I think of my new songs as pop songs, as they're arranged with standard pop format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, bad solo. There won't be any songs as heavy as "Paper Cuts" or "Sifiting" on the new record. That's just too boring. I'd rather have a good hook.
Kurt Cobain, talking about the development of Nevermind
We approached the recording of Bleach like it was a radio session. The key to a successful album is to get the fuck out of the studio before you're sick of the songs. I hate Bleach so much now.
Kurt Cobain, talking about Nirvana's first album bleach.
As time goes on, my songs are getting poppier and poppier as I get happier and happier. The songs are now about conflicts in relationships, emotional things with other human beings. We're writing a lot more pop songs, like "About A Girl" on Bleach. Some people might think of that as "changing" into something, but it's something that we've always been aware of and are just now starting to express.
Kurt Cobain, 1989
I started working on songwriting right away when I got a guitar, rather than learn a bunch of Van Halen covers. I had to develop my own style. I only know a couple of cover songs to this day, and they're the ones I learned when I first had the guitar - "My Best Friend's Girl" by The Cars and Zeppelins "Communication Breakdown"
When I write a song, the lyrics are the least important thing. I can go through two or three different subjects in a song, and the title can mean absolutely nothing at all.
Kurt Cobain, 1989
A lot of it is just narrative. I mean, Neil Young writes narrative and nobody thinks... well, you know what I mean. The songs still feel like catharsis, still feel like exorcism, still feel really good to sing, but, on the other hand, a lot of it is just narrative. I'm not a character actress, I'm a songwriter.
Courtney Love talks about her lyrics, 1991
It's not hard to keep your dignity and sign to a major label. Sonic Youth have really smart about what they're doing. I feel we're experienced enough to deal with it now. We're changing a little, we've into more accessible pop styles of music for the last two years, and finally we're being able to relieve ourselves of some of that. So we figured we may as well get on the radio and try to make a bit of money at it.
Kurt Cobain, 1990
We've never known how many records we've sold at Sub Pop. We don't know how many copies of Bleach we sold. And we weren't being promoted very well. I challenge anyone to find a Bleach aid.
Kurt Cobain tries to explain Nirvana's controversial decision to defect from the independently owned Sub Pop label to Geffen.
It's about a young girl who was abducted. the guy drove her around in his van. Tortured her. Raped her. The only chance she had of getting away was to come on to him and persuade him to untie her. That's what she did, and she got away. Can you imagine how much strength that took?
Krist Novoselic describes the true to life story that is the basis behind the lyrics to Nirvana's Polly.
Antique craftsmanship, something that is built well, to last, somethin solid. Values that my grandparents had - pretty much the opposite of the way things are going now. It's the same with music - sincerity, craftmanship. If you do a job, you should do it well - that's just good buiness sense. Same thing my grandfather used to bitch at me about when I was a kid, and I never understood it.
Courtney Love, talking about songwriting
That record was me posing in a lot of ways. It was the truth, but it was also me catching up with all my hip peers who'd gone all indie on me´,.
It's about breath smells and underarm deodorant.
Kurt Cobain on "Smells Like Teen Sprit", 1994
Most of the music is really personal as far as the emotion and the experiences that I've had in my life, but most of the themes in the songs aren't that personal. They're more just stories from TV or books or movies or friends. But definitely the emotion and feeling ist from me.
Kurt Cobain, 1992
I think there are a few songs on In Utero that could have been cleaned up a little more. Definitely "Pennyroyal Tea". That was not recorded right. There's something wrong with that. That should have been recorded like Nevermind, because that's a strong song, a hit single.
Kurt Cobain talks about the production problems with In Utero.
We're definitely not groundbreaking. If there was no Sup Pop sound we'd still be doing this. If there's anything we're really close to, it's The Stooges - the momentum and the energy.
Krist Novoselic is trying to explain the Nirvana sound, 1991
People think I'm a moody person, and I think it's lame that there are only two kinds of male singer. You can either be a moody visionary like Michael Stipe, or a mindless heavy metal party guy like Sammy Hagar. I guess it's better to be called a moody visionary than a mindless party animal. I tried to become an alcoholic once, but it didn't work.
Kurt Cobain, 1992
When I was making "Pretty On The Inside", I had just been kicked out of Babes In Toyland, and I had a real chip on my shoulder. I was like, "I'm going to be the angriest girl in the world, fuck you!" I didn't want to have a crack in my surface and put anything jangly on there. I really wish I had put something pretty on there. I mean I'm glad people don't expet much from me, but at the same time, I wish they had an inkling of how to write.
Courtney Love, 1993
Steve Albini has made a career about being anti-commerical or anti-etablishment. But being commerical or anti-commerical is not what makes a good record. It's the songs, and until we have the songs the way we want them Nirvana will not release this record.
Kurt about Albini's production for In Utero, 1993
We downed a lot of hypodermic cough syrup and Jack Daniel's and just lounged on the couch in the recreation area of the studio for days on end, just writing down a few kyrics here and there. If we hadn't met our time commitments at the end of our recording period, we would just have bought our songs from Gloria Estefan or Warrant J Mascis. J's got a shit-load of songs floating around. He's always trying to plan them off on people too... "Here, you wanna buy a son for a quarter?" We can afford that 'cos we're on a major label now.
Kurt Cobain on Nevermind, 1992
Our songs are about changing yourself, frustration. There war this anthem the skate-rock kids were claiming for their own, "Don't Resist", to not resist against repression. "No Recess", one of our new songs, was just some surreal idea I had about being in school and being in social cliques all the time, and then you grow up, having to deal with exactly the same things with your friends at parties and in clubs as you did in high school. It's exactly the same.
Kurt Cobain, 1991
Most of the lyrics are just contradictions. I'll write a few sincere lines and then I will have to make fun of it with another line.
Bleach was recorded for about $600 on eight tracks. We recorded in three days, hacked it in, hacked it out. The sense of urgency shows through. On Nevermind, we were lucky in this studio from the Seventies. It was like a time machine. It was like an old pair of corduroys that was starting to wear out. Just like a studio Abba would have recorded in. We'd just stagger in late, then get intense with it.
Krist Novoselic on Bleach, 1992
"I might lie a lot, but never in my lyrics."
Mom and dad go off somewhere and leave the kid with his grandparents and he doesn't understand what's happening to him. But hey, you mustn't get too worried about him - grandpa doesn't abuse him or anything like that. And in the last verse he wakes up back in his mother's arms.
Kurt Cobain tries to explain the lyrics behind the song Sliver, 1991
And let me just state one last thing. And that this last record (Pretty On The Inside), it was really bilious and black-hearted in a lot of ways. But we have a lot of shit in us as well, you know, and... But I'm really getting into songwriting as a craft, so maybe our next album will be more like a tribute to The Beach Boys. Or maybe not. But I do know that we are still evolving, and that there's a pop consciousness out there that I really don't know anything about.
Courtney Love, 1991
I've always worked really hard on my lyrics, even when my playing was for shit. So it's weird that when I try to work in different styles, to juxtapose ideas in a careful way that isn't pompous and Byronic, it's just taken as vulgar. The whole cliché of women being cathartic really pisses me off. You know, "Oh, this is therapy for me. I'd die if I didn't write this." Eddie Vedder says shit like that. Fuck you.
Courtney, on her lyrics, 1994
Almost all my lyrics have been cut-ups, pieces of poetry and stuff. And the pieces of poetry are take from poems that don't usually hae meaning in the first place. They were cut-ups themselves. And often I'll have to obscure the pieces I take to make them fit in the sond, so they're not even true pieces of poem.
Kurt Cobain, 1993
Obviously, though they never said it. they (the record company) wanted us to re-record, or at least remix, but at the time I couldn't really say much to anyone because I wasn't sure myself what I wanted to change on the album. The first time I played it at home, I knew there was something wrong. The whole first week I wasn't really interested in listening to it at all, and that usually doesn't happen. I got no emotion from it, I was just numb.
So for three weeks Krist and Dave and I listened to the record every night, trying to figure out what was wrong with it, and we talked about it and decided the vocals weren't loud enough, the bass was inaudible and you couldn't hear the lyrics. That was about it.
We knew we couldn't possibly re-record because we knew we'd achieved the sound that we wanted - the basic sound was typical Steve Albini, which was the sound we really wanted bad. So we decided to remix two of favourite tracks, just as a litmus test, and we left it at that because to remix anymore would have destroyed the ambience of the whole thing.
We decided to take a chance on mastering, which we really didn't understand. We thought it was the last stage in the process where you just take the tapes in and run them through a machine that allwos you to cut it onto a record, or whatever. So we went to the mastering plant and learnt taht you can actually take the vocals right out, if you want to. It's amazing.
So that's what we did, we just gave the bass more high-end so you could hear the notes, turned the vocals up, maybe compressed it a little, and that did it, cured everything. As soon as we'd done it, we knew we'd made the right decision, it was over. And now I wouldn't change anything on it, I'm 100 per cent satisfied.
Kurt Cobain, on the controversial topic of the Albini mix and subsequent remixing of the In Utero album
"Violet" was officially born on Halloween at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit opening for the Laughing Hyenas with 40 people there. And I was in the van outside the show during sound check, and we had five songs from Nevermind, and I was so jealous of those songs that I had to try and top them. I could not believe that someone I knew from our underground, had written a batch of songs that fiercely great.
Teen Spirit was such a cliched riff. It was so close to a Bosten riff or "Louie, Louie". When I came up with the guitar part, Krist looked at me and said, "That is so ridiculous". I made the band play that for an hour and a half.
Kurt Cobain, 1994
I just hope I don't become so blissful I become boring. I think I'll always be neurotic enough to do something weird.
Kurt Cobain, 1994
It was nade really fast. All the basic Tracks were done within a week. And I did 80% of the vocals in one day, in about seven hours. I just happened to be on a roll. It was a good day for me, and I just kept going.
Kurt Cobain speaking about the recording of In Utero.
I don't like things too obvious because if it is obvious it gets really stale... we don't mean to be really cryptic or mysterious, I just think that lyrics are different, weird and spacey paint a nice picture, and it's just the way I like art.
Live Through This was just me on three gears, not four. Because my fourth gear was sucked up through drugs, a relationship. I did not have a fourth gear to work with. The purity was not completely there. It was like where in school I would cram - not do my homework. If I did it, I know I'd get an A. I'd cram and get a B or B+. I never did that extra footwork for the A. This record was a B-. And I knew taht was enough to get by in terms of my peers.
Courtney Love on Live Through This, 1994
She was institutionalised numerous times and, in the place in Washington where she ended up, the custodians there had people lining up all the way through the halls, waiting to rape her. She had been beaten up and brutally raped for years, every day. She didn't even have clothes most of the time.
Courtney especially could relate to Frances Farmer. I made the comparison between the two. When I was reading the book, I realised that this could very well happen to Courtney if things kept going on. There's only so much a person can take, you know?
I've been told by doctors and psychiatrists that public humiliation is one of the most extreme and hardest things to heal yourself from. It's as bad as being brutally raped, or witnessing one of your parents murdered in front of your eyes or something like that. It just goes on and on, it grinds into you and it's so personal.
And the Frances Farmer thing was a massive conspiracy involving the bourgeois and powerful people in Seattle, especially this one judge who still lives in Seattle to this day. He led this crusade to so humiliate her that she would go insane. In the beginning, she was hospitalised - totally against her will - and she wasn't even crazy. She got picked up on a drunk driving charge and got committed, you know. It was a very scary time to be confrontational.
Kurt Cobain explains the story of Frances Farmer
Every album that we've done so far, we've always had one to three songs left over from our sessions. And they usually have been pretty good, ones that we really liked, so we always had something to rely on - a hit or something that was above average. So this next record In Utero is going to be really interesting, because I have nothing left. I'm starting from scratch for the first time. I don't know what we're going to do.
Kurt Cobain, 1994
I very rarely write about one theme or one subject. I end up getting bored with that theme and write something else halfway through the rest of the song, and finish the song with a different idea.
Courtney Love, 1994
As literal as a joke can be. Nothing more than a joke. And that had a bit to do with why we decided to take it off. We knew people wouldn't get it, they'd take it too seriously. It was totally satirical, making fun of ourselves. I'm thought of as this prissy, complaining, freaked-out shizophrenic who wants to kill himself all the time. "He isn't satisfied with anything." An I thought it was a funny title. I wanted it to be the title of the album for a long time. But I knew the majority of people wouldn't understand it.
Kurt Cobain, on the working title for In Utero - I Hate Myself And I Want To Die - and the song of the same title, 1994
Everyone has focused on that Song ("Teen Spirit") so much. The reason it gets a big reaction is, people have seen it on MTV a million times. It's been pounded into their brains. But I think there are so many other songs that I've written that are as good if not better, than that song , like "Drain You". I love the lyrics, and I never get tired of playing it. Maybe if it was as big as "Teen Spirit", I wouldn't like it as much.
Kurt Cobain, 1994
I was trying to write a song that supported women and dealt with the issue of rape. Over the last few years, people have had such a hard time understanding what our message is, what we're trying to convey, taht I just decided to be as bold as possible. How hard should I stamp this point... how big should I make the letters? It's nor a pretty image? But a women who's been raped who is infuriated with the situation... its like "go ahead, rape me, just go for it because you're gonna get it."
I'm a firm believer in karma, and that mother-fucker is going to get what he deserves, eventually. That man will be caught, he'll go to jail, and he'll be raped. "So rape me, do it, get it over with. Because you're gonna get it worse."
Kurt Cobain, trying to explain the title behind Rape Me.
The same thing happened in the punk movement when it happened in the late Seventies. Major record labels were signing punk bands shortly after most punk bands first gig, they would be starting their first gig and would be signing to major labels right away, just because it's a trend right now and that just proves that there are a lot of old school Dinosaurs in the music industrythat need to be weeded out.
We failed in showing the lighter, more dynamic side of our band. The big guitar sound is what the kids want to hear. We like playing that stuff, but I don't know how much longer I can scream at the top of my lungs every night for an entire year on tour.
Kurt Cobain, 1994
Punk rock should mean freedom, liking and accepting everything that you like and playing everything that you like as sloppy as you like, as long as its good and has passion.
I guess I start with the verse and go on to the chorus. But I'm getting so tired with that formula. And it is a forumla. And there's not much you can do with it. We've mastered that for our band. We're all growing pretty tired of it. It is a dynamic style. But I'm only using two of the dynamics. There are a lot more that I could be using. Krist, Dave and I habe been working on this formula - this thing of going from quiet to loud - for so long that it is literally becoming boring for us. It's like "Okay, I have this riff. I'll play it quiet withouta distortion box, while I'm singing the verse. And now let's turn on the distortion box and hit the drums harder." I want to learn to go in between those things, go back and forth, almost become psychedelic in a way but with a lot more structure. It's a really hard thing to do, and I don't know if we're capable of it, as musicians.
Kurt Cobain, 1994
I just simply wanted to remind people of tragedies like that. It's very real and it can happen. People can be driven insane, they can be given lobotomies and be committed and be put in jails for no reason. I mean, from being this glamorous, talented well respected movie star, she ended up being given a lobotomy and working in a Four Seasons restaurant.
Kurt Cobain speaks about Frances Farmer
That's just about people who're easily amused, people who not only aren't capable of progressing their intelligence but are totally happy watching 10 hours of television and really enjoy it. I've met a lot of dumb people. They have a shitty job, they might be totally lonely, they don't have a girlfriend, they don't have much of a social life, and yet for some reason, they're happy...
I wish I could take a pill that would allow me to be amused by television and just enjoy the simple things in life, instead of being so judgemental and expecting real good quality instead of shit. The song's not about me, but it has been. And just using the word "Happy" I thought was a nice twist on the negative stuff we've done before.
Kurt Cobain talks about the song "Dumb", 1993