Last week, Krist Novoselic spoke briefly on Nirvana’s momentous Hall of Fame reunion, which featured an all-star cast of female frontwomen, including Joan Jett, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, and Lorde. Now, a new Rolling Stone report offers up a more complete, in-depth look at that night’s historic event, revealing the band’s early picks for guest singers, how successful their first rehearsals were together, and what the future holds for Nirvana.
According to the article, the remaining members of Nirvana had their eye on Jett as a guest from the get-go. Who else were they hoping to snag early on? And how easy was it to recruit such artists?
Once they decided to give it [the Hall of Fame performance] a shot, the obvious next issue became finding guest singers. “That was a matter of finding people that we respected and that shared the Nirvana aesthetic,” says Grohl. “Whether that’s musical or otherwise.” The group reached out to a handful of A-list male rock stars, but none wanted to take on the challenge. “Some of them were nervous,” says Grohl. “I think some of them were maybe apprehensive because of how heavy the whole thing is.”Advertisement
The first person to agree was Joan Jett. “She took it on like it was her calling,” says Grohl. “She got really excited and sent me this flurry of e-mails. She learned every song on Nevermind. She’s everything that Nirvana stood for. She’s a powerful, rebellious, musical force of nature. We couldn’t think of anyone better to join us.”
After Jett signed on, they reached out to PJ Harvey. “Kurt loved PJ Harvey,” says Grohl. “We had always imagined playing our song ‘Milk It’ from In Utero with her. It’s a twisted song, almost like something that could have been on her record Rid of Me, which was also produced by Steve Albini. It just seemed to pair up so well. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it.”
From there, the concept of having A-list female voices stand in for Kurt Cobain was developed, and more big names came up naturally:
But the conversation gave Grohl an incredible idea. “We thought, ‘Wait, it has to be all women,'” [Grohl] says. “‘Don’t even ask anyone else. If we can fill the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance with these incredible women singing Nirvana songs, then we’ll have achieved our own revolution.’ It also added a whole other dimension to the show. It added substance and depth, so it didn’t turn into a eulogy. It was more about the future.”
Things moved very quickly from there. “Dave just started rattling off names,” says Novoselic. “He was like, ‘We should get Kim Gordon! And then someone up-and-coming…Annie Clark from St. Vincent!’ I didn’t even know who she was, but now I’m her biggest fan. Then we asked Lorde.”
The goal was to present the guest singers in chronological order. “Joan Jett, who formed the Runaways, changed rock & roll for women,” says Grohl. “Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth, was this beacon of light in the predominantly macho, male underground punk rock scene. St. Vincent is a wicked musician that’s pushing boundaries now. And Lorde has an incredible future ahead of her as a writer, performer and vocalist.”
Admittedly, playing Nirvana songs together for the first time in over 20 years was no easy feat for all those involved, even rock legends like Grohl and Novoselic. What helped them shake off the rust during rehearsals? Well, a book of tabs:
The group came together with Nirvana’s former touring guitarist (and current Foo Fighter) Pat Smear at Gibson Guitar’s rehearsal space in New York City a few days before the induction ceremony. “We said ‘Hi’ to everyone and launched into ‘Lithium,'” says Novoselic. “I picked up a Nirvana tab book a week before to re-learn my parts, but we weren’t up to speed at first. But then it started to flow and it got better and better. Then it hit me and I got kind of somber. I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m playing these songs again.'”
It was equally intense for Grohl. “The first time we played together, it was like seeing a ghost,” he says. “The second time, it was a little more reserved. And the last time we played it was like that fucking Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze pottery wheel scene from Ghost. We usually got the song by the third take. It started to sound like Nirvana. Our road crew and some friends were in the room when we launched into ‘Scentless Apprentice’ for the first time. There were jaws on the floor.”
While both the reunion and the intimate (read: EPIC) after-party in Brooklyn were high points in Nirvana’s already storied career, many wonder if the band’s remaining members will continue to explore other ways to “reunite” and play together, or if the performance was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. It looks like time will tell:
So, was this a one-night-only deal, or might Nirvana surface again at some point in the future? “That’s a good question,” says Novoselic. “I mean, there’s Foo Fighters and Dave has some other projects going on. And I have some commitments. But you never say never now. We did it. I sure won’t say no. Maybe we can even do some new music one day.”
Grohl isn’t so sure. “We haven’t even talked about it,” says Grohl. “We looked at that evening as a night that may never happen again. That’s what made it so powerful and beautiful and meaningful. And it may never happen again, so we made the most of it. And it was fucking great.”