Soul Jazz Records: No Seattle – Hopefully a Treat for Nirvana Fans

Posted: August 15, 2014 in No Seattle: Forgotten Sounds of the North West Grunge Era

No Seattle

Did I get round to mentioning this? Over the past year and a half I’ve been fascinated by all the band names on the Nirvana Live Guide – who are these people? What happened to them? What were these bands like? Where are they now? The usual questions that arise around historical disappearances. The answer is that an amazing number of them are still out there today, creating, playing, performing…

…People were kind enough to send me music – I kept thinking “wow, how did no one notice this at the time?” It’s a curious experience in a way, walking among the bands who were playing alongside Nirvana back in their early days. That’s what this is really – these are the sounds that surrounded Kurt Cobain, far less grunge, far more variety and far more places that weren’t Seattle. I remember a piece somewhere, paraphrased it said that “Thurston Moore, J Mascis and Mike Watt have used their power in the indie rock world to resurrect their teenage favourites from the dead,” referring to the return of Iggy and the Stooges. I don’t have any power…But it’s been really nice to discover that sometimes there just needs to be a good case for something and people open to hearing it and using their energies to make it real.

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So. I wrote to Soul Jazz Records and pitched the idea of a compilation highlighting the bands from the North-West across roughly a decade, who didn’t get much attention, who didn’t play grunge, who had far more women in than the average Sub Pop band, who didn’t get record deals with majors and who didn’t become media darlings who could be sold to mainstream audiences and mainstream tastes. It was just a case of making the picture of North West American music more complex, more interesting than just this single vision that was sold by Sub Pop to the music media (very successfully.) Stuart, the boss at Soul Jazz, came back saying ‘show me the music…’ The various bands I’d been speaking to were willing to entrust me with a couple of MP3 files, or to just drop an album to me and say “pick what you like” and eventually it was pared down to two songs each to burn onto discs and walk up to the Sounds of the Universe record store in Central London (Soul Jazz’s headquarters) to pop through the door for Stuart to have a look. He had a listen, he agreed it was worth pursuing – we agreed it was going to happen and he did me the honour of permitting me to write the inlay booklet.

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I’d gone to Soul Jazz because they take retrospectives and archive releases so wonderfully seriously. While a lot of labels just chuck out samplers and compilations with a sense that they’re just picking at random and slopping stuff onto discs, Soul Jazz have always adopted this approach where there’s a detailed inlay booklet providing context for the music, where there’s an introduction to either the songs or the bands inside the booklet, where there’s just a lot more detail surrounding the music and lending it proper weight. It helps so much to understand a bit more of where the music, the bands, the people are coming from – the story is important to the music.

Anyways, on we go and here we are – the release is due out on September 8th worldwide. Should Nirvana fans care? Well, I’d never insist anyone has to do anything – no way. But there’s a definite linkage, take a look at this chart:

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Hope it’s not too much of a dog to read. But it’s an attempt to link the bands on No Seattle to Nirvana’s performances in State of Washington and across the stateline in Portland, Oregon. 1987 – 2 of the 10 bands Nirvana plays with that year are on the record, plus Aaron Burckhard – Nirvana’s first drummer – appears on what I believe is the first music ever released officially by his band Attica. 1988, another deluge of bands who played with Nirvana including Dave Foster’s post-Nirvana outfit Helltrout. Members of Mudhoney, Skin Yard, Tad, Fitz of Depression appear in Bundle of Hiss, The Ones and POD respectively. Some of the late era bands Nirvana appeared alongside at the Mia Zapata benefit are present as well as members going on into bands like Starfish and Small Stars. It’s an attempt to reach into the constantly shifting line-ups and combinations of the North-West’s remarkably fluid and active music scene and show some of what was bubbling away beneath the superstar surface and outside of contractual arrangements with Sub Pop who deserve huge credit for what they did but who also set in place the prevailing vision of what that whole era of Washington music was about. Basically it’s hard to think about that era without thinking it’s SEATTLE, all male, hard rock with a punk edge. Answer? Rubbish. There was a ton of other stuff going on – here’s 110 minutes of it to take a stroll through.

As a final neat point, Kurt Danielson and his comrades in Bundle of Hiss were kind enough to supply their last remaining unreleased demo – the song Wench made it onto the release. Neat. At this point a definite pause to show respect to Soul Jazz; Stuart, Steve, Angela have worked like dogs in what I can’t imagine is an easy time to be a small indie label. From their office in Central London they’ve created a label that turns heads, that brings eyes back to forgotten times and lost stories – it’s one heck of a bit of work, a real labour of love. Thank you for seeing something worth hearing among the people I’ve befriended in State of Washington and Portland.

I’ll admit totally that receiving the first pressing of the CD yesterday in the post was a genuine thrill. And I’ll confess that yes, this is about me indulging another angle of my Nirvana fixation and trying to make something of it that more people might share. It’s also definitely spawned from a personal desire to thank people who have been kind to me this past year. I felt each band on there deserved more attention – Stuart and the crew at Soul Jazz chose the final line-up and running order and I’m delighted to see it come to something that other people might get a look at. I’m definitely committing the sin of pride holding this in my hand – the vinyl arrives in a couple of weeks – and frankly, heck with you if you don’t like it. Damn I’m proud! And delighted too! HELL YES!

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Hope you enjoy it.

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Comments
  1. nsoulsby says:

    Remember, of course, that Cobain’s top 50 album list was predominantly – age wise – pre-1985 bands.
    https://nirvana-legacy.com/2013/07/09/the-most-oft-cited-list-of-cobains-top-50-albums-in-the-worldever-part-1/
    Essentially his tastes were set when he was in his early-to-mid-teens, that’s when it meant something to him…But his development as an artist took place surrounded by other bands.

    Definitely not saying that this record is “Cobain’s FAVOURITE BANDS” – if it was it’d be called “Cobain’s Favourite Bands” – it’s not. It’s about those around him when he was playing.

    You’ve got such a good point though – Cobain wasn’t “Mr Grunge” – he was a guy with really diverse influences, hooked into the wider currents of the underground. Not just owned by the regular superstars who went from Sub Pop and onward…

  2. Beau says:

    Thank you again Nick for including us on this fantastic compilation!

    Beau from Saucer

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