Incesticide: Not Kurt Cobain’s Invention

Posted: July 1, 2014 in Incesticide

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My favourite record shop really came through this week when I found a copy of an item that’s been of interest to me for quite a few years now; the Mesomorph Enduros compilation from 1992. Why of such interest? Well, take a look at this shot of the back cover of my copy – spot it?

Back Cover

Yep, that’s right, industrial star JG Thirwell – A.K.A. Foetus – uses the made-up word Incesticide for a song on this release. It certainly intrigued me a couple years back when I was preparing the Dark Slivers book – I actually seem to recall someone who read the first edition of the book (Brett perchance? Edit: Brett Renaud! For it was indeed he!) raised the question with me sending me scurrying off to investigate before adding a new footnote to the second edition. I actually spoke with JG Thirwell over email and he confirmed that he had made-up the word independently of Cobain and applied it to the song on this record. His view was that it was perfectly imaginable that he and Cobain had, independently, arrived at this invented word – it’s certainly one possibility and there’s definitely no clear statement from Cobain claiming to have appropriated the title from another source.

To eliminate the alternative, it’s at least certain that the Foetus use of the word came prior to Kurt’s usage. With Incesticide not released until mid-December 1992, with the names “Filler” or “Throwaways” being released to the press as late as mid-November, with JG Thirwell positive that the compilation was out in mid-1992 it would be highly unlikely (even impossible given the compilation is out in 1992 which would have meant less than a month of the year in which Foetus could switch the title and the record could still be printed and issued) that Cobain’s was the first use of Incesticide as a title. Here’s the song by the way with its prominent use of “Incesticide” as a chorus line:

The actual physical record gave another lead also as shown in the picture below:

Inlay

The inlay included the intriguing tease that the song had been previously included in a give-away release from Reflex magazine – that opened up the possibility (for me at least a brand new avenue I was unaware of until Sunday) that Cobain had an even earlier opportunity to observe the song title prior to mid-1992. Unfortunately, alas, it’s a dead chain; it turns out that the song did indeed appear on a September 1990 compilation…

…But only under a different name – Somnambulumdrum (http://foetus.org/content/discography/releases/foetus-inc-somnambulumdrum) – therefore there is only the one opportunity for Cobain to observe the title “Incesticide” unless there’s yet another completely unknown source from which both artists were drawing. As an aside, the songs on the compilation, where it’s possible to date them, were all from 1991 releases such as Tad’s Jack Pepsi single and earlier releases from Melvins, Jesus Lizard, etc. – again seeming to date this record earlier in 1992 than Nirvana’s release.

Is there a possibility that Kurt Cobain saw the title on this compilation or heard the song then adopted the song title for his leftovers’ compilation? Well, beyond the dating, beyond the fact that the Incesticide title seems to suddenly jump up out of nowhere and onto the front cover of a Nirvana album in very very late 1992, there’s the various links between the artists on the compilation and Cobain. Nirvana had shared the Dallas, TX gig with Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 in late 1991, Tad were friends (of course), Cobain hadn’t physically met up with Jesus Lizard since a Denver show in 1991 but some contact was ongoing in 1992 in preparation for the planned split-single…Less significantly Nirvana had shared the stage with Barkmarket back in 1990 and with Cop Shoot Cop even further back in 1989 – still quite a range of casual or less casual connections between Nirvana and the bands present on this compilation but, of course, no solid proof that anyone gave a copy to Kurt Cobain sometime in mid-to-late 1992 much though I like the idea of an artist going through a fixation on baby-related medical imagery taking a song title by a performer called “Foetus.” Another excellent little tease from a guy who does seem to like jokes and word games and playing in this way.

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