Krist Novoselic: “The bass got caught in the TV lights – and then boom!”

Nirvana during 1992 MTV Video Music Awards - Rehearsals at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, United States
(Image credit: Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Despite taking home two awards for New Artist and Alternative Video for Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana’s night at the 1992 MTV Awards was largely one to forget for bassist Krist Novoselic.

Having already found himself in the middle of a fracas with Guns ‘N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, the Nirvana bassist went on to accidentally knock himself out with his bass. Lauded as the worst bass guitar throw in rock history, the resulting head wound eventually led to a shared glass of champagne with Queen’s Brian May.

“Oh, that was mega!” says Krist Novoselic. “We started playing this song and my amp just didn’t work. So I thought, ‘I’m gonna do this bass toss and walk off’. Well, the bass got caught in the TV lights, and then boom! It fell on my head. So I storm off stage, and these paramedics come and take a look at me and put a bandage on and I had to sign all these release forms so I’m not gonna sue anybody. It was in front of 200 million people, right?" 

Having been signed off by the onsite paramedics, Novoselic was surprised to receive some additional treatment from Queen guitarist Brian May.

"So I’m all annoyed, right, and I’m like ‘What the hell!’ and behind them there is this amazing fellow, with a glass of champagne. It’s Brian May! Just standing there politely. He says ‘Here you are, my good man’ and he hands me this glass of champagne.

"I was like ‘You’re Brian May! How are you?’ and he said, ‘More importantly, how are you?’ Moments later Dave Grohl burst in. He'd been looking all over for me, only to find me enjoying a calm glass of bubbly with Mr. May."

Anyone familiar with Nirvana’s albums, or even solely with Nevermind – their biggest seller – will know that Novoselic made a point of laying down simple, effective bass parts with a tone to die for.

“I’ve learned that countless people have learned to play bass from listening to those records," he says. "They’re simple, melodic basslines, which is what you need when you’re starting out.”

Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana

(Image credit: Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

30 years later, it’s impossible to deny the sea-change brought about by Nirvana. Even if grunge lasted no longer than Cobain himself, who drew a line under his career in the most permanent way possible in April 1994. These songs are his lasting legacy.

“I was really fortunate that I got to work with Kurt: he was such a talented songwriter and he had a real ear for a hook, so as far as I was concerned playing bass with him was super-easy.”

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Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.