Younger Years

Krist Anthony Novoselic was born on May 16, 1965, in Compton, California. His parents, Krist and Maria, were Croatian immigrants, Mr. Novoselic (the name means “new settler” in Croatian) moved to the United States in 1963, his wife-to-be the following year. They set up house in Gardena, California, and Mr. Novoselic got a job driving a truck for Sparklets drinking water. After moving around to a series of apartments with Chris and his younger brother Robert, they got a modest house and then another, nicer one in 1973 when Chris’s sister Diana was born.

“Robert and I were kind of big boys and we used to get into trouble,” says Chris of his preteen years. “Slash tires, stuff like that. My dad would just have to whip us, because thats all he knew how to do. We were scared of him. But it wasn’t like he was an abuser–I don’t think he abused us at all. It’s not like he would slap us for anything. It was action and reaction.

“Like Robert, he got glasses and the first day he got his glasses, he busted ’em,” Chris Continues. “That’s just Robert, We’d just do shit like that. Go throw rocks at houses, throw rocks at cars. There was a time when vandalism was really cool, We really got into vandalism. Throwing eggs…”

Chris says he and his brother straightened out by the time the family moved to Aberdeen in 1979, when Chris was fourteen. Property values in Southern California were getting too high for the Novoselic family and they could get a nice house for a little money in Aberdeen. Besides, there were lots of other Croatian families in the area. Mr. Novoselic got a job as a machinist at one of the town’s many lumber mills.

Aberdonians wore leather tennis shoes and elephant flares, while Chris sported (deck shoes and straight-leg Levi’s. You were a geek if you wore straight-leg pants. “Three years later,” says Chris, “everybody was wearing straight-leg pants. And I suffered for nothing.”

Chris was into bands like Led Zeppelin, Devo, Black Sabbath, and Aerosmith while his peers were into Top Forty, perhaps because that was all the local radio station played.

By June of l980, Chris’s parents got so worried about his depression that they sent him to live with relatives in Croatia, Chris. had picked up Croatian “around the house,” and is still fluent in it. He loved living, there–he made lots of friends and the schools were, excellent. He even heard something there called “punk rock,” and discovered the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and even some Yugoslavian punk bands. It didn’t make too much of a dent, however. “It was just music to me.” Chris recalls. “It didn’t really mean anything” to me–it was just music that I liked.” After a year, his parents called him back home.

“I was just in a weird limbo.” Chris says. He began drinking and smoking pot heavily. “I’ve always been a big drinker.” says Chris, “When I drink, I just don’t stop. I like to drink because you’re in some weird cartoon land where anything goes. Your vision is blurry and nothing and everything makes sense. It’s crazy. It’s a different reality and a different world of consciousness.”

Chris became well known on the party circuit. “You’d go to parties and people would be like ‘Hey, Novie!'” says Matt Lukin. “They always knew him as the big, wacky guy because he, was always doing weird things. They just thought he was kind of weird. He’d go to parties and jump around.”

He had some people to hang out with, but he was hard pressed to call them friends. “I hung out with them because I had no where else to go,” says Chris. “It was kind of odd and and uncomfortable.” He finally got a job at the local Taco Bell and threw himself into work, working every night and not socializing, just saving money. By senior year of high school, he had bought a car, some stereo speakers, and a guitar. He look some lessons along with his brother Robert and told his teacher, Warren Mason–the same guy who taught Kurt that he really wanted to play the blues. He quit after a few months and then woodshedded intensively in his bedroom, patiently working out the licks to old B.B. King records with bis brother.

Around this time Chris’s brother Robert brought his friend Kurt Cobain over to the Novoselic house. When Kurt asked about the racket emanating from the upstairs stereo, Robert replied, “Oh, thats my brother Chris, he listens to punk rock.” Kurt thought that was very cool and filed the information away.

Chris graduated from high school in 1983. Soon after, his parents got divorced. It was a rough enough time as it was, but he also had some plastic surgery done on his face–doctor’s cut a small section of bone out of Chris’s jaw and moved some teeth forward to correct a severe underbite (“I looked like ‘Jay Leno,” he says).

Chris’s jaw was wired shut for six weeks. He still went out to parties, except he had to carry a pair of wire cutters with him in case he threw up or something got caught in his throat. “He’d go out and get all fucked up.” Lukin recalls. “and he’d be puking and it would be draining through his wires. He said he never did have to cut them, but all the food was like milkshakes anyway, no solid food. Still, it was somewhat reckless of him.”

“Then the swelling, went down.” says Chris, “and I had a new face.”

One day during his senior year in high school, he had been walking behind two junior girls in the hall hall who were raving about the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. “Yeah, they’re really great!” he piped up. Shelli remembered him as a “class clown-type guy, always joking.” They talked a little and made friends.

Shelli dropped out her senior year and took a job at McDonald’s and got her own apartment on Market Street, across from the fire department. On her way to work, she would walk past the Foster Painting company where Chris worked and she would talk to him. She got his phone number and started calling him up. They had a lot in common–Shelli had been an odd-ball in school, too–and by March 1985, they had started hanging out as friends at Shelli’s apartment, listening to punk rock records and going to shows. Soon they started going out.