated women in general they were just totally oppressed. The words "bitch" and "cunt" were totally common, you'd hear them all the time. But it took me many years after the fact to realize those were the things that were bothering me. I was just starting to understand what was pissing me off so much, and in the last couple of years of high school, I found punk rock and it all came together. I finally understood that I wasn't retarded, you know?
Jon Savage: Did you ever have problems with people thinking you were gay?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah. Even I thought that I was gay. Although I never experimented with it. I thought that might be the solution to my problem, I had a gay friend, and that was the only time that I ever experienced real confrontation from people. Like I said, for so many years they were basically afraid of me, but when I started hanging out with this guy, Myer Loftin, who was known to be gay, they started giving me a lot of shit, trying to beat me up and stuff. Then my mother wouldn't allow me to be friends with him anymore because she's homophobic.
Jon Savage: So did you stop?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah. It was real devastating because finally I'd found a male friend who I could actually talk to and be affectionate with, and I was told I couldn't hang out with him anymore. Around that same time, I was putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. He played a big role in that.
Jon Savage: Your lyrics contain some provocative gay references, in particular the line, "Everyone is gay" from "All Apologies." Is that a reflection of that time?
Kurt Cobain: I wouldn't say it was a reflection of that time. I'm just carrying on with my beliefs now. I guess it is [provocative] in a commercial sense, because of how many albums we've sold.
Jon Savage: It's very unusual to find bands talking about those kinds of things, particularly in the format that you're using, which is basically male rock.
Kurt Cobain: Yeah, but I think it's getting better though, now that "alternative music" is finally getting accepted, although that's a pretty sad term, as far as I'm concerned. But at least the consciousness is there, and that's really healthy for the younger generation.
Jon Savage: Have you had any problems from the industry or fans because of your gay references?
Kurt Cobain: Never Pansy Division covered "Teen Spirit" and reworked the words to "Smells Like Queer Spirit," and thanked us in the liner notes. I think it said, "Thank you to Nirvana for taking the most pro-gay stance of any commercially successful rock band." That was a real flattering thing, it's just that it's nothing new to any of my friends, because of the music we've been listening to for the last 15 years. I suppose things are different now. If you watch MTV they have these "Free Your Mind" segments in the news hour, where they report on gay issues and stuff like that. Pretty much in subtle ways they remind everyone how sexist the wave of heavy metal was throughout the entire Eighties, because all that stuff is almost completely dead. It's dying fast. I find it really funny to see a lot of those groups like Poison-not even Poison, but Warrant and Skid Row, bands like that - desperately clinging to their old identities, but now trying to have an alternative angle in their music. It gives me a small thrill to know that I've helped in a small way to get rid of those people - or maybe at least to make them think about what they've done in the last 10 years. Nothing has changed, really, except for bands like Soul Asylum who've been around for like 12 years, have been struggling in bars forever, and now have their pretty faces on MTV Still, they have a better attitude than the metal people. I think it's healthier. I'd much rather have that than the old stuff.
Jon Savage: The track that first got me into Nirvana was "On a Plain," But what's it about?
Kurt Cobain: Classic alienation, I guess. Every time I go through songs I have to change my story, because I'm as lost as anyone else. For the most part, I write songs from pieces of poetry thrown together. When I write poetry it's not usually thematic at all. I have plenty of notebooks, and when it comes time to write lyrics, I just steal from my poems.
Jon Savage: Do you put them together very quickly?,
Kurt Cobain: Usually right before I record the vocals: Sometimes, I finish the lyrics the month before we go into the studio, but for the most part, 90 percent of them are done at the last minute.
Jon Savage: Is that how the songs on In Utero were written?
Kurt Cobain: A little less so. There are more songs on this album that are thematic, that are actually about something rather than just pieces of poetry. Like, "Scentless Apprentice" is about the book, Perfume, by Patrick Süskind. I don't think I've ever written a song based on a book before.
Jon Savage: Did you read much when you were a kid?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah, just whatever I could get. I went to the library a lot, and I skipped school a lot, especially during high school, junior high, and the only place to go during the day was the library. But I didn't know what to read, it was just whatever I found. During grade school I would read books by S.E. Hinton [author of The Outsiders and other works about teen angst and alienation]; I really enjoyed those, I read a lot in class too, when I went to school just to stay away from people so I didn't have to talk to them. A lot of times I'd even just pretend to read, to stay away from people,
Jon Savage: When did you start to write?
Kurt Cobain: I was probably about 14, Junior high. I never took it very seriously. I've never kept personal journals, either I've never kept a diary, and I've never tried to write stories in the poetry; it's always been abstract. The plan for my life, ever since I can remember, was to be a commercial artist. My mother gave me a lot of support in being artistic she really complimented my drawings and paintings, So I was always building up to that. By the time I was in ninth grade I was taking three commercial art classes and planning to go to art school. My art teacher would enter my paintings and stuff in contests. But ultimately I wasn't interested in that at all, really; it wasn't what I wanted to do. I knew my limitations. However I really enjoy art and still like to paint. I've always felt the same about writing, as well. I know I'm not educated enough to really write something that I would enjoy on the level that I would like to read.
Jon Savage: When did you first visit England?
Kurt Cobain: '89.
Jon Savage: Did you enjoy it?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah. Especially the first time. We also went through the rest of Europe, but by the seventh week I was ready to die. We were touring with Tad. It was 12 people in a really small Volvo van, with all our equipment.
Jon Savage: You mean 12, with Tad...
Kurt Cobain: Fifteen! Depending on whether his stomach was empty or not. He vomited a lot on that tour.
Jon Savage: When did you first realize that things were starting to break for the band?
Kurt Cobain: Probably while we were on tour in Europe in '91. We'd finished the "Teen Spirit" video and they started to play it while we were on tour. I got reports every once in a while from friends of mine, telling me that I was famous. So it didn't affect me until probably three months after we'd already been famous in America.
Jon Savage: Was there one moment when you walked into it and you suddenly realized?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah, when I got home. A friend of mine made a compilation of all the news stories about our band that appeared on MTV and the local news programs and stuff. It was frightening. It scared me.
Jon Savage: How long did it continue to scare you?
Kurt Cobain: For about a year and a half up until the last eight months or so. Until my child was born, I would say. That's when I finally decided to crawl out of my shell and accept it. There were times when I wanted to break up the band because the pressure was so intense, but, because I like this band, I felt like I had a responsibility not to.
Jon Savage: Was that around the time of your summer 1992 European tour?
Kurt Cobain: Yes. That was when the band started to really fail me emotionally. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we were playing these outdoor festivals in the daytime. There's nothing more boring than doing that. The audiences are massive and none of them care what band is up on stage. I was just getting over my drug addiction, or trying to battle that, and it was just too much, For the rest of the year I kept going back and forth between wanting to quit and wanting to change our name. But because I still really enjoy playing with Chris and Dave, I couldn't see us splitting up because of the pressures of success. It's just pathetic, you know? To have to do something like that. It's weird. I don't know if, when we play live, there is much of a conscious connection between Chris and Dave and I. I don't usually even notice them: I'm in my own world. On the other hand, I'm not saying it doesn't matter whether they're there or not, that I could hire studio musicians or something.
Jon Savage: I know it wouldn't be the same. For me, the original band is you and Chris and Dave.
Kurt Cobain: I consider that the original band too, because it was the first time we had a competent drummer. And for some reason, I've needed a good, solid drummer. There are loads of bands I love that have terrible drummers, but a terrible drummer wasn't right for this music. At least, it isn't right for the music that we've written so far
Jon Savage: You haven't really been on the road for a year not since the Nevermind tour
Kurt Cobain: I've been recuperating.
Jon Savage: Why did the drugs happen? Were they just around?
Kurt Cobain: I had done heroin for about a year off and on. I've had this stomach condition for like five years. There were times, especially during touring, when I just felt like a drug addict, though I wasn't-because I was starving [an outgrowth of his condition] and couldn't find out what was wrong with me. I tried everything I could think of. Change of diet, pills, everything. Exercised, stopped drinking, stopped smoking, and nothing worked. I just decided that if I'm going to feel like a junkie every fucking morning and be vomiting every day then I may as well take a substance that kills that pain. I can't say that's the main reason why I did it, but it has a lot to do with it. It has a lot more to do with it than most people think.
Jon Savage: Did you find out what the stomach thing was?
Kurt Cobain: No.
Jon Savage: Do you still get it?
Kurt Cobain: Every once in a while. But for some reason it's just gone away I think it's a psychosomatic thing. My mom had it for a few years when she was in her early twenties, and eventually it went away. She was in the hospital all the time because of it.
Jon Savage: Are you feeling a bit better now?
Kurt Cobain: Yeah. Especially in the last year since I've been married and had a child, my mental and physical states have improved almost 100 percent. I'm really excited about touring again. I haven't felt this optimistic since right before my parents' divorce.
Jon Savage: Did you find it disheartening that you'd started this band and you were playing these great songs when suddenly, all this weird stuff started happening in the media?
Kurt Cobain: Oh yeah, it affected me to the point of wanting to break up the band all the time.
Jon Savage: Was it mainly the Vanity Fair article? [The September 1992 issue of Vanity Fair insinuated that Kurt Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, was on heroin during her pregnancy with their daughter, Frances.]
Kurt Cobain: That started it. There were probably more articles based on that story. I'd never paid attention to the mainstream press or media before, so I wasn't aware of people being attacked and crucified on that level. I can't help but feel that we've been scapegoated, in a way. I have a lot of animosity towards journalists and the press in general. Because it's happening to me, of course, I'm probably exaggerating it, but I can't think of another example of a current band that's had more negative articles written about them.
Jon Savage: Why do you think that is?
Kurt Cobain: A lot of it is just simple sexism. Courtney is my wife, and people could not accept the fact that I'm in love, and that I could be happy. Because she's such a powerful person, and such a threatening person, every sexist within the industry just joined forces and decided to string us up.
Jon Savage: Let's talk about In Utero. It sounds claustrophobic to me.
Kurt Cobain: I think so, yeah. The main reason we recorded the new album, In Utero, with [producer] Steve Albini is he is able to get a sound that sounds like the band is in a room no bigger than the one we're in now. In Utero doesn't sound like it was recorded in a hall, or that it's trying to sound larger than life. It's very in-your-face and real. Technically, I've learned that the way to achieve that is to use a lot of microphones. I've known that for years, ever since I started recording, because microphones are so directional that if you want an ambient sound you need to use a lot of tracks. Or you need to use an omnidirectional microphone, farther away from the instruments, so you can pick up the reverberation from the walls.
Jon Savage: How many mikes did you use for In Utero?
Kurt Cobain: I have no idea, but a lot. We had big old German microphones taped to the floor and the ceiling and the walls, all over the place. I've been trying to get producers to do this ever since we've been recording. I don't know anything about recording, but it just seems so obvious to me that that is what you need to do. I tried to get [Nevermind producer] Butch Vig to do it, I tried to get [Sub Pop producer] Jack Endino to do it, and everyone's response was, "That isn't how you record." Steve Albini proved it to me on these songs, although I don't know exactly how he did it; I just knew that it had to be that way. He had to have used a bunch of microphones. It's as simple as that. Which is why live recordings of punk shows sound so good. You really get a feel of what was going on.
Jon Savage: Did you re-record any of the tracks?
Kurt Cobain: No. We remixed a couple because the vocals weren't loud enough. Steve is a good recording engineer, but terrible at mixing, as far as I'm concerned. To me, mixing is like doing a crossword puzzle or something. It's like math, or something really technical. It drains you; you really have to concentrate on it. There are so many variations in the tones of each instrument that it can take days to mix a song if you really want to get anal about it. I'm all for just recording and however it comes out on tape, that's how it should come out. But for some songs it just doesn't work.
Jon Savage: I really like the slow songs on In Utero.
Kurt Cobain: They came out really good, and Steve Albini's recording technique really served those songs well; you can really hear the ambience in those songs. It was perfect for them. But for "All Apologies" and "Heart-Shaped Box" we needed more. My main complaint was that the vocals weren't loud enough. In every Albini mix I've ever heard, the vocals are always too quiet. That's just the way he likes things, and he's a real difficult person to persuade otherwise. I mean, he was trying to mix each tune within an hour, which is just not how the songs work. It was fine for a few songs, but not all of them. You should be able to do a few different mixes and pick the best. I never thought I would enjoy talking about the technical side of recording. It never made any sense to me before. But now, I don't think it's a bad thing to talk about.
Jon Savage: You appear to be in a really good position, since even if the album doesn't do well, you've made the record that you wanted to make.
Kurt Cobain: Absolutely. Oh man, that's why I'm so excited about this record. I actually want to promote this record, not for the sake of selling records, but because I'm more proud of this record than anything I've ever done. We've finally achieved the sound that I've been hearing in my head forever.
Jon Savage: You didn't on Nevermind?
Kurt Cobain: Not at all. It's too slick. I don't listen to records like that at home. I can't listen to that record. I like a lot of the songs. I really like playing some of them live. In a commercial sense I think it's a really good record, I have to admit that, but that's in a Cheap Trick sort of way. But for my personal listening pleasure, you know, it's just too slick.
Jon Savage: How do you sing? Because you use a number of voices. . .
Kurt Cobain: Most of the time I sing right from my stomach. Right from where my stomach pain is.
Jon Savage: That's where the pain and anger come from?
Kurt Cobain: It's definitely there. Every time I've had an endoscope, they found a red irritation in my stomach. But it's psychosomatic, it's all from anger. And screaming. My body is damaged from music in two ways: not only has my stomach inflamed from irritation, but I have scoliosis. I had minor scoliosis in junior high, and since I've been playing guitar ever since, the weight of the guitar has made my back grow in this curvature. So when I stand, everything is sideways. It's weird.
Jon Savage: You could get that sorted out.
Kurt Cobain: I go to a chiropractor every once in a while. You can't really correct scoliosis, because it's a growth in the spine. Your spine grows through your adolescent years in a curvature. Most people have a small curvature in their spine anyhow, though some people have it really bad and have to wear metal braces. It gives me a back pain all the time. That really adds to the pain in our music. It really does. I'm kind of grateful for it.
Jon Savage: Do you feel now that there are contradictions between your ideals and your enormous success? Is that something that worries you?
Kurt Cobain: I don't really know anymore. I think I was probably feeling a lot more contradictory a year-and-a-half ago, because I was blindly fighting and not even knowing what I was fighting for. And, to a point, I still am. Like I said, I don't really know how to deal with the media. A year ago, I said there was absolutely no fucking way that I would ever speak in public again, and that I would go out of my way to never show my face again. But then I decided that I wasn't going to let a handful of evil journalists dictate my fucking life. I'm just grateful that within the last year, I've come across a few people who happen to be journalists that I trust and I like to talk to.
Jon Savage: Maybe this would be a good time to address some of the rumors that have plagued you. When Nevermind hit, there were reports that you were a narcoleptic.
Kurt Cobain: No, no.. that was just a story I made up to explain why I slept so much. I used to find myself sleeping a lot before shows. A lot of times the backstage area is such a gross scene, I don't want to talk to anybody. So I just fall asleep. There are so many people that we know now, so many friends and stuff that I can't ask them to leave. I don't want to act like Axl Rose and have my own bus or my own back room area.
Jon Savage: Speaking of Axl, what is the story behind your altercation with him backstage at the 1992 MTV Music Awards?
Kurt Cobain: Well, apparently Axl was in a really bad mood. Something set him off, probably just minutes before our encounter with him. We were in the food tent and I was holding my daughter, Frances, and he came strutting by with five of his huge bodyguards and a person with a movie camera. Courtney jokingly screamed out at him, "Axl, will you be the godfather of our child? Everyone laughed. We had a few friends around us, and he just stopped dead in his tracks and started screaming all these abusive words at us. He told me I should shut my bitch up, so I looked over at Courtney and said, "Shut up, bitch, heh!" Everyone started howling with laughter and Axl just kind of blushed and went away. Afterward, we heard that Duff [McKagan, Guns N' Roses bassist] wanted to beat Chris up.
Jon Savage: I thought it was great when Chris hit his head with the guitar at the end of your performance that evening. You're all trying to be cool and smash up your instruments, and he really fucked it up-it's really good!
Kurt Cobain: That's happened so many times.
Jon Savage: An impressive finale, and you end up looking really stupid, but that's great too.
Kurt Cobain: It was so expected, you know? Should we just walk off the stage, or should we break our equipment again? We went through so many emotions that day, because up until just minutes before we played, we weren't sure we were going to go on. We wanted to play "Rape Me," and MTV wouldn't let us. They were going to replace us if we didn't play "Teen Spirit." We compromised and ended up playing "Lithium." I spat on Axl's keyboards when we were sitting on the stage. It was either that or beat him up. We're down on this platform that brought us up hydraulically, you know? I saw his piano there, and I just had to take this opportunity and spit big goobers all over his keyboards. I hope he didn't get it off in time.
Jon Savage: Tell me, I have to ask what happened with the gun thing. Was that all bullshit? [On June 4, 1993, police arrived at the Cobain home after being summoned to break up a domestic dispute. Love told the police they had been arguing over guns in the house.]
Kurt Cobain: Oh yeah. Total bullshit. That's another thing that has made me want to just give up. I never choked my wife, but every report, even Rolling Stone, said that I did. Courtney was wearing a choker. I ripped it off of her, and it turned out in the police report that I choked her. We weren't even fighting. We weren't even arguing, we were playing music too loud, and the neighbors complained and called the police on us. It was the first time that they'd ever complained, and we've been practicing in the house for a long time.
Jon Savage: That's the way they expect you to behave, because you're a controversial rock star.
Kurt Cobain: The police were really nice about it, though. To tell you the truth, I couldn't believe it. See, there's this new law, which was passed that month in Seattle, that says when there's a domestic violence call, they have to take one party or the other to jail. So the only argument Courtney and I got into was who was going to go to jail for a few hours. And they asked us, out of the blue, "Are there any guns in the house?' I said no because I didn't want them to know there were guns in the house. I have an M-16 and two handguns. They're put away, there are no bullets in them, they're up in the closet, and they took them away. I can get them back now. I haven't bothered to get them back yet, but it was all just a ridiculous little situation. It was nothing. And it's been blown up out of proportion. It's just like I feel like people don't believe me. Like I'm a pathological liar. I'm constantly defending myself. People still haven't evolved enough to question anything that's printed. I'm really bad at that, too. I still believe a lot of things that I read.
Jon Savage: But you must behave badly sometimes?
Kurt Cobain: Sure. Courtney and I fight. We argue a lot. But I've never choked my wife. It's an awful fucking thing to be printed, to be thought of you. You know, we haven't had any problems, any bad reports, any negative articles written about us in a long time. We thought we were finally over it-that our curse had worn itself out.
Jon Savage: It must also be because people have perceived you as a threat.
Kurt Cobain: I think Courtney is more of a threat than I am.
Jon Savage: What have been the worst temptations engendered by your success?
Kurt Cobain: Nothing I can think of, except Lollapalooza. They offered us a guarantee of like six million dollars, and that's way more money than... We're going to break even on this tour because we're playing theaters, and the production is so expensive at this level. But other than that, I've never thought of the Guns N' Roses, Metallica and U2 offers as any kind of legitimate offer. They just never were a reality to me.
Jon Savage: So what are the plans for In Utero? How much are you touring to promote it?
Kurt Cobain: We'll tour for about six weeks in the States, starting in October. Then I don't want to commit to anything until we see how I feel physically after that. Maybe we'll go to Europe. I'm sure we'll be over in Europe to support this record within a year, but I'm not sure when. I don't want to set a whole year's worth of touring up.
Jon Savage: There seems to be a tension, in that you defined yourself as being influenced by punk, and part of punk was that it wasn't cool to be successful. Did you feel that tension, and has it caused you problems?
Kurt Cobain: That's not how I perceived early punk. I thought that the Sex Pistols wanted to rule the world, and I was rooting for them. But then American punk rock in the mid-Eighties became totally stagnant and elitist. It was a big turn-off for me. I didn't like it at all. But at the same time, I had been thinking that way for so long that it was really hard for me to come to terms with success. But I don't care about it now. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to put out a shitty record on purpose. That would be ridiculous. But I would probably have done that a year-and-a-half ago-I would have gone out of my way to make sure that the album was even noisier than it is. I know we're not going to have the fringe millions who don't enjoy music, who aren't into our band for any other reason than as a tool to fuck. But we did this record the way we wanted to. I'm glad about that.
Jon Savage: It worried me a bit that you might get into that trap, because it's not interesting.
Kurt Cobain: That defeats the whole reason for making music. I've been validated beyond anything. But I would gladly go back to the point of selling out the Vogue in Seattle, which holds about three hundred people. I'll gladly go back to playing in front of 20 people - if I'm still enjoying it...