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Rivers Cuomo: 'I Was Nirvana's Biggest Fan'

Weezer's frontman talks about his complicated love for the grunge giants

February 19, 2014 10:55 AM ET
Rivers Cuomo weezer
Rivers Cuomo of Weezer performs in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Weezer's Rivers Cuomo called RS to talk about his love of Nirvana. Find his tribute and much more in Rolling Stone's new special collectors edition on the grunge stars' music and legend, available now.

"In some ways, I feel like I was Nirvana's biggest fan in the Nineties. I'm sure there are a zillion people who would make that claim, but I was just so passionately in love with the music that it made me feel sick. It made my heart hurt. I can tell you the exact moment when I became aware of Nirvana: I was working at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in 1990, undergoing my year-long transformation from being a speed-metal guitar player from New England to being an alternative songwriter and singer. The other, far-hipper employees at Tower kind of educated me. I remember they played 'Sliver' for me, and I was immediately in love. It had the aggression that I needed from my upbringing as a metalhead, but paired with strong, major-key chord progressions and catchy, emotional melodies and lyrics that felt so nostalgic and sweet and painful. It just sounded like it was coming from the deepest part inside of me – a part which I hadn't yet been able to come close to articulating in my own music.

Look back at Nirvana's incredible career in photos

"A little later, I was in a band called Fuzz with Pat Wilson from Weezer. We would listen to Bleach every night on the way to band practice. That's when I started singing – up until then, I had just been a lead guitar player – and I sounded a lot like Kurt, very Seattle. It's really difficult to listen to now. Kurt was the greatest singer ever, for my taste, but I was just trying to sing in a voice that I don't have at all.

"When Nevermind came out, my roommate had the CD. At first, I actually thought, 'This is too polished and commercial.' It was a little off-putting. But then I was like, 'This is the best music ever.' It felt so close to what I wanted to do. I thought, 'I can write chord progressions like that. I can write melodies like that. This is something I can do.' This was right around when Weezer started. I probably wrote 'The Sweater Song' and 'The World Has Turned and Left Me Here' and 'My Name is Jonas' that month – all those early Weezer songs – and then we had our first rehearsal in February of '92. It's impossible to avoid the conclusion that Nevermind really inspired us to go for it.

"We were in the studio making the Blue Album when In Utero came out, and we were on the same label as Nirvana, so we got to hear it pretty early. It just deepened our love affair with Kurt. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the hope and the fear that some day I might meet him. I would love to have met him – but then again, I was afraid of it, because I was quite certain that he would despise my music and everything we stood for.

Read Kurt Cobain's 1994 Rolling Stone interview

"After we finished the record, I was enrolled in community college in a music class. I remember coming out of the class and my friends telling me that Kurt had died. It was such a great blow – not only to me, but to everyone in Weezer, everyone we hung out with. It was very hard to listen to any other music for weeks after that. Everything just sounded shallow. Nothing sounded as sincere as Nirvana's music. It took a long time for me to accept that any other music could be good in other ways. Including my own."

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