The 1990s were a breathtaking time for artistic creation. A moment in history when it felt as though the little guy finally came out on top and crushed the monoliths of culture that had previously dominated. With a changing of the guard taking place in both music and film concurrently, the chance to succeed outside of the mainstream grew. Both Nirvana and Quentin Tarantino spearheaded an exciting new dawn, shaping Gen X in their unadulterated new mould.
Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain was even hotly-tipped to make an appearance in Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction, which sadly never came to fruition. However, that’s not where the links between the two behemoths of cinema and music end. There is perhaps no more significant 1990s pop culture crossover than this one. Kurt Cobain was rightly christened as his generation’s voracious voice, meanwhile, Tarantino was breaking all the rules and similarly reimagining the film industry.
The decade was a vehement reaction to the days of mass-consumerism, something accentuated by the Reaganism in the preceding decade. Everybody wanted more and more, with commercialisation on steroids throughout the 1980s. People wanted something that money couldn’t buy when they arrived in the ’90s, and the re-emergence of DIY ethoses was a refreshing tonic that saw heart come back into public consciousness.
Cobain was ready to step up and bring some authenticity to the alt-rock genre. Meanwhile, over in Indiewood, a young Quentin Tarantino was doing the same—creating visually stunning and narratively captivating films for a new generation. The Nirvana frontman was taken back by Tarantino’s greatness to such a degree that he even thanked him on 1993’s In Utero, even though the two men never met.
Tarantino later spoke in detail about how the two pop-culture phenomenons aligned. He told Australian radio station Double J: “There was an aspect of American independent cinema in general, and my movie, Reservoir Dogs, in particular, coincided with the alternative music grunge scene. We were kind of on parallel tracks. We were doing a new type of way to do a movie.
“People had got sick of the corporatised Hollywood movies of the ’80s and the same with the corporatised music of the ’80s for music,” Tarantino explains. “One thing that’s interesting from Reservoir Dogs, part of the ironicness of it, is that we are playing these innocuous ’70s pop songs with this violent crime story,” reflected the director, drawing out one of the films genuine plot points.
“One of the things that was really interesting without me trying to do this at all, the Seattle grunge bands of the day loved Reservoir Dogs,” recalled Tarantino, with a smile across his face. “Basically, I think it was a good tour bus movie, you could put the video up, and you could play it all the time, and everyone knew the dialogue.”
Tarantino then revealed, “Pearl Jam loved the film, Nirvana loved the film, and Kurt Cobain loved the movie so much he thanked me on his second album. On In Utero, I’m in the thank you’s, and I never met him. He just loved Reservoir Dogs so much that he thanked me in the thank you’s.”
While Tarantino’s adoration for Nirvana seemingly wasn’t reciprocal of Cobain’s love of his work, as he mistakenly labelled In Utero as the Seattle band’s second album. Despite the rookie error, it’s clear that there’s deep respect held for what Cobain managed to do in the music industry and how he forcefully changed society’s aesthetics, just like Reservoir Dogs did.