Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Steve Albini Talk Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ 30th Anniversary on ‘Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend’

On a recent episode of the podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, former Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic came together with producer Steve Albini to discuss the 30th-anniversary reissue of Nirvana’s final album, In Utero, with Conan O’Brien.

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O’Brien began by mentioning In Utero was the background music to the “terror and weirdness” of the launch of his late-night show in 1993, which Grohl noted was a bit like the Nirvana experience. “We were kids [when Nirvana became popular],” said Grohl, “so to me, it’s not so much about the years it’s about the experiences that led, one after another, from three kids who were basically living out of a van, becoming a huge band, and In Utero becoming the uncomfortable soundtrack to that transition.”

“It’s great that people are interested, and that we have the opportunity to do this,” said Novoselic of the reissue. “There’s vinyl and there’s live shows … and you can just put the tonearm on a piece of vinyl and listen to Nirvana live in Rome or Los Angeles or Seattle, it can capture your imagination, you’re invited to come inside that world and experience that show.”

The reissued album is more than just In Utero. It also includes five bonus tracks and B-sides, rarities, and unreleased tracks as well. There are also two full live performances, Live in Los Angeles from 1993, and Live in Seattle from 1994, the band’s final performance there. The album itself is newly remastered from the original tapes.

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Grohl later revealed that he’s come to a point where he doesn’t measure time in years, but in albums he’s put out. For example, he said, “If you say ‘1993,’ everything comes back. And when you listen to [In Utero], to me, they’re sort of like sonic snapshots in a photo album. So when I hear the music, it brings back a lot of personal, vivid memories of just stupid shit.”

In a 1992 interview with Rolling Stone, Kurt Cobain said that In Utero would encompass “both of the extremes” of Nirvana’s sound. “It’ll be more raw with some songs and more candy pop on some of the others,” he said. “It won’t be as one-dimensional [as Nevermind].” In Cobain’s opinion, Nevermind was too polished and sounded too mainstream. He wanted the raw power of Nirvana’s grunge sound bolstered by natural acoustics in the studio, the kind of sound Albini was producing with the Pixies and PJ Harvey, for example.

When asked about the specific sound Cobain was looking for on the record, Grohl noted that it wasn’t just about the drums or the acoustics. “I think it’s the collective sound of all of those things, where no one seems to be in front of the other,” he said. “To me, it always sounds really centered, where the vocal isn’t jumping ahead of everything else … it sounds like the sound of a group in a space and really natural.”

In Utero was originally released on September 21, 1993, and was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. It was often called the best album of the year at the time and has continued to gain critical acclaim even 30 years later. According to an October 2023 report from the Official Charts Company, In Utero was the fifth most-streamed album from the ’90s in the U.K., with Nirvana’s Nevermind coming in at number four.

In Utero was recorded over six days at Pachyderm Studio in Minnesota. Now, Nirvana’s last album and their first to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 is getting a complete, expansive reissue packed with content. Out on October 27, the album is available in a few different formats: a Super Deluxe digital box set, an 8-LP limited edition box set, and a 5-CD box set, along with 1-LP, 10″, and 2-CD Deluxe editions.

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