Station to Devastation
Melody Maker, November 2, 1991
On their recent European tour, Seattle's masters of choas, NIRVANA, managed to set their your bus alight, upset The Pogues and The Ramones, piss into Ride's champagne bucket and almost get dropped from their label. Everett True joined 'the only band around at the moment who know what rock'n'roll is all about' on their current US tour and witnessed hotel rooms trashed, venues incinerated and anarchy reign supreme.
Pics: Steve Gullick.
IT ENDS WITH A KNOCK ON MY DOOR AT EIGHT IN THE morning.
Two obscenely aggressive security men storm into my hotel room, wanting to know if l'm hiding a phone anywhere. Seems one went missing the previous night after Kurt from Nirvana took exception to a paintng hanging in Chris' room and threw it out the window. Shelves, tables, sheets, glasses, mirrors followed - and then, a quick trip to Kurt's room for more of the same. The televisions stayed however (have you ever tried lifing one of those f***ers?). All of this culminated in a rather prompt departure from Washington DC the next morning, before the journalist even manages to rise.
My clothes are covered in vomit, someone's using the back of my head as a pinball machine, there's a barbecue happening at the end of my bed and the rats in the back alley are so fat and complacent you can use them as footballs. Just another day on the road with Nirvana.
Two days earlier, Monty, Nirvana's long-suffering tour manager,was picked up for questioning by police in Pittsburgh at two in the morning (just after David Letterman). The show earlier that night had ended with some harsh words spoken between band and club and later someone attempted to set the place alight - piling up cushions, seat covers and carpets in the dressing room downstairs and dowsing them in petrol - and The Man figured Nirvana might know something about it.
"That was a classic case of coked-out Pittsburgh Mafioso promotion ," Kurt assures me later. "That club was the type of place that would have John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown Band, Huey Lewis And The News and all those other professional bar bands. What's rock'n'roll to them?"
Nirvana had nothing to do with it: not this time. Kurt had merely smashed some bottles in the toilet and thrown a couple of things around. But, fair do's. Nirvana have certainly been responsible for their fair share of trouble in the past.
"WHEN we were in Europe," says Kurt Cobain, Nirvana's charismatic and perpetually tired singer, backstage at DC's infamous 9:30 Club, 'we nearly set the tour van alight ." Around us, various members of the Nirvana entourage, including drummer Dave Grohl and his cool mom, chow down on the 9:30's infamous "pizza rider".
"You see, no one knows it, but those Sonic Youth kids, they're wild ," he continues, gleefully. "They were instigating violence and terrorism throughout the entire European festival tour. Their (and Nirvana's) manager, also. He antagonises people and leaves us to take the rap, beating us up, tearing our pants, corking Chris (Novoselic, bassist) over the head with a bottle, fuming beetroot red when he's drunk. He's wild."
Kurt is one of those people for whom the words "buffer", "melt" and "mouth" were invented. He looks angelic. Yet last time I saw him, backstage at Reading, he had one arm in a sling after leaping backwards into Dave's drum kit, and the previous time, his manager was sent a bill for God knows how much, after the band completely destoryed an LA apartment.
Yes, Nirvana like to wreck stuff: Chris usually finishes a set by throwing his bass 20 feet into the air (and occasionally catching it). In Pittsburgh, Kurt rammed his guitar straight into the snare drum out of sheer frustration; in DC, he ran off the stage 10 minutes before the end to take a breather, it was so damn hot, before rushing back on to destroy the chums. New York's Marquee was blessed with an encore that was just bass,, drums and Kurt screaming melodically from somewhere within the audience, he'd f***ed his guitars up so bad - and it still sounded as if there were six guitars playing.
Nirvana have a $750 equipment allowance per week. And Kurt hates cheap guitars! They live the classic rock'n'roll lifestyle (rampant vandalism) because its the only lifestyle they know. And because it's fun. And, along the way, they're responsible for some of the most invigorating rock music of the Nineties.
One listen to their new album, "Nevermind", confirms this: I'm up to about 2:30 and still of the opinion there's no better record this year. That's what honesty does for you. Songs like the terribly open "In Bloom", "Drain You" and mind-numbingly fine single, "Teen Spirit" (something to do with a girl sitting alone in a room, or is that the torching lament "Come As You Are"? F*** knows, F*** cares) are my life. No exaggeration.
All I have to do is hear the opening strummed acoustic chords to "Polly" (a disquieting tale of rape) or the all-out melodic, self-centered attack of "On A Plain" and my mind Rips. One note from Kurt's torturously twisted, magically melodious scream on "StayAway" and my heartbeats at my chest and makes a try for the heavens.
"YEAH, I lit the curtains in our tour van on fire while we were doing an interview," Kurt says. "This was a few hours after some other destruction. This representative for MCA gave us a gift, a wastepaper basket full of candy and magazines, with a little note welcoming us to Germany.
"The gift had been in the dressing room for two hours, while we'd been doing our set and eating our dinner. During this time, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) had written 'f*** you' underneath the woman's signature on the note. So we saw this and thought, 'Gee, that's kinda peculiar, but we can make good use of the sweets'.
Kurt is a complete candy freak. (Does anyone else buy those little wax bottles you drink about 1 cc of pop out of?)
"So we met the rep, thanked her and Chris proceeded to get drunker and drunker,'' he continues. "He shot off a fire extinguisher, ripped up the magazines and threw the candy all over the place and destroyed the whole room, Sonic Youth's dressing room, too. Classic rock'n'roll angst."
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