Novoselic: All the dinosaurs have recorded there. Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick. . . .
Cobain: There’s nothing more disgusting than the late ’80s/early ’90s slick sound. You just can’t escape it, no matter how retro and old you try to be, no matter what kind of equipment you use, you still can’t help but sound new.
Novoselic: We got a warm sound out of that place. It had been two years since Bleach. It had been a while since the band had gone in and recorded a full LP, so it was more like “Wow, okay, we’re in the studio. Let’s just get this done, let’s just do it.”
We made the record we wanted to make. We didn’t want to make the number-one record. We didn’t want to make a hit record. It would have been the same record if it was on Sub Pop. It probably wouldn’t have sounded as slick. But I hear the song on the radio, next to some other total mainstream music, and it sounds a lot rawer. That’s what we wanted to do. It was like a fine line. It’s a major-label release, but make it raw enough to where we didn’t totally compromise.
Grohl: There wasn’t really any massive analyzing. It was like, let’s put down the drums and bass, and then put down the guitar, and then eventually get to the vocals. Just that kind of approach. Like, okay, let’s just get it done. We didn’t spend six months and five million dollars on it. We tried to hash it out as quickly as possible.
There are a lot of gun references on Nevermind. I’m thinking of “Come as You Are,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and “In Bloom.”
Cobain: I went shooting with my friend Dylan a few months ago. God, it was weird because I’d never shot a gun before, and it reminded me of how totally violent those things are. They could rip right through you. I guess I’m opposed to guns, just because they’re a violent tool. But then, so are butter knives. I’m not one of those anti-NRA people. Obviously, I don’t like rednecks. I don’t like macho men. I don’t like abusive people. I guess that’s what that song [“In Bloom”] is about. It’s an attack on them.
What about “Smells Like Teen Spirit”?
Cobain: This friend of mine and I were goofing around in my house one night. We were kinda drunk, and we were writing graffiti all over the walls of my house. She wrote, “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit.” And earlier on we were kinda having this discussion on teen revolution and stuff like that. So I took that as a compliment. I thought she was saying I was a person who could inspire. I thought it was a nice little title. And it turns out she just meant that I smelled like the deodorant. I didn’t even know that deodorant existed until after the song was written.
Grohl: My father says this to me: “I know why you guys have sold so many records. The video shows a bunch of kids trashing a gymnasium.” And I mean, that sort of works. “Nirvana: spokesmen of the Lost Generation. They’re telling you to go out and destroy your local gymnasium.” I don’t see it that way. I don’t want the responsibility of being a spokesman for anything. I can barely hold my own. I guess it’s flattering. And I guess it’s great that it actually gives people a feeling of breaking out and telling anyone and anything just to fuck off.