Kurt on Kurt: The Nirvana icon, in his own words
April 5, 1994 remains one of the darkest days in the history of alternative music. The passing of Kurt Cobain is a loss that’s still felt deeply across the globe today, such was his impact on the lives of so many people from all walks of life.
So much has been written about the Nirvana frontman in the 27 years since that day. There can be a lot of mythology and rewritten history around a figure who died so tragically and at such a young age with so much promise yet to offer the world. Here, then, are a selection of revealing insights on the real Kurt Cobain, in his own words.
“I always wanted to think I was an alien. I used to think, when I was young, that I was adopted by my mother, because they found me and a spaceship left me. I wanted to be from a different planet really bad. Every night, I used to talk to my real parents and my real family in the skies. It was really fun to pretend that there was some special reason for me to be here.”
“Up until I was eight years old, I had an extremely happy childhood. I knew that I could do anything I wanted because the world was really small. I didn’t have any problems. There were no obstacles in my life at that time.”
On his mother
“My mother was a fantastic, attentive and compassionate mother throughout my childhood, until I started becoming incorrigible and rebellious. She was 18 or 20 when she had me, and she did a really great job. I appreciate it every day I think about it.”
On his father
“If I spilt a glass of water [in a restaurant], my dad would get me in a headlock and dig his knuckles into my head or smack me in the face. That’s a weird psychological trick to play on a child. Fuck him for that.”
“I never really felt like I had a father. It’s hard to remember anything up until I was seven years old, and that was the time that I was actually living with him and he was my dad. After that, I lived with him for a short time and then he got [re-]married and, after that, I was one of the last things of importance on his list. He just gave up.”
“As I got older, I felt more and more alienated – I couldn’t find friends with whom I felt compatible at all. Everyone was eventually going to become a logger, and I knew I wanted to do something different. I never had a friend the whole time living in Aberdeen. I couldn’t identify with any of the guys. None of them liked art or music, they just wanted to fight and get laid. It gave me this real hatred for the average American macho male.”
“I was thought of as this kid who would most likely succeed to bring an AK-47 to the school and blow everybody away. I wouldn’t have been at all unusual if I would’ve found at least one kid with a wacky haircut. If I could’ve found just one punk rocker… I wanted to fit in somewhere, but not with the average kid at school.”
On Dave Grohl
“We were blown away when we saw him playing for this band, Scream, and Krist [Novoselic, Nirvana bassist] and and I agreed we’d ask him to join Nirvana if we ever had the chance.”
“I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I know it’s better than a majority of the commercial shit that’d been crammed down people’s throats for a long time.”
On Smells Like Teen Spirit
“There are so many other songs I’ve written that are as good, if not better, like Drain You. I love the lyrics and I never get tired of playing it.”
“We may have sold two million records, but Poison, a piece-of-shit band as far as I’m concerned, sold seven or 12 million probably – I dunno how many, but they sold a lot more.”
“To sell 10 million records had to make you wonder if there were really that many people who liked the band? The answer is no. It became a trendy thing, perhaps only two million [people] really liked it. But I’m happy with a couple of million. How can I complain about that? I was convinced in the beginning that there were only a few hundred we could relate to.”
“I don’t blame the average 17-year-old punk rock kid for calling me a sellout. I understand that. Maybe when they grow up a little bit, they’ll realise there’s more to life than living out your rock’n’roll identity so righteously.”
On Courtney Love
“I met Courtney in Portland. I thought she looked like Nancy Spungen [Sid Vicious’ girlfriend]. She looked like a classic punk rock chick. I probably wanted to fuck her that night, but she left. I just wanted to add some excitement in my life and I’d never met anyone so outspoken and charismatic. It just seemed like she is a magnet for exciting things to happen.”
“I tried heroin the first time in 1987 in Aberdeen and proceeded to use it about 10 more times from ’87 to ’90. When I git back from our second European tour with Sonic Youth, I decided to use heroin on a daily basis because of an ongoing stomach ailment that I had been suffering from for the past five years [that] had literally taken me to the point of wanting to kill myself. There were many times that I found myself literally incapacitated in bed for weeks, vomiting and starving. I decided, I feel like a junkie as it is, so I may as well be one.”
“All drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all. But I’m not going to go around preaching against it. It’s your choice, but in my experience. I’ve found they’re a waste of time.”
“The biggest impact of having a child is personally, I’ve always been chronically depressed, or at least pessimistic, for part of each day. Now I only have to see Frances for 10 minutes and my spirits are lifted so high I feel like a completely different person. [Courtney and I] have lacked love all our lives, and we need it so much that, if there’s any goal that we have, it’s to give Frances as much love as we can.”
On In Utero
“We wanted to call it I Hate Myself And I Want To Die… but people would take it too serious, because no-one sees the funny side of us… I had to get this teenage angst-ridden rock out of my system, and the best way to do that was to go to extremes and make the raunchiest record I could, without denying any of the pop sensibilities that we have. I’m totally happy with this record. It introduced a whole new sound to the mainstream audience. That Steve Albini underground sound is pretty tired for people who are familiar with that stuff, but we had to do it. We wanted to record an album and have that sound, so it was pretty much the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy.”
“I’ve thought about dying all my life, like any normal person. I’ve thought about killing myself for so long ‘cause of my stomach thing that I didn’t give a fuck whether I was going to die or not. If I was going to blow my head off with a gun, I may as well take the risk of dying from drugs.”
All quotes sourced from Kerrang! Archives, Kurt Cobain: Journals (publisher: Penguin); Kurt Cobain: About A Son (2006; Director: AJ Schnack); Rolling Stone (Rollingstone.com); MTV (MTV.co.uk); Melody Maker.
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