Nirvana co-founder Krist Novoselic is packing up his instrument following the universal apathy displayed for Eyes Adrift, the alt-country band he formed in late 2001 with Meat Puppets guitarist Curt Kirkwood and Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh.
“I quit,” he wrote in a post on the band’s official Web site. “I can’t deal. I can’t read the magazines, listen to the radio or watch music television without feeling like I’ve just come in from outer space. I just don’t get it and I probably never did.”
Novoselic’s frustrations stem from being typecast as a hard rock performer, and from the recent disinterest he’s received from industry executives. Although many labels were initially interested in Eyes Adrift, they balked when they heard the project, which was acoustic and sprawling and never really kicked out the jams. As a result, the album was released through an independent label, and was quickly forgotten. Novoselic estimates that it sold, at most, 20,000 copies, and the band’s shows were often sparsely attended. His quirky 1997 record with the band Sweet 75 didn’t do much better.
“People [still] walk up to me and ask me about Sweet 69 or Sweet 76 or whatever tortured recollection of that musical triumph they can muster,” he lamented. “My lot in life is that every band I’ve ever been in just falls apart.”
As the bassist for Nirvana, Novoselic had his grunge cake and ate it, too, which was part of the problem. He reaped the rewards of being a rock star, yet maintained his position as a viable member of the counterculture. Anchored by the brilliant songwriting and genuine agony of frontman Kurt Cobain and the pummeling drumming of Dave Grohl, Nirvana could do no wrong.
However, when the band broke up in 1994 after Cobain’s suicide, Novoselic chose at first to focus on Seattle politics, and only dabble in music. Since he was financially secure enough to not have to worry about commercial success, when he finally decided to return to rock, he ignored the mainstream and took musical chances, none of which paid off.
Sweet 75 formed in 1995, released their self-titled debut and briefly toured. They planned to get back together in 2000 after Novoselic worked with former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra and ex-Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil on the one-off No WTO Combo, which formed just to protest the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle in 1999. But musical differences kept Sweet 75 apart. And Eyes Adrift was adrift at sea before it began because no one was ready to hear rambling country rock from the man who used to play hook-filled noise and smash his instrument to bits onstage.
“We set out to make the best record we could, but there was no idea behind Eyes Adrift or a fashion statement or ideal,” Novoselic told MTV radio late last year.
While Novoselic has had a tough time getting back in with crowds that once adored him, Grohl has been very successful with Foo Fighters. This may have something to do with Grohl’s strong songwriting, but more importantly, the drummer-turned-frontman strived for mainstream popularity and worked hard to achieve it, even tapping into some of the dynamics that made Nirvana so exciting. Novoselic did just the opposite.
“Nirvana stuff only goes so far for myself,” Novoselic told MTV. “I was in the band and I made the music, but life goes on, and people change and they get older.”
While Novoselic harbors no animosity toward Grohl, he’s frustrated by the way many new bands mold themselves after what’s popular and labels homogenize what’s good into what’s marketable.
“There’s art and then there’s commerce,” he said. “Much of what you see in music is really contrived. People see something, and they jump all over it. It’s almost like Armageddon.”
In the future, Novoselic plans to focus his efforts on politics, and will continue to promote what he refers to on the site as “inclusion, fairness and freedom.” He also hopes to keep jamming with Kirkwood and Gaugh, but has no plans to release any more records.