Bassist Krist Novoselic, known for his work in Nirvana, recalled a particular guitar solo by Kurt Cobain that he felt wasn’t all that good. The topic came up when Krist, along with Dave Grohl and “In Utero” producer Steve Albini, sat down for an interview with Conan O’Brien, with all of them looking back at Nirvana’s third and final full-length studio album.
Addressing the everpresent differences in opinions when it comes to the creative process, Kris mentioned “Heart-Shaped Box” from “In Utero” and its lead part that he felt wasn’t really all that good. Kris recalled (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“But for ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ — remember, Steve, that solo? I didn’t like the way that solo was. It was too intense. It was really snarly.”
In fact, he used a more creative description for it. But the point still stands — Novoselic felt like it wasn’t good enough for the song:
“And I’m like, ‘Well, you know, this song is a really pretty song. And it’s a sad song in some ways.’ I think I used a term like, ‘This sounds like you just threw this abortion on the floor.’ That’s what I said, ‘All of a sudden, there’s just this abortion on the floor, this is terrible.'”
Krist added that they discussed the whole thing that he weighed in, although he couldn’t clarify whether they got a new solo for it.
Elsewhere in the interview, Dave Grohl also reflected on the entire process of making Nirvana’s 1993 record “In Utero” and some of the specifics.
“When we were making the record, we did all the instrumental tracks first,” he recalled. “I don’t know if Kurt sang any of the songs live. It was all just the three of us doing the instrumental tracks first live in a room without really having ever heard what Kurt was going to sing. Or even how he was gonna sing it. Like his melodies and patterns — most of these things, I just listened to them as instrumental.”
Nonetheless, the whole process was incredibly exciting to Dave. He explained:
“So it was always exciting, like a mystery, knowing like, ‘Oh, he’s in there singing this track today’, and wondering what it was going to sound like when he was finished.”
And one of Kurt’s amazing abilities was not just that he was a great lyricist, but he had a really specific kind of signature melodic turn of phrase.”
“He always braided two simple lines together in a way that was almost unpredictable. And he would go from maybe a gentle voice to a scream, or maybe a minor key to a major.”
“But he would do it in this way that was beautifully patterned, which I always thought was really cool and really simple. Ultimately, most everything that he did I thought was simple but really smart.”
Particularly, Dave also praised Kurt’s ability to combine lyrical and melodic ideas, creating this full picture that we now know as Nirvana’s music. Grohl continued:
“Anyway, so you would hear these things as they came back. And you would hear [it] for the first time — his melodic idea, but also the lyric — and every time I would hear it for the first time, I’d think, ‘That’s just odd. That’s unusual. It’s weird. What a strange thing to say! What does that mean?'”
Reflecting on how he went through all of it as a drummer, Dave added:
“But as the drummer, of course, I’m like, ‘Shit, did I slow down in the chorus now? Fuck, my kick drum is too…'”
Even after all these years, Grohl also admits that he still manages to find new things on this album, more relating to the overall feel of it:
“But still to this day, if I listened to that record, I’ll find things, or I’ll feel things that I didn’t necessarily feel 25 years ago, not just in light of everything that had happened.”
“But of course, everything that did happen kind of screw the lens a little bit or distort maybe what it felt like before and what it feels like now. I think it’s a slippery slope, it’s easy to look back at that stuff.”
Although “Nevermind” was Nirvana’s most commercially successful record, “In Utero,” which is now 30 years old, was the band’s last before Kurt Cobain’s tragic passing. Steve Albini was also a major shift for the band, at least compared to Butch Vig, who produced “Nevermind.” Some of the band’s most critically acclaimed pieces appear on “In Utero,” including aforementioned “Heart-Shaped Box.”