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Celebrating Nirvana – 20 Years On

In honour of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s death, HTF staff and current musicians share their thoughts on why Nirvana is still as relevant today as they were 20 years ago.

Source: Press Shot

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana vocalist and songwriter, Kurt Cobain‘s untimely death. His sad demise meant the end for the band, a loss which left a huge hole in the music industry and one that has never been filled in quite the same way.

In honour of the great man himself – a generation’s unconventional spokesman and an inspiration to countless generations after – we at HTF have invited both staff and a variety of current musicians to share their thoughts on why Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are still as relevant today as they were 20 years ago.
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Chris Hines – Editor In Chief

Nirvana were a huge influence on me in my teen years. Having recently scrapped my vast collection of underground rave tapes at the age of around 13 after hearing Sound Garden’s ‘Spoon Man’ for the first time I quickly caught on to Nirvana and was instantly a mega-fan. I had the t-shirts, the albums, the bootlegs and me and my friend John even put together our own mixtape of B-Sides and Rarities we’d discovered.

Being a Nirvana fan back then felt like you were part of some elite group. It was such a contrast from the popular music of the time and Nirvana really touched a whole generation of kids who felt outside the mainstream, bringing together a whole scene. Fronting that movement was Kurt Cobain – an unlikely role model with his baggy clothes, long hair and gritty vocals – he became the poster-boy of the grunge movement and one of the biggest influences in modern rock music. From the classic opening riff of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘, the crazed disorder of ‘Senseless Apprentice‘ and the the rawness of ‘Negative Creep‘, Nirvana created a rock powerhouse which spiralled them into success and ultimately ended Kurt’s life as fame became too much.

Nirvana were such an influence on me that there a strong chance HTF would never have even existed if it wasn’t for them. They helped shape my whole interest in music. They will always be one of the most influential bands of our time and Kurt will forever live on as one of rocks greatest!


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Martin-john Mcdonnell – Indie Editor

Nirvana to me, are the band that opened up a million and one musical horizons, turning me from a Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chief loving fop into a hardened (if slightly cocky) Alt rocker. It wasn’t so much the angst I connected with, but the energy. As a result of In Utero and then Nevermind (weird order I know), I was suddenly chasing down anything with a similar energy and vibe.

I plunged into the alt scene big time, with the help of my best mate at the time. Together we explored Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees and Tad. With my influences growing, I finally felt ready to learn guitar and my amazing teacher (with a passing resemblance to a stoner Jesus/Dylan the Rabbit from The Magic Roundabout) pushed those tastes and my devil may care attitude to guitar towards bands like Pavement, Dinosaur JR and Hole from the Alt side of things, as well as Big Star, The Modern Lovers and so many more.

I’m not saying Nirvana single handily did that, but they sure as heck helped me make that final push to picking up and plugging in.

All these years on from Kurt’s death, it’s amazing to think that Nirvana are still getting runt-ish teens like me to pick up the guitar and make some noise…that ladies and gents is the real Nirvana legacy!
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Emma Matthews – Fashion Editor

What makes Nirvana special is the fact they’ve influenced so people from all different backgrounds. A lyrical genius in his own right, sure Kurt could write a song or three but he was by no means virtuoso minded. He didn’t grow up from a musical background. He didn’t have anyone to guide him. He learnt as he went along and he did it for no other reason than his love for music.

The band weren’t interested in the mainstream or conforming to the establishment. Instead they did what they loved in one of the rawest most basic ways possible. Everything from their unpolished image to troubled attitudes truly reflected them and if you didn’t like it they’d show you the middle finger. Live shows weren’t over the top or outlandish. They were simple and to some extent, reminded people of what a rock set should be like.

I think it was this straightforward background that worked so well for them as a band, especially during a time where celebrity culture was beginning to peak. Kurt was a living example that people could do whatever they wanted if they put their mind to it, no matter where they come from or how they were bought up. He infused creativity in every possible way and gave your every day person the permission to create music.
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Jamie Hampshire – Contributor

For a long time, Nirvana was always something that happened to other people. When I was first on the road to rock fandom, friends who were ardent fans waxed lyrical about how great they were, how important and revolutionary their sound was. That, coupled with video channels endlessly repeating ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, and a stint in a covers band where that was our only song, shoved Kurt and Co far into my peripherals.

It wasn’t until I went back to their Bleach era that I finally understood what all the fuss was about. Their visceral, edgy and at times inaccessible sound continues to influence many of the greatest contemporary rock and metal acts around twenty years on. Often imitated but rarely out done and still just as vital and relevant as they were in the 90’s. Even if you don’t like Nirvana, you have a lot to thank them for.

Especially killing off Glam Metal.
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James Matthews – Contributor

The first time I ever heard Nirvana was when I was 6 years old back in 1991. I remember seeing (of course) ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on the TV (I think it was probably on Raw Power, or some kind of MTV related program). My mum actually bought me the cassettes for Nevermind and Bleach at the local outdoor market for £3 for the both of them! Bootleg or not, I found some pretty amazing music.

Since then I fell in love with Nirvana, capturing most bootleg audio performances, way before ‘With The Lights Out‘ came out.

The importance Nirvana had for me, was a sense that you could take something so chaotic and so unhinged, and make it sound so beautiful. That you did not have to sing with precision and perfect pitch, but just express yourself with your soul. Even now I still get wonderful memories of trashing my bedroom to ‘Territorial Pissings‘ and ‘Sliver‘ when I was 9/10 years old! But other than that, I was also privileged enough to hold AND play one of Kurt Cobain’s guitars whilst at the Hard Rock Vault in Florida… that was such a spine chilling moment… a true part of time that I will never forget.

Oh yeah, and Nirvana’s Unplugged performance is still one of the finest Unplugged recordings ever made.
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Amy Jones – Recruitment/Contributor

That first listen to a Nirvana song is a right of passage for most of us – few can forget that first track, the one that changed our lives forever, opening up an entirely different world. For me, that track was, of course, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (as I imagine it was for the majority of us).

Nirvana were the first ‘proper’ band that I ever listened to and Bleach was the first ‘proper’ album I owned. Almost shamefully though, it was my younger sister who introduced me to Nirvana but ever since then the two of us have hooked.

It sounds almost cliché for us all to write about what a impact one band had, but it’s true! It’s shocking to think of how many bands/artists/labels/rock music fans couldn’t have existed without Nirvana – the most obvious being Foo Fighters (and who would want to live in a world without Dave Grohl?) as well as Biffy Clyro, Weezer and Blink 182 to name just a small fraction.

Kurt’s music may only now live on in the CD players and ipods of a generation who weren’t even born at the time of his death, but in all honesty isn’t that the sign of a true genius and musical hero? It seems unlikely that there will ever be a time when a kid won’t be hearing that first song and becoming inspired beyond belief. The spokesman for angst and revolution through music may be gone but thanks to his impecible and universally bonding songwriting abilities, he will never be forgotten.

Source: Official Website / Anton Corijn

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Dan Parkinson – Lead Guitarist, Kids Can’t Fly

It’s a big feat to be able to have such an impact on people even after your death. Kurt has, whether that be in a positive or negative way.
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Jono Yates – Guitarist, Blitz Kids

Nirvana changed everything. Before them, rock was all about who had the most socks shoved down their stripey leggings, or who had the biggest perm. They came in and smashed the shit out of all that bollocks. After 20 years, they’re still exciting to listen to. That’s pretty fucking rare.
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Tom Kavanagh – Vocalist, I Divide

Kurt Cobain was one of the most influential rock stars of the 90’s. He changed the world for millions of people. He wrote some of the most timeless rock/grunge songs to date, all filled with such raw emotion. April 5th, 1994 was not only the death of him, but also the beginning of his legacy. There are very few artists in history who have continued to have such an impact on music after their death as Kurt.
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Jim Thomas – Vocalist, Natives

I was a late bloomer when it came to Nirvana. I was really young when Kurt passed away and was introduced to them through my brother in about 97/98. I remember being a nipper and playing/singing Nirvana songs in my school’s music room. Nevermind for me is the staple Nirvana record. It’s obviously their most commercial but I think that it’s perfect mix of grunge and pop and it worked perfectly. It’s what made them the band they’ll always be remembered as!
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Sean Smith – Vocalist, The Blackout

I didn’t even know Kurt was dead! The way he’s in every rock magazine with a new interview/photograph every week. Sad news.
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Joe Dexter (@JoeDexterMusic) – Vocalist/Bassist, Orange

Its hard to think of anything but iconic when you think of Kurt Cobain. 20 years after death and he is still as relevant to today’s teenagers as he was to all of us in the 90’s. His angst driven lyrics mixed with his natural pop sensibilities blazing through blinding distortion made Nirvana stand out from the rest in the – then emerging – Grunge scene stemming from Seattle.

But enough about history, lets talk about what Nirvana meant and did for music then and the inevitable now. Nirvana opened the doors for punk and rock music to become a relevant genre on mainstream radio. Think about it… No Nirvana would mean no radio or TV play for Green Day, no Offspring, no Rancid, no Bush, no Pearl Jam – WAIT – … maybe that would have been for the best though.

My point is before Nirvana everything was different and once they hit mainstream nothing would ever be the same. Even after Kurt’s death from the ashes rose Foo Fighters, one of the best modern rock bands ever. You don’t have to be a fan of Kurt’s music but it would be criminal not be thankful for how many doors they opened for us all.
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Nic Matthews – Vocalist, The Afterparty

I remember first hearing Nirvana in my early teens when my Dad played me the band’s album Nevermind. Kurt Cobain’s dark and deep lyrical content combined with the bands grungy tones had me instantly hooked. Cobain had not only introduced me to a new style of rock music but he was a massive inspiration when I began writing my own lyrics and started playing guitar.
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Benji Havercroft – Drummer, Out For Tomorrow

You can hear Kurt Cobain’s influence in a lot bands nowadays, to it’s raw sounding and emotional song writing we have today. Nirvana was one of those bands that definitely got me started in music. As a musician I take a lot of that organic style on board and, without knowing, bring it to the table. Kurt Cobain will always be a big influence in music, from here and now on.
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Stefan Whiting – Bassist, (ex) Against The Flood

Nirvana for me defines nostalgia in so many ways. Every time I spin Kurt’s raspy voice, I remember why we all, as musicians, started playing. Why we all started putting those first few chords together and play loudly and out of tune for the first as kids… passion.

Passion is Cobain. As we get older and wiser and technology becomes more advance that it even wipes our ass for us in the studio, I feel life is being sucked from records left, right and centre. Raw energy, emotion and the hunger to create in a band is hard to come across these days, something Novoselic, Grohl and Cobain had effortlessly. For me, Kurt is the essence of not only grunge, but for a period of time that will in fact remain timeless.
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Zaid Elgahmi – Vocalist, Beyond Recall

Not one kid who picked up a guitar could ever deny they wanted to learn the riff from ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and not one band could ever deny that they wanted that Nirvana stage presence. Kurt set a standard for bands today and we wouldn’t have our heroes if it wasn’t for him.
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Si Phillips – Vocalist/Guitarist, The Valiant

When I first heard Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, it was the first bridge I crossed into alternative music and the main reason I started playing guitar. Nirvana songs were all I learnt and played when I first started. His songs spoke to me and many others in ways that no other artists did. Kurt Cobain was a massive influence on me and always will be.

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