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What Nirvana mean to me, by Frank Carter

Frank Carter reveals his love affair with the Seattle grunge legends

“When I was growing up and getting into music, Nirvana were a huge influence on me.

“Their debut album Bleach was the first record of theirs I’d heard and I remember thinking it all sounded so unbelievably violent. It’s not really, though. They’re all sort of pop songs, in a way. That was the way Kurt Cobain wrote songs, they all had this real pop sensibility to them. His songwriting was incredibly special, but, because of the way the guitars and the drums were, it’s a hard listen. It’s a fucking tough pill to swallow, but it’s all there.

“Just look at their back catalogue and the amount of work they did in such a short period of time. Every record they made is a classic for a different reason.

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"I have a lot of favourite Nirvana songs. I think my favourite is probably Heart-Shaped Box, but then if you asked me tomorrow it would probably be different. Right now, that song’s jumping out at me. It’s a painful listen. But their record that really changed my life, truly, was their MTV Unplugged album. It introduced a lot of music to me at an age where I didn’t feel very open to listening to new music. But in that record he covered Meat Puppets, Lead Belly and David Bowie. They really went to town during that performance, and through that record, I discovered so many artists that eventually became incredibly important to me. I’d often sing the Nirvana cover of Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Lead Belly – the original’s called Black Girl – to my daughter to help her go to sleep. That and Blackbird by The Beatles send her off real quick.

“Every time I go on stage I want to play Smells Like Teen Spirit, but I can’t. Gallows used to play Nirvana songs in practice quite a lot because I’d sort of insist on it. I never liked going to practice, so when I did go, I’d insist on playing songs I wanted to hear, rather than ones we needed to practice. Pure Love even played some Nirvana songs. When we get our new record Modern Ruin out next year, I think we’ll have a bit more room in the setlist to explore some stuff. I think that’s the time we’ll start to break out some more covers!

“I watched Montage Of Heck not long ago, and it really changed the way I thought about them and about him as a person. With Nirvana, there was something so magical, so violent, and narcissistic about them in a lot of ways. Kurt was pouring himself out in a way that he really wasn’t comfortable with, but it was the only way he knew how. They were a phenomenal band and all incredible musicians, but Kurt definitely left us way too soon.

“Nirvana made me want to pick up a microphone and scream my guts out for a living. I feel really lucky that I can do that and this is my job. But it doesn’t feel like a job; it feels like a fucking dream every day.”


Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes are on tour now. Modern Ruin will be released in January through International Death Cult.

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