COBAIN: Probably `84. I keep trying to get this story right chronologically, and I just can't. My first exposure to punk rock came when Creem started covering the Sex Pistols' U.S. tour. I would read about them and just fantasize about how amazing it would be to hear their music and to be a part of it. But I was like 11 years old, and I couldn't possibly have followed them on the tour. The thought of just going to Seattle which was only 200 miles away was impossible. My parents took me to Seattle probably three times in my life, from what I can remember, and those were on family trips.
After that, I was always trying to find punk rock, but of course they didn't have it in our record shop in Aberdeen. The first punk rock I was able to buy was probably Devo and Oingo Boingo and stuff like that; that stuff finally leaked into Aberdeen many years after the fact.
Then, finally, in 1984 a friend of mine named Buzz Osborne [Melvins singer/guitarist] made me a couple of compilation tapes with Black Flag and Flipper, everything, all the most popular punk rock bands, and I was completely blown away. I'd finally found my calling. That very same day, I cut my hair short. I would lip sync to those tapes I played them every day and it was the greatest thing. I'd already been playing guitar by then for a couple of years, and I was trying to play my own style of punk rock, or what I imagined that it was. I knew it was fast and had a lot of distortion.
Punk expressed the way I felt socially and politically. There were so many things going on at once. It expressed the anger that I felt the alienation. It also helped open my eyes to what I didn't like about metal bands like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. While I really did enjoy, and still do enjoy, some of the melodies those bands have written, I suddenly realized I didn't like their sexist attitudes the way that they just wrote about their dicks and having sex. That stuff bored me.
GW: When did you start to think about sexism? Was it an outgrowth of your interest in punk?
COBAIN: No, it was before that. I could never find any good male friends, so I ended up hanging out with the girls a lot, and I just felt that they weren't being treated equally and they weren't treated with respect. I hated the way Aberdeen treated women in general they were just totally oppressed. The words "bitch" and "cunt" were totally common, you'd hear them all the time. But it took me many years after the fact to realize those were the things that were bothering me. I was just starting to understand what was pissing me off so much, and in the last couple of years of high school, I found punk rock and it all came together. I finally understood that I wasn't retarded, you know?
GW: Did you ever have problems with people thinking you were gay?
COBAIN: Yeah. Even I thought that I was gay. Although I never experimented with it, I thought that might be the solution to my problem. I had a gay friend, and that was the only time that I ever experienced real confrontation from people. Like I said, for so many years they were basically afraid of me, but when I started hanging out with this guy, Myer Loftin, who was known to be gay, they started giving me a lot of shit, trying to beat me up and stuff. Then my mother wouldn't allow me to be friends with him anymore because she's homophobic.
GW: So did you stop?
COBAIN: Yeah. It was real devastating because finally I'd found a male friend who I could actually talk to and be affectionate with, and I was told I couldn't hang out with him anymore. Around that same time, I was putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. He played a big role in that.