“The minute you’re not scared is the minute you should quit”: Nardwuar on Drake, Kanye, and Talking To Kurt Cobain

kurtintnard

Nardwuar interviewing Kurt Cobain in 1994, while Kurt eats a slice of pizza backstage with Courtney Love.

What’s your pre-interview research process? Do you work on this alone? There seems to be a very intensive process behind it.
Well, every week, I do an interview for my radio show on CiTR. So one interview per week. I spend about a week thinking about who I interview, and the first thing I usually do is, I look at other interviews and I see what other people are asking. I try to ask not what they’re asking. I try to ask the opposite. I try to think off the top of my head, “What would I ask this person?” I think, “Okay, I’m going up Whistler, BC on a chairlift. I’m sitting beside the person I’m supposed to interview. What would I say?

Like, who could be bothered to waste an entire week researching Snoop Doggy Dogg? People are like, 'He’s cool, but I’m not gonna spend an entire week.' Well, I could spend months.

What I’m asking actually isn’t that obscure, or isn’t that hard to find out. It’s just most people can’t be bothered to do that. Like, who could be bothered to waste an entire week researching Snoop Doggy Dogg? People are like, “He’s cool, but I’m not gonna spend an entire week.” Well, I could spend months. I love doing it. So anybody could probably get the same information, it’s just that they don’t have the time to do it.

It’s also because I’m nervous. All the time. I’m always nervous, because during my radio show, people phone up and go, “You’re boring. You gotta get a better guest.” This happened just last week. The guy didn’t even realize that I had been doing my show for a long time. But I was appreciative of him phoning in because your friends tell you what’s wrong with you, your enemies let you rot in Hell. So when I’m doing an interview or preparing for an interview, I’m thinking, “Oh god, this CiTR radio listener is gonna hear the interview, or YouTube viewer—are they gonna be bored? I better find some stuff that interests them.” So that spurs me on, too—just being scared, and trying to get that information out there. But I think a lot of people, they’re not scared, and because they are not scared, they don’t look for that information. Like, “Eh, I’m doing this interview, it’ll be no problem.” Well, the minute you’re not scared is the minute you should quit.

Yeah, being driven by fear is a strange way to live, but it’s effective. Looking back at your interviews, which was the most challenging interview that you had to set up?
Well, it probably would’ve been my interview with Nirvana. They were playing in Vancouver over a two-day period, and each day I went and tried to get this thing set up.

Were you denied?
Well, January 3rd and 4th, 1994, Nirvana were scheduled to play in Vancouver at the PNE Forum. They played in Vancouver previously, however I never had the chance to interview the full band. I did interview Krist Novoselic, but I never had the chance to interview the full band. By the time they were in Vancouver, they were super big, and they weren’t really doing any interviews. I previously had interviewed Courtney Love, so I was thinking, “Well, I interviewed Courtney Love, that’s his wife, maybe I can get an interview with Kurt.” So I showed up super early at the PNE Forum, the first day that they were playing, went into the dressing room, left a copy of the interview that I did with Courtney Love—a cassette—on Nirvana’s deli table because they weren’t there yet, and a little note: “Hey Kurt, would you like to do an interview with me? - Nardwuar.”

Right then and there, I heard some noise, and I thought it was Nirvana. It was actually the security guards. So I hid on top of some toilets. Unfortunately, I was found, and I was kicked out.

Right then and there, I heard some noise, and I thought it was Nirvana. It was actually the security guards. So I hid on top of some toilets. Unfortunately, I was found, and I was kicked out. I went back home and thought, “At least I tried. I left a note for Kurt, maybe he’ll see it, maybe he’ll give me a call.” The phone rang. I thought, “Oh my god,” but it was actually my friend Leora from CBC, who said, “There are some people from CBC who were going to interview The Butthole Surfers, who are opening for Nirvana, but they can’t make it.” She asked if I’d like to interview The Butthole Surfers for CiTR. I said, “Yeah, sure!”

So I went back down with my buddy Hugh, and we interviewed The Butthole Surfers. Afterwards—it was the same dressing room as Nirvana’s—I went up to Kurt, said, “Hey, it’s Nardwuar. I left you a little note, and I don’t know if you saw it. Here’s a cassette of my interview with Courtney. Would you do an interview with me?” And Kurt said, “Ehhh, maybe one day, but not now.” So I said, “Okay,” and went home. And I was satisfied. I gave it another shot.

Next day, I get a phone call from my Hugh again, and he asks if I was going to interview Nirvana, and I told him, “No way, I am not going to interview Nirvana today. That’s it. I had it. It’s not going to happen.” Then he asked me what I was doing that day, and I said “Nothing.” He said, “Exactly!” So I figured I'd try again. I thought they’d be staying at the Four Seasons hotel, so I went there. Who should be getting in the elevator but Dave Grohl! I ran right up to Dave, and went, “Hey Dave, it’s—”

And Dave goes, “I know you! You’re from the band, The Goblins!” I play in the Evaporators and the Goblins, and it’s weird because in the Goblins, we wear sheets over our heads so you can’t see what we look like. So I said, “Thanks Dave, I really appreciate that. I’m also with CiTR radio, and was wondering if I could interview you, and Nirvana, tonight at the PNE forum.” He’s like, “Yeah, sure, I'll put you on the guest list.”

So that night, I headed down again through the media entrance and said to the security guard, “Hi, I’m the guest list!” The people who were working the door, though, were like, “You’re Nardwuar. We kicked you out last night from the back stage. You ain’t on the guest list!” I told them that I really was on the guest list. They told me no, but I said that I spoke to Dave Grohl, and he put me on the guest list. He really put me on the guest list. They said, “No, you’ve been in this town long enough to know that you’ll never, ever get on the guest list.”

The people at the door heard us, and went, 'You can’t bring Nardwuar,' and Courtney Love turns to them and says, 'That’s my cousin Nardwuar; I can take him wherever I want.'

Right then and there, by mistake, Kurt and Courtney walked in the media entrance. I yelled at Kurt and Courtney, “Hey, Kurt and Courtney! It’s me!” Courtney yelled down at me, “Hey Nardwuar, I listened to that cassette that you gave Kurt. You gotta learn to edit me.” I said, “Okay, thanks. I appreciate that, but can I come backstage with you?” She said, “Yeah, sure, no problem.” The people at the door heard us, and went, “You can’t bring Nardwuar,” and Courtney Love turns to them and says, “That’s my cousin Nardwuar; I can take him wherever I want.”

The next thing you know, I was backstage, I went up to Courtney and asked if I could interview Kurt, and she said, “Go ahead and ask him.” I asked him, and... it happened!

It was a little awkward to watch, though. Kurt didn’t seem very interested. What was going through your mind as you were conducting the interview?
What was going through my mind was, “Hurray, I got the interview,” because after all that work, I couldn’t believe it. In fact, as I was doing it, I was wondering if the security people would kick me out. I was scared that it wouldn’t happen. It was incredible.

Do you ever feel awkward?
Oh, when do I not feel awkward? I think that should be the question!

[Nardwuar is still holding the apple slices. He eats one and offers them to me. I decline again.]

Do you get offended? I’m thinking about Kid Cudi, who walked out on you, and Nas basically threatened you. Were you offended when that happened?
No, because as I mentioned—volenti in fit injuria. Stuff like that happens. As long as it’s documented, I’m happy. As long as the video tape is capturing it. I’ve done interviews before, when the interview is over, the band that I was interviewing—Skidrow, and heavy metal band Quiet Riot—both destroyed copies of the interview. So the interview never survived. They thought it was making them look dumb. The tapes didn’t even survive. In that case, then it’s awkward. Then I get upset. But as long as the tape doesn’t get destroyed, I’m happy.

  • Mr. Finn

    Nardwaur’s the fucking mannnnnn. Dropping knowledge even in his own interview.

  • Matthew Ameel

    that was awesome, mad respect to this cat, he is the ultimate interviewer. watching his interviews are always an interesting experience. Neat to know his story too.

  • ElvisWasAHero2Most

    Thumbs up to the camera like Nardwaur!

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  • http://twitter.com/troybrowntv TroyBrownTV

    This dude is so right about fear. Anxiety is a great thing if you can channel it.