The Title of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide

A comrade, Mr. Darius Wojewodka, did me the honour of reviewing a chapter of Dark Slivers back in October as I prepared to get everything printed and ready to go. One of the comments he came back with I enjoyed very much, he mentioned the title of the book and mused:

“That’s how the chapter I read felt like, the fans had a beautiful glass object that has been smashed. They are now searching through the shards for the beauty again but are just getting bloodied hands. Bloodied hands not being most people’s definition of nirvana with a small ‘n’.”

It’s a delicious notion on multiple levels. Though increasingly a relic of the past, there’s something about the idea of an album; a complete statement, an artist’s chosen unity placed in the bands. Incesticide was Nirvana’s own self-reporting of their history and its remains; but since that time fans have seen how much was left-over, discarded or stayed unknown. The perfection was ruined. And, of course, Kurt Cobain was happily engaged in kicking the hell out of the pop-punk mainstream image of Nevermind; Incesticide was deliberate vandalism. Darius’ explanation had such beauty in itself; nirvana versus Nirvana, fans parsing the music, the story, the facts down so far they could only end up wounded — do we know too much these days? Plus, the purpose of the book was to pull apart, break, show the innards…It’s a shrewd thought.

The title, I’ll freely admit, is a bit of a mouthful. If I can explain why, well, in the early stages of writing I simply had a single document called Nirvana_Incesticide, plus two spreadsheets going; one called Nirvana_Live where I was compiling data and analysing it (I still use it), the other Nirvana_Lyrics (pretty self explanatory so no need for me to put anything in brackets.) This sufficed in the early months when I was still terrified my enthusiasm would die and I’d never finish. Why was that fear so strong? Simply because trying to cram writing in around a normal day job, eking out the hours each side of midnight, creeping forward by a few hundred words a night — I’ve been through this so many times before. Eventually it’s always ended the same way, I’ve ended up tangled up, fed up, out of images and ideas that fire my desire to finish. I didn’t know I was going to finish a book; I’m not a professional writer, I do it when I want to.

Instead, come summer, I knew I had most of a full book finished or at least plotted out to the point I could see what a conclusion would look like. I’d also seen that my thinking had stretched far beyond just a book about the Incesticide album — a desultory title that simply read like the album title was already boring to me and, now, inaccurate and misleading too. The difficulty was that the core of the book was still about the Incesticide album, even if the edges had spread out from that centre. It was only reasonable that the title remained focused on Incesticide. I wanted to find a title that reflected the fragmentary nature of Incesticide as a compilation, as well as the fragmentary nature of my work in which I wrote in single essays, or groups of essays.

Sat in a pub garden, my friend Emily Jones instigated a brainstorming session, a rip through words and verbs that maybe worked. She had a scrap of paper, back of a map, directions to the pub, words listed out, scribbled out whatever I refused and placed four fresh alternatives in place, words, just words. I was awkward, I refused many, there was never a perfection but there were options strained out from all this detritus — and this one stuck.

No deep reasons, I felt the ‘seeing’ image was right because I wanted Incesticide to act as a prism, a way of seeing wider points about the band and its works, that Incesticide wasn’t divorced from Nirvana’s other works, it was integral and, within it, other inherent truths were visible. And Dark Slivers? Over-elaborate perhaps but, by summer I could tell that quite few elements I was most enthused by within the work, were also those that cast the harshest light on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. That isn’t a twisted ‘kill yr idols’ urge — they were simply the pieces I felt most keenly with whatever sorrow of realisation, joy of intellectual discovery that would arise thereof. The idea of a sliver, beyond the obvious nod to the Nirvana song title, touched on something being stuck inside, something sharp, painful, hard or even impossible to dig out from under the skin. It made sense for the psychological motivations I was seeing.


You Didn’t Build That, Nick: Dark Slivers and Friends

This should be known as the “somebody helped” speech – I agree with it entirely though its phrasing is weak at times. Tomorrow I’ll get on with the set-list analysis (boy, it is time-consuming stuff!) but its a Friday and I wanted to pause…Especially as I gave permission yesterday for the second edition of Dark Slivers to go to print and the application to sell the paperback via Amazon and Waterstones went in.

Ordered 2nd Edition_7 Feb 2013

Yep, I’m very proud of Dark Slivers – if you’re asking, I, Nick Soulsby, genuinely believe that I have created a book that doesn’t duplicate or simply repeat the same old stories about Nirvana; I think I’ve come to some unique and never considered conclusions and have reinforced and argued them with a strength not seen before…Yes, I’m proud of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide.

But does that mean I see myself as a genius? Heck no! I’m in contact now with people I think of as ‘uber-fans’ – guys who have dedicated their time and energies to Nirvana and who intimidate and impressive me constantly with their knowledge and command of detail. The fact they’ve enjoyed the book means a lot to me and they’ve contributed thoughts that I’ve built on and learnt from since.

Meanwhile, to get the book done in the first place – wow, the amount of work involved… My designer Maureen Johnson worked like a demon under tight pressures to make it look right, that’s around a demanding day job, she and I sharing screens between U.S. and U.K. at horrendous times of night to check changes. She had to do it all over again recently for the next version of the book. And of course it was Maureen who came up with the style for the front cover – she made that image. I couldn’t have done this without her. My publisher Ben Sumner runs Running Water Press, again, I needed someone who could advise on the process, who could buy ISBN numbers, understood how to register the book as my property, has the know-how to have the conversations with the big retailers – I can’t do this without him. Many’s the day I’ve called him out for coffee just so I could rant in frustration, even that gave the energy to continue. A friend called Keith Wotherspoon appeared fortuitously, the man is an expert Intellectual Property lawyer and I was understandably terrified that if I quoted lyrics could I be sued? He checked the law for me, gave me the information – again, that’s not something I could have done alone.

Similarly, in the background, various friends contributed thoughts, reviews, opinions, simple encouragement every step of the way – I list about a dozen people in the acknowledgements at the back of the book and each one did me the honour of taking time to read for me at a time when I could barely see the pages anymore I’d lived with the words for so long. I needed them utterly. My dear colleague Shrikant working on the data material – that’s phenomenal, someone taking the time to do that for me – he’s created a spreadsheet showing every single month in which Nirvana performed, what songs they performed and how many times that month…Incredible.

And now, today, what’s made the difference is having people who have read the book take the time to drop me a line and say what was good, what I should think about, what they think about it overall. I’m fascinated hearing about their lives, their achievements (so many talented people! Artists, mothers, musicians, writers…) and it makes this SO enjoyable for me. I truly love hearing from everyone – it makes this a pleasure and encourages me to keep going. I work maybe 20-30 hours a week on top of my full time day job to do the blog and to keep trying to encourage others to try the book…Without this encouragement I’d have given up back in January. Each person who has written to me, thank you, you have made a difference and no, I didn’t build Dark Slivers, or alone. Thanks to you.

I’m proud of me…But I needed several dozen people to make it come true. I didn’t build that.

Sunday Night…Buying Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide

Well, perhaps go to the ‘About’ section first and check out the sample chapter. I moved it to there so those who weren’t sure whether my writing was worth taking a £10 chance on had a chance to see my way of thinking and exploring things…If you find it an entertaining read, maybe check more of the short pieces on the blog (there are over 100 articles now so plenty to choose from) and think “would a NEW BOOK ABOUT NIRVANA amuse and interest me…?”

There are two ways to get the book – first, go to Amazon, buy the ebook if you’re a Kindle fan.
If you like your reading experience ‘old school’ then simply email me at or I’ve sold almost all of the first edition of 100 now and, so far (touch wood!), every copy has arrived safely with its new owner (phew!)

I’m going to use these anonymously (there’s a review on Amazon from one guy too – which was nice of him) but here are some of the other comments received so far – thank you to the individuals who took the time to write me their thoughts, I hope they’re not offended I used these – and YES, you all made me blush:

“I love the insightful approach and I definitely feel as though I am learning new content regarding my favorite band. The charts and such add to overall experience. I am very pleased and am absolutely blown away that you have tackled this often forgotten album. I have found myself listening to Incesticide quite frequently lately.”

“The book is a real gem, no doubt about it; I thoroughly enjoied it and managed to read it in week despite doing PhD work at the same time.
1. You’ve got this really interesting, almost statistical, approach when analysing the genesis of each song. This allows you to trace the ‘ontogenetic development’ of individual songs, compare them with each other and derive all sorts of interesting information on that basis (manner of song writing, etc.).
2. Portraying Kurt Cobain as more of an all-round artist, instead of purely as a musician.
3. Your take on what music meant for Kurt — being a person who’s compelled to create and at the same time someone who’s using music as a way to escape from…personal problems…probably reality in general.”

“i don’t really want to waste time talking about that cynical piece of crap internal memo for the in utero anniversary reissue, but i have to admit i thought of you when i read the line “If you must mention
Incesticide, be sure to call it a “stopgap” release”. it’s such a shame that this really is how incesticide is viewed but i guess that’s the whole point of why you decided to write your book. which i have almost finished by the way and enjoying very much!”

“Nirvana is verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry important to me. So whenever i have the opportunity to engage with like-minded and knowledgeable individuals, i try to do so. it’s a topic very personal and dear to my heart. So, i am just as grateful that someone such as yourself literally appeared out of the woodwork and had the motivation/desire to write an original work and keep the spirit alive so to speak!”

Second Printing Amends to Dark Slivers and New Information on All Apologies/Black & White Blues

On Friday (tomorrow) I’ll be instructing the printing firm to commence the second print run of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide. The first edition, being a first edition, naturally contains a proofing errors and typos that I’m pleased to have the chance to fix. You may ask why weren’t they all cleaned up prior to the first printing – simply because there was a tight deadline (and a long printing leadtime) that meant it had to go to the printers at a specific point in time. The ebook for Kindle received a range of corrections but will also be updated in the next fortnight.

There aren’t many new footnotes or pieces of information being added (three in total)but I would, of course, like to make sure everyone has the information that is entering the book:

“I’ve recently been informed that intriguingly the musician Foetus (JG Thirwell) had a song on a 1992 compilation, Mesomorph Enduros, also entitled Incesticide making it possible that the title of the compilation was borrowed late in 1992. Thank you to Brett Robinson for this. I’ve emailed JG Thirwell and hope he will be able to give some insight into the origins of that song title and the timing of that compilation release.”

Then the two points on Black & White Blues/All Apologies and on Kurdt/Kurt added thanks to the kind support of Jack Endino who took the opportunity to hit me up with some fresh thoughts – I’ve included his original emailed comments here including some I’m not using in the book but think are of definite interest:

“The acoustic instro demo you refer to as Black And White Blues, if it’s the one I am thinking of, I have reason to believe it’s a Krist song, because finger-style is how he plays guitar! It might be Krist on guitar or Krist and Kurt together. But I haven’t asked him. We almost never discuss Nirvana. However if you listen to the January 1, 1991 demo of All Apologies, I can confirm that Krist and Kurt are both playing guitar and there is no bass. If you want to hear Krist on guitar more recently, I recorded this for him a couple years ago (the voice is a naturalist friend of his):

“… explanation of ‘Kurdt’… Kurt used ‘Kurdt’ a few times as a subtle tip of the hat to the only other famous musician to ever emerge from Aberdeen WA prior to Nirvana: local legend, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, cofounder of the Northwest-based band Metal Church (with several major label records in the 80s), who was also known earlier by the alias “Blobbo” in the legendary punk band The Lewd! Everyone who writes about Nirvana misses this because 80s metal bands are not on their radar. But Metal Church was huge here, and if not for Nirvana, Vanderhoof would probably still be the ONLY successful musician to have ever emerged from Aberdeen. You can bet every kid who grew up in tiny Aberdeen in the 80s knew who he was.”

“Another thing… when we were recording Bleach they gave me the title ‘Swap Meat’ for the song that later appeared on the record as ‘Swap Meet.’ I was actually disappointed cuz I thought it was funnier the original way, but knowing Kurt he probably had second thoughts (I never asked him) and concluded the humor was a bit too crass!”

“Just between you and me… when I first heard Been A Son, what I thought of was the song ‘Chambermaid’ from Pink Fairies’ 1973 Kings Of Oblivion album which i bought in 1977:

But I’m about 99.9% certain that Kurt never heard the Pink Fairies. I appear to be the only Nirvana fan in the US who has. They were wildly obscure here.”

“Jam/Jam After Dinner… there is indeed a rather excrutiating ‘Jam After Dinner’ from the 1994 Lang Studio session. But one of the menus from the box set DVD has a section (looped) from a jam I recorded in late 1992 at Word Of Mouth. When I popped in the DVD, that was the first thing I heard… I’ve never actually watched it or went further but Gillian tells me the 1994 Jam After Dinner is used somewhere on that DVD too. I am hoping they use my 1992 jam in full, as a bonus track on the In Utero deluxe reissue, but… we’ll see.”

Dark Slivers: What do the Chapter Titles Mean?

I perhaps over-thought each element of this book…But at least I was thinking and I love the result too! I mentioned the front cover previously? It’s an echo of the incident in 1992 when Kurt Cobain returned from tour to discover all the stuff he was storing in his bathtub, including journals full of song ideas, had been destroyed by a sewage leak. This simple accident means we’ll never know if he had enough stored up in there for a few more quality songs, a few more lyrics that would have compared to his best, music turned to lost dreams. In a world full of generic Kurt Cobain/Nirvana covers I wanted to put a bit more work in and do something a little different to the (tedious) norm; that desire drove me throughout the writing too.

Now, the chapters…Again, taking a Nirvana song title as a chapter heading, it had been done. Sometime early in the process I had an album title stuck in my head, no clue why. A little later, as I was frantically scribbling notes as fast as they poured out my mind I kept using album titles to help me break them up — one of the first, and most obvious, was using The Hammer Party to head up a note suggesting comparing Nirvana’s drummers (eventually used in a post on this site rather than in the book: I eventually realised that, given Incesticide was essentially a record of Eighties’ underground derived sounds and styles, using albums from that scene made absolute sense. Also, it felt good, to me, to be able to pay some small tribute (a tip of the hat) to a series of albums that I adore also and that Nirvana had led me to.

So, why each title? What do they mean…? Well, I’ve left Foreword, Acknowledgements and Reading Nirvana: A Bibliographical Note to one side…






Progress: Blog n’ Book Developments


Received an email from the providers of the website summarising the first 63 days from the time I posted the first piece on Tuesday October 30 to December 31, 2012. How’s it going? 80 posts, 82 pictures in that time – 6,500 views, 700 separate individuals from 70 countries checked in and had a look…In such a short space of time, just two busy months, I’m delighted and, not wishing to be repetitious, honoured that so many people might take time out of their schedule (at a busy time of year) to check my ramblings. The website now contains 95 posts and counting…

And the book…? How’s the book going? Well! The first 100 copies of the paperback arrived on Fri Dec 14, it’s now Sun Jan 13, 2013 and I’m down to twelve copies left – not including a few paid for which I need to deliver next week. I underestimated the associated costs – but what the hell! The money is all going toward a second print run while conversations with Amazon/Waterstones, etc. kick off. What interests me – and I’ll admit this is a 100% egotistical desire – is getting something I’m proud of into the hands of people who might find it entertaining and interesting.

There’s no money in writing, not given the time it takes and the work required, and I’ve already got a job that I like very much. Money was never a reason to do something this crazy – I mean, to dedicate a year (now) to rambling on about a band that’s been dead 20 years? What’s crucial is it’s great doing something I love. I’m also getting intriguing feedback too – the level of Nirvana knowledge out there is immense and there’s new things I’m learning that I didn’t know when I wrote the book. It’s kinda nice that there’s that dialogue going on, that I’m expanding my awareness too. I’ll add updates to the site and will endeavour to always give credit to the individuals who have supplied new information.

To order one of the last copies of the first edition, pretty easy, drop me an email at or at If you give me an address straight away then I can return to you with an exact postal cost and, therefore, an overall cost. Also, I’m signing, inscribing and numbering each of the first 100 so do tell me if you want it signing to you or someone else. The book is £10 (GBP) plus postage and packaging. Alternatively, for you 21st Century kinda kids, the book is available as an ebook for Kindle via…Etc. The book is 72,000 words, 15 chapters (plus Foreword, Bibliography, Acknowledgements), 24 tables, 8 figures, 0.341kg and I think it’s real pretty. Hope you do too.

Jack Endino Got His Copy of Dark Slivers

As a thank you for his decency and vastly appreciated willingness to help me out when I commenced working on Dark Slivers, I despatched a copy to Jack Endino over in Seattle. I arrived home late last night to find a quick message from him.

Jack Endino Email

Phew! Nice to know I didn’t make a complete mess of this from someone so thoroughly important to the subject. Was so chuffed I really wanted to share this on here.

40kg of Books, 5 Staircases…And Too Excited to Put Shoes On


To those of you to whom I owe a book – TODAY IS THE DAY! They arrived yesterday so right now, 14.28, they’re in the post to you!

With the ebook online, with the paperback first edition delivered into my hands, that’s round one of the Dark Slivers saga kinda concluded. How to describe what’s been involved… Well, to speak to publishers one needs an agent. To get an agent one has to send a proposal consisting of multiple pieces of requested information, formatted precisely as each individual agent wishes and, of course, no agent wants to be mass mailed so each proposal has completely different requirements intended to show that you’ve put in the elbow-work just for them. I considered it a good day’s work if I managed to finish three proposals (this was my weekends draining away in May-July). The agents will reject 90% of what’s before them. That’s before a publisher sees anything and rejects another 90%. I gathered a beautiful dozen or so rejections – too niche a topic, too much of a fan’s book, too many Nirvana books.

The reason to acquire a publisher? Because only a registered publisher can acquire ISBN numbers. My publisher did consider whether to help me register as an independent publisher then we decided it was too much faff and came to an arrangement on his royalty rate. The ISBNs are curious too; you can only buy them in batches of ten – at a cost of £125 in the U.K. Oh, and did you realise ebooks need a separate ISBN to a hardcopy book? No, neither did we. So that’s two ISBNs needed – which given the cost of printing in the first place is another expense on top. Not to mention, can you imagine how irritating it is to be all ready to go…Then to have to lose a day returning to one’s incredibly busy designer (West Coast America while I’m in U.K.) to ask if she can change the ISBN on the PDF before upload.

But what the hey. With an ISBN, the printer can now (for a price) print a barcode on the back of the book. Without a barcode you can’t sell a book in a shop. Fifty quid. Speaking of printers, well, understandably they have their needs; 3mm bleed, margin sizes, file type, text aligned this way and that – two files, cover separate to text. And yes, if you have more than a certain number of pages in full colour then the cost doubles (we’re talking several hundred pounds), likewise, if you print above A5 size then the cost, again, doubles so my original funky size wishes (I admit it! Gillian G. Gaar! I loved the size of Entertain Us so much I wanted it to be that size…) had to drop. Plus, Jesus…Hardback printing is crazy. Out of sheer vanity I fancied having a set of 25 hardback copies but the costs were astronomical…It’s important not to lose your mind when doing this yourself. Unless you’re a millionaire. Which I’m not. So I didn’t.

In the background I had to speak to an intellectual property lawyer to discuss the legality of quoting song lyrics – the answer being that if you’re writing a musical critique then quoting lyrics is essential and therefore totally legitimate. If, however, I was to take an entire verse, and place it at the start of a chapter, without it being integrated into the text or the discussion THEN I’d have to pay a charge to whoever owns the rights. Are you keeping up with this? This is what my life has been full of for months now, that’s alongside writing the book (72,000 words) and the blog (35,000 and counting…) He also pointed out the tax rules and regulations to me – which was good to know. Turns out I’m unlikely to make enough profit here to need to declare anything – yay not being a millionaire (again)!

Oh, epublishing…Leaving aside that bit where Amazon take 30% of the revenue (and where whatever I set the price at they add the tax onto the price so you, the consumer, pay the tax on the ebook and the book ends up weirdly priced), their system is quite slick. Compared that is to iTunes – I would need to be a U.S. tax payer to place a book on iTunes. But what the hey, it turns out part of the agreement with Amazon is that the ebook on their site must be at least 20% cheaper than the hardcopy or any other version available. Plus there’s that bit where they hang onto any money for two months earning themselves some lovely interest on each ebook sold before handing anything to the authors, yep, Amazon has epublished neatly sewn up. I’m still sure the wave of self-publishing hype articles this year were all thanks to Amazon (and others) tapping up their media friends to write nice things…

My designer has been a superstar, above and beyond in every way – it did make me chuckle when we discovered that the super-sophisticated design package we’d used to create the PDF for the publishers was TOO sophisticated for Amazon (credit to Amazon, their uploading and previewing portal is really slick, genuinely impressive.) We tried PDF, we tried ePub format…And came to the horrible realisation that we’d have to go back to the Word file…Which meant taking a full weekend to insert each correction we’d made to the PDF back into the Word file. Then check each graphic, check each chart, reformat, review, do it again…Two days gone.

 BUT. Rant over. Suddenly, Wednesday morning I log in and get to see my book up and running on the various Amazon sites and it feels wonderful. Thursday, sheer luck I’m in when the postman dials the flat and asks if I’d mind coming down and fetching the 40kg of books in two boxes because there’s no way his back will survive the journey up the stairs…And I run down barefoot and hump both up one after the other because I’m so thrilled to see them. And today, this lunchtime, when I hand over the postage money and, having signed, numbered and inscribed a message in each copy, I send out the first load of books to people have been good enough to support me…That felt good. And I truly hope they enjoy. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Dark Slivers: eBook Arrives on Amazon Tuesday 11th December (AM)


Back to maps and Nirvana fun as soon as possible – consider this an intermission – but Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide has just been uploaded and finalised on Amazon and will be available in all territories (as defined and permitted by Amazon – don’t ask, they’re masters of the language of Legalese) from sometime tomorrow morning.

The paperback will be ready for delivery this Friday. The main email address is but alternatively feel free to write to and I’ll get back to you. You’ll be delighted to hear the book is 0.341kg including packaging so postage costs will not be excessive. To anyone who has already ordered, I’ll be writing to you tonight confirming the postage cost given by the Royal Mail website plus £0.50p to cover the packaging.

As soon as Amazon activates the ebook page I’ll add the links to the ‘About’ section of this blog and give notification on Facebook and Twitter.

Best wishes!


Dark Slivers: First Copy Arrived Today

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The very first copy of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide arrived – all 260 pages, 15 chapters and 72,000 words of it. Nick is a very happy boy indeed.

I’ve taken a few quick photos on my phone, the main batch of the first print run will arrive next week ready for despatch at the end of the week. I’ll post later today about some of the logistics involved in reaching this but for now…A story.

This is copy 1/100 or one of one hundred. It’s the very first copy of my very first (and likely only) book. It represents an entire year of work, night after night spent up ’til all hours tapping away, revising, revisiting, discarding, solidifying. It’s the first physical result of the hard work of Maureen, my designer, and Ben, my publisher. A bunch of people asked me if they could have number one of one hundred and I refused them – I was keeping it for myself…

…Until I received an email from a young (teenage?) girl in Italy. She has been wanting to find something for her sister’s boyfriend. What she wrote was “I know a special person, my sister’s boyfriend, who has been like a big brother to me. Christmas is coming and though I don’t you, I’d like to get a copy for him.” Frankly, I just found that really cool. I think there’s a choice in life, some people say life is sh** or life is horrible but I think that’s because they expect nice things to just happen when actually life is fantastic if time and energy is spent hunting those nice things down, making them happen and doing things that will make people smile.

So I’m delighted to hand copy 1 of 100 to her. Frankly I feel good knowing it goes to a cause that is worth more than my ego and a place on my book shelf. Everyone who has pre-ordered, I’ll be giving you the postal cost tomorrow then, if you approve, requesting payment next week. Your copies will be in the post end of next week.

…But guys, I’m having copies 2, 3 and 4! 🙂

Loving that cover more and more…

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