The Krist Novoselic bass rig has been a mystery for many years since the early demise of Nirvana. In this post, we look at his Ibanez Eagles, the real deal with the Gibson signature bass and his love of Mesa Boogie.
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Krist was born in Compton, California on 16 May 1965. Born the son of Croatian immigrants, his parents moved to the United States two years prior in 1963. The family would then relocate to Aberdeen Washington in 1979.
Krist’s musicial influences
Before we look at the Krist Novoselic bass rig, we look at his first foray into the world of music. Where Krist would be found was listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Devo, Black Sabbath, and Aerosmith. He was also forced to play the accordion by his parents.
Not long after this, Krist would suffer from a spell of depression and his parents decided to send him to family over in Croatia – then part of Yugoslavia for a change of scenery. It would be here he would first be introduced to Punk Rock by way of the Sex Pistols and The Ramones but admitted;
“ It didn’t mean anything to me, it was just music that I liked”.
Krist’s first equipment and the Mustang guitar
He returned to the US one year later in better spirits, put his head down in school and started a healthy work ethic. After saving up some cash, he would buy his first electric guitar which possibly could have been a Fender Mustang.
He also took up lessons and coincidently shared the same guitar teacher as a young Kurt Cobain.
When Krist met the Guru – Buzz Osborne (1983)
One night in 1983, whilst working at a Taco Bell. Krist met Buzz Osborne, singer guitarist from local band The Melvins.
Krist mentioned that he played guitar and later Osborne would invite him to hang out in Montesano Washington.
“Buzz was the punk rock guru of Aberdeen. He’s the guy who spread the good news around town, but to only the most deserving”
“It was buzz, he lent me his generic flipper record. I’m laying on this water bed listening to generic flipper and I was like whoa! This is amazing! This is like total art. I had this epiphany. You can do anything you want and you can just take it or leave it That was the epiphany of punk rock.”
A bright eyed blond haired Kurt Cobain would share a similar mind expanding experience through Buzz Osborne. Not long after, Krist and Kurt would both find themselves orbiting the social circle around the Melvins rehearsal space.
When Krist first met Kurt Cobain (1983)
There are many tellings of how Krist met Kurt and they are all very vague with subtle variations on the dates, locations and the happenings.
A telling of this story is that Krist’s younger brother Robert introduced Kurt. While elements of this are true, they were already aware of each other prior to this meet. When asked in an interview “how’d you first meet Kurt?” Krist would respond;
He hung around my brother, and my brother told him I listened to punk-rock. So Kurt came around and he gave me a tape that he made of these songs. I listened to it and got really excited Hey, let’s start a band.
But see, we’re getting ahead of ourselves as this conversation took place in 1985. There wasn’t one specific date where it all came together.
You’ll find that during this period in 1983, both Krist and Kurt would play in a variety of short-lived bands that hung around in the same circles. They were just part of the scene and got on well together.
Krist, Kurt and the Stiff Woodies (1983)
One of these bands at the time was named Stiff Woodies. Which included Krist on electric guitar, Buzz Osborne on bass and Mike Dillard on drums.
After some internal reshuffling, Krist would end up singing and Kurt Cobain would drum. They would mostly play house parties before fading into obscurity.
Kurt Cobain and the Fecal Matter Demo (1985)
Following a bit of a lul in December 1985. Kurt Cobain would go on to record his own musical demo at his Aunt Mari’s house, Under the moniker Fecal Matter.
Kurt recorded songs he’d written with friend Dale Crover on bass and Greg Hokanson on drums. Cobain’s first band wouldn’t last very long and broke up pretty quickly without playing a single gig.
Still, with his newfound demo in hand, he shared his work with Krist. After younger brother Robert brought him home one day.
Krist describes his account in the Nirvana Nevermind promotional CD release.
“Kurt did a tape with Dale Crover from the Melvins, and one of the songs on it was ‘Spank Thru’, and he turned me on to it, and I really liked it, it kind of got me excited. So I go “Hey man, let’s start a band”. We scrounged up a drummer, and we started practicing. Took it very seriously too. ”
This was the incubation of Nirvana and they would practice almost every night during the first few months of 1986.
“One thing led to another, and Kurt and I started jamming. I had been playing guitar for a few years but had never been in a band. To get things moving, I picked up the bass and played through an amplifier called a PMS.
We found a drummer, Aaron Burckhart, and began playing constantly in that little house. We had the most intense jams.
The group played under different names between 1986 and 1987 like Brown Cow, Pen Cap Chew, Bliss and Skid Row before finally settling on Nirvana in March 1988.
The first Krist Novoselic bass rig
Initially Krist used a Fender Mustang as a bass before switching to the real deal. Recounted in possibly the only Krist Novoselic interview for Bass Player Magazine.
“Asked how Novoselic got into bass in the first place ‘I got a Fender Mustang guitar and used it as a bass'”.
Krist would then borrow equipment from friends, stating;
“I knew this person who had this 1960s Japanese bass and a cheap amp called a PMS. He was kind enough to let me borrow it,”
The biography “Come As You Are” by Michael Azerad corroborates further and adds;
“Chris had a PMS brand amp and a clunky old Hohner bass he had borrowed from Greg Hokanson”.
Come As You Are – Michael Azerad
Both of these statements mention the borrowing of a PMS amp and must refer to the same event. However it is not clear which bass is being referenced as as Hohner is a German manufacturer and not Japanese.
A bewildered Krist would recall the possible use of a Hohner in a 1989 interview.
“We started jamming with just junky equipment … Then I had, what? An Epiphone bass or a Hohner bass?”.
And then again In another interview a year later, he would recall using an Epiphone.
It is possible he had both of these basses at some point in time and no pictures have been found.
Skidrow before Nirvana (1987)
Spring 1987 was a busy and fast paced time for the group and finally performed their material in front of wider audiences.
Multiple name changes occurred and even a spot on a college radio show. The band went by the name Skid Row at this time.
The photos from this gig show are some of the earliest we see of Krist playing bass.
Krist’s rig and the Ibanez Eagle
Krist was using an Ibanez 24 09B Eagle, with a mahogany body, maple fretboard and two super bass single coils.
According to vintageguitar.com only 500 of these basses were created between 1976 and 1979. A reissue of this bass was released in 2015 celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Krist and the Ibanez Roadster II
Chronologically speaking, the second Skid Row show occurred in April 1987 at the Community World Theater in Tacoma. Where Krist also used an Ibanez Roadster II RB650, in black with a white pickguard and PJ pickups.
Some fan sites have incorrectly labelled this as the earliest photo of Krist on bass “The one with his tongue out”. But if we go by the impressive chronology list of shows by livenirvana.com, this can be proven false.
One more show of interest at this time was on 27 June 1987 where Krist plays his eagle and has the Roadster sat at the back of the stage as a backup.
Bleach demo session (1988)
Kurt had a fire in his belly and was yearning to record his material. He then saw an advert in the Seattle Rocket for a recording studio by the name of Reciprocal Recording, which charged the poultry sum of $20 an hour. A session was then booked in for January 1988 for a 10 song demo.
In less than six hours, they recorded and mixed nine and a half songs. All pretty much in one take, bar some vocal overdubs here or there.
Three of the songs written on these demos would end up on the official Bleach release in 1989.
Krist Novoselic bass rig in 1988
Live shows during this period depict Krist using his Ibanez Eagle and a Peavey 2×15 which were used during the Bleach demo session.
Additionally, a home video shows the band rehearsing with a bass head laid on the floor. It resembles an Ampeg SVT but only seen in this video.
The birth of Nirvana (1988)
On 19 March 1988 the name Nirvana was cemented in music history as they debuted at the Community World Theatre in Tacoma.
Kurt would explain;
“I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk rock name like the Angry Samoans. I wanted to have something different.”
Come As You Are – Michael Azerad
Some time later Kurt would express seconds thoughts at the name, describing it as “It’s too esoteric and serious,”.
Nirvana records Bleach (1988)
Recording began for Bleach on Christmas eve 1988 with Jack Endino behind the mixing board once again.
“The … total amount of time that was spent on it was 30 hours. They were very much about the music at the time. Absolutely focused on what they were doing, which they had to be very efficient to be able to make recordings that quickly, that good”
Endino describes the first session as a bit of an experiment. In an attempt to help make the vocals easier on Kurt, the band decided they would tune down their guitars and drums to what they thought was the key of D, but was in fact actually C,
“Well, of course they were way out of tune, and didn’t sound too good … they ended up hating it, and then came back another day and re-recorded all of it! I think the only one we kept in that tuning was Blew”
Regarding Krists gear, Endino would add;
“I don’t remember much about it, except that the bass cab was a big 2×15”
The cab in question can be seen in photos during this period. A Peavey 2×15, sometimes in an orange case with a Laney 150 Watt Pro bass head sat on top.
The pickguard from Krist’s eagle was also removed around this time.
Krist’s back up Ibanez Eagle bass
Nirvana would continue to hone their skills on the road with dates throughout the US and Europe all the way into mid 1990.
New equipment would follow Krist this tour as he admitted he’s got through three basses.
Krist expressed his current bass situation in a 1990 interview;
“I’ve had two basses this year… well, three basses, one got stolen. I had a Gibson Victory bass and I was playing on this junky Trace Elliot amp in England and it sounded like hell.
I was gonna smash the amp, but I wound up smashing the bass. That was the first time I ever played it. Then I had another Ibanez Black Eagle bass that I bought, exactly like my old trusty one, and I busted that one in half too!
It would also appear he gave Kurt his orange cased Peavey 2×15 in late 89.
Krist Novoselic bass rig and the new Fender amplifier (1989)
In its place of the Peavey cab, Krist now used a A Fender BXR 400 head to power A BFI 2×10″ cab which sat on top of a a Fender 4×15″.
Pictures at this time also show pedals on top of Krist Novoselic bass rig or at his feet.
Krist and the Gibson Ebony Ripper bass (1990)
Around February 1990 Krist would brandish a brand new ebony Gibson Ripper. A blonde version of the Ripper bass was added to Krist’s arsenal that August.
Krist would also clarify in an interview with Guitarworld that two of these Rippers would end up stolen. One of which was lifted from the Reading Festival in the UK.
Smart Studios sessions (1990)
Nirvana started 1990 with plans on creating a new album and to tour the US. That April, Nirvana would meet with up and coming producer Butch Vig at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin.
Based on their previous success whilst recording Bleach. Nirvana planned to record the new album on a time scale of one week.
Unfortunately after only a few days Kurt had blown his voice and the sessions were halted until further notice. The sessions weren’t all bad though, as the band now had a demo of the 8 songs they recorded.
The Smart Studios version of “In Bloom” was later turned into a music video and featured on Sub Pop’s Video Network Program and released one year later in 1991. Clips in this video were shot one year earlier in 1990 and show Krist using his Eagle and ebony Ripper.
Sliver recording session (Summer 1990)
With plans for a second album still on hold, Sub Pop called for another Nirvana single. Nirvana and temporary drummer Dan Peters (of MudHoney fame) returned back to home turf at Reciprocal Recordings on 11 July 1990. They would record a new song Kurt had been working on at the time; Sliver.
At the same time label mates TAD were currently recording and using the space.
Poneman ended up begging producer Jack Endino to let Nirvana use TAD’s equipment while they were out having lunch one afternoon.
Krist would use Kurt Danielson’s 1962 Fender Precision through an Ampeg SVTT II and Sunn 4×12″ guitar cab. Nirvana recorded two takes and left after 90 minutes.
Krist Novoselic bass rig on Nevermind (1991)
The Nevermind sessions began recording on 2 May 1991. Krist’s equipment can be seen in gigs leading up to the Nevermind recording sessions and he continued to use his Ebony and blonde Gibson Rippers. Krist would clarify he used the blonde ripper in the studio.
Krist aquired an Ampeg 400T at this time which powered two 2×15″ cabs.
Butch would comment on Krist’s set up in an interview with Sound on Sound. Stating he used a combination of DI’s and microphones on an Ampeg SVT rig. However confirmation is still needed for the the cabinets used for recording.
Placing both a Neumann FET 47 and Electro-Voice RE20 near the amp but admits he mostly used the 47, due to it’s thumpy mid range characteristics.
In terms of DI’s, Butch favoured a customised Tech 21 Sansamp;
“I have a live split, so you can use it as a DI but it produces more of an amp sound. You can dirty it up, you can add some tone to it, and it’s just much more usable as a DI signal as opposed to a straight DI, which to me sounds really thin.”
Krist recording bass for “Come As You Are”
The bass utilised three seperate tracks whilst recording Come As You Are.
As Butch would explain;
“We actually triple-tracked the bass: a regular bass, then Chris played an octave bass, then he tuned the bass strangely and ran it through a DBX sub-harmonic effect. We were trying to make the bass sound like a 12-string.”
Krist recording bass for Breed
For the song Breed, Krist would distort his Ampeg 400T and max the gain on the Neve 8028 console and recorded without the use of any pedals.
Singing on Territorial Pissings
Krist can also be heard in the opening bars to Territorial Pissings, howling the lyrics to The Youngbloods “Get Together” which was recorded through Cobain’s guitar pickup.
Krist Novoselic bass rig in Nirvana videos
Bass rig used in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit music” video
Krist would perform using a 1960s Japanese Zen On bass which he bought from a local pawn shop. During the video shoot for ‘Teen Spirit a fan destoryed the bass. Additionally the cabs in the video look like a Marshall 4×12” and some 2×15″s.
Bass rig used in the video for “Come As You Are” video
Krist used the blonde gibson Ripper in the vide for “Come as You” relased in March 1992.
Bass rig used in the video “In Bloom” (Version 2) video
In Bloom (version 2) November 1991 and the video shows Krist using an Ampeg AEB-1 which was provided by guitar tech Earnie Bailey.
The concept of the video was to parody the musical performances of bands in the early 1960s and the AEB looks somewhat reminiscent of that time.
Krist Novoselic bass rig on the Nevermind tour (1991)
The initial west coast tour had Nirvana playing with Dinosaur JR. Right away we can see Krist using a brand new Gibson Artist RD bass with active dual humbuckers.
Bob Moog known for his famous synthesisers, created the active electronics alonside Gibson. The pickups featured a unique compression and expansion circuit.
This bass debuted on the video for Lithium and joined the Blonde Ripper on the road.
Krist Novoselic bass rig in Europe (1991)
For the European leg of the tour he continued using his Ampeg 400T but ran through two rented Marshall 4×12” cabs .
On the 25 November, Nirvana appered on a Dutch radio show. The band performed with instruments provided by the studio as their own equipment was being prepared for a show later that day.
Krist used a Warwick Dolphin through a Trace Elliot amp.
Krist Novoselic bass rig in the US (1991)
Meanwhile, for the rest of the US tour dates, the Krist Novoselic bass rig would remain pretty consistent with his full rig now consisting of two Mesa Boogie 2×15 diesel cabs.
One powered with the Ampeg 400T and the second with the old Fender BXR.
At his feet would typically be a ProCo Rat pedal and the rig would have the name “snot” tagged on the amp draws.
The Ibanez Eagle bass returns to the rig (1991)
27 December 1991 shows the return of the Ibanez Eagle to Krist’s bass rig. This bass looks way too new to be his original from the Bleach era and is probably one of the backups.
Additionally the Mesa cabs had a bit of a makeover. With two sets of 2×10 diesels, a 4×10 with a horn and two 2×15’s at the bottom. The Ampeg 400T, Fender BXR and Carver PM power amplifier powered this rig
The Eagle flies the coop (2005)
Krist’s original Eagle was donated to the Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle and features in the “Nirvana taking punk to the masses” exhibition.
Krist and the bass rig rental gear (1991)
TV appearances during this period would typically Krist’s bass rig filled with rental equipment.
- BBC’s Tonight with Jonathan Ross show with an Ampeg SVT II and an Ampeg 8×10″ cabinet
- The MTV recording in January 1992 he used with an original SVT rig with accompanying Ampeg 8×10″ cabinets
- On an appearance for Saturday Night Live, Kirst would use his Ampeg 400T head with two Ampeg 8×100″ cabinet and two Hartke 4x10s.
Krist and the Ampeg bass rig (Winter 1991)
During the Oceania leg of the tour, Krist rented a pair of Ampeg 8×10 cabinets for his bass rig. He used his own Ampeg 400T and Fender BXR heads to power them. At this point his new looking Eagle loses its pickguard.
Krist and the Thunderbird bass (Summer 1992)
Krist used a Gibson Thunderbird 4 alongsidewith a Gibson RD Artist as back up during summer shows in 1992. Most notably the Reading Festival in the UK.
Other photos from this period depict further rented Marshall cabs and a single 2×15 diesel cab in Europe.
The Ripper rips Krist a new one (Autumn 1992)
A few months later in September 1992 Nirvana made an appearance on MTV’s VMA’s. Here Krist would throw his Ebony Gibson Ripper up in the air only to fall down to earth and smack him in the face.
Krist’s new amplifier rig during In Utero preproduction
In light of the the massive success of Nevermind, Kurt would describe his embarrassment with the album;
“Looking back on the production of Nevermind, I’m embarrassed by it now …
It’s closer to a Motley Crue record than it is a punk rock record.”
In rebellion to their success, the band had their minds focused on the next album where Kurt wanted to recreate the magic of Bleach.
The interviewer then askes;
“So you’re aiming for a rawer sound on the next album?”
“Definitely less produced,”
In Utero demo sessions (1992)
Nirvana booked several sessions in late 1992 with Jack Edino and the band would record 6 demo tracks. However Edino would describe the band as “on edge”, like there was something dark in the air. As a result, the sessions weren’t as successful as the previous ones. The band did not return to record overdubs or mix.
Instead they would work with recording engineer Steve Albini, who was the only name on Kurts lips throughout the sessions.
It was reported by guitar tech Earnie Bailey that Krist used a Marshall Plexi 100 with 6550 tubes during the sessions.
Nirvana released Incesticide (Winter 1992)
Incesiticide was released not long after this in December 1992, a collection of b-sides and live shows from over the years and no new recordings were made.
Released in March 1993, the promotional video for Sliver shows Krist playing one of his Ibanez Eagles.
Nirvana’s worst show ever (Spring 1993)
1993 kicked off with a bang as the band made their way through Brazil playing the Hollywood Rock Festival. Drawing their largest crowd ever and playing to 110,000 attendees. Unfortunately though, Both Nirvana and their crew recalled it as their single worst performance.
Krist later described the show as a “mental breakdown,” And Brazilian press bluntly expressed;
“They were not the real Nirvana at all; instead it was only a depressing Cobain making noise with his guitar.”
Krist Novoselic bass rig and the Gibson RD Standard (Spring 1993)
During this show however, Krist Novoselic bass rig goes all out with equipment. Guitar tech Earnie Bailey gifted Krist with a Gibson standard RD that Christmas and used at the show.
This bass differs from the Artist model as a passive bass with split coils instead of humbuckers. This bass also appears in the video for Heart Shaped Box released late 1993.
The amps used were 4 Marshall 4×12 cabinets with a Hiwatt DR103 head and the Ampeg 400T powered two 2×15’s Mesa Boogie Diesels and two 4×10’s.
The rig also included two Crest 4801 power amps.
Recording In Utero (Spring 1993)
The recording of In Utero took place in February 1993 and Krist would comment;
“It was pretty simple, straight ahead … It was pretty live. Some of those songs were first takes.”
Guitar tech Earnie Bailey reports that Krist’s bass rig had used 1970’s Gibson Ripper basses and utilized the varitone switch that gave those basses such a unique sound.
Additionally, Bailey also mentions the modded HiWatt head and Marshall 68 Super Plexi with 6550 tubes were run through a Groove Tubes speaker emulator.
A device that emulates the response characteristics of an old celestion speaker. This then went into the 4×12 Marshall cabs.
Krist Novoselic bass rig on the In Utero Tour (Autumn 1993)
September 1994 would mark the arrival of a new band member, guitarist Pat Smear and Kurt would explain the late addition to the band.
“I suffer from mental blocks, I have short term memory loss, too much concentration remembering those 3 chords and the words and maybe having a little participation with the crowd you know? It’s too much for me. So I got a second guitar player.
The In Utero tour officially began on October 18th, with the stage dressed in a similar theme to the In Utero cover art and recent video Heart Shaped Box.
You’ll also find Kurt performing stage right during this time with Krist and Pat sharing stage left.
The Krist Novoselic bass rig for the tour would change slightly with the introduction of a Gallien Krueger 800RB head powering a single 2×15 diesel cab and the Hiwatt head with the 4 marshall cabs.
Basses used on In Utero tour (1993)
The In Utero tour would be a showcase to all of Krist’s basses used in the past. With the return of;
- Ripper by Gibson in ebony
- Eagle by Ibanez (repaired by tech Earnie Bailey with a rosewood neck and gold hardware.)
- RD Artist/Standard by Gibson
- Thunderbird 4 by Gibson
- EB2 by Gibson
- An accordion used on the acoustic portion of the set
The HardRock Cafe purchased the repaired rosewood Eagle around 2005.
Clear views of Krist’s equipment are present on the Nirvana Live and Loud show, recorded in December 1993. Additionally, Krist has 2 pedals at his feet, the ProCo Rat, a A/B switcher and a DI.
Krist Novoselic bass rig for Nirvana Unplugged (1993)
Early in the tour, Nirvana would tape a show for MTV Unplugged which took place on November 18th 1993. MTV Unplugged producer Alex Coletti had planned to loan Krist a semi acoustic Ovation bass as Krist didn’t have his own.
However, Krist would instead rent a Guild electro acoustic bass from S.I.R. in New York.
Final Nirvana performances (1994)
In the final Nirvana performances, the band were in western Europe. Krist would use rental gear again using between 1 or 4 Ampeg 8×10 cabinets with a SVT2 and a 2×15 diesel cab. At his feet would typically lay the ProCo Rat pedal.
Notably for the French shows, a Gallien Kruger 800RB and Ampeg 400T powered 4 Ampeg 8x10s and one 2×15 diesel cab.
During these dates Kurt’s mood had shifted to new extremes beyond depression and pain as he pleaded with Krist that they cancel the tour.
Nirvana’s final show would take place at Terminal 1 in Germany on 1 March 1994. Following the show Kurt would demand his agent cancel the last 2 dates.
The band would go their separate ways and Kurt reunited with his wife and daughter in Rome. Kurt Cobain died one month later at his home on 5 April 1994
Which bass strings did Krist Novoselic use in his rig?
Krist has been a longtime user of Rotosound Swing bass strings 45-105. In almost every photo of his bass, you’ll notice red tops of Rotosounds at the headstock. Rotosound officially listed Krist as an official artist in 2021.
The Krist Novoselic RD Signature bass (2011)
In 2011, Gibson would release the Krist Novoselic Signature RD bass. Krist explains in a bass player magazine article;
“it’s just a reproduction of an RD with a new look. What I did was, I shipped my standard RD to Gibson and said,
‘I really like this thing, but the pickups are kinda dull’ so they put a new Seymour Duncan Hot Stack on there.
They made the headstock elongated and the fretboard is made of sustainable wood, too.
I played it – and they nailed it first time.”
Krist Novoselic post Nirvana
Following the death of Kurt Cobain, A Nirvana live album From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah was released in 1996.
Krist would have used the gear already mentioned today where applicable at time.
“As far as the music industry goes, I quit. I can’t deal, read the magazines, listen to the radio or watch music television without feeling that I’ve just come in from outer space. I just don’t get it and I probably never did. My lot in life is that every band I’ve ever been in just falls apart. That hurts but I’ve got a thick hide from years of conditioning.”
He would then spend the next few years engaging in politics and putting the old “pot head philosophy” into practice.
In recent years, Krist makes few appearances but can be seen collaborating in musical endeavours with former bandmate Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters as well as Sir Paul McCartney.
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