’90s Music Icons on ’90s Nostalgia


“I get sentimental over the music of the ’90s,” music critic Rob Sheffield writes in his memoir, Love Is a Mix Tape. “Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I’m concerned the ’90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps.” Considering the current fashion of reunion tours and cruises and the Internet-based obsession with the quirkiness of popular culture from two decades ago, Sheffield seems to be in the majority. But there are plenty of musical icons from the era who have more of a love-hate affair with the decade that brought them fame. Click through and read about how those icons look back on the ’90s: fondly, with derision, or somewhere in between.

Kathleen Hanna

“I do a lot of interviews and stuff where they ask me about it and I feel like the nostalgia is this happy thing where it’s like, ‘oh, I wish I lived in the ’90s, it would be so awesome! There was this community and it would be so great.’ My experience of it was that it was not that great, and a lot of people don’t know about the violence at shows and how much shit bands with women in them — especially explicitly feminist bands — took. And so when people are nostalgic about it, I’m like, oh, you want to go back to a time when if you were onstage and you said, ‘there’s a pro-choice rally happening,’ there could be a guy who’s yelling ‘shut up!’ while you were talking, and possibly had a knife in his jacket. And nobody would do anything about it. You know, and a lot of times girls just weren’t safe at shows. And I don’t know if they are now, I definitely know that at some shows they’re not. The nostalgia erases a lot of the negative things that happened and when I talk about that in lectures people are very shocked.” [via The Frisky / Bookforum]

Billy Corgan

“… what was it about me in 1992 that I had something going on? You try to get back to that mercurial place where everything seems to work. And there’s that beautiful communication between the breadth of your ideas and the engagement of the audience, who keep saying, ‘More! More! More!’ Then one day that stops and you find yourself going, “Why is this stopping? Why are people still asking me about a period of my life 20 years ago?” I’m not saying it cattily. If you stare at something and try to find meaning where there isn’t any…” [via Gothamist]

Evan Dando

“Everyone just thought that was a ridiculous thing. I don’t know anyone that was actually into that concept. It was just marketing. That’s how everything was — rock and roll, punk, all the names. But grunge was particularly silly.” [via The Pitch]

Liz Phair

“In the early nineties, many of the bands on [Matador Records] and Matador staffers themselves came from well-educated, upper middle class backgrounds and we wasted no time putting all that good grooming to use ‘sticking it to the man.’ We made up outrageous bios to pass on to legitimate publications like Newsweek and People, we encouraged provocative answers to dull interview questions, basically trying to channel a kind of late-stage Beatles malaise, believing this to be the only way to force mainstream media to focus on the songs and not the performers. The music was all that was left standing once we were finished with our schoolyard shenanigans.” [via WSJ]

Julianna Hatfield

“I have some good memories, yeah, but I also feel like I worked really, really hard — I suffered a lot for my art, I did. I carried a lot of heavy equipment, and I got sick a lot for my art, and I don’t want to be sick anymore. I really physically, actually — my health suffered from all the touring. I had some good times, sure — definitely had some good times, but I have no nostalgia anymore.” [via QRO]

Mike Doughty

“I gotta tell you: I’ve had recurring dreams that I forgot to quit Soul Coughing. I’ll be headed to a [solo] show and someone will say, ‘No, you’ve gotta go to the Soul Coughing show!’ And as more and more bands to the reunion thing… I mean, the Pavement reunion was surprising to me, and the Pixies reunion was incredibly surprising to me. But I can’t imagine I’d want to step back into that situation again. I can’t imagine the sum that would be worth it.” [via BlackBook]

Polly Jean Harvey

“…I find that I can only play the songs that I can sing with any authenticity still, my being a 42-year-old woman. Some of the words of those songs were written when I was very young and they no longer feel honest for me to sing now at this stage of my life. When I sing for people I want to be able to feel that I can inhabit the song during that performance and in order to do so I need to believe in it. So I only sing the songs that I can still believe as I sing them…I don’t get nostalgic, really. I’m somebody that enjoys living in the present moment that I’m in. In fact, I very rarely reflect because it all feels part of me still. My past feels part of the ongoing journey towards where I’m going next.” [via GQ]

Dave Grohl

“I don’t really see anything that I consider Nineties nostalgia. Loud-ass guitars and drummers who trash their kits — when did that ever go away? I love that a band like Soundgarden can still fucking slay, but I wouldn’t consider it nostalgic. It’s not like guitars and drums and people who make honest records died off and are being resurrected in some Jurassic Park laboratory. That shit still exists. It’s just suffocating under a pile of trash.” [via NirvanaNews]

Black Francis

“It might be a nostalgic [thing] for certain members of the audience, but it’s not really [nostalgic] for me. It’s part of my repertoire, my canon of songs; it’s what I do. It’s not like in 1989 I was trying a different kind of music altogether, or something that was about the moment in fashion. It’s hard for me to think about it in terms of nostalgia. I think that it’s all gotten so blurry anyway with all of the different pop genres. Everything is essentially so derivative that I think it’s pretty rare that you get a totally new form of popular music.” [via Nashville Scene]

Lisa Loeb

“I guess it’s time. We’ve done the ‘80s. People seem to be wearing what I wore to my Bat Mitzvah. At American Apparel it’s a glimpse into my closet when I was a kid. But there’s always nostalgia for time periods that came before us. The ‘90s are a little bit harder to pin down, I think, because clothing-wise—I guess people always feel that way when they lived through a certain era. Like mock turtlenecks and cut-off jean shorts. But apparently people do like that stuff. I see kids running around in ‘90s looking clothes. I think also for people who lived through certain time periods, they didn’t seem that long ago. I don’t know why the ‘90s are having a resurgence, except that it’s their time. People miss their perms? I don’t know.” [via Time]