Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters

2016; quite a year so far…An immediate apology for the pause in the blog – life, real life. I moved house from London to Bristol hauling 12 years’ worth of belongings accumulated between January 7, 2004 (23 years old) and January 30, 2016 (35.) Gradually returning to normal rhythm and rhyme…

…And in amidst it, on February 1, Chicago Review Press released “Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters.” I was invited back in early 2014 to act as editor for the volume, part of the publisher’s ‘Musicians in Their Own Words’ series. Their desire was a reasonable one; to create the single most comprehensive go-to compilation of interviews with the band. Professional translation where necessary, thorough translation, appropriate context…I had to pause and consider it.

Money wasn’t an issue. Writing about music is sub-minimum wage measured against the hours put in, plus I have a real job which means I only write – and only WANT to write – about things I love. Music publishing has suffered in the new era of ebooks and Amazon uber-alles; the advance was low – minus 15% (rightfully earned!) to my dear agent, minus 40% tax – but sufficient to cover the cost of the half-a-dozen translators needed, the licenses to reprint purchased from journalists and media worldwide, the legal rights…

What was on my mind though was what could I do with the book idea? What would really intrigue someone like me who has read so many of the interviews before? I took a weekend sketching how my desires. First, lost and unseen interviews – what was out there that had sunk without a trace back in 1988-94? Could I find anything at this late stage? Second, had the journalists, radio stations, TV stations kept their cassettes and their videos – did the conversations that only appeared as excerpts still exist in full form? Finally, Nirvana were on tour so much once fame hit – they toured the U.S. twice after September 1991 but they toured Europe three times, Asia-Pacific once, plus the three gigs in South America – what existed that had never been read by English speaking audiences?

Those paths intrigued me – but there was something lacking. I’ve read three compendiums of Nirvana interviews plus a few for other artists. They just don’t work for me if they’re simply a grab of articles lumped in together. What I chose to do was to sketch out the ‘timeline’ of Nirvana’s life – tours, releases, major incidents and events – to provide the structure. I loved the idea of trying to build a volume in which each interview took place as close as possible to the key moments in the band’s life and Cobain’s life. I wanted to see them reacting to, and speaking about, things as they happened because here we are all these years later saturated in posthumous commentary and revision. I wanted to get back to the real moment – I guess that’s something that steered me on ‘I Found My Friends’ too.

So! I agreed to do it. I’m pretty proud of the results. One pleasing discovery for me was that one gentleman early on would only allow his interview to be used if he was allowed to introduce it – because he felt the interview alone lacked context. I agreed…Then realised what a wonderful thing that was. Normally interviews consist of an anonymous name firing questions, then a famous name responding – it’s flat, a touch dead. The introduction gave the interview real context, a human experience, a sense of the time and place in which the conversation was taking place and how it felt to be there. I started asking each and every interviewer if they would be so kind as to provide an introduction and I was honoured that they all did.

The U.S. version is above, it’s out now and available in hardback pretty well anywhere you can find music books – it’s just under 600 pages long.

The U.K. edition is coming in mid-March.

As for me, well, that’s a million words and 430 articles on, one self-published book, plus the ‘I Found My Friends: the Oral History of Nirvana’ volume. It’s been a wonderful experience and I can’t imagine working on another Nirvana book anytime – bringing more of other people’s memories and experiences into the world has been great…Time for a break from spreading the love of and enjoyment of Nirvana.

There was also the ‘Nirvana Tour’ ( plus getting the ‘No Seattle’ release out…It’s been a wild ride 2012-2016…I’d never have imagined I’d end up writing about the band that’s meant most to me in the world or meeting so many great people, or seeing/hearing/reading so much fascinating stuff.









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