One of the first articles ever written about Nirvana, this comes from Backlash magazine, September 1988. Written by Dawn Anderson. Notice that Kurt Cobain’s name was spelled as Kurdt Kobain at the time…
It may be the Devil and it may be the Lord…But it sure as hell ain’t human.
Ah, Aberdeen— a town where there’s nothing to do but drink fish-beer and worship Satan. The Melvins were from Aberdeen. Remember? Now the Melvins’ fan club is cranking out some pretty heavy riffs on their own. They call themselves Nirvana, a name that signifies both everything and nothing. If you don’t understand this you can either take a course in world religion or you can witness Nirvana incarnate next time they perform in the big city.
Nirvana’s head guru Kurdt Kobain lives in Olympia now, but he first began crunching out Melvins/Soundgarden style riffs in the town that time forgot, learning everything he knows by watching the Melvins practice. Endlessly.
“I’ve seen hundreds of Melvins practices,” Kurdt recalls. I drove their van on tour. Everybody hated them, by the way. And me and Matt [the Melvins’ old bassist] even used the same calling card; it’s almost like we were married.”
Nirvana, consisting of Kurdt on guitar and vocals, Chris Novoselic on bass and Chad Channing on drums, is still a young band, but they’re fast on their way to becoming Buddhas, or at least Bodhisattvas, of the Northwest pain-rock circuit.
Since some people seem to think Backlash is a consumer guide (what a novel idea!), it’s probably only fair to inform you that if you didn’t like the Melvins, or if you did like the Melvins but think lead-belly music has run its course, you won’t like Nirvana. But it’s also important to stress that this is not a clone band. The group’s already way ahead of most mortals in the songwriting department and, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, I honestly believe that with enough practice, Nirvana could become…. better than the Melvins!
“Our biggest fear at the beginning was that people might think we were a Melvins rip-off,” Kurdt admits. Yet the association has probably also worked to the band’s advantage. Nirvana recorded an ear-splitting demo tape which immediately had every noise addict in town flapping his lips over the next great white hope of grunge… and it probably didn’t hurt that Melvin Dale was sitting in on drums (this was before Chad joined).
The band played its first gig as Nirvana at a Sub Pop Sunday at the Vogue. They weren’t ready.
“We were uptight,” recalls Kurdt. “It just didn’t seem like a real show. We felt like we were being judged; it was like everyone should’ve had score cards. Plus I was sick. I puked that day. That’s a good excuse.”
“We already had songs on the radio,” adds Chris (KCMU has been playing “Paper Cuts”). “Everyone was already talking about us. There was a lot of pressure.”
Unfortunately, Kurdt’s nervousness was apparent on stage that night, but I’ve seen them twice since and they’ve gotten tighter each time. They’re becoming the kind of band that can turn an entire audience into zombie pod people by their sheer heaviness (this is a compliment).
My only complaint is that Kurdt still can’t seem to work up as much vocal finesse as he does on tape, since he’s gotta play lead guitar and scream at the same time. But he’ll work it out. In the meantime, look for the band’s upcoming Sub Pop single, featuring one original and a cover of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz.”
And keep your ears tuned toAberdeen, because idle towns are the Devil’s workshop.