Archive for February, 2016

These’ll likely come down soon but, for now, a couple of quick shreds of unreleased Kurt Cobain demos taken from this:

It’s a fan made compilation of Kurt Cobain’s known solo acoustic demos, spoken word pieces and experimental takes. The pieces that I haven’t heard as yet are ‘On a Mission from God’, ‘Speed Ambiance’ plus ‘Intro + Tuning’.

‘Cry Baby Jenkins’ has been around a while – but added to the material on the Montage of Heck soundtrack and the other pieces here, I’m always stunned how underappreciated Cobain’s efforts as a story-teller and writer are. This, like ‘Aberdeen’ or ‘Rhesus Monkey’, show a man interested in the sounds his voice will make, the way he can alter how he pronounces sentences to give different effects – most of what he does in terms of speed, pronunciation, tone, is all deliberate. There’s now enough material available to testify to Cobain’s efforts as a spoken word artist – that in the late Eighties his potential destination wasn’t necessarily Top 40 music stardom, that there were other angles he was pursuing at the same time, multiple directions.

The ‘squeaky voices’ tape manipulation phase – while irksome to many – deserves note. There are now half-a-dozen or more tracks where he’s pursuing this angle. His sister has spoken of how much it entertained Cobain, that this was something that gave him pleasure. It may not be as easily consumed as his verse-chorus-verse guitar work but as a curious diversion, as an aspect that went unseen until recent posthumous releases, it’s interesting to me. ‘When You Are Older’ is as good a name as any for the piece above – and yes, I chuckled at it. There seems to be an audience for it – this is Cobain as entertainer, as someone trying to please people. It’s a warming little sketch of him at ease.

‘Screen’ meanwhile is an early version of ‘Old Age’ with certain lines of lyrics already in place. There’s not much else to note except for his regular tendency to have the structure and melody in place long before the lyrics are pinned.



Your Pisces Side in Astrology

Today I wanted to share a piece by one of the contributors to ‘Cobain on Cobain’ – and someone I’m delighted to count a friend – Jessica Adams.

Jessica’s interview with Cobain came out in Select in 1992 from an interview that took place on January 23. She kindly permitted me to include the transcript of her phone conversation with Cobain in the book. I’ll let her take up the story:

“Talking to Kurt Cobain on the phone was a complete fluke. I was supposed to be interviewing Dave Grohl, but at the last minute I heard Kurt’s rather croaky voice in my ear. It is a total joy to be able to share the interview after all these years. I always wanted to give the cassette tape to his daughter, Frances, to prove to her that he had a dry sense of humor and a good heart and that he wasn’t a tormented creature as shown in the media. Kurt was very kind to me in the interview, and I feel bad about the photograph they used on the front cover of Select and the way the piece was written up. Writers can’t control editors or art directors. The piece sensationalized his illness, and to this day I feel guilty about the fact that he trusted me enough to share his memories of recording Nevermind, only to have those memories misrepresented in the published piece, which bore my name in the byline. Just another small letdown in what must have been a sea of letdowns for him, at a time when he was so vulnerable. I was very lucky to see Nirvana in Sydney, and the band was so powerful and so affecting, I have to admit I have not been able to listen to
Nevermind since. I literally have not heard it since that year. Wherever you are now, Kurt,
know how loved you are and how important you are—especially to women, for whom you
always took a stand.”

Jessica worked as a freelance writer at Select and other music magazines before turning to novels, including the bestselling Cool For Cats based on her time writing for rock newspapers. She works as an astrologer for Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar and also works as a medium. Jessica is also the editor of AMMP, the Australian Music
Museum Project, where you can hear her original Kurt Cobain interview online.

Kurt Cobain’s Lost Australian Interview

I’m a huge fan of the work Jessica has put into the Australian Music Museum Project – Australia has had a remarkably active, and very original, music scene for decades yet this is the first time there’s been a concerted attempt to document it. Even better, the work is being conducted in cooperation with the bands and artists concerned, not as an official deification, entirely as an attempt to capture the lives and works of the people who made it happen. Definitely a project worth a lot of respect.

All the best Jessica, and all the best to the AMMP!

I was invited to sit down at the offices of Omnibus Press and to discuss things on my mind while preparing the Cobain on Cobain book.

The thing I’ve always asked myself is, “I was a Nirvana fan at age 13 – why is it something I still bother talking about at age 35?” The obvious answer is that I’ve always felt that people return to their youth to find elements of comfort and contentment – Nirvana being part of mine. It’s the root of much of my musical taste, it was the start of something for me – a fire set somewhere inside.

Here I talk more widely about what Cobain represented, where he came in the history of rock music, why he’s still so loved and why he – not just his music – his perceived so warmly. Why does Kurt Cobain matter in 2016?

I noticed that ‘Cobain on Cobain’, the U.S. hardback edition, is available via other national Amazon sites with the U.K. paperback to follow in March:

UK –

Germany –

France –

Canada –





2016; quite a year so far…An immediate apology for the pause in the blog – life, real life. I moved house from London to Bristol hauling 12 years’ worth of belongings accumulated between January 7, 2004 (23 years old) and January 30, 2016 (35.) Gradually returning to normal rhythm and rhyme…

…And in amidst it, on February 1, Chicago Review Press released “Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters.” I was invited back in early 2014 to act as editor for the volume, part of the publisher’s ‘Musicians in Their Own Words’ series. Their desire was a reasonable one; to create the single most comprehensive go-to compilation of interviews with the band. Professional translation where necessary, thorough translation, appropriate context…I had to pause and consider it.

Money wasn’t an issue. Writing about music is sub-minimum wage measured against the hours put in, plus I have a real job which means I only write – and only WANT to write – about things I love. Music publishing has suffered in the new era of ebooks and Amazon uber-alles; the advance was low – minus 15% (rightfully earned!) to my dear agent, minus 40% tax – but sufficient to cover the cost of the half-a-dozen translators needed, the licenses to reprint purchased from journalists and media worldwide, the legal rights…

What was on my mind though was what could I do with the book idea? What would really intrigue someone like me who has read so many of the interviews before? I took a weekend sketching how my desires. First, lost and unseen interviews – what was out there that had sunk without a trace back in 1988-94? Could I find anything at this late stage? Second, had the journalists, radio stations, TV stations kept their cassettes and their videos – did the conversations that only appeared as excerpts still exist in full form? Finally, Nirvana were on tour so much once fame hit – they toured the U.S. twice after September 1991 but they toured Europe three times, Asia-Pacific once, plus the three gigs in South America – what existed that had never been read by English speaking audiences?

Those paths intrigued me – but there was something lacking. I’ve read three compendiums of Nirvana interviews plus a few for other artists. They just don’t work for me if they’re simply a grab of articles lumped in together. What I chose to do was to sketch out the ‘timeline’ of Nirvana’s life – tours, releases, major incidents and events – to provide the structure. I loved the idea of trying to build a volume in which each interview took place as close as possible to the key moments in the band’s life and Cobain’s life. I wanted to see them reacting to, and speaking about, things as they happened because here we are all these years later saturated in posthumous commentary and revision. I wanted to get back to the real moment – I guess that’s something that steered me on ‘I Found My Friends’ too.

So! I agreed to do it. I’m pretty proud of the results. One pleasing discovery for me was that one gentleman early on would only allow his interview to be used if he was allowed to introduce it – because he felt the interview alone lacked context. I agreed…Then realised what a wonderful thing that was. Normally interviews consist of an anonymous name firing questions, then a famous name responding – it’s flat, a touch dead. The introduction gave the interview real context, a human experience, a sense of the time and place in which the conversation was taking place and how it felt to be there. I started asking each and every interviewer if they would be so kind as to provide an introduction and I was honoured that they all did.

The U.S. version is above, it’s out now and available in hardback pretty well anywhere you can find music books – it’s just under 600 pages long.

The U.K. edition is coming in mid-March.

As for me, well, that’s a million words and 430 articles on, one self-published book, plus the ‘I Found My Friends: the Oral History of Nirvana’ volume. It’s been a wonderful experience and I can’t imagine working on another Nirvana book anytime – bringing more of other people’s memories and experiences into the world has been great…Time for a break from spreading the love of and enjoyment of Nirvana.

There was also the ‘Nirvana Tour’ ( plus getting the ‘No Seattle’ release out…It’s been a wild ride 2012-2016…I’d never have imagined I’d end up writing about the band that’s meant most to me in the world or meeting so many great people, or seeing/hearing/reading so much fascinating stuff.