SXSW: Krist Novoselic talks politics and music

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During his panel, musician Krist Novoselic discussed his political action with FairVote, entertained some Nirvana-related questions at the end and even took on a surprise Nardwuar interview.

The main topic of discussion during the event, however, was gerrymandering, something Novoselic has strived to prevent and solve with the political action group he chairs, FairVote. However, it wasn’t an easy jump from being the bassist of Nirvana to a political activist.

“Seattle music was taking the world by storm,” Novoselic said. “We were getting no respect there, though. Censorship laws stopped us. We started to advocate that our community is an asset and we started to change perspectives toward the music industry. That started it all.”

During the talk, Novoselic called on the listeners to take action, using his organization’s proposed legislation to replace gerrymandered districts with larger, multi-representative districts.

“It’s what the voters want,” Novoselic said. “We pay taxes and are subject to the laws. But then we give our sovereignty away to these hacks.”

After opening the panel to questions, 15 minutes were left to discuss music. And contrary to one might think, Novoselic doesn’t believe musicians are obligated to include politics in their music.

“We don’t really know what music is,” Novoselic said. “It can make us laugh, it can make us cry. With music being political, that’s up to the artist. If you want to be explicit, you risk dating yourself.”

Novoselic retold his story of enrolling and graduating from Washington State University.

“One kid had a Nirvana shirt - he didn’t even recognize me,” Novoselic said. “I was doing homework in the studio with Paul McCartney. I had [producer] Butch Vig proofread an assignment of me.”

Toward the last four minutes of the panel, acclaimed music interviewer Nardwuar made a surprise appearance, jumping on stage and remind Novoselic of the time he interviewed Nirvana. After a heavy-handed and serious discussion of politics, Nardwuar’s interview helped end the panel on a positive note.