Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic is releasing his first book, Of Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix This Broken Democracy!, this month. In it, he explores the correlation between punk rock and politics — from his personal account of Nirvana’s history to national issues like electoral reform, voting and “the search for a meaningful Democracy.”
Now retired from music, Novoselic has chosen to focus on the political matters he writes about. He’s an active member of the Washington state Grange. In 1995, he founded the music community’s advocacy group, Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Action Committee (JAMPAC). And last year, he announced plans to run for lieutenant governor in Washington, his home state.
What do grunge and government have in common?
I’ve been doing grunge music for years . . . and I’ve been working on electoral reform issues and music community issues in Washington state and I recognize the apathy and the disconnection so many people have for our government. And I know that people can feel connected to music. Music is meaningful and I believe that democracy can be meaningful; it’s just that our electoral system is discouraging too many people.
What about the second part of the title? How is our government broken?
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There’s a huge vacuum right now. People are disconnected . . . and there’s a gap between citizens and their government. So what I’m proposing are electoral reforms and I think they’re really modest; I’m not proposing we change our system of government, I only propose we change our system of elections.
You announced your plans to run for lieutenant governor in Washington last November. Do you see a future in politics for yourself?
Yeah, [but] what I really want to do is help my state and my country move forward. And you don’t necessarily need to be an elected official to do that. I believe the trick is just to get together with people, and that’s another part of the book, I’m encouraging people just to get together through the old institutions, civil or fraternal organizations . . . When people get together, that’s when change can happen.
Was Nirvana a political band?
Nirvana was a political band, but not in the sense of hardcore punk like denouncing certain presidents or anything like that. But there was a consciousness there, an awareness of the world, how things could be. We were politically minded and it was born and bred from punk rock, especially punk rock from the Eighties. At that time it was more about social reform, like feminism or animal or human rights; it was more of a broad platform . . . but nonetheless constructive. And active.
What are the dangers of apathy? How can music change that?
Once music becomes predictable and a formula to sustain the establishment, people tune out. They stop buying music and they become cynical. And what happens is this new wave of bands comes in and people start buying music again. They’re enthusiastic . . . If people tune out, they’re cynical and they stop voting.