Krist Novoselic is best known as the co-founder and bassist of Nirvana, one of the most influential music groups of the past quarter century. The release of the band’s albums Bleach, Nevermind, and In Utero in the late 1980s and early ’90s not only mainstreamed what became known as grunge but helped to forever end what was once known as the mainstream. After Nirvana, it seems there is only alternative music and alternative culture, a transformation that is both liberating and anxiety-producing.
Born in 1965 in Compton, California, but raised in Aberdeen, Washington, Novoselic (pronounced know-voe-selitch) embodies the forces Nirvana helped to unleash. Since the 1994 suicide of band leader Kurt Cobain, Novoselic has continued to play with various groups, including a stint with the legendary post-punk band Flipper and sporadic collaborations with former Nirvana bandmate Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. But the bass player is also pushing to create an alternative approach to electoral politics.
In 2004, Novoselic published Of Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix This Broken Democracy, and these days he’s chairman of FairVote, a nonprofit that lobbies for electoral reform such as instant runoffs and proportional voting. After serving as chairman of his county Democratic committee for several years and supporting Barack Obama early on, he has broken with the Democratic Party, in part because “it’s a top-down structure” impervious to change from the grassroots.
Like Nirvana’s music, Novoselic’s politics cannot be easily categorized: He has donated money to Ron Paul’s campaign and he speaks in favor of the liberal-loathed Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which ended limits on non-coordinated political spending by corporations in federal elections. He’s active in his local chapter of the fraternal farmer’s organization, the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, proving you can go from grunge to Grange.
Novoselic recently sat down with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss FairVote (4:18), gerrymandering (8:34), how he self-describes politically (11:30), the Grange (12:23), decentralization in the punk rock world (14:43), his issues with Democrats (20:00), why Republicans should embrace anarchy (22:08), why he fled the anti-World Trade Organization demonstration in Seattle (27:51), living in Croatia in 1980 (30:33), the early days of Nirvana (34:32), playing Germany just days after the Berlin Wall fell (37:46), Kurt Cobain as an individual vs. as an icon (43:20), drug legalization (45:57), going to college online (47:50), why he owns guns (51:31), his musical guilty pleasure (55:34), and more.
Interview by Gillespie; produced by Meredith Bragg. About one hour.