Kurt Cobain, The Rolling Stone Interview: Success Doesn't Suck

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Even as satire, though, a song like that can hit a nerve. There are plenty of kids out there who, for whatever reasons, really do feel suicidal.
That pretty much defines our band. It's both those contradictions. It's satirical, and it's serious at the same time.

What kind of mail do you get from your fans these days?
[Long pause] I used to read the mail a lot, and I used to be really involved with it. But I've been so busy with this record, the video, the tour, that I haven't even bothered to look at a single letter, and I feel really bad about it. I haven't even been able to come up with enough energy to put out our fanzine, which was one of the things we were going to do to combat all the bad press, just to be able to show a more realistic side of the band.

But it's really hard. I have to admit I've found myself doing the same things that a lot of other rock stars do or are forced to do. Which is not being able to respond to mail, not being able to keep up on current music, and I'm pretty much locked away a lot. The outside world is pretty foreign to me.

I feel very, very lucky to be able to go out to a club. Just the other night, we had a night off in Kansas City, Mo., and Pat [Smear] and I had no idea where we were or where to go. So we called up the local college radio station and asked them what was going on. And they didn't know! So we happened to call this bar, and the Treepeople from Seattle were playing.

And it turns out I met three really, really nice people there, totally cool kids that were in bands. I really had a good time with them, all night. I invited them back to the hotel. They stayed there. I ordered room service for them. I probably went overboard, trying to be accommodating. But it was really great to know that I can still do that, that I can still find friends.

And I didn't think that would be possible. A few years ago, we were in Detroit, playing at this club, and about 10 people showed up. And next door, there was this bar, and Axl Rose came in with 10 or 15 bodyguards. It was this huge extravaganza; all these people were fawning over him. If he'd just walked in by himself, it would have been no big deal. But he wanted that. You create attention to attract attention.

Where do you stand on Pearl Jam now? There were rumors that you and Eddie Vedder were supposed to be on that Time magazine cover together.
I don't want to get into that. One of the things I've learned is that slagging off people just doesn't do me any good. It's too bad, because the whole problem with the feud between Pearl Jam and Nirvana had been going on for so long and has come so close to being fixed.

It's never been entirely clear what this feud with Vedder was about.
There never was one. I slagged them off because I didn't like their band. I hadn't met Eddie at the time. It was my fault; I should have been slagging off the record company instead of them. They were marketed – not probably against their will – but without them realizing they were being pushed into the grunge bandwagon.

Don't you feel any empathy with them? They've been under the same intense follow-up-album pressure as you have.
Yeah, I do. Except I'm pretty sure that they didn't go out of their way to challenge their audience as much as we did with this record. They're a safe rock band. They're a pleasant rock band that everyone likes. [Laughs] God, I've had much better quotes in my head about this.

It just kind of pisses me off to know that we work really hard to make an entire album's worth of songs that are as good as we can make them. I'm gonna stroke my ego by saying that we're better than a lot of bands out there. What I've realized is that you only need a couple of catchy songs on an album, and the rest can be bullshit Bad Company rip-offs, and it doesn't matter. If I was smart, I would have saved most of the songs off Nevermind and spread them out over a 15-year period. But I can't do that. All the albums I ever liked were albums that delivered a great song, one after another: Aerosmith's Rocks, the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks . . . , Led Zeppelin II, Back in Black, by AC/DC.

You've also gone on record as being a big Beatles fan.
Oh, yeah. John Lennon was definitely my favorite Beatle, hands down. I don't know who wrote what parts of what Beatles songs, but Paul McCartney embarrasses me. Lennon was obviously disturbed [laughs]. So I could relate to that.

And from the books I've read – and I'm so skeptical of anything I read, especially in rock books – I just felt really sorry for him. To be locked up in that apartment. Although he was totally in love with Yoko and his child, his life was a prison. He was imprisoned. It's not fair. That's the crux of the problem that I've had with becoming a celebrity – the way people deal with celebrities. It needs to be changed; it really does.

No matter how hard you try, it only comes out like you're bitching about it. I can understand how a person can feel that way and almost become obsessed with it. But it's so hard to convince people to mellow out. Just take it easy, have a little bit of respect. We all shit [laughs].

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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