In July of 1993, Kurt Cobain gave a dramatically candid interview to respected British rock journalist Jon Savage. Freely discussed were such controversial topics as Courtney Love, homosexuality, heroin and Cobain's relationship with his Nirvana bandmates. The interview was never published-until now. Guitar World Online will run this historic meeting in three parts. Part one follows. By Jon Savage
The interview you are about to read transpired late on the evening of Thursday, July 22, 1993, 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 Chris (now 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 Melvin's 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.
GUITAR WORLD: 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. GW: Did your parents split up when you were young? COBAIN: Yeah, when I was seven.
GW: Do you remember anything about that? 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.
GW: Have you made up with them now?
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.
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