Archive for the ‘I Found My Friends: the Oral History of Nirvana’ Category

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1989, the year Nirvana go from being nobodies to somebodies. I think that’s a fair statement – genius doesn’t just live out there with a pre-allotted meeting with destiny all set up so that definitely everyone of true talent is captured, noticed and gets to where they’re going. Regardless of Nirvana’s talents they needed support, product that people might actually be able to see, supporters able to get them in front of bigger audiences, media coverage to lure in a few more eyes…Otherwise they’d just be another band playing great stuff in obscurity on lo-fi equipment, recorded on the cheap, performed over junk PA systems in butt-end of nowhere clubs.

Nirvana needed Sub Pop – Sub Pop needed decent bands. But in 1989 it was clear that Tad were higher up the pecking order while Mudhoney were at the top. And that’s just the running order on one label, it doesn’t reflect how far down the ‘grunge’/’Seattle’ buzz running Nirvana were. It’s trick getting back in that mindset really – to the idea of a future superstar as a band that hasn’t played anywhere except at home, that can’t keep a drummer (even Chad is barely over the six months in), that has a single out that no one can get hold of and one song on a compilation that isn’t exactly spread far and wide.

Nirvana’s tentativeness is visible physically. They pop down to Portland then retreat home. They stretch themselves a little further and hit a couple of venues in California, then home. They ramble about Washington State catching time with Sub Pop bands and local friends – there’s always a ‘buddy’ along which saves Sub Pop a bit of cash and helps promote the label all in one. Nirvana are, to the greatest degree, at the beck and call of forces beyond their control. Album recorded by early January but requires a while for the label to get it manufactured and out into the world. Tour awaiting the label’s acquisition of a van – Nirvana aren’t really self-starters when it comes to self-releasing or self-promoting, others do it for them. But still, its progress…

I interviewed members of 170 bands for the “I Found My Friends” book, the following list is intended to show which gigs those bands played alongside Nirvana – just as a guide to coverage and scope. Hope its looking good to you… March 31, oh I am definitely looking forward to it…

1989
January 6, Portland — Mudhoney
January 21, Portland
February, Olympia — K Dorm. Helltrout and Psychlodds
February 10, San Francisco, CA
February 11, San Jose, CA — Mudhoney, Vomit Launch
February 25, Seattle — The Fluid, Skin Yard
April 1, Olympia — Helltrout, S.G.M., Tree House
April 7, Seattle — Love Battery
April 14, Ellensburg — King Krab
April 26, Seattle — Steel Pole Bath Tub
May 26, Auburn — Bible Stud, Skin Yard
June 9, Seattle — Mudhoney, Tad
June 10, Portland — Grind
June 16, Olympia (as Industrial Nirvana) — Lush
June 21, Seattle
June 22, San Francisco, CA — Bad Mutha Goose
June 23, Los Angeles, CA
June 24, Los Angeles, CA — Clawhammer, Stone by Stone
June 25, Tempe, AZ — Crash Worship, Sun City Girls
June 27, Sante Fe, NM — 27 Devils Joking, Monkeyshines
June 30, San Antonio, TX — Happy Dogs, Swaziland White Band
July 1, Houston, TX — Bayou Pigs, David von Ohlerking
July 2, Fort Worth, TX
July 3, Dallas, TX
July 5, Iowa City, IA — Blood Circus
July 6, Minneapolis, MN
July 7, Madison, WI
July 8, Chicago, IL
July 9, Wilkinsburg, PA
July 12, Philadelphia, PA — Napalm Sunday
July 13, Hoboken, NJ — Tad
July 15, Jamaican Plain, MA — Cheater Slicks, Death of Samantha
July 18, New York, NY — Cows, God Bullies, Lonely Moans, Surgery
August 20 & 28 — Cobain and Novoselic take part in The Jury recording sessions — Screaming Trees
August 26, Seattle — Cat Butt, Mudhoney
September 26, Seattle — Dickless, Knife Dance
September 28, Minneapolis, MN
September 30, Chicago, IL — Eleventh Day Dream
October 1, Champaign, IL — Steel Pole Bath Tub
October 2, Kalamazoo, IL — Steel Pole Bath Tub
October 3, Ann Arbor, MI — Steel Pole Bath Tub
October 4 or 5, Toledo, OH — Steel Pole Bath Tub
October 6, Cincinnati, OH — Grinch
October 7, Lawrence, KS — 24/7 Spyz
October 8, Omaha, NE — Mousetrap
October 11, Denver, CO — The Fluid
October 13, Boulder, CO
October 23, Newcastle, U.K. — The Cateran, Tad
October 24, Manchester, U.K. — The Cateran, Tad
October 25, Leeds, U.K. — The Cateran, Tad
October 27, London, U.K. — The Cateran, Tad
October 28, Portsmouth, U.K. — The Cateran, Tad
October 29 until December 2 — Tad
December 3, London, U.K. — Tad, Mudhoney

This is definitely personal pride creeping in – going to have to ask for your forgiveness but I wanted to talk more about the people who were willing to lend not just their thoughts to the book but their names to the front/back cover of the book…I blushed asking them if they would do it and felt truly honoured and delighted they would make statements of support like this. My dearest hope is that when each person involved in the book finally sees it, that they’ll feel I did them credit and respected the lives they’ve led and the memories they gave.

For a start, I need to thank three Nirvana drummers for their care and supportiveness. After our brief encounter in Olympia back in late 2013 I dropped Aaron Burckhard a call and asked him if he’d be game to answer a very brief set of questions for me – he stepped out of a party and said “sure Nick, right on!” Damn good of him. With everyone involved I just tried to be respectful and not bombard anyone – given I’d pulled Aaron out of a social engagement I kept focused. What I wanted to ask him about was often clarification around things other people had raised, points regarding Nirvana’s early songs – their creation, his contributions to those songs, the elements that were his work – then about early shows and, of course, his departure. Often in the book I didn’t necessarily use his statements except as emphasis, plus he’s a funny guy, a good speaker.

Going back to him early last year about the cover quotation I explained what I was asking of him, again, no problem – he just asked what kind of thing I felt would be right…I just said I didn’t want to put words in his mouth but just for him to say something about working with me, about being part of the book…I think this is kinda perfect:

“This guy really gives a sh** about what we went through back in the day!”—Aaron Burckhard, drummer for Nirvana and Under Sin

Dave Foster, likewise, was a gentleman I wanted to approach properly. Basically I’ve been itching to speak to him because, put simply, I feel his time in the band is the last true ‘black hole’ in the story of Nirvana. He’s the man on the drums when the band first play Seattle, he’s the guy playing when they first spark Sub Pop’s interest (even if the recordings were of Dale Crover) and he’s playing when a number of the songs prepared for Bleach first make an appearance…These are significant moments I feel. So, we spoke a while, it was clear he actually still has a lot of feelings about his time with the band – in the end Cobain is still a friend he lost in tragic circumstance and that was clear. Similarly it was clear that the harsh words and stereotype of his cast about in early books and articles by both the band and certain writers has hurt him – there’s an understandable feeling that revealing things that, for him, are private and personal, has not necessarily led to kind or respectful treatment of him. Again, that’s a sad thing. Ultimately, what we did was I prepared the chapter I wanted to write, via the memories of the numerous bands and individuals who were part of that era – including his comrades in Helltrout with whom he played from sometime in late 1988 – did what I felt was justice to the topic and then showed him the chapter. I didn’t know how he would react but he was genuinely so courteous, he didn’t ask for changes to be made, he didn’t get angry…I’m genuinely pretty proud of the chapter entitled “the Lost Drummer” because I feel it’s a gap that needed reassessment and reconsideration. I felt he deserved to be acknowledged and not just dismissed regardless of how the relationship worked out and why. I still feel he has a story to tell but the key, for me, is that it’s HIS story and maybe someday he’ll tell it. I owe him a beer.

Again, as I wrapped up the book I went back to him and just asked if he’d consider being quoted on the cover…And he exceeded my expectations hugely:

“Nick was a pleasure to work with on this project and was respectful of boundaries, which is something I cannot say about other writers I’ve been contacted by.”—Dave Foster, drummer for Nirvana and Mico de Noche

A brief pause, Chad Channing deserves a thank you at this point though his support took different forms. Chad has quite clearly been pummeled by writers, fans, reviewers over the years and quite definitely sounds pretty bored about being asked to dredge up memories of just two years in a creative life that has endured three full decades – wouldn’t you be? What he did for me instead of taking questions was to put me in touch with a couple of his contacts and I feel I covered his time fairly – sheesh, I do not think he was well treated by Krist and Kurt on the final tour in April/May 1990, I think he took the brunt of their frustration with far wider challenges on that tour. Chad’s support actually led to a very different engagement; does anyone recall what Chad’s next band after Nirvana was? I was put in touch with Ed Dekema who ran Dekema Records who is preparing a reissue of the Fire Ants’ 1992 EP “Stripped.” The band featured Chad on drums, Kevin Wood of Malfunkshun, his brother Brian Wood on vocals and Dan McDonald of Native Messiah on bass. Their one and only release at the time was recorded by Jack Endino at Word of Mouth Productions (AKA Reciprocal Recording) and the intention is for a substantial reissue of unreleased studio material and the remastered and repolished EP to be out this spring. Ed invited me to help by writing the proper history of the band which, of course, I’ve been very happy to do. Ed is now working on preparation of the release and I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.

Finally…A deeply decent soul and a guy its been an absolute pleasure to speak to this past year and a half – always something good to say. Genuinely, sounds gawky to say but when you do a day job and have to get home each night and gee yourself up to spend hours writing it makes an unbelievable difference when the people with whom one is in touch are enjoyable to hear from and fun to speak to. Kurt Danielson, now of Vaporland, formerly of Tad and Bundle of Hiss had been so cooperative and I’d readily gone back to him numerous times with smaller questions, other points (and then, of course, the “No Seattle” project too.) He took his time – he’s a good writer – and sent the following:

“It seems that journalists and writers are always emerging from the woodwork, eager to appropriate memories for yet another book about the Seattle music scene or about Nirvana or both. Often I get the impression that many of them see Seattle as just another opportunity to exploit in order to get a publishing deal and to shift units, having no real passion or understanding of the people who made the music or why, being driven by the mentality of a termite that simply wants to consume memories and excrete words for profit. This is not true in the case of Nick Soulsby, who demonstrates true passion for the music and a deep understanding of the musicians who create it, and his words mean something more than just ciphers to exchange for dollars, just as the music he’s writing about does.”—Kurt Danielson, bassist for Tad and Vaporland

Amen to that. Is it ok if I just kinda sit here and glow with pride for a bit? Come March 31 when the book comes out I hope it meets these expectations and you feel it was worth their words.

Felt it was time to share the information about the individuals telling the tale in “I Found My Friends.” Basically with 210 people, with some 170 bands, it’s a long list but I hope an intriguing one. I’ve arranged it as a chronology so you can see who was playing with Nirvana when and so forth… When I first started all this there was that curiosity about who these bands were, I want to write pieces about them on the blog as soon as possible, but I also felt that here were were at 25 years distance at least and that as the limits of memory are reached maybe it was a good moment to begin recording those memories. Turning them into a book, into this bigger compilation of stories and experiences, meant a fleshed out picture told by people who were actually there at the time – not just observers but guys and gals who were up on the same stages, sharing gear with Nirvana, hanging out with the band or just breezing past a band who – in 1987-1988 – were just another band…

1987
I confess the early days truly intrigued me…The start or end of something always has a certain emphatic edge that invites curiosity. Of the ten bands Nirvana played with in 1987 I was blessed and managed to speak to members of eight of them; Nisqually Delta Podunk Nightmare, Yellow Snow, Danger Mouse, Soylent Green, Lansdat Blister, Hell’s Kitchen, Inspector Luv and the Ride Me Babies and the Sons of Ishmael. I was informed via a contact that no one in Silent Treatment recalls much about the show with a young Nirvana – meanwhile, unfortunately, I only spoke to members of the Magnet Men after the deadline for the book had passed so that was that. As a wonderful addition – in my eyes – I received true help and support from Ryan Aigner, Nirvana’s first manager, and the guys from the band Black Ice who lived at the house where Nirvana played their first house party – the Raymond show. On the “With the Lights Out” box set, on the Led Zeppelin cover, it’s actually Tony Poukkula who can be heard yelping how he doesn’t know the solo to “Heartbreaker” before cracking out a brief rip.

1988
Nirvana had a busier year but still, twenty-three gigs is hardly awe-inspiring. They supported twenty nine bands in 1988 of whom I was able to speak to members of Attica, Blood Circus, the Butthole Surfers, Chemistry Set, Coffin Break, DOA, Herd of Turtles, King Krab, Lansdat Blister, Leaving Trains, Lush, Moral Crux, My Name, Psychlodds, Sister Skelter, Skin Yard, Swallow, Tad, the Fluid, the Thrown-ups, Treacherous Jaywalkers and Vampire Lezbos. Alas, Happy Dead Juans, we were too late…Too late…Likewise, though locating a former member of Millions of Dead Leninz (definitely one of the bands I obsessed over the longest) we didn’t get to discuss anything. That’s twenty two of twenty nine…Not bad…Not bad…

Anyways…There we go…Let’s see where next shall we? Incidentally, if you prefer to buy from a non-Amazon source then the book is up for pre-order at IndieBound and B&N:

B&N: http://hyperurl.co/nirvBN
Indiebound: http://hyperurl.co/nirvIND

The list below is intended to show a complete record of Nirvana’s shows (with date/location from the Nirvana Live Guide) then which shows feature a band from whom a member or various members took part in “I Found My Friends.” There are six shows in 1987-1988 that were not played by a musician featured in the book.

1987
March, Raymond — Black Ice
Skid Row plays one undated house party in Aberdeen March/April
April 18, Tacoma — Nisqually Delta Podunk Nightmare, Soylent Green, Yellow Snow
May 1, Olympia — Dangermouse, Lansdat Blister, Nisqually Delta Podunk Nightmare
May 27, Tacoma — Hell’s Kitchen, Soylent Green
August 9, Tacoma — Inspector Luv and the Ride Me Babies, Sons of Ishmael

1988
January 23, Tacoma — Moral Crux
March — Dave Foster plays the Caddy Shack house in Olympia as the band’s drummer
March 19, Tacoma — Lush, Vampire Lezbos
March/April — One show at The Witch House, Olympia plus Nirvana’s first Seattle show
April 24, Seattle — Blood Circus
May 14, Olympia — Lansdat Blister, Sister Skelter
May 21, Olympia — Herd of Turtles, Lansdat Blister
May 28, Olympia— Sister Skelter
May — In time for an undated Seattle show Chad Channing joins on drums
June 2, Seattle — Chemistry Set
June 17, Ellensburg — King Krab, Lush
July 3, Seattle — Blood Circus, The Fluid
July 23, Seattle — Leaving Trains
July 30, Seattle — Skin Yard
August 20, Olympia — My Name, Swallow
August 29, Seattle — Treacherous Jaywalkers
October undated house party on Bainbridge Island
October 28, Seattle — Blood Circus, Butthole Surfers
October 30, Olympia — Lansdat Blister, Lush
November 23, Bellingham — Coffin Break, Skin Yard
December 1, Seattle — Coffin Break, D.O.A.
December 21, Hoquiam — Attica, Psychlodds
December 28, Seattle — Blood Circus, Swallow, Tad, the Thrown Ups

Throughout the book I do deviate from chronology – sometimes there were topics I wanted to tackle in more detail, or people said things that were so interesting to me I wanted to delve in and reinforce them with the views and opinions of others. I hope it makes sense to you as a reader and that the slalom ride between following the live dates and making sense of the journey works for you. Often it was a simple question of memory – this is a LONNNNnnnnng time ago now, where were you twenty-five years ago? I was seven/eight years old – I remember nothing. Plus, shocking statement, the truth is that Nirvana – for quite a long time in fact – were just ‘another band’. That’s what really engrossed me was this sense of Nirvana as being a fairly indistinguishable part of the overall scene, surrounded by friends and comrades doing exactly the same thing with deviations in sound, style, energy…Before Nirvana gradually become something else all their own… It felt good to restore a sense of normalness…That this was people doing something they loved not rock-demi-gods momentarily visiting Earth…

I Found My Friend Cover

Feedback works. Comments left here or submitted to me on email have enlightened me, shifted my thinking, given me detail, corrected me where I’ve been wrong – it’s been beautiful. To be more specific, the entire Nirvana tour of the State of Washington (see the Nirvana Maps and Locales category in the left hand column of the blog) came about because a gentleman called Eric Williams simply asked “have you ever been?” He caught me just as I was thinking of taking a break…Just the right moment! I owe the man! Similarly, Marcus Gray once said to me “I think you have another Nirvana book in you…” at a point in time when I was exhausted by writing the previous book. Well, he was right.

Back in spring of 2013 I became fascinated by all the band names on the Nirvana Live Guide – Treacherous Jaywalkers, Steel Pole Bathtub, Vampire Lezbos… So I started tracking down former members of bands who shared the stage with Nirvana 1987-1994 – initially just so I could write articles for the blog (I will be writing profiles of each band across this year) but people were so welcoming that it rolled…Rolled some more…Kept rolling… And, having sent over 120,000 words of questions and somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 emails I’d received the kind support of 210 musicians and individuals who played in 170 of the bands who performed with Nirvana between 1987 and 1994.

The story is told entirely though the memories and experiences of these individuals – essentially, until fame hit, Nirvana were just one more band in the underground, not an exception, no different to the many other people who were striving to be heard, helping each other out, sharing gigs, sharing pizza and meagre gig pay (often little more than coins), working with the underground network of fanzines, radio shows, record labels, merchandise manufacturers (t-shirts basically), venues that their friends and associates had set up. After fame struck, Nirvana surrounded themselves on stage with old friends, old favourites, local acts – anything to escape becoming a Metallica/Guns n’ Roses tour cavalcade of famous people. They tried to remain true to where they’d come from by bringing as much of it as they could with them.

Thus, “I Found My Friends: the Oral History of Nirvana” was born – a book told by the people who were there and lived the life in those years. I was lucky enough that an agent was willing to take a chance on me (thank you Isabel Atherton!) and, secondly, that St Martin’s Press felt the book was a good read and worth their time and energies. The line “I Found My Friends” was suggested by the editor who, having read the sample chapters, felt it suited that sense of friendships, acquaintances, associations, communities…I think it’s perfect and I hope that aspect of this comes through.

So! May I ask for your help? If you like the sound of the book, and if I’m not asking too much of you, would you mind sharing this post on your own Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, band websites, etc.? I think the tale deserves to be heard, I think the bands shared stories worth attention and I hope it will serve to show people some of the music they missed. I’d be very grateful indeed for your support in letting people know this is out there! I also hope it’s sufficiently inexpensive to be worth taking a chance on – £10.99 (U.K.), $12.46 (U.S.), €10.45 (France), etc.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Found-My-Friends-Nick-Soulsby/dp/1250061520/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420814111&sr=8-1&keywords=I+found+my+friends+soulsby

http://www.amazon.com/Found-My-Friends-History-Nirvana/dp/1250061520/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420814138&sr=8-1&keywords=i+found+my+friends

http://www.amazon.fr/Found-My-Friends-History-Nirvana-ebook/dp/B00NDZZ1JY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420814205&sr=8-1&keywords=I+found+my+friends+soulsby

All through my work for this blog, on No Seattle, on Dark Slivers, I’ve asked myself over and again – daily frankly – whether I am taking advantage of something I love or whether I’m promoting and showing my love through the work I’m putting in. It’s unanswerable; just because i’ve committed a year and a half to this book, just because I get up at 6.50am, do my actual job and get home 6.30-7pm, then switch to writing the book until 12.30-1am – some 20-30 hours a week, I certainly don’t expect to be ‘paid’ for doing something I love. But if you’re willing to support it, and you think the money is worth paying for something you feel you’ll enjoy…Then I’m delighted and my thanks for your willingness to support me in my efforts to do something I adore.

A further thank you at this point. The Acknowledgements list all of you but the people who gave me their time and memories for the book? Thank you all – you made my 2013-2014.