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

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What did your wife, Courtney, think of the song when she heard it?
I think she understood. I probably explained it better to her than I've explained it to you. I also want to make a point, that I was really, honestly not trying to be controversial with it. That was the last thing I wanted to do. We didn't want to put it out so itwould piss off the parents and get some feminists on our asses, stuff like that. I just have so much contempt for someone who would do something like that [to a woman]. This is my way of saying: "Do it once, and you may get away with it. Do it a hundred times. But you're gonna get it in the end."

When you were arrested on the domestic-violence charge this summer, Courtney admitted to the police that you kept guns in your home. Why do you feel you need to be armed?
I like guns. I just enjoy shooting them.

Where? At what?
[Laughs] When we go out to the woods, at a shooting range. It's not an official shooting range, but it's allowed to be one in this county. There's a really big cliff, so there's no chance of shooting over the cliff and hurting anyone. And there's no one within miles around.

Without getting too PC about it, don't you feel it's dangerous to keep them in the house, especially with your daughter, Frances, around?
No. It's protection. I don't have bodyguards. There are people way less famous than I am or Courtney who have been stalked and murdered. It could be someone by chance looking for a house to break into. We have a security system. I actually have one gun that is loaded, but I keep it safe, in a cabinet high up on a shelf where Frances can never get to it.

And I have an M16, which is fun to shoot. It's the only sport I have ever liked. It's not something I'm obsessed with or even condone. I don't really think much of it.

How does Courtney feel about keeping guns at home?
She was there when I bought them. Look, I'm not a very physical person. I wouldn't be able to stop an intruder who had a gun or a knife. But I'm not going to stand by and watch my family stabbed to death or raped in front of me. I wouldn't think twice of blowing someone's head off if they did that. It's for protection reasons. And sometimes it's fun to go out and shoot. [Pauses] At targets. I want to make that clear [laughs].

People usually assume that someone who has sold a few million records is really livin' large. How rich are you? How rich do you feel? According to one story, you wanted to buy a new house and put a home studio in it, but your accountant said you couldn't afford it.
Yeah, I can't. I just got a check a while ago for some royalties for Nevermind, which is pretty good size. It's weird, though, really weird. When we were selling a lot of records during Nevermind, I thought, "God, I'm gonna have like $10 million, $15 million." That's not the case. We do not live large. I still eat Kraft macaroni and cheese – because I like it, I'm used to it. We're not extravagant people.

I don't blame any kid for thinking that a person who sells 10 million records is a millionaire and set for the rest of his life. But it's not the case. I spent a million dollars last year, and I have no idea how I did it. Really. I bought a house for $400,000. Taxes were another $300,000 – something. What else? I lent my mom some money. I bought a car. That was about it.

You don't have much to show for that million.
It's surprising. One of the biggest reasons we didn't go on tour when Nevermind was really big in the States was because I thought: "Fuck this, why should I go on tour? I have this chronic stomach pain, I may die on this tour, I'm selling a lot of records, I can live the rest of my life off a million dollars." But there's no point in even trying to explain that to a 15-year-old kid. I never would have believed it.

Do you worry about the impact that your work, lifestyle and ongoing war with supercelebrity are having on Frances? She seemed perfectly content to toddle around in the dressing room tonight, but it's got to be a strange world for her.
I'm pretty concerned about it. She seems to be attracted to almost anyone. She loves anyone. And it saddens me to know that she's moved around so much. We do have two nannies, one full–time and another older woman who takes care of her on weekends. But when we take her on the road, she's around people all the time, and she doesn't get to go to the park very often. We try as hard as we can, we take her to preschool things. But this is a totally different world.

In "Serve the Servants," you sing, "I tried hard to have a father/But instead I had a dad." Are you concerned about making the same mistakes as a father that might have been made when you were growing up?
No. I'm not worried about that at all. My father and I are completely different people. I know that I'm capable of showing a lot more affection than my dad was. Even if Courtney and I were to get divorced, I would never allow us to be in a situation where there are bad vibes between us in front of her. That kind of stuff can screw up a kid, but the reason those things happen is because the parents are not very bright.

I don't think Courtney and I are that fucked up. We 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, as much support as we can. That's the one thing that I know is not going to turn out bad.

What has been the state of relations within Nirvana over the past year?
When I was doing drugs, it was pretty bad. There was no communication. Krist and Dave, they didn't understand the drug problem. They'd never been around drugs. They thought of heroin in the same way that I thought of heroin before I started doing it. It was just really sad. We didn't speak very often. They were thinking the worst, like most people would, and I don't blame them for that. But nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Since I've been clean, it's gone back to pretty much normal.

Except for Dave. I'm still kind of concerned about him, because he still feels like he can be replaced at any time. He still feels like he . . .

Hasn't passed the audition?
Yeah. I don't understand it. I try to give him as many compliments as I can. I'm not a person who gives compliments very often, especially at practice. "Let's do this song, let's do that song, let's do it over." That's it. I guess Dave is a person who needs reassurance sometimes. I notice that, so I try and do that more often.

So you call all the shots?
Yeah. I ask their opinions about things. But ultimately, it's my decision. I always feel weird saying that; it feels egotistical. But we've never argued. Dave, Krist and I have never screamed at each other. Ever.

It's not like they're afraid to bring up anything. I always ask their opinion, and we talk about it. And eventually, we all come to the same conclusions.

Haven't there been any issues where there was at least heated discussion?
Yeah, the songwriting royalties. I get all the lyrics. The music, I get 75 percent, and they get the rest. I think that's fair. But at the time, I was on drugs when that came up. And so they thought that I might start asking for more things. They were afraid that I was going to go out of my mind and start putting them on salary, stuff like that. But even then we didn't yell at each other. And we split everything else evenly.

With all of your reservations about playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and writing the same kind of song over and over, do you envision a time when there is no Nirvana? That you'll try to make it alone?
I don't think I could ever do a solo thing, the Kurt Cobain Project.

Doesn't have a very good ring to it, either.
No [laughs]. But yes, I would like to work with people who are totally, completely the opposite of what I'm doing now. Something way out there, man.

That doesn't bode well for the future of Nirvana and the kind of music you make together.
That's what I've been kind of hinting at in this whole interview. That we're almost exhausted. We've gone to the point where things are becoming repetitious. There's not something you can move up toward, there's not something you can look forward to.

The best times that we ever had were right when Nevermind was coming out and we went on that American tour where we were playing clubs. They were totally sold out, and the record was breaking big, and there was this massive feeling in the air, this vibe of energy. Something really special was happening.

I hate to actually even say it, but I can't see this band lasting more than a couple more albums, unless we really work hard on experimenting. I mean, let's face it. When the same people are together doing the same job, they're limited. I'm really interested in studying different things, and I know Krist and Dave are as well. But I don't know if we are capable of doing it together. I don't want to put out another record that sounds like the last three records.

I know we're gonna put out one more record, at least, and I have a pretty good idea what it's going to sound like: pretty ethereal, acoustic, like R.E.M.'s last album. If I could write just a couple of songs as good as what they've written . . . I don't know how that band does what they do. God, they're the greatest. They've dealt with their success like saints, and they keep delivering great music.

That's what I'd really like to see this band do. Because we are stuck in such a rut. We have been labeled. R.E.M. is what? College rock? That doesn't really stick. Grunge is as potent a term as New Wave. You can't get out of it. It's going to be passé. You have to take a chance and hope that either a totally different audience accepts you or the same audience grows with you.

And what if the kids just say, "We don't dig it, get lost"?
Oh, well. [Laughs] Fuck 'em.

This story is from the January 27th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

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Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

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