Wattie CheungThe Vaselines — featuring Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly — play

Wattie Cheung
The Vaselines — featuring Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly — play the Sub Pop stage at Bumbershoot at 8:30 p.m., Monday.

Editor’s note: Nirvana introduced the world to the Vaselines in 1994 with the release of MTV Unplugged, which featured a cover of the punk-pop duo’s “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam.” Here, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and the Vaselines’ Eugene Kelly talk about the past, the present, and the pitfalls of nostalgia.

Novoselic: Eugene, how are you?

Kelly: I’m very good, thanks.

Where are you?

I’m in Glasgow. Always in Glasgow.

How have you been?

Good, yeah, good.

I’m recording you.

Oh, you’re recording me? I’ll be very interesting, then.

Yeah, that’s the legal notice so the FBI won’t come and get me or something.


Krist Novoselic is the co-founder of Nirvana and the chairman of FairVote.

I’m going to turn you up a little bit. I’m going to turn you up, man!

Yeah, turn me up.

How’s [bandmate] Frances [McKee] doing?

She’s doing good. I think she’s away in France just now, she’s away on a yoga retreat.

Oh wow, she’s cranking the yoga. I saw her 20 years ago and she was doing yoga.

Yeah, she’s a yoga teacher now, so she’s got a studio in the back of her house, and she travels and goes on a yoga retreat every so often.

So as a musical partner, is Frances flexible?


Do you really hate the ’80s [as sung on the Vaselines’ “I Hate the ’80s”]?

I think we hate the nostalgia about the ’80s more than anything. The whole nostalgia thing just really annoys me, because it’s less interesting.

You know, nostalgia drives me crazy. It’s so pervasive. It’s everywhere. People look back at the good old days, and it’s, like, they weren’t that good.

Yeah, the ’80s were pretty terrible: The politics were terrible, the fashion was terrible, a lot of the music was terrible, and there was so much crap going on. And people look back and think the ’80s were fantastic. Well, we lived through that, and it wasn’t that great.

How’s your last record, Sex With an X, doing? I really like that record.

Thanks. We’re pretty happy with it, and I think we’re just glad we didn’t come back and just screw up. When we started, we had great fun, and we wanted to capture whatever we had 20 years ago, just writing–and that was the best part, just writing a lot. We had such a laugh, realizing this was good and making it work out for us.

Yeah, that’s the whole key, to have as much fun as possible doing music. I haven’t been doing a lot of music. Through the grace of Dave Grohl, I’ve been going down to L.A. and played with him a little bit, and I did some things on the last Foo Fighters record. I’ve actually been playing a lot of accordion. I’m obsessed with it. It’s really crazy. I don’t know what the hell happened to me. I just picked one up one day, and have had to play it every day, all the time. It’s an obsession. But I guess there’s a lot worse obsessions. You know what I mean?

There’s a great sense of instruments lately. My dad used to play a big–not an accordion, but with buttons on it.

You know, we were talking about nostalgia, but then there’s all these courts to the past, and they’re looming but you can’t cut ’em loose, because they’re so important. So that’s why [for] this interview, I thought, what do I talk to Eugene about? But it was kind of like, what have I not talked to him about? See what I’m dancing around here? It’s kind of like a Melvins Interview. I think you and the Melvins get the same questions. But I can’t deny things, and it would be actually bad to do so, but also at the same time, it would be almost cliche, you know what I mean? Do you have any insight at all not to answer the same questions, but an insight about my insight? [laughs]

People sort of before this, the guy kind of brings up Nirvana . . .

You said it! That’s what I was talking about. We can’t cut the past. It would be wrong.

You can’t deny it, because journalists were thinking that I want to talk about it, and some journalists think I don’t want to talk about it, and Frances and I, this is how we were known, because Nirvana covered our songs, and they introduced us to their audience, and some of them kind of liked it and wanted to hear some more. So that’s why we’re doing it now–because of that. I think it’s funny that some people think you want to deny that, and not talk about it, but it’s part of our story. So you can’t get around it and say we don’t want to talk about it.

Yeah, same here. I’m really proud of Nirvana and our associations–oh, there I said it–with the Vaselines, or just everything Nirvana did, so of course I’m going to talk about it or not deny it or whatever. Sometimes when I do political interviews I get really wonky about proportional representation, and then I’ll switch gears. But with music, all roads–as far as my path goes–all roads lead back to Nirvana. So that’s how it goes.

Yeah, but you have to embrace it, because that’s your story. As with our connection to Nirvana, that’s our story, and that’s where it starts. And talk about it.

Right now it’s not part of every interview, because we’re back again after 20 years, and we’ve got another record out, and hopefully another one in the future. You can talk about those things that sort of happen, now that we’re further away from the past, and we can talk about what we’re doing in the present, and that’s a good thing as well. And that’s a reason I wanted to do a new record. We wanted to be a current band. We didn’t want to be a nostalgia/heritage band. We wanted to be a modern band playing modern tunes, and also kind of a brief in the back catalog.

So what are your plans for after the tour?

My plan is to try and get all the ideas I have been working on for Vaselines songs and get them into shape, but see if any of them are going to work and get Frances and see what she’s got, and try and write some more tunes. I think we want to do another record maybe at some point next year, but we’ve got work just finishing the tunes.

So you’re just putting the songs together?

EK: Yeah, I think we – a little of what Frances has been writing, it’s a little more of an electro record. But I don’t know if she’s got any Vaselines songs yet.

Do you have any closing remarks for the interview?

Not really, no. Nothing intelligent or witty.

It was all full of intelligence and wit. Thanks, Eugene.

Yeah, nice talking to you.

Nice talking to you. Bye-bye.