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“It gets in the way of originality”: Why Kurt Cobain thought it was a bad idea to get good at guitar

In this rare interview from 1993, Kurt Cobain explains to a reporter why he was never interested in honing his craft when it came to the guitar



Kurt Cobain is rightly regarded as one of the most trailblazing artists ever, the Nirvana leader ushering in a new era of rock music with his band in the early ‘90s. But whilst some of the most iconic images of Cobain are of him onstage, thrashing away at either his Fender Jaguar or Mustang, the frontman saw himself as a songwriter rather than a guitarist. To him, the idea of being a virtuoso was both an anathema and an anachronism. Even his band becoming one of the biggest groups in the world wasn’t reason enough for Cobain to try and get better at his instrument.

“I have no desire to become any better of a guitar player,” Kurt said in an interview with the German journalist Edgar Klüsener in 1993, footage of which can be found below. “I have no concept of knowing how to be a musician at all, whatsoever. I don’t know the name of chords to play, I don’t know how to do major or minor chords on a guitar. I couldn’t even pass Guitar 101. Everyone knows more than I do.”

“I’m not into musicianship at all, I don’t have any respect for it, I hate it,” Cobain continued. He said he had no inclination to learn how to read music or understand musical theory, seeing it as a waste of time. “It gets in the way of originality,” he opined.

Cobain went on to tell Klüsener that his biggest influences growing up were late 70s punk from the UK and American early 80s punk, giving you an indication of where the idea that being a smooth, skilful guitar player was a no-no might have come from. Still, maybe he was down-playing his guitar talents a bit – the solo on Smells Like Teen Spirit is a deceptively simple scorcher, and have you tried to play All Apologies and sing? It’s actually quite annoying. He doesn’t get out his guitar here though, instead the band obediently stand on what looks like a pier in Seattle for 42 minutes of questioning, with the odd political and psychedelic diversion instigated by Krist Novoselic.

Check out the full interview below.