Verse Chourus Verse: The Recording History Of NIRVANA
Goldmine #432, February 14, 1997
PAGE: 13 | back
The album's 15 tracks were culled from a variety of sources. "Hairspray Queen," and "Aero Zeppelin" were previously unreleased tracks from the "Dale Demo," "Mexican Seafood" was the "Dale Demo" track that had appeared on Teriyaki Asthma, "Beeswax" was the "Dale Demo" track that had appeared on Kill Rock Stars, "Downer" was the "Dale Demo" track that had appeared on the Bleach CD, "Big Long Now" was a previously unreleased Bleach outtake, "Stain" had appeared on the Blew EP, "Sliver" and "Dive" were from the band's second single for Sub Pop (though the answering machine "epilogue" was excised from "Sliver" ), "Turnaround," "Molly's Lips," and "Son Of A Gun" were from the band's 1990 John Peel session and had appeared on Hormoaning, and "Been A Son, "(New Wave) Polly," and "Aneurysm" were previously unreleased tracks from the band's 1991 Mark Goodier session.
Neither "Hairspray Queen" or "Aero Zeppelin" were remixed for the album. "That's griped me for a while because I wish I'd had a chance to remix them," says Jack Endino. "Literally what they did is they took the tape from the first day I ever recorded them and mixed ten songs in one hour. And that's the tape that got put on Incesticide. It's always bummed me out. In any given afternoon I could've made a better mix of all those songs. But that's just the way it went."
As for the remaining "Dale Demo" tracks, Endino says "If You Must" is a track that Cobain didn't want released. "He hated that one almost immediately," he says. "And he never wanted anyone to ever hear it again. Which is one of the reasons it's not on Incesticide. He was embarrassed about it; it was too heavy. He was just like that sometimes. I think it's a great song."
Daniel House admits he was annoyed at losing his exclusivity with "Mexican Seafood." "The track was supposed to stay exclusive forever with Teriyaki Asthma," he says. "Until years later I got a call from Nirvana's attorney, informing me that I had never signed a contract with the band for the song, that a handshake was not adequate, and they were going to take the song and put it on Incesticide and I couldn't do a fucking thing about it, and if I tried a finger they would sue me into oblivion. I just thought, 'What a strange way to introduce yourself!' But they let me keep the song the CD. That was the final slap in the face that gee, a handshake's just not good anymore. And I was upset that we never got credit for it on the album."
And Steve Fisk says that other material was submitted for consideration on Incesticide as well. He thinks the 1987 session the band recorded at KAOS was "probably" submitted, and says that he also turned over the tape from his session with Nirvana in January 90. "The tape was allegedly missing at the Music Source for a while," he says. "And I knew that I'd seen it flying around the studio, because it was a Nirvana tape, and so people would take it out and play with it, mix it, juice it right up. And eventually I found it, and then I got it back to Sub Pop. And at one point, I made Sub Pop and Nirvana some mixes of what they other stuff sounded like to see if they wanted to finish it or anything. I did best I could to pull to scratch voice into focus and make some mixes around that. But Kurt sings very quietly, so it wasn't useable.
DGC also released David Markey's 1991: The Year Punk Broke on video during the year. The documentary was filmed during Sonic Youth's 1991 summer tour, when Nirvana was their opening act, and focused primarily on live footage of these two bands and others on the tour, including Babes In Toyland and Dinosaur Jr.
Another Nirvana-related release had come out with relatively little fanfare in 1992: Dave Grohl's first solo project. Pocketwatch was a 10-song cassette, released under the name "Late!" on the Arlington-based Simple Machines label. The material that Grohl had been regularly recording over the past years had come to the attention of Simple Machines' Jenny Toomey when she visited the Laundry Room. "I thought it was great," she says, "and I hassled him for a tape. About six months later, he gave me one when I was visiting in Olympia. My label was releasing a series of cassettes that focused on music that was either unfinished, imperfect or finished and perfect by bands that no longer played out, like Geek, My New Boyfriend, Saturnine. It made perfect sense to ask Dave to add his solo tape to the list, and he said yes."
Grohl plays all the instruments and provides all vocals on the tape, aside from backing vocals by Barrett Jones on "Petrol CB." But though the sleeve lists two recording dates for the project, (December 23, '90 and July 27, '91),Jones says the tape is really the product of a number of different sessions. The songs revealed Grohl's versatility as musician, singer, and songwriter; two of the songs would later turn up in Grohl's future projects.
Simple Machine still carries the tape, which is still duplicated from the second generation copy Grohl originally gave Toomey. "But it's sort of been a thorn in our side," she says. "Each mention of the cassette in Rolling Stone or wherever translates to piles of mail, and for the most part, these kids have never bought anything through the mail from an independent record company, so when they haven't received their tape in two weeks they write us nasty notes about how we've stolen their $5 and their mothers are going to sue us. The Late tape has broken many an intern! But the one strange redeeming quality of the tape is the tape itself. Almost every time I listen to it-even now at this point of definite saturation-I still have to think it's a great record. It has a depth and vulnerability and crunch that you don't find on the Foo Fighters' record."
Toomey says there were plans to get an upgraded copy of the master and release the tape on CD, along with bonus tracks. "He went back and forth with the idea and then it fell off the face of the earth," she says. "I think he's worried about the quality Which I can understand and appreciate, but his modesty is killing us! I know he also thinks it's cooler to have it this way Which it definitely is. But it's been a mixed bag as our cassette masters degenerate. It's really only a matter of time until the cassette gets removed from the catalog." Until then, the tape is available for $5 from PO Box 10290, Arlington VA 22210-1290Ņand please be patient.
The Pocketwatch material has also been bootlegged, and appears on such releases as Dave Grohl Demos, Fighting The N Factor, Pocketwatch, Pocketwatch Demos, Reading '95 Unreleased Demos, and Up Against! Most of these releases contain additional live material from Grohl's next band, Foo Fighters.
Cobain started the new year by doing a photo session with Charles Peterson on January 1, 1993, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle. The shoot was for an upcoming cover story in the national gay magazine The Advocate. "It was nice," remembers Peterson. "There were no publicity people, I didn't have an assistant, there was no hair and make-up. It was just in his bedroom at this hotel." Though Cobain, dressed in his pajamas, looked tired in the shots, the interview, which appeared in the magazine's February 9 issue, displayed his thoughtful, contemplative side. In a letter that ran in the January 24, 1994 issue, Cobain wrote, "Of all the gut-spilling and, uh, whining I did in 1993, I never felt more relaxed than with The Advocate. What can I say? Thank you to the editors. I'll always be an advocate for fagdom."
Nirvana also performed two concerts in South America in January, where they also worked on demos for their next album. They had previously tried working on demos with Jack Endino at Seattle's Word Of Mouth studio (as Reciprocal was now called), on October 26, '92. "They booked time several times and cancelled each time," he says. "Mainly because Courtney was having a baby. One of the sessions was literally supposed to be the weekend was having her baby Finally, the band showed up one day, we set up the drums and bass, and then we waited all day for Kurt. He never showed up. But the next day he showed up, and they did six songs, exactly the same as they are on In utero."
The only songs Endino recalls from the session are "Heart-Shaped Box" and "tourette's." "And they ended up doing vocals on 'Rape Me,"' he adds. "No one ever wanted a cassette, so there's no cassettes out there being bootlegged. No one ever called back to finish them, to do the vocals, to mix it, to do anything. It was like someone talked them into going and doing these just so they would do demos. The band just had no interest in it."
The Word Of Mouth sessions were the last time Endino worked with the band, and the atmosphere was very different to what it had been on previous occasions. "It was very tense," Endino says. "There was something dark in the air. Just the idea of Kurt showing up 12 hours late- it wasn't like a band. It was dysfunctional in some way People were not communicating with each other. Kurt was sort of in a different reality from everybody else. It made me very uneasy Everybody seemed to be very on edge. It just wasn't the same band it had been." The session was "enlivened" by the arrival of the police, due to a noise complaint- Grohl was playing his drums too loud. "His drumming was so loud, it was going right through the walls of the building," Endino says. "It was only the second noise complaint we'd ever had! It was kind of embarrassing. But they were almost done at that point."
"And that occasion of doing those demos was aufficiently uncomfortable that I couldn't imagine doing an album with them," he adds. "I thought, you know, whoever does the follow-up for Nevennind is going to get roasted. It won't be a commercial monster like Nevennind 'cause the band doesn't want to make that record. And so whoever does this next Nirvana record is going to be stuck between the major label and the band and it's going to be a very unpleasant place to be stuck.
"While they were recording the demos with me they happened to mention, 'Yeah, we were thinking of having Steve Albini do the record.' And I was just like, wheeew! 'Steve, huh, yeah? That's a cool idea.' just sort of thinking to myself, Wow, they want to make a record with Albini! That's going to be amazing! But there's going to be some fireworks. Because all the major label people and a lot of fans were going to want to hear Nevermind Version 2. And Steve, of course, would have no interest in making Nevermind Version 2. And I thought this could be a really cool Nirvana record, but I didn't envy Steve at all. Steve is gonna get blamed, and shit is gonna fly, and that's exactly what happened. Fortunately, Steve dealt with it the way he usually does; by telling everybody to fuck off. And Nirvana pretty much stood by him, except for remixing two songs. And ultimately history will judge, but I think it's a good record."
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