Happy 30th birthday, Bleach

30 years ago today Nirvana’s “Bleach” was released, thanks in part to the mysterious figure on the right hand side of the album cover named Jason Everman.

Listed as the second guitarist of the band, Everman actually never played on the recording that sold nearly 2 million copies. The Alaskan native joined the group in 1989 and toured with them after being in Stonecrow, a band that included drummer Chad Channing, a childhood friend who would also eventually join and subsequently leave Nirvana.

But back to Bleach… despite the fact that none of his guitar parts were used on the band’s debut LP, Everman loved the album so much that he paid the $606.17 producer Jack Endino billed Nirvana for the 30 hours of recording.

As a thank you, Kurt Cobain used the now-iconic photo of he and Everman for the cover of Bleach and listed him as a guitarist on the Sub Pop Records album sleeve. That credit would be removed when Geffen re-released the record in the wake of the success of “Nevermind.”

Everman can be heard in several bootlegs and seen playing with the group during their Rhino Records in-store performance, but he soon left the group and joined Soundgarden briefly as their bassist and appears on “Loudest Love” and “Louder than Love”.

In 1994 he joined the Army and did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq in the Special Forces.

So when you rock out to “Negative Creep,” “School,” and “Molly’s Lips” today, as you should, the guitar-work that you don’t hear is coming from that other guy on the Bleach cover not wearing a jean jacket. He is Jason Everman, the war hero who financed one of the greatest records in rock.

it is now my duty to completely drain you

almost every day i think i am the luckiest man alive

rock never got any better than this

and i got to see so much of the last good stuff

and i am so grateful.

it is so hard for me to believe that nobody could ever make mtv profitable again.

that station influenced so much of the pop charts in radio across the world.

now that there is no one to tell them what to program they are lost

they have no clue how to help develop artists

and they are victims of technology

because instead of steering innovation

they are trying to react to it in the dumbest ways.

if a nirvana knocked on their door today they wouldn’t have

one good idea to honor it

and help it blossom.

it’s weird how much of what is happening today is things going in the wrong direction

today the GOP majority supreme court said its ok for employers

to steal from employees

today interview magazine said they’re folding shop

today they said the new rams football stadium is gonna cost $4 billion.

and today the guy at the tire shop said my stem is gonna cost $125 to replace.

all i know is i ate some delicious curry with a pretty girl

as prince and then the gap band played over the sound system

and soon summer’ll be here.

today is kurt cobain’s birthday, he would have been 51

when i was driving the Royal Blood bassist from WeHo to DTLA he told me he was gonna be playing at the Forum in a few days.

I said, oooooh the Forum. I have seen many great shows there.

he said, like who?

i said, well The Cars, Manson, Clapton, Weezer, Nirvana, Kiss

he said, Nirvana? How were they?

i said, it was for charity and the Butthole Surfers opened. i sat all the way in the back. and they did something that i only saw once with Bob Dylan at the Arlington Theater… Dylan started the show sorta drunk but as it progressed it was obvious that the booze had been replaced with water, and by halftime Dylan had sobered up and was sooooo perfect.

the same happened with Nirvana. Kurdt seemed spaced out and super chill, but as they settled in the got louder and gnarlier and i dont know if the heroin was wearing off or the weed, but it got better and better.

they played Teen Spirit like 5th on the playlist. sorta to get it out of the way.

very punk rock. very “if you were here for the hit you can go home now.”

i have many things that i am supremely grateful for: namely the women i have had the great good fortune to know in my life, but seeing Nirvana live is way up there. and i take none of it for granted.

A letter to Nirvana from Albini

albiniAfter Nevermind lots of producers probably lobbied to produce Nirvana’s followup.

The winner was Chicago native Steve Albini, the no nonsense punk rock purist who refused to even call himself a producer, preferring to be deemed simply Engineer.

One day I hope to be as principled and wonderful as he is in this letter.

Yes he got the job and yes Geffen remastered it because it was too punk rock.

I am still looking for a copy of the Albini original.

Here’s how he got the gig

Kurt, Dave and Chris:

First let me apologize for taking a couple of days to put this outline together. When I spoke to Kurt I was in the middle of making a Fugazi album, but I thought I would have a day or so between records to sort everything out. My schedule changed unexpectedly, and this is the first moment I’ve had to go through it all. Apology apology.

I think the very best thing you could do at this point is exactly what you are talking about doing: bang a record out in a couple of days, with high quality but minimal “production” and no interference from the front office bulletheads. If that is indeed what you want to do, I would love to be involved.

If, instead, you might find yourselves in the position of being temporarily indulged by the record company, only to have them yank the chain at some point (hassling you to rework songs/sequences/production, calling-in hired guns to “sweeten” your record, turning the whole thing over to some remix jockey, whatever…) then you’re in for a bummer and I want no part of it.

I’m only interested in working on records that legitimately reflect the band’s own perception of their music and existance. If you will commit yourselves to that as a tenet of the recording methodology, then I will bust my ass for you. I’ll work circles around you. I’ll rap your head with a ratchet…

I have worked on hundreds of records (some great, some good, some horrible, a lot in the courtyard), and I have seen a direct correlation between the quality of the end result and the mood of the band throughout the process. If the record takes a long time, and everyone gets bummed and scrutinizes every step, then the recordings bear little resemblance to the live band, and the end result is seldom flattering. Making punk records is definitely a case where more “work” does notimply a better end result. Clearly you have learned this yourselves and appreciate the logic.

About my methodology and philosophy:

#1: Most contemporary engineers and producers see a record as a “project,” and the band as only one element of the project. Further, they consider the recordings to be a controlled layering of specific sounds, each of which is under complete control from the moment the note is conceived through the final six. If the band gets pushed around in the process of making a record, so be it; as long as the “project” meets with the approval of the fellow in control.

My approach is exactly the opposite.

I consider the band the most important thing, as the creative entity that spawned both the band’s personality and style and as the social entity that exists 24 hours out of each day. I do not consider it my place to tell you what to do or how to play. I’m quite willing to let my opinions be heard (if I think the band is making beautiful progress or a heaving mistake, I consider it part of my job to tell them) but if the band decides to pursue something, I’ll see that it gets done.

I like to leave room for accidents or chaos. Making a seamless record, where every note and syllable is in place and every bass drum is identical, is no trick. Any idiot with the patience and the budget to allow such foolishness can do it. I prefer to work on records that aspire to greater things, like originality, personality and enthusiasm. If every element of the music and dynamics of a band is controlled by click tracks, computers, automated mixes, gates, samplers and sequencers, then the record may not be incompetent, but it certainly won’t be exceptional. It will also bear very little relationship to the live band, which is what all this hooey is supposed to be about.

#2: I do not consider recording and mixing to be unrelated tasks which can be performed by specialists with no continuous involvement. 99 percent of the sound of a record should be established while the basic take is recorded. Your experiences are specific to your records; but in my experience, remixing has never solved any problems that actually existed, only imaginary ones. I do not like remixing other engineer’s recordings, and I do not like recording things for somebody else to remix. I have never been satisfied with either version of that methodology. Remixing is for talentless pussies who don’t know how to tune a drum or point a microphone.

#3: I do not have a fixed gospel of stock sounds and recording techniques that I apply blindly to every band in every situation. You are a different band from any other band and deserve at least the respect of having your own tastes and concerns addressed. For example, I love the sound of a boomy drum kit (say a Gretach or Camco) wide open in a big room, especially with a Bonhammy double-headed bass drum and a really painful snare drum. I also love the puke-inducing low end that comes off an old Fender Bassman or Ampeg guitar amp and the totally blown sound of an SVT with broken-in tubes. I also know that those sounds are inappropriate for some songs, and trying to force them is a waste of time. Predicating the recordings on my tastes is as stupid as designing a car around the upholstery. You guys need to decide and then articulate to me what you want to sound like so we don’t come at the record from different directions.

#4: Where we record the record is not as important as how it is recorded. If you have a studio you’d like to use, no hag. Otherwise, I can make suggestions. I have a nice 24-track studio in my house (Fugazi were just there, you can ask them how they rate it), and I’m familiar with most of the studios in the Midwest, the East coast and a dozen or so in the UK.

I would be a little concerned about having you at my house for the duration of the whole recording and mixing process if only because you’re celebrities, and I wouldn’t want word getting out in the neighborhood and you guys having to put up with a lot of fan-style bullshit; it would be a fine place to mix the record though, and you can’t beat the vitties.

If you want to leave the details of studio selection, lodgings, etc. up to me, I’m quite happy to sort all that stuff out. If you guys want to sort it out, just lay down the law.

My first choice for an outside recording studio would be a place called Pachyderm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. It’s a great facility with outstanding acoustics and a totally comfy architect’s wet dream mansion where the band lives during the recordings. This makes everything more efficient. Since everybody is there, things get done and decisions get made a lot faster than if people are out and about in a city someplace. There’s also all the posh shit like a sauna and swimming pool and fireplaces and trout stream and 50 acres and like that. I’ve made a bunch of records there and I’ve always enjoyed the place. It’s also quite inexpensive, considering how great a facility it is.

The only bummer about Pachyderm is that the owners and manager are not technicians, and they don’t have a tech on call. I’ve worked there enough that I can fix just about anything that can go wrong, short of a serious electronic collapse, but I’ve got a guy that I work with a lot (Bob Weston) who’s real good with electronics (circuit design, trouble shooting and building shit on the spot), so if we choose to do it there, he’ll probably come along in my payroll, since he’d be cheap insurance if a power supply blows up or a serious failure occurs in the dead of winter 50 miles from the closest tech. He’s a recording engineer also, so he can be doing some of the more mundane stuff (cataloging tapes, packing stuff up, fetching supplies) while we’re chopping away at the record proper.

Some day I’m going to talk the Jesus Lizard into going up there and we’ll have us a real time. Oh yeah, and it’s the same Neve console the AC/DC album Back in Black was recorded and mixed on, so you know its just got to have the rock.

#5: Dough. I explained this to Kurt but I thought I’d better reiterate it here. I do not want and will not take a royalty on any record I record. No points. Period. I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. The band write the songs. The band play the music. It’s the band’s fans who buy the records. The band is responsible for whether it’s a great record or a horrible record. Royalties belong to the band.

I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it’s worth. The record company will expect me to ask for a point or a point and a half. If we assume three million sales, that works out to 400,000 dollars or so. There’s no fucking way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

I have to be comfortable with the amount of money you pay me, but it’s your money, and I insist that you be comfortable with it as well. Kurt suggested paying me a chunk which I would consider full payment, and then if you really thought I deserved more, paying me another chunk after you’d had a chance to live with the album for a while. That would be fine, but probably more organizational trouble than it’s worth.

Whatever. I trust you guys to be fair to me and I know you must be familiar with what a regular industry goon would want. I will let you make the final decision about what I’m going to be paid. How much you choose to pay me will not affect my enthusiasm for the record.

Some people in my position would expect an increase in business after being associated with your band. I, however, already have more work than I can handle, and frankly, the kind of people such superficialities will attract are not people I want to work with. Please don’t consider that an issue.

That’s it.

Please call me to go over any of this if it’s unclear.


If a record takes more than a week to make, somebody’s fucking up. Oi!

to me Tacoma looks like a college town

the pants in its funkiness and cheap housing and coffeeshops advertising socialist clubs and five record stores on one block and cats hiding underneath porches and dueling selfserve pet washing facilities and sweet college girls with replacements cds in their bookshelves,

but the kids tell me that Tacoma isn’t a college town its just super diverse, home of more African Americans than any other city in Washington and as I type to you from the jack in the box on 6th street I count one two three sistas and one two white girls, so maybe the census is correct.

last night I was taken to karaoke at Bill’s teapot or something like that. it’s a teapot looking place on the edge of town nestled in the industrial area usually home to strip clubs and meth labs, and maybe those establishments were there too but all I know was I was in the only place I would probably ever karaoke.

the stage was up high and legend has it that when Nirvana played there the owner threw kurdt off the stage because of the horrible music. which is ironic because im not sure if youre familiar with most people who sing karaoke, but Tacoma, at least last night, was not the home of the most talented upncomers.

except for my date, miss jana pants, who wore a short black skirt, festive red tights, and a homemade stenciled tshirt that said something about capitalists do it better or something.

you could write anywhere you wanted on the seats or the tables or the walls or the floor and as per usual I scribbled isla vista 93117 because that’s how you should represent.

pretty much everyone sang all the wrong songs except for ms pants, who started with London Calling, and later serenaded us with Rebel Rebel and I Want You To Want Me.

the host of the evening was a long haired dude who sat on a chair and advised the sparse crowd that if we didn’t see the song we wanted in the huge three ring binder that we should write it down anyways cuz he probably had it and knew exactly where it was.

then he busted with the 80s classic novelty hit Pac-Man Fever, which I sang along with because im a thousand years old and know everything.

jana and I drank pitchers of flat tire ale and sneaked sips of rum from her flask and she convinced me to take the stage which I did and entertained the crowd with a stirring version of eric cartman’s come sail away. I don’t think id ever karoked before and I hope never to do it again, but I was happy while I was there because they had it set up where you could barely hear yourself. thank God.

this morning we ate at a local breakfast place where I supped on country biscuits and gravy with bacon and eggs and now im prepared to snap some photos for you of this kickass village in the shadows of mt rainier and then speed through seattle on my way to vancity.

there were questions of a Buzznet meetup in Vancouver and last night I was up for it but I drank so much last night I might just soak in the hottub tonight and visit with one or two people and call it a night. I love the road but drinking without dinner is hard on a man who’s pushing 113.

but before I leave seattle I hope to take a peek at kurt kobain’s final home which I believe was in Lake Washington, and as soon as I get some free wi-fi I will see how many seconds the interweb delivers me the address.

although I love fish, I think I will pass on the famous fish market, and even though I love guitars and jimi Hendrix my inclination is to avoid the guitar statue and the rock museum. however if the real world house was open to the public I would definitely pass by the home where the black dude bitch slapped the chick with lyme disease.

that’s how sick I am.

I heart you all.