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  • 9/25/2004

Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic tells his tale

Twelve years ago this week, Krist Novoselic capped Nirvana"s MTV Music Awards performance by tossing his bass guitar in the air and catching it on the ear, rendering him unconscious. Which got him thinking.

Maybe he should run for office.

"I know I could do the job. The selling point is the possibility to, like, do whatever you want," says Novoselic, who made the papers this past fall for considering a race against Brad Owen for Washington State’s lieutenant-governor post.

Instead, Novoselic wrote a book, "Of Grunge and Government: Let"s Fix This Broken Democracy" (RDV/Akashic Books, $9.95). It wraps up his 39-year evolution from a child of Croatian-immigrant parents to grunge icon to successful political activist.

The 103-page missive"s premise is this: In the early 1990s, young people hungry for alternative thought bought records by Nirvana -- the rock band Novoselic formed with Kurt Cobain inAberdeen in 1987 -- thus changing the way the music industry recruited and marketed its artists. Why can"t today"s kids do the same for the U.S. political system?

"We need a new wave of democracy," Novoselic says. "It"s a shame that too many people are not participating in the political system. I argue that it"s because the electoral system has barriers to stifle our participation. People are cynical and disconnected, and that"s not what America is supposed to be about."

Novoselic"s interest started at age 19, when he voted in his first election after hearing that President Reagan supported cutting funds for his after-school employment program.

"There weren"t a lot of job opportunities in Aberdeen," he says. "I thought, "Hey, this is a good idea, and it might get me into a career in house-painting." Then I guess I switched gears."

Teenage angst paid off well, but politics played on Novoselic"s mind. In 1995, he founded Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Action Committee, which supported pro-music issues and candidates. Its greatest victory came in 2002, when it helped convinceSeattle officials that repealing the city"s Teen Dance Ordinance would benefit under-age concertgoers as well as the local economy.

He also took part in World Trade Organization protests with Jello Biafra and Soundgarden"s Kim Thayil and is active in Music forAmerica, a Democratic voter-advocacy group.

Known for years as Cobain"s goofy and gangly (Novoselic stands 6 feet, 7 inches) sidekick, Novoselic now resides in Wahkiakum County, a region of 4,000 folks in southwestWashington state. He"s a member of his local grange. And yeah, he"s one of its youngest: "Why can"t the local Elks lodge host a Bhutto performance on the inequalities of globalization? How about a poetry slam at the Eagles Hall about media consolidation?" he writes in "Of Grunge and Government."

Novoselic also advocates instant-runoff voting and restructuring the state House from 49 districts with two representatives apiece to nine "Super-Districts," each electing 11 officials.

It"s a lot to take on a debut book tour -- "It"s great not having to haul any equipment for this one," he says -- but Novoselic says he welcomes debate. Though he"s never taken a political-science or business class.

"But I"m not a trained musician, either."


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