Former Saturday Night Live star Kevin Nealon recently posted a photo, as seen below. He wrote, “My caricature painting of Kurt Cobain. I once asked him to autograph his unauthorized biography. In chicken-scratch he signed, “I am not Liberace, Kurt Cobain” @kevinnealonartwork #curtcobain.”
The former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic recently outlined the famous grunge band’s songwriting process and argued how any bass player might do well to follow the vocals instead of focusing on what the lead guitarist is doing.
Krist Novoselic opens up on the song making process of Nirvana
The legendary trifecta of Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic had magical creations and it is impressive how Nirvana went from a local Seattle underground band to one of the most famous and best-loved acts in music history.
Cobain often gets hailed as the mastermind of the outfit but there’s also lots to be said about all the teamwork that went into making songs like “Lithium”, “Heart-Shaped Box”, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as great as they are.
Speaking to Rick Beato in a recent interview, Krist Novoselic noted how Nirvana music began with Kurt coming in with seedlings of ideas, and how the song would take its final form as the tree developed those ideas together:
“He’d have these riffs, and he just kind of started playing them. And we would just say, ‘Okay, that’s a cool riff.’ Then I’d have an idea, an impression of the song like, ‘This is what the song needs. This is not me as a bass player. This is what I want to do for the song.’ What the song is demanding of me, or asking.
“It’s all for the song. ‘About a Girl’ for example – He listened to ‘Meet the Beatles!’ He was in his little apartment in Olympia, and he listened to that record over and over again one night, and he just wrote that song. And I go, ‘Well, I know what that needs on bass. It’s as plain as day.’ I just played this little bouncy bass thing.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Novoselic argued how the best advice he could give to bass players is to focus on lead vocals:
“I would just follow along on it. I didn’t necessarily follow what the guitar is doing. I’d listen to the vocal melody and just kind of triangulate, play off the vocal. And then you’d get a bigger sound that way.
“That’s what my advice for bass players is – You don’t have to follow the guitar player. The kick drum is your boss, right? But if you listen to the vocals, you can pull things out of the vocals or you can play off the vocals, you know? And then it just kind of comes together. If they didn’t like it, they would shoot me dirty looks.”