Kurt Cobain Reveals Who Really Invented Grunge In Unheard Interview

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A previously unheard interview with Nirvana members Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic with journalist John Robb was released on Friday. It took place in New York in 1989.

In the interview, both Cobain and Novoselic talk about developing a new writing style for a new song, with Robb thinking this might have been one of the first descriptions of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. He described the trademark Grunge sound they would have on that album, and seemed to credit Mudhoney for coming up with the sound first.

“It’s leaning towards more songs like About a Girl,” Cobain said.

Describing a “new song” they’re working on, Cobain says: “I think we’re getting a good mixture now from the heaviness like both of the extremes [of our styles] combined – instead of just really heavy, relentless monster scary songs and a light pop song.”

“We’re just combining them, pretty much what Mudhoney does I think.”

Cobain also told Robb earlier in the interview: “I’ve been writing songs for six years in this style of music” and that the last “two years” saw him and Novoselic get “really serious” about their music after being in and out of other bands previously. Both talk about starting the band in Aberdeen, Washington, to escape a future of logging – one of the town’s main employment industries.

“I sat in my bedroom and played guitar,” Cobain said of avoiding a future in industry in his hometown. When asked by Robb what he would have done if he hadn’t formed Nirvana, Cobain says: “[I’d] keep trying in another band…I can probably say I’ve never learned the fine art of logging.” Both Cobain and Novoselic discuss their determination for Nirvana to succeed and how they “probably just [would] have resorted to putting out our own records” had they not been signed to Sub Pop.

Cobain describes lyrics to new songs as being about “anger, negativity” with a “typical punk rock attitude” before telling Robb that he found it harder to be “angry” since leaving home.

“I imagine I am becoming happier because I am escaping. I find myself sometimes making things hard for myself so I can still have a little bit of anger,” Cobain tells Robb.

He continues: “I’ve written most of the material on this record out of Aberdeen…all of the material on this record was written in Olympia…the songs are getting poppier and poppier as I’m getting happier and happier. [They’re] probably about conflicts in relationships, emotions and feelings…when I write a song, the lyrics are the least most important thing so I don’t dwell on it at all. I can actually have two or three different subjects within a song and the title will mean nothing to the rest of the music.”

Cobain and Novoselic talk about the intensity of their gigs being “a nice relief” and a “release” of anger on stage. They also say they are “loving touring America” and that they enjoy smashing up instruments on stage at the end of their gigs. Cobain can be heard laughing, saying: “the other night I jumped into the drum set and Krist was taking beer bottles and throwing them at us and they were busting all over the place.”
Cobain also describes the early, varying line-up of the band, with Jason Everman having recently joined Nirvana. He says the growing line-up helped him to “concentrate on…vocals more” and that the addition of Everman added “a lot of force” to their sound.