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Mike Hsu Talks To Charles R. Cross, Author Of Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact Of Kurt Cobain
Apr 3, 2014|
Author of what is widely regarded as the definitive biography of Kurt Cobain, "Heavier Than Heaven", Charles R. Cross was a friend and supporter of Nirvana from their earliest days. In this interview he talks with Mike Hsu about Cobain's Influence on Music and the business of Music, as well as his battles with addiction and stardom.
Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.
You were the author of heavier than heaven which a lot of people are saying is the biography of Kurt Cobain but this focus a little different. Instead of a Kurt cobain's life and there's a lot of that in here but your in this particular book. As we come out of the twentieth anniversary of his death you're talking about the influence. He and Nirvana had. On culture pretty much in the world not just music but all around culture right. Exactly I mean would heavier than ever and I looked at. For Curtis alive what -- -- -- what are what are the facts of life with this book it's more measuring the last twenty years how did you are gonna change music. How did -- change fashion which is one of the weirdest and almost funniest part of this well. How he's changed the perception of Seattle and then even darker -- -- What we think about or know about about suicide and addiction. In the music industry has shifted in light of its staff. Yeah the fashion thing I I find funny because it always seemed like at that time and I was kind of the same way at that time occurred. Looked like he bought his clothes. You know and a better -- store Salvation Army here. Or place like and it's funny how how. Just in it it would no effort whatsoever just out of necessity because the guy you know had pennies to his name. Influence fashion that way. What -- -- if we look at gene the -- -- only one of many fashion and thoughts are I'm not trying to say that everything about modern fashion can be traced to him -- -- Just imagine the team that -- or how ripped up they are. In you know 1989. That style which -- poverty and today you go into the store and you actually pay more for what are called distressed. They didn't sell that strategy in the 1989. And you know -- with those without look with a flannel shirt with the converse sneakers he did in fact. Still a fact the huge fashion industry in the word Grimes slipped on -- national long after it's been dead music. Also wanted to touch on you you say that he is the last. Rock star and in the in the book only it was able to make it through almost halfway through the book. In the book you kind of allude to the Internet there and that we can't really have rock stars. Like Kurt Cobain now because the Internet has made it just a consuming music following music so much differently now. It has the relationship between a listener and a performer is dramatically different and and and there wasn't hurt world. Smells like teen spirit that single the physical vinyl or CDs single hold a million copies. Every single person that -- that had to drive to a record store to purchase that. Arm just in terms of sheer numbers we look at you know in 2012 the biggest bands in rock with the Mumford they all three and a half million. Albums most of them were download. Iran has sold thirty million copies of never mind alone in again everybody had to actually go to a record store to buy back. So the Internet has made -- so everything blows up immediately but it also died immediately in an artist doesn't have the opportunity to slowly build. What -- was able to do is build his message spilled his team. You know the common artists. And do that in an era where there has to be if you like somebody you really like about you have to go to the sort of either but if you didn't just -- on -- on -- web site. Right and it it kind of was you had to be dedicated. Yet to be more for music I mean I say people who download their music now our music fans but then it was like harder work. And -- Weigh in did not just that I think they're also what the relationship do you have with people that you might. You know now I can go to iTunes and I can be exposed to millions of artists and just to collect. Arm in the near the current -- people listen to the radio all day to tape but along. America is that it's you wanted to get back you know to to capture -- you didn't have that immediacy of being able to go and find it is any point. It would change the way people even thought about that stars that they like to. I I've discovered nevermind much the same way you did as you describe in the book. You just you got a demo cassette and advance dissent from a friend at a record store. I actually got the CD single for smells like teen spirit from a friend of mine who worked in college radio. And I. Similar maybe similar -- I listened to it in I was already familiar with bleach and I listen to listen man this is so much better. The sounds phenomenal it's too bad it's not gonna go anywhere because no one's gonna play the stuff on the radio. That's funny that you did I wasn't the only Olympic kidnapping that was the perception I mean no one has Geffen Records or Iran -- possible but -- there would ever get played up top forty radio the concept that that single would kind of be a lost leader. And it lithium which is more a purely pop song that's not quite so hard that's what everyone thought was going to be Obama's breakthrough and of course we all along. Yeah there's other stuff in the book it's interesting you touch on how. Kurt Cobain keeps popping up -- hip hop lyrics. And various other things I don't know if you seen this I just saw this this morning though. Another thing to add to your list there on how how nerve on I'm Kurt Cobain of influenced mainstream. A culture in the new Captain America movie I don't know if you seen the scene yet with the list. Okay there's a list he's a captain America's looking at. Because he has to catch up on 21 century culture you know he's been trapped in ice for decades and it on the list it says stuff like Steve Jobs. The Berlin Wall. The moon landing. And nerve -- Well and those are the only thing the. Others there's a list of other things for those holdings that are surrounding it and the stuff that he thinks that are important enough that he has to be familiar -- In the 20%. Agree that's one of the things I think in this book that they Nirvana has become a rite of passage. Were both Captain America and every kid growing up its its its -- sort of a line adhere to when we were kids how we all read catcher in the rye bread JD Salinger. In high school nobody is the Mountain -- if you wanna know something about pop culture music eventually you have to go to that mountain. Yes kinda like when numb when I was a teenager you had to discover Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. And I see that as a teenagers now if they're into rock music which is another thing you talk -- because at that time. That Nirvana speak rock and rock and alternative rock. Which was actually you kind of say it was -- of the genre label was created because of the success of Nirvana at that time rock music was number one. You know aside yeah maybe young kids today -- I I have people like I'm 45 and I have young people who work on the street team here. And they say have -- if you or did you ever get to see Nirvana and it's it seems like yeah I did see Nirvana. At William and Mary college and a small hall and it was it it was a bad sound night for them and they were kind of pissed off about it you know but it's just it's amazing. Like I would be asking the same thing when I was a teenager about so it lets up. Exactly that's to me it was the same thing I mean you know I was a big zeppelin fans too young to see you know -- -- -- up I thought the whole -- Yeah -- and it changed my life and it changed the life of a lot of people thought about them. Had a relationship with this is that and it's it's still it is still is -- because. The UU was said in an interview that dumb you don't think Kurt Cobain would have minded so much being inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. And I'm thinking I don't know see I didn't know him like you knew him. But from you know what I've read about him and you know listening to his music and that relationship I I don't even I just wouldn't think -- would have bought into any of that. Well what's interesting about Curtis that he was successful. Being famous than at the same time pretending like he didn't wanna be back. And if he really truly didn't want fame why would you release these albums and continue to be Iraq's start you have the choice. Well well if I can stop you there why -- an artist do what they do. You know heat and in this kind of leads into another question I was gonna ask you why -- You know is why did he and other other factors but if he hated -- so much and it may be drove him to take his own life. Why did he just quit and make music -- as an art artist does it because it's inside of them. And they have to let it out. And he didn't you know -- well he didn't really have to take part in the business and he could have. Quit he -- you know full time he really hated being a heroin addict he could have dedicated maybe full time to getting off of that and then maybe to his kid and making music in his home or something and just doing it what you know. Well he eventually did leave that to calm he did take a year off from his -- but after nevermind came out Enron didn't play her. Com most of 1992. Occurred despite his addiction during he would occasionally gets over -- had a difficult time continue to be so. So I think there is a myth that people think -- -- didn't try to get over he was in rehab five different including of course right before he died. So this is the man that did not want to do drugs he could not -- reviews but unfortunately like many people in the world. He found an addiction was it particularly hard to fight -- But -- this relationship with fame I think the truth is he wanted those. You know I. You know -- manager who said that you know everyone perceived it -- thought MTV was playing his videos too much but occurred actually was called manager and say why -- my video on MTV more. He was very skilled at presenting himself as if he were on this from throughout and if you were an underdog and entries he was early on but eventually became the biggest star in the world and he chose you want it to -- to remain popular. Though mom is a very odd mix and that's one reason I think social office. You kind of saw that same thing with any better -- -- You know where he kind of played that I you know I'm embarrassed to be famous by yet still kind of embracing wagons. Exactly I think -- a lot of similarities between those two in terms of that relationship. I think with both what happened is that when they became famous they found that they have left. Control that they have imagined they would. That they couldn't control what exactly what's happening what their career and how they were perceived by the public. All right well Charles RR cross. Author of here we are now the lasting impact Kurt Cobain. Thank you for joining me this morning as we have come up onto the twentieth anniversary. Of a -- death is a very interstate right. If you end you know -- and help breaks while fighting spirit it's one of the -- that truly did it well. Yeah and we're still playing Nirvana and that's on to the stage here in Boston itself. But thank you for your time. You're welcome.