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  TALES FROM THE PIP
NIRVANA: IN BLOOM '91

Pippa Lang

21st September 2011

pippa lang

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It is the 20th anniversary of 'Nevermind'. The celebratory rerelease is out on 26th September, and the NIRVANA exhibition is running in London until this Sunday, 25th. PIPPA LANG recalls the day she interviewed tbe Seattle band when the album was first released in 1991, and remembers the day Kurt died three years later


nirvanakurtcute
"I hope to God we're not still around in twenty years' time…"

There was a splodge of red dye in his dirty blonde hair. Can't remember which side of his head it was on, because it didn't matter at the time. I probably wondered, vaguely, what'd happened to the rest of the bottle, but that was all.

Uppermost in my mind was the fact I'd just walked into a brick wall. A subdued, disconnected and decidedly awkward atmosphere, Kurt, Dave and Krist appeared to have retreated into their own detached shells. What the hell had happened? Hello?

Article continues below...

   


Twenty-four-year-old Kurt was sitting on the settee in Geffen Records' 'interview room' with his head in his hands, shabby overcoat hanging open, crumpled t-shirt and ragged jeans sending their own message of unassuming impertinence: I'm not a rock star, what am I doing here? Dave Grohl was fiddling with the stereo, Krist Novoselic just gazing out the window.

As I discovered later, the previous interview had not gone well, the journalist stomping out after losing patience with these three uncommunicative components of Nirvana, whose second album had unexpectedly turned them into heroes for a generation hungry for a new messiah.

I sat down opposite Kurt and looked around the room, gauging the mood. Hmm. Not good. I had not a clue how I was going to get these three to read off the same page. But I would persevere. After a few minutes of suffering the sullenness, all I could think of to say was:

"Okay, guys. How about you interview me?"

Kurt's head snapped up, as if waking from some kind of reverie, and gave me a tired smile:

"Oh sorry, okay, let's do it…"

Dave and Krist roused themselves from their respective trances and, thank God, joined Kurt on the settee.


nirvanafedup

We talked about many things, but what struck me most was their bewilderment about the mass attention focussed on them. Kurt couldn't understand why so many people were suddenly probing his life and analyzing his lyrics, some of which will never be entirely understood, for good reason:

"A lotta the lyrics I wrote just because they sounded good together."

(Yep, that's called 'alliteration', emphasis on the sound of words more than their meaning.)

But most significantly, he said, shaking his head:

"I hope to God we're not still around in twenty years' time… Can you imagine still playing the same songs, being a 44-year-old bloated man?

"The most exciting time for a band is right before they become really popular. Every time I look back at the best times in this band, it was right before 'Nevermind' came out…"

nirvanahairtearing


I'd first been made aware of Nirvana by James Sherry, my then-colleague at Metal Hammer, our 'grunge kid' at the time - who now heads up Division PR, the company responsible for spreading the word about the rerelease of 'Nevermind' and this week's exhibition. (See details below)

Kurt even stayed at James' once upon a time, so it is right and proper that he should be a part of this 20th anniversary 'memorial'. James also brought a lot of the Sub-Pop bands to the UK's attention, that label being prime mover in the great spillage of grunge that Nirvana precipitated.

But I first heard 'Nevermind' in LA, after visiting Geffen's office to interview John Kalodner (the man who discovered Aerosmith). I'd stuck the pre-release tape in my hire car's tape player and blasted it out as I cruised down Sunset Boulevard, thinking 'life is goood'.

But as I played and replayed the tape, I was struck by this strange, disorientating music. It wasn't the music of this time - glamrock or heavy Metal or rock, per se… Bravely discordant, drawn from a disconsolate heart that was about to be broken (into) by a world full of strangers.

I drove past the Whisky A-Go-Go and the Roxy, the LA rock'n'roll haunts, looking at the spandex and gravity-defying hair, and thinking 'this is all going to change soon…'. Yep, hair Metal is back now, but at least Nirvana proved you don't have to spend hours in front of a mirror to make an impact. (Mind you, as Rival Sons' Robin Everhart recently said, even flannel shirts and ripped jeans became a fashion statement.)

nirvanakurtreading

Reading Festival 1992

After 'Nevermind''s unprecedented 'triumph', I saw them live three times. The disparity between the 200-capacity Bristol Bierkeller gig on 4th November '91 and the one at the Kilburn National only a month later was palpable. The first gig was lively, exciting, dangerous (I seem to remember one of them getting clunked over the head with a guitar); the second a sloppy performance, with a bunch of straight industry types hanging round the back of the venue, not particularly interested in the gig, but intent on 'being there' to see this 'phenomenon'.

The following year, at Reading Festival, the vibe was terrible: Kurt rolled onstage in a wheelchair, ripping the piss out of rumours about his health, and embarrassing us all by asking us to shout, en masse: "We love you Courtney!" because he knew so many people hated her just for being his wife.

And after that, the rumours, the stories…more dissection of lyrics and lives…and then:

Fastforward to Thursday 7th April 1994, and I remember exactly when I found out Kurt had died, and where I was. A late night at Metal Hammer, and we were putting the latest issue to bed, when the phone rang. Joe O'Neill (sadly deceased PR for Def American Records):

"Kurt's dead."


nirvanagun
Not-very-funny photoshoot

Shock, horror, a hasty rejig of our next issue, and many phone calls, first to the people who would be most affected. Top of the list: James Sherry, who instantly had to get off the phone.

We all know what happened after that. The discovery that he'd shot himself, the conjecture that someone else had shot him, more scrutiny, analysis and 'blah blah blah' - and Kurt's elevated status alongside Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Moon in the Great Gig In The Sky.

So. Two things have always stood out for me about his death, just little things, like the lyric from 'Come As You Are': 'I don't have a gun', to which I always retort, "yes you bloody did!" Okay, it wasn't his gun, but even so…

That, the splodge of red hair dye and Kurt's desperate hope that Nirvana wouldn't be around in twenty years' time.

Well, he got his wish - he doesn't have to play 'the same songs' over and over again, because they're being played anyway, but entirely without his involvement. Take Evile's cover of 'Lounge Act', out now as part of Kerrang!'s special anniversary issue commemorative CD, for example…

I reckon he'd love it. Better than singing 'Teen Spirit' at 44 methinks.


nirvanahairtearing


'Nevermind' rerelease details:

http://metaltalk.net/news/2010841.php

Nirvana Exhibition details:

http://www.nirvanaexhibition.com




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karmaflow 'KARMAFLOW: THE ROCK OPERA VIDEOGAME' IS UNVEILED WITH AN ALL-STAR CAST
This multidisciplinary art project is a must for lovers of gaming and Metal...

hellyeah HELLYEAH TAKES BLOOD FOR BLOOD TO THE TOP OF THE HARD ROCK CHARTS IN NORTH AMERICA
The band will tour Europe in July and August 2014 with six dates in the UK...

steve hackett STEVE HACKETT ANNOUNCES DVD 'GENESIS REVISITED: LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL', WORLD TOUR PLUS EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW
Re-live a seminal chapter of prog rock history live on stage. "It's a feast for eyes, ears and all the senses..."

cannibal corpse CANNIBAL CORPSE TO RELEASE 'A SKELETAL DOMAIN'
The 13th full-length album from the American Death Metal icons is released in September. The extensive tour reaches the UK in October...

electric wizard ELECTRIC WIZARD UNVEIL 'TIME TO DIE' AS TITLE OF FORTHCOMING STUDIO ALBUM
"We had to kill the band so we could be reborn. It was the only way to ensure we could come back even stronger"...

motorhead aftershock MOTÖRHEAD POSTPONE RELEASE OF 'AFTERSHOCK - TOUR EDITION' NOW 4th AUGUST
A production error has put back the release for a month, but it will be worth waiting for...

suicide silence tour SUICIDE SILENCE ANNOUNCE NOVEMBER 2014 UK TOUR
An unmissable opportunity to see the titans of modern Metal. "Come throw your horns up, bang your heads, or mosh your knickers off!! "...

hordes of belial LIPID AND BURNING THE DREAM ADDED TO HORDES OF BELIAL V BILL
The yearly Dundee Metal event continues to strengthen the line up...

snakecharmer SNAKECHARMER ANNOUNCE THREE UK DATES
Six of the UK's most highly-esteemed and experienced rock musicians have joined forces to create Snakecharmer...

manowar MANOWAR ANNOUNCE NEW U.S. TOUR DATES FOR NOVEMBER 2014
Manowarriors have demanded more and further dates have been added. "We can't wait to be back and play for more of our U.S. fans!"...

tygertailz TIGERTAILZ RELEASE NEW VIDEO FOR 'PUNCHED IN THE GUTZ'
The 'Knives' EP is out now and there is an upcoming release of unheard demos for September...

progstravaganza PROG SPHERE INVITES BANDS TO SEND SUBMISSIONS FOR 20TH EDITION OF PROGSTRAVAGANZA COMPILATION SERIES
The call goes out for bands around the world to submit songs for the jubilee edition of the sampler album ...

accept ACCEPT PREMIERE BREATHTAKING VIDEO FOR NEW TRACK 'STAMPEDE'
The stunning locations perfectly showcase the track which is from the band's album 'Blind Rage' out August 18th ..

mr big MR BIG ANNOUNCE ONLY BRITISH ISLES SHOW OF 2014
LA Rockers Mr Big have announced a one off show at London's Koko on Friday 17th October 2014 - their only show on these shores this year...

spike frankie miller SPIKE ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF '100% PURE FRANKIE MILLER' FEATURING RONNIE WOOD, ANDY FRASER, SIMON KIRKE, IAN HUNTER AND MORE
Call it a labour of love. A life's ambition. Or the chance to keep a precious legacy alive. Call it 100% Pure Frankie Miller....

kobra and the lotus KOBRA AND THE LOTUS RELEASE OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR BRAND NEW SINGLE 'SOLDIER'
Explosive hard rockers Kobra And The Lotus have revealed a warsome (get it?!) official video for 'Soldier'...

massive wagons MASSIVE WAGONS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM AND UK TOUR
Two years and it's finally here, the brand new album - 'Fight The System'...

temperance movement THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
The headlining dates will take place in November 2014...

overkill OVERKILL REVEAL NEW TRACK 'ARMORIST' ONLINE
"Our confidence is high for this shoot. From the director's eye to yours/ours, should be a killer!"...

avenged sevenfold AVENGED SEVENFOLD ANNOUNCE 'WAKING THE FALLEN: RESURRECTED' - OUT AUGUST 25TH
The restored breakthrough album includes a DVD & never before heard tracks, demos, and more...

dragonforce DRAGONFORCE ANNOUNCE LONDON SHOW WITH EPICA
Grab your tickets quickly as demand for this double bill will be high...

devildriver DEVILDRIVER PREMIERE LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'GUTTED'
Check out the band's latest offering from sixth studio album 'Winter Kills'...

down n outz DOWN 'N' OUTZ ANNOUNCE UK & EIRE TOUR DATES
"It's like Joe and the boys have taken some vintage films and slapped them onto a big, bright Technicolor screen. A great, in-your-face new way to experience some of Mott's finest songs!"...

nuclear assault NUCLEAR ASSAULT TO RELEASE 'LIVE AT CBGB'S'
There will be a limited release of 500 picture discs capturing the old school thrashers back in 1986...

seether SEETHER REVEAL NEW TRACK, 'SUFFER IT ALL' AVAILABLE FOR IMMEDIATE DOWNLOAD WITH 'ISOLATE AND MEDICATE' PRE-ORDER
The band have also announced UK Headline Shows for November...

gravedigger GRAVE DIGGER PREMIERE 'HELL FUNERAL' VIDEO
The track is from 'Return Of The Reaper', out July 14th...

voodoo six VOODOO SIX SET TO GUEST WITH THE WINERY DOGS ON TWO UK DATES IN JULY
These performances follow their Sonisphere appearance on Saturday July 5th...

orphaned land METAL MUSIC IS BIGGER THAN WHAT POLITICS CAN OFFER: ORPHANED LAND BRING ISRAEL AND PALESTINE TOGETHER
"We are the ambassadors of peace, more than our foreign ministry, or prime minister, or authors..."

madball MADBALL REVEAL OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR 'BORN STRONG' FEATURING CANDACE PUOPOLO FROM WALLS OF JERICHO
The track is taken from the album 'Hardcore Lives', released June 30th...

metallica METALLICA RELEASE NEW SONG
'Lords of Summer - First Pass Version' gets official release after being premiered on the first night of the current tour...

ted nugent kamp "TED NUGENT KAMP FOR KIDS" CELEBRATES 25TH ANNUAL SUMMER "KAMP"
When he's not being a guitar icon, Ted Nugent is on a mission to improve young lives. New album 'Shutup&Jam!' is out July 8...

massive wagons MASSIVE WAGONS RELEASE SINGLE AND NEW VIDEO 'RED DRESS'
The video incudes circus performances from the girls at Monster Cirque in the first release from the album 'Fight The System'...

black state highway THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM BLACK STATE HIGHWAY IS OUT ON 18TH AUGUST
The highly anticipated release is packed full of heavy riff-based rock...

helmet HELMET ANNOUNCE 'BETTY' 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR OF EUROPE FOR AUTUMN 2014
UK dates in Glasgow, Manchester, London now added due to popular demand ...

wacken LIVE AT WACKEN 2013 TO BE RELEASED AS DVD/ BluRay / 2 CD
Experience the world's biggest Metal Festival at home and be in with a chance to win a Lifetime Membership...

uncle rust UNCLE RUST ANNOUNCE AUGUST UK TOUR
The recently formed London based rock/Metal band will undertake a set of UK dates in August 2014...

blitzkreig BLITZKRIEG ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR FOR SEPTEMBER 2014
The band will visit five countries on their only tour this year...

sonisphere LATE NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT AT SONISPHERE ANNOUNCED
Only two weeks away - get ready to continue the party after the headliners leave the stage...

finntroll FINNTROLL REVEAL LIVE FOOTAGE OF SEMINAL TRACK 'TROLLHAMMAREN', FILMED AT THEIR LIVE ALBUM RECORDING SHOW IN AMSTERDAM
"Lock up your daughters, kegs of rum and men of God, for The Trolls from Up North are coming for you...live!..."

dragonforce DRAGONFORCE REVEAL NEW VIDEO 'THE GAME' (FEAT. MATT HEAFY OF TRIVIUM)
The track is taken from the album 'Maximum Overload', which will be released in August...

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