Then & now Krist Novoselic, musician

IT WAS 20 YEARS ago this month that three grungy-looking guys in lumber shirts and torn jeans crashed the rock’n’roll party with…

IT WAS 20 YEARS ago this month that three grungy-looking guys in lumber shirts and torn jeans crashed the rock'n'roll party with their second album, Nevermind.In autumn 1991, speakers around the world were being blown by the sound of their massive hit single Smells Like Teen Spirit, and the world was going wild for that crazy new noise called grunge.

We all know what happened to the band’s singer, Kurt Cobain: he went to that great gig in the sky in 1994, but his influence endures in every raspy-voiced slacker with a guitar and an attitude. The band’s drummer, Dave Grohl, stepped out from behind the kit to front his own band, Foo Fighters, and conquered the world all over again. They may be the Wings to Nirvana’s Beatles, but they still rock righteously.

But what became of the band's lanky Croatian-American bassist Krist Novoselic? His pounding bass sound defined such Nirvana classics as Come As You Are, but these days he's also banging on the doors of power, as a committed political activist and an informed commentator on local and national issues.

Novoselic was born in California, but his Croatian parents moved the family to Aberdeen, Washington, where young Krist met local boy Kurt Cobain, who was playing in a band called Fecal Matter. Although the bassist towered over the hunched-up young guitarist and singer, they found they were on the same musical level, and decided to form a band together.


World domination, however, didn't immediately follow. After a couple of failed attempts to get a band off the ground – including a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band – Kurt and Krist hooked up with drummer Chad Channing, called themselves Nirvana (much to the annoyance of the 1960s Irish psychedelic band of the same name), and released their debut album, Bleach. Dave Grohl took over as drummer for their major label sophomore album, Nevermind. The album has to date sold around 30 million copies.

The next couple of years were a whirlwind of rock’n’roll excess, as Nirvana became huge, and Cobain became the strung-out poster boy for Generation X. When Cobain killed himself in 1994, Novoselic retreated from the rock scene to grieve for his closest friend. There was talk of him joining Grohl’s new band, but both men feared it would be seen as Nirvana Mk II, so Krist formed his own band, Sweet 75. After their album flopped, he formed Eyes Adrift, but they didn’t get a look-in to the charts either. Disillusioned, Novoselic announced his retirement from the music business.

Novoselic soon found a new passion – lobbying for electoral reform and becoming an advocate for local musicians. He formed Jampac, the Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee, which fought for young music fans’ right to party. He wrote a music and politics blog for the Seattle Weekly in which he displayed an astonishing knowledge and understanding of complex electoral issues and obscure rock bands. Last year, fellow columnist Duff McKagan from Guns’N’Roses only half-jokingly suggested he and Novoselic should run for the 2012 US presidential election.

Last year, Novoselic announced he was quitting his column to go back to college, but he still hasn't quit the music biz. On the Foo Fighters' latest album, Wasting Light, he plays bass and accordion on a track called I Should Have Known.