Nirvana's Krist Novoselic on Punk, FairVote, Why He Dumped the Dems, & Why the GOP Should Embrace Anarchy

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 Colorado 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.

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  • Antilles||

    The title alone told me this was a Nick Gillespie story... Do you think I've been spending too much time here?

  • Hugh Akston||'s preposed reforms

    Except for instant runoffs, they all seem like turrbul ideas. Especially the national popular vote for president. And especially universal registration.

  • Almanian!||

    Not gonna click, cause the two you've listed indicate "PEAK DERP AHEAD! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!"

    Thanks for the warning, Hugh - I'll pass...

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Is universal registration necessarily a bad thing? It's not necessarily "mandatory" voting. I don't know. Is there anything potentially dangerous with having your name in a voter registry.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's not a matter of danger. It's a matter of me not wanting to be registered. Why should I be denied that freedom?

  • Caleb Turberville||

    True. I don't agree with mandatory registration. I just wish that if we're going to have registration, I would like for it to be permanent and without the need for constant updates (unless, of course, you decided to voluntarily withdraw your name from the registry).

  • Virginian||

    Is universal registration necessarily a bad thing?

    Universal registration is very useful for fraud.

  • JWatts||

    I don't think Universal Registration has to be a bad thing. I think any implementation of it in the current political environment would be terrible.

    That being said, as dangerous as it sounds, I'd be open to a Federal elections database, that would restrict voters to one vote per Federal election. The current system has hundreds of thousands of voters voting in multiple jurisdictions (usually in two different states) every year.

  • Rich||

    Wanna read more about universal registration?

    Tough shit.

  • Almanian!||

    Rock is dead, they say.

    Long live rock.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Can Krist please tell his buddy Dave Grohl to stop being so lazy and put effort into his songwriting? Seriously, the Foo Fighters haven't released a good album since The Colour and the Shape. Now, they're a slightly more tolerable Nickelback.

  • Jordan||

    Supposedly, their next album will feature horns. I can't imagine that turning out well.

    Still, I've liked a few of their recent songs like The Pretender.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    They sound too much like a power ballad band and not a straight-ahead hard rock group.

  • BoscoH||

    I would totally like him and Mick Fleetwood anchoring Grunge v. Rock basketball teams.

  • John||

    Kurt Cobaine is the most overrated rock star of all time.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Yeah. But Nevermind is a fine pop-punk album. It's better than Green Day's Dookie.

  • Square||

    It's amazing what dying young does to your reputation for being a genius. Can you imagine what we would think of Jim Morrison if he were still alive?

  • The Last American Hero||

    We'd probably hate him for doing the Christmas album with Michael Buble.

  • Shmurphy||

    Krist also spoke with Michael W. Dean and Neema Vedadi, AKA the Freedom Feens, on their podcast last year.

  • cgr2727||

    Did anyone else shed a tear for their lost youth when they saw a photo of a former member of Nirvana who now looks like my high school band director?

  • toolkien||

    Of course it's even sadder that I'm old enough to consider Nirvana's "brilliant new sound" as a bit old hat when it came out. I was lucky enough to have a quality high school radio station that played a lot of college-rock format stuff from the late 70's on. I also got WXRT out of Chicago that played alternative and new wave. So when Nirvana came on the scene I just didn't get what all the excitement was about. I'd heard most of it before (and usually better). Ironically, the only thing I found "fresh" from Nirvana is when they had their turn on MTV's unplugged and they did a whole bunch of covers - I liked their take on a bunch of the songs by other people. Their own stuff? Derivative and simply not as good.

    As for the politics, I applaud anyone who rationally throws aside the "two" party system. I probably won't agree with them on everything, or maybe even a majority, but at least you have a chance to have a real conversation instead of a shill replaying talking points.

  • Not a Libertarian||


  • tonguesandelbows||

    I thought the Jacket said we shouldn't care what pop culture figures said? Make up your mind!

  • Homple||

    First industrial hemp and now some geezer from Nirvana? Are these inside jokes that I'm just not in on? Please let it be so.

  • american socialist||

    Yeah, man. Next up on Reason we're gonna have Kennedy joining in so we can have washed-up right winger and washed up MTV VJ interviewing washed up bassist and washed-up wannabe anarchist. Awesome. Psst, to Reason editor. Name-dropping band members who haven't put out a good album since 1993 (and that may be a stretch) maybe isn't the best way to attract the hordes of libertarian youth out there who are dying to join the Ron Paul REVOLUTION.

  • wwhorton||

    Reason isn't the Politburo or Central Committee for the Libertarian Party or libertarianism in general. There really isn't one, because it doesn't work like the Soviet-style, top-down, centrally-planned Orwellian nightmare-states you're familiar with.

    Then again, why am I wasting my time posting a reply to someone who thinks that violence is not only acceptable but laudable if it's performed by people with the "correct" politics?

  • craiginmass||

    "it doesn't work like the Soviet-style, top-down, centrally-planned Orwellian nightmare-states you're familiar with"

    Actually, it totally does because the entire modern underpinnings of so-called libertarians would hardly exist (a tiny speck) if not for the Kochs and a couple other authoritarian billionaires creating numerous institutions to give it some cred.

    Modern libertarianism is basically belief in the corporations - or, one dollar=one vote.

  • JWatts||

    "Actually, it totally does because the entire modern underpinnings of so-called libertarians would hardly exist (a tiny speck) if not for the Kochs and a couple other authoritarian billionaires creating numerous institutions to give it some cred."

    Those straws won't grasp themselves. Good job!

  • NealAppeal||

    Name-dropping band members who haven't put out a good album since 1993 (and that may be a stretch)

    Dems seem to have a lot of these hangin' around their political tour bus rallies.

  • NebulousFocus||

    The Eich case at Mozilla should give him more pause over banning anonymous speech. He also ignores the possibility of government retribution.

  • craiginmass||

    The far right has so few celebs that they really have to dig hard and far......after all, when Dennis Miller ends up being your top comedian (he is NOT funny), you have to wonder.
    Speaking of Miller, he really pimped the Iraq War as I remember. I wonder if he's, like the Beckster, admitted that we liberals were 100% correct?

    Oh, I guess he's still all in! Yesterday:
    "Miller said it was a “mistake” to call the 2003 Iraq invasion a mistake"

  • JWatts||

    "that we liberals were 100% correct?"

    You mean the liberal's like Warhawk Hillary Clinton?

    I'm looking forward to you pimping for her in the next election. Because we all know that you'll be pulling the lever by her name if she wins the Democratic primary.

  • craiginmass||

    I don't really like Hillary - the Clintons are right of center in many ways, especially her.

    But I rest my case. The votes in Congress clearly show that virtually 100% of the GOP were warmongers, while only about 35-40% of the Dems went for it (of course, many of the Dems who were pro-war are not liberals)...

    So, which is better? Pop Quiz?

    A party where 100% of their representatives votes for war.


    A party where 35% of theirs do?
    Tough one - I know! I'll let you ponder it for a while and get back to us.

  • KRoyall||

    Oh great, the dumbest member of a notoriously stupid band, made dumber by clobbering himself with his own bass.

  • Agent Cupcake||

    I freaking love Nirvana, and Krist seems like a great guy, but that dude doesn't seem to be able to have a cogent conversation.

  • phillman||

    Same old leftist tripe that all other artists engage in. Funny, how they claim to be such free thinkers, yet they agree with 99% of Democrat ideology. When one of them breaks out and only accepts 90% of it, they get an interview with Reason because of some vain hope that they have awakened.

  • phillman||

    I checked out his Fairvote organization, and it is mostly comprised of staffers from Democrat politicians. The whole thing is designed to get more votes for Democrats and eliminate any state control of voting processes in favor of federal control.

  • craiginmass||

    True dat - and as republicans have chanted for many decades "We don't want more people voting".....

    Without being able to manipulate things on the state level (think 2000 in FL and 2004 in Ohio), the Grand Ole Party would not have a chance....

    The only hope is voter suppression, gerrymandering, etc.

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