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Titled “Top 50 by Nirvana,” this list of favourite albums by the group includes plenty of selections that will be familiar to the band’s fans: The Vaselines, Sonic Youth, The Raincoats, The Wipers, Leadbelly. But there are some fascinating surprises from Public Enemy to Mazzy Star to Rites of Spring.
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK invites you to experience Kurt’s life, art and mind through his own unique lens, bringing you as close to the generation-defining icon as it’s possible to get. This first ever, fully-authorized documentary feature blends Cobain’s personal archive of art, music (both his most famous and some that’s never been heard), written word, and never-before-seen home movies, with animation and revelatory interviews from his family and closest confidantes.
Following Kurt from his earliest years in Aberdeen, WA, through the height of his fame, it creates an intense and powerful cinematic insight into an artist who craved the spotlight even as he rejected the trappings of fame. Those of Kurt’s generation will learn things about him they never knew. Those who’ve discovered the man and his music more recently will understand what makes Kurt the lasting icon that he is. Just like the legendary frontman of Nirvana himself, KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK is authentic, visceral and unflinching. It will get into your head and stay there long after the end credits roll.
The film is being shown in 75 cinemas across the country, with screenings in all 10 provinces on May 7. For a full list of participating theatres, go here. To purchase tickets, go here.
One summer a few years ago, Frances Bean Cobain worked as an intern in the New York offices of Rolling Stone. Frances – the daughter of Nirvana singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain and an executive producer of the new HBO documentary on his life, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – was “a 15-year-old Goth kid, so stoked,” she recalls with a laugh during a recent interview for the cover story in our new issue. She remembers providing research assistance on a cover about the Jonas Brothers – and working in a cubicle across from a wall with a giant painting of Kurt. “Yeah,” Frances says with a grin and mock-exasperation, “looking at my dad every day.” (Preview the cover story and listen to a previously unheard Cobain song here.)
Do you remember the first time you heard a Nirvana record – and knowing that was your father? I’ve talked to Sean Lennon about this. He had a few more years with his dad that you did. But for him, the records were a road into understanding his father after he was gone.
I don’t really like Nirvana that much [grins]. Sorry, promotional people, Universal. I’m more into Mercury Rev, Oasis, Brian Jonestown Massacre [laughs]. The grunge scene is not what I’m interested in. But “Territorial Pissings” [on Nevermind] is a fucking great song. And “Dumb” [on In Utero] – I cry every time I hear that song. It’s a stripped-down version of Kurt’s perception of himself – of himself on drugs, off drugs, feeling inadequate to be titled the voice of a generation.
Via Rolling Stone
On October 30th, 1992, Nirvana were booked to play a major show in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is one of the shows that every band gets to have in their career. Everything went strikingly wrong – the sound, the opening band not connecting, the crowd and on and on. I’m sure Nirvana couldn’t get out of the city fast enough.
Kurt later shared his memories of the gig:
“When we played Buenos Aires, we brought this all-girl band over from Portland called Calamity Jane,” Kurt recalled. “During their entire set, the whole audience—it was a huge show with like sixty thousand people—was throwing money and everything out of their pockets, mud and rocks, just pelting them. Eventually the girls stormed off crying. It was terrible, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, such a mass of sexism all at once. Krist, knowing my attitude about things like that, tried to talk me out of at least setting myself on fire or refusing to play. We ended up having fun, laughing at them (the audience). Before every song, I’d play the intro to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and then stop. They didn’t realize that we were protesting against what they’d done. We played for about forty minutes, and most of the songs were off Incesticide, so they didn’t recognize anything. We wound up playing the secret noise song (‘Endless, Nameless’) that’s at the end of Nevermind, and because we were so in a rage and were just so pissed off about this whole situation, that song and whole set were one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.” (from Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects)
So, gather up some popcorn for 2 hours of a show that owed almost nothing to its creators and everything to a colossal bad vibe.
Combining home movies and clippings from the archives, Montage of Heck tells the story of Kurt Cobain’s struggle to balance his desire for the spotlight with his hatred of fame. In this clip Cobain’s diaries reveal some of the names Nirvana toyed with before deciding on the moniker they’d use to define a musical era.
Cobain: Montage of Heck is out in the UK in cinemas from April 10, available on digital download on April 24 and on DVD and Blu-ray from April 27, and premieres in the US on HBO on May 4.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck—the first officially sanctioned Kurt Cobain documentary, which makes its televised premiere on HBO on May 4. Courtney Love and his family opened Cobain’s private archives to the director, as well as providing candid interviews, alongside Krist Novoselic and Kurt’s former girlfriend Tracy Marander. Frances Bean Cobain sits in as executive producer.
Noisey: Recently you said you feel the next generation will make a Kurt/Nirvana doc that’s different from yours. How do you feel my generation’s perception of Kurt differs from yours? Being that he wasn’t alive when I listened to Nirvana…
Brett Morgen: Well, I think that it’s only a cultural difference, because we experienced Kurt at that time as someone who ushered in this sort of shifting cultural landscape. It’s like, Nirvana showed up, and then Bush and Reagan were swept out of the White House, then Kurt died and the Republicans took over. But the reason why he resonates with us is the same reason he resonates with your generation. Kurt will always provide comfort and be a sort of flagship for the freaks, the geeks, the disenfranchised, the beaten and down trodden, and the underdog.
Kurt was able to express his experience as a teenager through music, and articulate it lyrically better than anyone in the last 40 years of culture at least. Possibly ever. There will always be kids who feel alone. It helps that he’s absolutely gorgeous, and is never going to get a day older, and the music fucking kicked ass. He had an amazing ear for songs. You put that all together… I mean, one thing nobody would ever say about Kurt is that he was a sellout. He wasn’t. There’s a purity to him that is rare in pop music, because generally to make pop music involves a certain creative compromise. That wasn’t part of Kurt’s vocabulary.
So you think Kurt wasn’t chasing fame—that his intentions were more pure than that?
Kurt was really after acceptance. He sought it out initially through family, and then through the band, back when he started putting together bands. Then through Tracy, his girlfriend. And then with Courtney. I think he was ambitious and he also sought acceptance through fame, but he didn’t know what that meant. The bottom line is, if you don’t feel good about yourself, having the whole world tell you you’re beautiful and you’re amazing, doesn’t really make you feel better. In fact, it makes you feel worse. It’s like, Kurt’s deal with fame was that he didn’t know what that meant. In his mind, the ceiling for a band like Nirvana was 200,000 albums, like being Sonic Youth. So, he didn’t know—there was no scenario or plan to sell 600,000 albums in a week.
There are so many misconceptions about Kurt, which is especially clear after seeing the movie, what do you think is most misunderstood about him?
There are certain people who dismiss him just because they feel like we shouldn’t even be talking about him. In their minds, he only did three albums, and why are we still talking about him? Those who dismiss him as a whiny white guy who got all this fame and complained about it, it’s like, “Shut the fuck up, dude.” Hopefully when the audience sees the movie, and they arrive at the point where Kurt adopts some of those beats, they’ll greet it a little differently. See, what you get with the concept of the film is, it’s not a guy who’s just being abrasive to the media to be punk, or because he’s a whiny white guy, it’s that he’s an artist, and he doesn’t really want to explain his work. He’d rather people experience it. At the point where he’s selling 600,000 albums in a week, I don’t really think Kurt felt the need to sell any more. So the idea that he would schedule an interview to promote something like that—he doesn’t need any more promotion. It started to make music feel like a job for him. It wasn’t pure anymore. That’s just my sense.
Rivers Cuomo: At 18, I moved to L.A. with my heavy metal band Avant Garde, which was very much influenced by Metallica. At 19, I got a job at Tower Records, and everything started to change very quickly. I started listening to the Velvet Underground, Pixies, early Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and also earlier music like the Beatles. Around that same time, Weezer started. I met them through co-workers at Tower and, one by one, we cut our hair and stopped doing the sweep picking and two-handed tapping. And we came up with The Blue Album.
But if I have to choose one song, it’s gonna have to be “Sliver”, because this other guy I worked with named Howard said, “Rivers, we’re going to play you this song by this new band Nirvana and we think you’re gonna like this.” It was just one of those things where, by the time it got through the first chorus, I was just running around the store. The music turned me on so much. It had the simplicity of the Velvet Underground in the structure and the chords and the lyrical theme—it was talking about family issues from this very innocent perspective. It had the melody and the major chord progression of the pop music I love, like ABBA, but also this sense of destructiveness that I had in me, and it came out in this new hybrid style.
Pitchfork: Did you ever cross paths with Kurt Cobain?
No, not once. When Weezer was making The Blue Album, that was right around the time In Utero came out. He died in April , and The Blue Album came out in May. We were on the same label, and it’s possible he could’ve heard it, but he probably had never even heard the name Weezer. It’s sad for me, because he’s probably my all-time hero, but at the same time, I’m kind of relieved, because he probably would’ve scorned us.
While working for Cobain’s wife Courtney Love, Tom Grant, best known for his unproven theory that Kurt Cobain was murdered, was given access to Cobain’s suicide note and used her fax machine to make a photocopy, which has since been widely distributed.
After studying the note, Grant believed that it was actually a letter written by Cobain announcing his intent to leave Courtney Love, Seattle, and the music business. Grant asserts that the lines at the very bottom of the note, separate from the rest, are the only parts implying suicide. While the official report on Cobain’s death concluded that Cobain wrote the note, Grant claims that the official report does not distinguish the questionable lines from the rest of the note and simply draws the conclusion across its entirety. One of the biggest ‘what if?’ questions in music, Grant believes there are far more questions than answers.
And so it goes.
Speakings from the tongue of an experienced simpleton who obviously would rather be an emasculated, infantile complainee. This note should be pretty easy to understand. All the warnings from the Punk Rock 101 Courses over the years, it’s my first introduction to the, shall we say ethics involved with independence and the embracement of your community has been proven to be very true. I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to, as well as creating music, along with really writing something for too many years now. I feel guilty beyond words about these things, for example when we’re backstage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowd begins. It doesn’t affect me in the way which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love and relish the love and admiration from the crowd, which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any of you. It simply isn’t fair to you, or to me. The worst crime can think of would be to pull people off by faking it, pretending as if I’m having one 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as though I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on-stage. I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it, and I do, God believe me, I do, but it’s not enough. I appreciate the fact that I, and we, have affected, and entertained a lot of people. I must be one of the narcisists who only appreciate things when they’re alone. I’m too sensitive, I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasm. But, what’s sad is our child. On our last three tours, I’ve had a much better appreciation of all the people I’ve known personally, and as fans of our music. But I still can’t get out the frustration, the guilt, and the sympathy I have for everybody. There is good in all of us, and I simply love people too much. So much that it makes me feel too fucking sad. The sad little sensitive unappreciative pisces Jesus man! why don’t you just enjoy it? I dont know! I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy, and a daughter who reminds me to much of what I use to be. full of love and joy, every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable self destructive, deathrocker she become. I have it good, very good, and I’m grateful, but since the age of seven, I’ve become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along and have empathy. Empathy only because I love and feel for people too much I guess. Thank you from the pit of my burning nauseas stomach for your letters and concern during the last years. I’m too much of a neurotic moody person and I don’t have the passion anymore, so remember, it’s better to burn out, than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy, Kurt Cobain.
Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your altar.
Please keep going Courtney
for her life which will be so much happier without me.
I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU!”
Director Brett Morgen’s long-gestating documentary on Kurt Cobain has found a home at HBO.
It is the first documentary to be made with the cooperation of Cobain’s family and will include never-before-seen home movies, recordings, artwork and photography, plus material from his personal archives, family archives and songbooks. The film features dozens of Nirvana songs and performances as well as previously unheard Cobain originals. Cobain committed suicide 20 years ago at the age of 27.
Cobain’s daughter with Courtney Love, Frances Bean Cobain, is an executive producer with Larry Mestel and David Byrnes.
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