Intriguing…It does strike me as too much of a coincidence that a few weeks ago the press suddenly ‘discovered’ the Montage of Heck sound collage and claimed it was new/unreleased despite it having floated round the bootleg world and fan community for a decade and a half at least…And then this week the title “Montage of Heck” appears for the new biopic that is apparently neatly down the line. I suspect ‘priming of the pumps’ – getting that title out in the media, getting the name running around the Internet, getting the search stats up for it, then piling on the news.
Brett Morgen’s press release quotation doing the round is:
“…I figured there would be limited amounts of fresh material to unearth. However, once I stepped into Kurt’s archive, I discovered over 200 hours of unreleased music and audio, a vast array of art projects (oil paintings, sculptures), countless hours of never-before-seen home movies, and over 4000 pages of writings…”
Intriguing…I’d be curious to hear how the archive that Brett has seen differs from the archive that Charles Cross claimed access to for the ‘Cobain Unseen’ book, or that he used in relation to ‘Heavier Than Heaven’ – I can’t imagine that a guy who went from living in a one room apartment in Olympia behind the Pear Street house, then lived in hotels and temporarily rented apartments and so forth for most of summer 1991-late 1992, carted an unbelievably huge archive with him in a truck…Nor do I really believe that 1993/1994 was sufficient time to create a ‘vast’ archive of artwork though I happily believe he kept everything he could and had a remarkable memory for his projects. Potentially it suggests Cobain kept quantities of material with relatives and friends which has subsequently been centralised into a single archive – again, I’d want to hear more detail substantiating and explaining that…
…Then again…The early cuts of Live! Tonight! Sold Out! were built from video tapes Cobain had in Los Angeles and subsequently in Seattle. He clearly was accumulating video footage of Nirvana – I presume Geffen were supporting and assisting in this and that any local TV footage was copied to Geffen/Cobain also. That would align with Krist Novoselic’s 2009 comment:
“There’s not going to be any new Nirvana records, what there is, is video. There’s a lot of video.” Novoselic also, apparently, spent the 1992 Australia tour with a brand new camcorder and is known to have taken one with him on earlier European tours. It suggests that someone, somewhere, was gathering all this material and it seems understandable that Brett would now have access to that.
The ‘200 hours’ of unreleased music and audio…That’s quite a lot of material…OK, rehearsals, home demos, copies of taped interviews, live recordings, radio broadcasts – and general mucking about with tape. Do I believe for a second that Brett has compared those tapes to what fans have been accumulating over the years and that it’s ‘unreleased’ compared to the bootleg archive? Nope. Do I believe he means compared to the stuff on official Geffen/Universal releases and archive projects for Nirvana? Sure. That’s a picky distinction but does hold down expectations here. 36 minutes is already Montage of Heck it would seem. After that the mind can run riot. Also, to return to Krist’s comment, we’re clearly looking at a lot of Cobain solo material versus a range of lo-fi Nirvana stuff. It sounds like the studio material has been truly scourged in the quest for anything worth releasing – heck, if the boombox demos could be released then it suggests there are no formal sessions left and little from the ‘late period’ (i.e., anytime 1991 onwards.) That would have implications in terms of sound quality and overall quality of what is contained with that blank number…
As for the 4,000 pages of writing…Don’t want to be too cynical – this sounds like an awesome film with heavy and deep research committed – but how are 4,000 pages of writing going to translate into a cinematic experience? And likewise, having read the Journals, what would another 4,000 pages of them reveal that wasn’t clear in the first volume a decade and a half ago? My feeling would be a lot of ‘nice to know not need to know’ – “oh, another draft of early lyrics for a song…How interesting…” I’m assuming cherry-picked lines from the writing will be used to add dialogue to the film, likewise that photos of particular pages will be used as click-bait in the media campaign, maybe down the line there’ll be a Journals II (This time…It’s Personal…) where those 4,000 pages might be better translated.
So, overall, cool news – expectations duly managed, questions I’m curious to understand the answers to and definitely sounds like a top class job being done by Mr. Morgen and all involved. Delighted. And lucky ol’ U.K…Cinema release? How nice!