Excerpt from the 1994 updated version of Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad, published December 1994
Despite the fact that with Nevermind, In Utero and Tuc Eht Parc all selling millions of copies between them, 10 successful charting singles, and millions of dollars in CD sales, song royalties, touring receipts and merchandise sales, Kurt doesn't take his position for granted. "I don't want to end up like Burt Reynolds, losing so much money that knowing how much I lost exactly would kill me," he says. "I certainly don't want to spend so much that I end up in the hole. It certainly helps that I'm not a fan of extravagance and shit like that."
That especially helps because Kurt does not want to become slaved to albums, music videos and tours becoming the vast majority of his life, an endless treadmill where letting up remotely can put his finances at risk. "Well, I'm having to really learn how to balance my life and get everything in order. I learned the hard way that albums need tours to ensure success and to set up one's bank account, but I also still don't want to go out on the road too long and neglect my kids. I shouldn't have to kill myself and never see Courtney, Frances and Patrick in order for us to be set for life. I definitely want to spend longer stretches of time decompressing at home."
Of course, is Kurt's family life all that secure? With the recent reports that Courtney has been seen in New Orleans with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, the tabloid writers have been having a field day with the rumors, and have been especially quick to suggest that Kurt and Courtney will divorce. Kurt shrugs his shoulders at that possibility. "I thought Courtney made a hell of an album, and I'm glad it's done so well. I don't have any insight into whether Courtney did sleep with Trent, but at the moment, things are going great for us."
Kurt is not the only one going through such potential changes. Dave, the erstwhile budding musician of his own, has been quite pleased that fans love the B-side song "Marigold", which he entirely wrote and did himself, doing vocals, drums, guitars and bass. "I certainly don't want to only be known as the drummer," he says. "I'm especially loving doing guitar in my spare time. It's real fun."
Dave also thinks it's about time for Kurt to share some of the burden, and creative and monetary rewards, of writing songs. "I know Kurt's letting me use some of my songs on the next album and that's great, but I really want to find my own voice at least some of the time." If necessary, he'll launch a side project to get his voice heard. "I already have a name for it: Foo Fighters."
When asked if this means that he and Kurt are having tension or a potential falling out between them, Dave steadfastly denies it. "Fuck, no. Kurt and I are cool."
"Nirvana Reaches For Guns, Megabands To Tour Together," by David Fricke, Rolling Stone, June 28, 1997
Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain have officially buried the hatchet, and to celebrate, their respective bands have announced that they will be launching a major co-headlining tour starting at the end of July, starting at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The tour will also be documented by a live album release sometime next year, which will fulfill both bands' contracts with Geffen Records (Guns N' Roses for the main label, Nirvana for the DGC Records imprint), but there will understandably be pressure for them to re-sign with the label, or possibly move over the the hottest new label of recent memory, Jimmy Iovine's Interscope Records, a sibling of Geffen under the MCA umbrella.
This coincides with Guns N' Roses releasing their new album, Chinese Democracy, on June 27, their first album since The Spaghetti Incident? in 1993 and their first album of original material since the dual release of Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II in 1991. The album has been doing a very brisk business in sales already and receiving heavy radio and video rotation and impressive critical reviews, referring to it as "not as ultra-polished as the Illusions, but not as wild and raw as Appetite for Destruction, achieving a perfectly happy middle to please all fans."
To announce the tour, Cobain and Rose did a joint statement. "Last year, Axl reached out to me to put all our bullshit behind us, and I could see that he was earnest and sincere," Cobain said. "We began to find ground on which we could build a foundation of trust, and began to pour our hearts out to discuss things freely. I also gave Axl advice on how to deal with things in his band, and they helped, as apparently things were getting to be hairy over there." "Slash was on the verge of quitting," Rose explained. "Basically, we'd been drifting apart and I couldn't see it. Kurt pointed it out to me, and I talked to Slash directly, and we were able to work things out."
More than that. Besides keeping the lead guitarist in the band, Guns N' Roses also fired rhythm guitarist Paul Huge, who replaced Gilby Clarke, who replaced Izzy Stradlin, and chose to fill the void again by having Stradlin return to the band on a drop-in, drop-out basis, depending on his mood and feelings and plans related to his solo work, with Clarke in the spot whenever Stradlin does not wish to be with Guns. The main core of Rose, Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, drummer Matt Sorum and keyboardist Dizzy Reed will remain unchanged, though potential touring member expansions could be in the future.
"I think this is going to be an interesting and lovely situation," Cobain says of the tour. "We've gotten to know each other a lot better, and I think it'll go quite well." Apparently, Guns had to outbid to obtain Nirvana's commitment, as the grunge stalwarts had received an offer to join The Rolling Stones on their upcoming tour to promote their new album, Bridges to Babylon.
"Nirvana Signs With Atlantic," Billboard, February 22, 1998Nirvana and their management team, Gold Mountain Management, announced today that the band has signed a five-album deal with Atlantic Records, for which studio albums, live albums, compilations and box sets can all be counted as fulfilling the deal. Nirvana will receive the rights to their past albums and masters with Sub Pop and DGC Records (a sub-imprint of Geffen Records, part of the MCA/Universal empire, currently in the process of buying PolyGram in the hopes of merging with Interscope Records and Geffen with it) to remaster, reissue and use however they see fit in the future, be it under Atlantic, or any future label.
"With Atlantic, we have found a great new partner for the next step in Nirvana's journey," Gold Mountain's statement reads. "We remain proud of the work and time with DGC, and will think fondly of the time and experience. But you can't stay in the past."
"I am very disappointed to hear that Nirvana felt the desire to leave us," David Geffen personally commented in response. "During our seven and a half years of association with them, we helped make Nirvana one of the most successful bands today, and we have been equitable and fair with them. Jimmy Iovine and I personally hoped they would stick around and sign with Interscope, the way Guns N' Roses have recently decided to do. But you can't force people to do things they don't want to do."
"I wish Nirvana nothing but success with their new label," Iovine said. "I would have loved to have signed them, but I have no ill will towards them."
"Nirvana Launches Own Label," Billboard, April 23, 1998Nirvana has announced that they are launching their own vanity label, Exploitation Records, to help look over and administrate the albums under their current five-album deal with Atlantic Records. After fulfillment of that deal, it shall be turned into a full-fledged independent label, with which they will administer all future albums and then hope to expand with signing other artists of different genres.
"It's a real ironic name," frontman Kurt Cobain says. "It's a piss-take on the old Asylum Records label, and it's also making fun of people thinking people are being exploited. When the Atlantic deal is done, we'll use it for not only Nirvana albums, but other artists, established and not. And, just for fun, I'll record street bums, disfigured people, people considered freaks, then release limited copies of them in their hometowns, as further irony of the name, of those who think I'm exploiting these people. There'll be 500 copies of the Singing Flipper Boy from Kansas City, and so on. At the very least they, their families and friends will be happy to have an album."
The success of Exploitation Records past the Atlantic deal is not by any means a sure thing. Artists have started vanity labels before with the art of receiving (or at least getting the appearance of) independence yet within the parent label. Some have had reasonable success, like Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor's Nothing Records, whose works are distributed by Interscope, and include not just NIN's music but also includes Marilyn Manson, PIG, Pop Will Eat Itself, Prick, 12 Rounds, Einsturzende Neubaten and Meat Beat Manifesto. Others become quite disappointing, as in the case of Prince and his Paisley Park Records label when still with Warner Bros., which often became only for signing acts that he helped start himself with very little outreach or success. Then there are others that basically only exist just for the artists themselves, like The Rolling Stones did with Rolling Stones Records, which is now shuttered.
"Marilyn Manson, Nirvana, Schedule 'Rock Is Dead' Tour," by Gil Kaufman, MTV News website, January 27, 1999Colorful Acts Follow Up Australian Gigs With A Major Tour Of The States
The potentially volatile mix of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson and reigning grunge kings Nirvana will take to U.S. stages for a tour set to open February 28 in Spokane, Washington, and run throughout the spring: while April 28 (at the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) is the last date currently scheduled, more dates are expected to be added. Both groups' sets are also set to be filmed and recorded for a live album and video package, though admittedly the sets may be released as separate entities due to potential legal red tape between Manson's label, Nothing Records, a vanity label run by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor under the control of Interscope Records, and Nirvana's current album deal with Atlantic Records.
The name of the tour is the "Rock Is Dead Tour", after one of the big singles of Manson's current album, and is also meant to be quite ironic. Drummer/guitarist/additional vocalist Dave Grohl explains, "Lots of people have said that rock will die out since the beginning, especially now, with the rise of bubblegum pop and boy bands and electronica everywhere. But if anything, the spirit of rock is alive and well, especially if someone like us is saying it. A little bit of irony goes a long way, especially if you're hooking up with Marilyn Manson, who absolutely wallows in it in his lyrics."
The groups, currently sharing stages on Australia's Big Day Out festival tour, have been painting their respective worlds in front of 40,000 fans a night for the past month. During that time, Grohl said Nirvana and Manson have become chummy, despite some acerbic words from Manson ringleader Marilyn (born Brian Warner). In England's New Musical Express last month, he said, "I think their early stuff is quite sloppy, and their current stuff is too tight." He has also expressed a dismissive attitude towards grunge and its more liberal-leaning social and political statements "chasing away all the best things about rock and roll, the theatricality of it."
Nirvana has been busy gigging for a while to promote their last album, From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah-ha, released back in 1997, complete with a massive co-headlining tour with Guns N' Roses that year, which was also released as a 4-CD live album, which ended Nirvana's relationship with Geffen/DGC Records. While they are in the works making their next studio album, clearly they felt they needed to squeeze more road dates out of the last one, which has continued their chart-topping and selling success.
Compared to Nirvana, Manson's heavily hyped Mechanical Animals, which features the current single, "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)", has failed to live up to the double-platinum heights of their previous, breakthrough album, 1996's Antichrist Superstar. Animals is ensconced at #115 on this week's chart, having sold 907,000 copies, though it did debut at #1 on the chart.
Manson has adopted a David Bowie-like glam image in place of his formerly black-clad gothic persona, while grunge siren Kurt Cobain continues to maintain his standard look of ripped jeans, T-shirts, cardigans and Converse Chuck Taylors.
The tour will feature Monster Magnet as support for half the dates, the other half divided between Nashville Pussy and Jack Off Jill.
Nirvana/Marilyn Manson Tour Dates:
February 28; Spokane, WA; Spokane Arena
March 2; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; PNE Coliseum
March 3; Seattle, WA; Key Arena
March 6; Portland, OR; Rose Garden
March 7; Boise, ID; Idaho Center
March 10; Daly City, CA; Cow Palace
March 11; Sacramento, CA; Arco Arena
March 13; Anaheim, CA; Arrowhead Pond
March 14; Inglewood, CA; The Forum
March 16; San Diego, CA; Sports Arena
March 17; Las Vegas, NV; Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV
March 18; Phoenix, AZ; Veterans Coliseum
March 21; Houston, TX; Compaq Center
March 22; San Antonio, TX; Alamodome
March 23; Dallas, TX; Reunion Arena
March 25; New Orleans, LA; UNO Lakefront Arena
March 27; Tampa, FL; Ice Palace
March 29; Orlando, FL; Orlando Arena
March 30; Sunrise, FL; National Car Center Arena
April 2; Winston-Salem, NC; Memorial Coliseum
April 3; Washington, D.C.; MCI Center
April 4; Philadelphia, PA; First Union Spectrum
April 6; East Rutherford, NJ; Continental Airlines Arena
April 7; Uniondale, NY; Nassau Coliseum
April 9; Worcester, MA; Centrum
April 10; New Haven, CT; Coliseum
April 11; Buffalo, NY; Marine Midland Arena
April 13; Cleveland, OH; CSU Arena
April 15; Auburn, MI; The Palace of Auburn Hills
April 16; Pittsburgh, PA; Civic Arena
April 17; Ft. Wayne, IN; Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
April 20; Rosemont, IL; Rosemont Horizon
April 21; Grand Rapids, MI; Van Andel Arena
April 22; Indianapolis, IN; Market Square Arena
April 24; Madison, WI; Dane County Coliseum
April 25; Milwaukee, WI; Bradley Center
April 27; Minneapolis, MN; Target Center
April 28; Cedar Rapids, IA; Five Seasons Center
"Nirvana, Marilyn Manson Cancel Remaining U.S. Tour Dates," MTV News website, April 21, 1999
Nirvana and Marilyn Manson have decided to cancel the remaining 18 dates of their current tour out of respect for those killed in the recent tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
In a joint message posted on Manson's and Nirvana's official websites, he and Kurt Cobain wrote: "People are trying to sort out what happened and to deal with their losses. It's not a great atmosphere to be out playing rock and roll shows, for us or the fans. While music and pop culture are not to blame for this terrible tragedy, nevertheless we have both agreed that it is not appropriate to be performing at this time."
Manson and Cobain also shot back at conservative activists and those in the media who have blamed them and their music for somehow spurring the Columbine shootings. "The media has unfairly scapegoated the music industry and so-called Goth kids," both frontmen wrote, "and has speculated - with no basis in truth - that artists like ourselves are in someway to blame. This tragedy was a product of ignorance, hatred, and an access to guns."
Part of the reason the rest of the 50-date tour was cancelled was because there was a Denver area date on the itinerary more than three weeks from now, and they clearly did not want to draw the ire of parents there so soon after the tragedy. And given that Edgar Bronfman, head of Seagram, owns Universal Music Group, which owns Interscope Records, which Manson is attached to, one of the upcoming dates, at Universal Studios, also did not seem like good press. The tour's final date will now be last night's performance at the Rosemont Horizon arena near Chicago, during which Cobain made repeated comments lamenting the massacre. The fulfilled dates have been filmed and recorded for a live album and video package and will still be released as planned in November. Manson will go ahead with a series of European festival dates through June and July, and four dates in Japan in August, while Nirvana will apparently retreat from further touring and begin work on their next studio album; rumors of Cobain and wife, actress Charlize Theron, planning some kind of entertainment industry project together have also begun to be whispered.
The dates that have been scuttled include:
April 21; Grand Rapids, MI; Van Andel Arena
April 22; Indianapolis, IN; Market Square Arena
April 24; Madison, WI; Dane County Coliseum
April 25; Milwaukee, WI; Bradley Center
April 27; Minneapolis, MN; Target Center
April 28; Cedar Rapids, IA; Five Seasons Center
May 3; Reno, NV; Lawlor Event Center
May 4; Fresno, CA; Selland Arena
May 5; Las Vegas, NV; The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel
May 7; Greenwood Village, CO; Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre
May 8; Universal City, CA; Universal Amphitheatre
May 10; West Palm Beach, FL; Coral Sky Amphitheatre
May 12; Atlanta, GA; Philips Arena
May 13; Huntsville, AL; Von Braun Civic Center
May 15; Biloxi; MS; Mississippi Coast Coliseum
May 17; North Charleston, SC; North Charleston Coliseum
May 18; Fairfax, VA; Patriot Center
May 20; New York, NY; Madison Square Garden
Statement in response to Woodstock '99 on Nirvana website, July 31, 1999
Some time ago, we were offered a considerable amount of money to appear at Woodstock '99, held near Rome, New York, just a week ago. The organizers, Michael Lang and John Scher, and MTV, who were going to broadcast the festival, specifically hoped for a Nirvana performance as a main selling point for Woodstock '99, and as a consolation prize after the decision to cancel the remaining dates of our joint tour with Marilyn Manson. However, we specifically turned down the invitation, choosing instead to work on our next album and help the process of setting up Springbok Productions, as both events were going to take a great deal of our time, or rather, mine.
We certainly, in retrospect, made the right decision. The sight of what Woodstock '99 was, what it was devolving into, was nothing short of disastrous and appalling. First off, the site for the festival, an abandoned Air Force base, simply did not make that much sense, especially since it had a distinct lack of shade in the event of sweltering summer heat, which turned out to be the case as upstate New York was hit by a dangerous heatwave. The logistics for the festival were simply a scandal, with not enough toilets or other amenities for the festivalgoers, ATM machines without cash, and the decision to gouge the attendees to buy food and beverages at inflated prices, such as $4 for water bottles.
It was clear that this festival was not so much a genuine anniversary celebration of the original Woodstock (whose reputation and status in the public eye has surely been exaggerated and mythologized considerably by aging hippies), but a mercenary corporate enterprise cynically using the Woodstock name to profit. John Scher, in particular, clearly engineered the festival to be this way, with giving statements like, "this is the first Woodstock that will be profitable." If you're aiming to take advantage of the crowd in this manner, I'm not surprised that there would be consequences with all the bonfires, riots and property damage. I, naturally, wonder why Michael Lang, who organized the original Woodstock, would allow Mr. Scher to besmirch his baby in this manner.
There's a lot of people rushing to blame the artists that performed for inciting the riots, especially the "nu metal" acts like Korn and Limp Bizkit, or the closing set by the Red Hot Chili Peppers for performing Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" just as the riots got underway. This is blatantly absurd and ridiculous. Much as we've had to endure the complaints about violent media inspiring real world violence because of Columbine, so these artists have to endure it because of the festival. I'm certainly no fan of nu metal bands, but Fred Durst and company didn't get them to start the riots when he launched into a song called "Break Stuff." Besides the fact the riots didn't start then, if anything, he was attempting to get the crowd to purge negative vibes and feel a wave of relief. I agree that it didn't work, and Mr. Durst didn't help the situation, but he didn't light the fuse. Likewise for the Chili Peppers, who we've long been friends with. I know these guys intimately, and I know they would never do something like incite riots. If anyone is to blame in these bands not cooling passions, it's the promoters for not sitting down with them and saying, "Hey, you need to do this when you perform." Instead, they all were clearly left in a bubble, unaware of how the situation was developing, so as far as they knew, it was a standard festival and they were just there to give a damn good show. Of course, I would also say that having a lot of aggro, nu metal, thrash metal and rap rock bands dominate the bill is not exactly the best way to organize a festival where you want calm waters, and Mr. Scher should've thought this over better. After all, Woodstock '94 was far more balanced in representation.
But the part that really gets to me is the reports of sexual assault, rapes and continual sexual harassment emerging from the festival. To see a veritable army of twentysomething young men, the vast majority of them white, continually leer and shout, "Show us your tits!" and then gang up on women forcibly. The fact that Mr. Scher is trying to brush this off and say "It was a few bad apples whose acts have been blown out of proportion by the press" and "MTV is the one setting the tone, so they're to blame", is beyond appalling. When you're the organizer of the festival, what happens there is your responsibility. Now, I'm sure a lot of press pundits will again blame the music for these assaults, which is not true. And then, the men would trot out all the excuses of "they were asking for it," "why did she dress that way?" and "What about the girls flashing their boobs to the bands?" I'm sorry, but however women are acting, even those that seem to be trawling around to look for attention, do nothing to deserve being raped.
I also bet some of these men would go further and say, "Everything's shit here, no food, no water, no toilets, what can we do?" The same answer they're also giving for the riots and fires. The logistics of the festival being shit did not make you rape these women, and it did not give you a license to burn and destroy everything in sight. The fact that a candlelight vigil to honor victims killed in school shootings was used as the spark to light the fires is the truly disheartening part. A beautiful statement of activism, very in line with the original Woodstock's ethos, was corrupted into becoming the second coming of Altamont.
I don't have any real and concrete answers for what should be done after all of this, and I shouldn't have to provide them. Even with all the things I do to support the causes close to my heart, I don't want to be the leader telling everyone what to do. But it's certainly a truly disappointing fact that the ideals and political strides of the '90s, and the work to stand up against misogyny, racism, homophobia and so on, have been completely discarded here. What was at work in the minds of everyone there, I can't hazard a guess. I just hope that future festivals can at least look at what happened here to know what not to do.
"Questions Answered by the Unanswerables Review," by David Fricke, Rolling Stone, March 7, 2000
As their first album of the new millennium, it is clear that Nirvana intend this to be a turning point of some kind. In many ways, it's more than one...Taylor Hawkins fits in nicely on the drum stool when Grohl picks up his guitar and stands at the mike, and Grohl has truly come into his own, showing he could easily take the reins completely were something to befall Cobain..."Friends Of Pain," a rueful meditation over the deaths of Eddie Vedder, Tom Petty, and even all the way back to those of Andrew Wood and Hillel Slovak, is undoubtedly the song that is destined to become an evergreen favorite, though Grohl's "Learning To Fly" comes in at a very strong second..."Fools And Knaves", a song clearly aimed at the American political process and the lack of informed voters, nevertheless has plenty of hope hidden underneath its veritable sarcasm...The true surprise gem is a rollicking rendition of Bob Dylan's "Political World", in which Cobain intones the lines with urgency, just in time to hopefully drive more young people to the ballot box on November 7.
"Dixie Dope...Damn," by David Fricke, Rolling Stone, October 10, 2003
Kurt Cobain is a man on a mission. Right now, he's listening to a playback of a song called "The Great Alton County Prison Escape," sitting behind the console to take it in fully. Sitting right beside him are record producers Rob Cavallo and T Bone Burnett, analyzing the song quite determinedly. At the end, the 36-year-old Cobain turns around and says, "I think I fucked up the second bridge. It doesn't sound as good as it could've been. I probably need to do it again."
Cavallo demurs slightly. "I think it was a great take, Kurt. So it's not so perfect, so what? The rawness of it means a lot more, letting little mistakes in here and there." Burnett, hand on his chin as he sits with his legs off the floor and clutched on the edge of the chair against his stomach, just seems quite lost in thought before he speaks. "I think what Kurt is saying is that he wants it to be more melodic, somewhat more Lennonesque in sound." Cobain just looks up. "Yeah, I suppose that's what I meant."
Such is the scene as Nirvana records its latest album, a swinging, slashing concept record entitled Dixie Dope. For fans who worried that Cobain's duties and responsibilities as a cofounder of fledgling entertainment company Springbok Productions was taking up so much of his time and that the allure of Hollywood was such that he'd never pick up a guitar again, this new album, the first in three years, seeks to allay those fears. Because not only is Cobain determined to make good Nirvana album; he wants to send a message to America.
"I'll admit it, I want this album to really reverberate, particularly politically. I want to send something that can mobilize the youth so that George W. Bush gets his ass kicked at the ballot box in 2004. I want that because I think that he and his cronies are taking us down a really terrifying road that could really spell disaster for America. The fact that he pushed lies and fear to get us into a war in Iraq while taking away resources from finding bin Laden, I don't see how one could possibly justify that. It's all about greed and oil, full stop."
Massive, hard-charging words from a figure that seemed unlikely to be a leader in political protest up to now. While Cobain has certainly done a lot of rallying and support for the causes he and the members of Nirvana, and his second wife, actress Charlize Theron, believe in so earnestly, he'd never really gone out to do "finger-pointing songs" the way Bob Dylan did before 1964. He certainly never seemed to want to step in the shoes of more established political singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne or Don Henley before him, or artists whose sole focus was to push for revolutionary beliefs like Rage Against the Machine. Cobain himself even agrees with that assessment. "I've never wanted to be the type that preached to people, went out and said, 'do this, do that, support this person.' I've always hated dogma."
So why is Cobain making such an overtly political album, and a concept album (more on that later) to boot? "Sometimes, no matter how much you want to stay above the fray, not get involved, refrain from being sucked in, there comes a time when you don't have a choice and you have to stand up for your beliefs, be counted. You know, when she came out, Ellen (DeGeneres) didn't want to be an activist, a spokesperson on behalf of all gay people. But then Matthew Shepard was murdered, and she realized she needed to get involved. That's the real courage right there, that she made that choice to speak and join the fight. If I didn't say anything about what is happening in America right now, about how we have President that was not elected, but installed into an office he didn't win, got us involved in a fight against a nebulous an undefined enemy without real planning, is juicing the economy with giveaways to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and has improper connections with Enron, then I couldn't really face myself. I couldn't let that sit on my conscience."
Cobain knows full well that he's walking into a minefield where he could very easily end up blown apart for the effort. After all, much of the press was in an uproar over The Dixie Chicks for far less, just saying that "we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." One almost throwaway line in a 2 1/2 hour concert in London. And yet the industry seemed content to effectively help the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reillys of the world shove them into the dirt and destroy their career, until Cobain and various country artists gave a message of support, and Springbok's record label, Exploitation Records, bought The Dixie Chicks' contract. "I'm pissed off that they fucking did that to them. They didn't deserve any of that shit, especially all the death threats and calling them Saddam's whores and whatnot. It makes me truly ashamed at times to be a man." And yet, Cobain is only more determined to give out a message far more pointed and forceful than anything the country trio ever said. "They're coming out swinging, and I'm gonna swing right back at them. We need to show Fox News and the Murdoch machine that we're not gonna sit back and take it."
It was in this frame of mind, before the war officially began with the initial "shock and awe" campaign, that Cobain conceived Dixie Dope. A satirical, pointed hybrid of refreshingly basic punk rock with country and Skynyrd-esque Southern rock, the album tells the story of "Georgie WW Bushbelow," who is the titular "Dixie Dope" and an absolute living embodiment of redneck stereotyping and macho posturing, to prove to the world that he is the hero that will save them, especially from "Albertus Arnoldius Gore (no need to guess who this is)" and his "nerdy book learnin'." Each track on the album, which is layered to tell a story from beginning to end, is preface by the narration of the "Talky Man", a storyteller played by comedic psychobilly artist Unknown Hinson, a growing underground success around the Sunset Strip. (Hinson gets 5 percent of the album's profits, and a development deal to create an animated series with Springbok, with Hinson as main character, has also been inked.
"It's a definite piss-take on everything that one associates with the South, with Bush, and so on. But it's also meant to be affectionate, without demonizing them all as garbage that has no value. I hate Bush the politician, but I don't hate Bush the man. I think he's a real decent guy, and it's clear he does respect the Presidency and all of its responsibilities. I mean, he's not just completely slacking off to play golf or watch TV all the time, he puts in the work to go everywhere, see everyone, look at the paperwork and whatnot. But he's clearly not a curious guy, he doesn't challenge himself. I also think he tends to listen to the wrong people, because he's installed the wrong people for important jobs, just because they're high-ranking Republicans, or they're friends of him, or friends of his father. He thought he could really make things better by being a kickass war hero President, and he's rushed us headlong into disaster."
To help bring this vision to life, Cobain turned to important producers who could help bring the specific sensibilities to life. For the punk aesthetics that have long been a major influence for Nirvana (even if tempered with melodic hooks), Rob Cavallo, who produced Green Day's major label works Dookie, Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning, was the prime candidate. "I really liked Green Day, and I'm sorry they couldn't survive," Cobain says. "But clearly things had to go this way because Billie Joe (Armstrong) needed the weight lifted off him to be a healthy, happy dad and husband, and it's working for him. But Rob was a major part of that sound, and the sound of those albums is what I really wanted for this one. Rob and I, we really clicked at once."
And to bring a credible country/Southern rock sound to palate, T Bone Burnett was the man to see. As a youngster, he was a member of the band for Bob Dylan's legendary Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975 and '76. A musician himself with roots in country and Americana, Burnett has produced albums for Elvis Costello, Counting Crows, Roy Orbison, Sam Phillips (not the Sun Records founder who died recently), BoDeans and even pop duo Evan and Jaron ("Crazy for this Girl"). Among his biggest accomplishments, Burnett produced Spinal Tap's "real" album Break Like the Wind, The Wallflowers' major label breakthrough Bringing Down the Horse, and the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers' acclaimed film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Burnett also produced the soundtrack of re-recordings for the much-maligned Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire! and the soundtrack for Cold Mountain, and is set to produce the soundtrack for the forthcoming Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, set to be directed by James Mangold and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.
"T Bone really gets the project and knew what needed to be done," Cobain says. "I'm absolutely in awe of him and his talent. Since he's a musician himself, he really understood on an instinctive level what the song needed, and how to make it not a mere pastiche. He really helped strive for authenticity in the sound, and it shows. You listen to the album, it's clear this isn't just something that was tossed off, or something meant to be disrespectful or shit all over a genre or region. I think it's without a doubt a real labor of love, and the best album that is a coherent whole in the Nirvana catalog."
Not that sessions were easier, necessarily, than the albums before. "I had to work my ass off on this one," drummer/guitarist/co-frontman Dave Grohl states. "There's always been some degree of casualness, looseness, in our recording sessions. Not this one. Kurt came in real determined, and there's been a lot of cracking the whip. We were a lot more regimented, a lot tighter, it was almost like boot camp. Not just from Kurt but from Rob and T Bone. I mean, I'm actually glad to have had the experience, because it means I'm real disciplined when I need to be, so I've really done my apprenticeship. But I certainly want to be real easygoing the next time around. At least the trifecta in charge knew we couldn't all business, so we had a lot of jams and bullshit to wind down and let off some steam."
Cobain concurs. "I knew we couldn't just be only drill sergeants and bark orders. Jamming and doing covers has always been a fun way to keep us in the groove and relax, so we definitely needed it here. Doing that, whatever tension we had between us would just vanish immediately, and we felt at ease, at one with the world."
Part of what makes the album special is involvement by Cobain's oldest child, his eleven-year-old daughter Frances Bean. "Frances is really coming into her own, she's so into music and learning so much. We actually incorporated her parts into one track on the album." She also wrote a poem entitled "Dummy" that is included in the liner notes.
Naturally, one wonders how Cobain will feel if Bush is still in the White House come 2005. "I'll be disappointed, certainly, but I can live with it. I certainly want this album to help drive him out, but if nothing else, I'll at least be glad I really got the message out and helped make people passionate about fucking something. That's the legacy I want this album to have."
Beyond that, Cobain naturally takes great pride and interest in Springbok's slate of projects, most notably the most high-profile one yet, a biopic of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos entitled Monster, with Theron in the role. "Charlize really immersed herself into the character on this one. She gained 30, 35 pounds to look as disheveled as Aileen was, and she studied all the footage so carefully. She's like a student at that shit. I think this is the best project we've done yet."
Cobain goes into the main studio room, redoing the part that troubled him earlier. After listening to it again, he smiles warmly. "Yeah, that's the shit right there. That's theo ne we got." The producers agree. Heartened by the success, he retires to the nearby kitchen to heat up some Kraft macaroni and cheese, his reward, he says, for a job well done.
"A Look Inside Kurt Cobain's Home Studio," by Paul Tingen, Sound on Sound, February 2015
Nestled along Florida's Treasure Coast, in the seaside town of Sebastian, lies one of the many notable properties belonging to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife and business partner, actress Charlize Theron. This particular home once belonged to Arlo Guthrie, and is a modest, but sleekly modern home that includes amenities like a saltwater pool. However what's particularly notable about this property is that it has additional acres directly across from it, which has two additional buildings.
In one of these buildings is a handsome and quite impressive home studio, from which Nirvana shall be recording all its albums going forward, as will Cobain's eldest child, daughter Frances Bean Cobain, in albums for her own music career. To make the studio, Cobain took notes not only from the various professional studios Nirvana had recorded in throughout the past, but also the home studios of other notable rock stars, most notably studios by the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Prince, Joe Perry and Jack White.
"I'm not really an audio or technical geek at all," Cobain states. "I just knew that I wanted the best mix of vintage and modern equipment to work with, the best acoustics, and help from the best technicians and engineers by our side. So, I basically went to learn what I could from other people in order to get an idea of how to go about it, get the best equipment, learn the best techniques. I think it's quite impressive, to say the least."
With Nirvana essentially taking its music into its own hands and self-producing from one particular location from now on, it will certainly be a bit of a change for the band to get used to. "We could have produced yourselves much earlier, started years ago," Cobain admits. "But I guess we always thought we needed a safe pair of ears, an outside listener, to keep track of things and say things quite bluntly that 'that take was shit' or 'those lyrics suck,' or 'that mix is the one.' Now, I'm definitely not the best when it comes to having a pen and clipboard, making notes, keeping track of different takes and choosing which one is the best, but with the experience we have gained over all this time and the people helping run things during the sessions, I'm sure we'll manage. Besides, not having to give outside producers points mean the budgets will be bigger."
Cobain's studio contains a notable mix of different analog and digital recording devices: these include Studer 24-track analog tape recorders, Mitsubishi 32-track digital tape recorders, Alesis ADAT recorders, Genex hard disk recorders, Pro Tools rigs, Apple computers and laptops of different eras from the '80s to now, and the CLASP hybrid systems. There is an SSL desk and a Neve mixing desk, and many of the standard modern plug-ins.
For recording, there are several live rooms and isolation booths, and overdub booths, as well as varying guitars, basses, amps, preamps and drum kits. Neumann, Shure and Ars Technica microphones and bafflers are scattered all around, used interchangeably, depending on the circumstances.
Brian Putralaski, an engineer on staff, who worked with Aerosmith in the past, is quite impressed with the setup. "Kurt definitely knows which way is up, and he certainly doesn't beat around the bush in finding out what we wants in the sound. Basically, it doesn't take long for the band to thrash things out and get the levels right, make the room feel alive and resonant."
When asked how he prefers to record, Cobain shrugs. "We've become quite proficient in doing things live, and in painstakingly laying things down separately, often doing both, with doing the basic track live, and then I go in and do overdubs later. But we often get things done all at the same time. The same is true of mine and Dave's vocals. We always do them live with the band; sometimes as the intended take, sometimes as a guide to go into the booth and do the masters later. But there's definitely no half-assing about it, we're always quite focused on getting things right, even if it is merely a scratch vocal. And then we also do things differently. Sometimes a particular take is good enough to be used in whole, other times we comp takes together, it depends on what suits the song best. Sometimes I'll play with headphones on, sometimes not and we use stage monitors. Sometimes I'll sing on a stage mic, sometimes a standard recording one. Sometimes I'll use an amp, sometimes I'll plug into the console."
Putralaski then attests to how this difference happens. "There are definitely times we get a good complete take, other times we cobble them together. We mix things lots of different ways, try things different ways. We're certainly not averse to pitch correction, but we tend to use those more for giving the song a flavor, rather than specifically to fix dodgy vocals, because, with Kurt in particular, it's not particularly easy to determine what is a blown take because of the way he sings. But we use vocoders and Melodyne at times to give the vocals a particular flavor, an interesting sonic texture that brings something out of the song that ordinarily wouldn't have been present. We mix, mix, and mix some more, sometimes as many as 30 different times for one song, to find something that works. That's certainly easier when we use Pro Tools for that, compared to working with tape, but when we do, we make sure to keep very detailed yet concise notation for it. We still only have two or three pages for track sheets, so it works out fine."
One of the most important tests done is testing the mixes on a car radio, to test how audiences might hear the songs when driving. There is also a similar track of doing this on an iPod to test out the mix there. If the mix passes these tests, it is approved. There is lots of refocusing and rejiggering before sending the approved album to be mastered.
"Basically put, when all is said and done, there's an interesting process, but it all leads to the same result," Cobain says. "And it's certainly nice to have your own space to do it, too."
“It’s Good to be the King: Inside the Court of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain," by David Fricke, Rolling Stone, February 1, 2019
I have interviewed Kurt Cobain five times over the decades prior to this current session, two of those times with his bandmates. One would think that means that I know exactly what to expect from the Nirvana frontman turned entertainment mogul, but in fact, he always surprises me each time I see him after a period of intervening years. There is always something new, about his field, and the world at large, when I sit and talk with him.
When I first sat with him in the fall of 1993, Nirvana was in the midst of touring In Utero, playing general admission venues of an average capacity of 5000, working to confirm that their mainstream success with Nevermind was no mere fluke. Cobain was 26 years old, still married to Courtney Love, still grappling with feuds with Pearl Jam and Guns N’ Roses, and while being an adoring father to his eldest child, daughter Frances Bean Cobain, there was also always a coterie of nannies to step in, as they didn’t particularly trust him or Love to take on most of the day-to-day responsibility. Nirvana was signed to DGC Records, a relatively small hard rock imprint of Geffen Records, and David Geffen himself, along with Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein, were the undisputed kingmakers, having amassed considerable power and respect. The Internet was in its infancy, Michael Eisner was in the middle of pulling Disney out of a dark age, and it was at the point people were just starting to always have a VCR in their house.
Fast forward to today, and it’s a very different world. Geffen and Weinstein are gone and long discredited, Cobain divorced Love and is happily married to actress Charlize Theron, with a fairly expansive family, whom they have long been hands-on and direct in rearing. Their production company, Springbok Productions, has emerged to fill the void that Geffen and Weinstein left behind, with untold billions from their sudden dominance in film, television, digital media, animation, video games and musical theater. And Nirvana, as well as Cobain himself, have basically cemented themselves as the most credible challengers to the legacy of The Beatles, selling out tens of thousands of tickets everywhere they play, and Cobain is now seen as a pioneer who has completely disrupted the entire world.
And yet, as I sit to talk to him, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Taylor Hawkins at Springbok’s L.A. offices, surrounded with pictures of their many, many friends over the decades, and an enshrined photo of Mel Brooks with the quote “It’s good to be the king,” from History of the World-Part I, embossed in gold, the 52-year-old Cobain is still very much the same man I talked to in a Chicago hotel the first time around. “I’ve never been very ostentatious with all the money I’ve earned, enough to last several lifetimes. The houses I own are fairly simple and spartan, in terms of wealth, I don’t like to go to fancy restaurants that often because I don’t like the scene even though I’m part of it, I could easily just live off of eating nothing but ramen and Kraft macaroni and cheese. I’m also not a business-minded guy. I don’t run Springbok, nor does Charlize. It basically runs itself, with all the people we’ve hired. I can still barely fill out my tax forms.”
It would be easy to dismiss these comments as disingenuous, as Cobain wanting to downplay himself for effect, were it not for the fact that everyone who knows him and his family on a day to day basis have all vouched for it. “Kurt is still very much a luddite when it comes to the deeper nuances of the industry,” Jennifer Todd, co-founder and CEO of Springbok, chimes in. “He knows enough to stay informed of new developments, but not enough to actually administrate. Charlize is better in that regard, but she’s also not quite there. If she were in charge of things, Springbok may not have crashed and burned, but it might never have grown beyond a standard vanity shingle. That’s not a knock on either of them, as they’re both immensely talented and compassionate, just stating the facts.”
At this moment, Nirvana is about to go out and promote their new album, a concept piece entitled Artificial Tension, mark the 30th anniversary of their debut album Bleach with a limited edition vinyl-only release of the 20th anniversary box set for Record Store Day, and mark the 20th anniversary of Springbok’s founding. The band, along with Theron, are also being named Disney Legends this year. The five members of the band clearly wanted to take stock of it all, and show that even now, at the height of their fame and influence, they still feel they have something to prove.
Q: By all rights, you’ve essentially accomplished everything you possibly could. You were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame five years ago, and you and Springbok are being named Disney Legends this year. That’s the type of position where many would feel that’s it and pack it all in.
KC: If anything, we’ve got a lot of mileage left in us. If we weren’t at the age of musicians keeping on making music and touring well into their 80s or 90s, then we probably would feel that way and say it’s the time to stop. But I feel that if anything, we’re still only in the middle of our career, not the end. The idea that rock and roll has a retirement age is pretty ridiculous.
DG: When you break it down, the really great acts are those that continue for decades, that weather every storm to keep on turning out new art, even if they’re not always in the most favorable of circumstances. I always get a thrill of entertaining crowds no matter where we are. For two, three hours on that stage, everything is right in the world and we can escape from our hassles.
Q: What would you say has really changed in terms of how Nirvana operates since the early days?
KN: Other than being bigger and working on concept albums? Nothing really. Kurt is still the one who comes up with the songs, we work our asses off to really get the sounds down, and each time we do is a big risk. We don’t go out with the album thinking, “we’ve got it made, this is another easy day for us.” No, we’re always thinking that somehow, we’ve reached the album that will turn everyone off and people will hate. Each one is a risk for us.
Q: Are Pat and Taylor full members of the band?
KC: Absolutely. I love having someone to work off with, as well as ensuring we’re louder for bigger places, especially when Taylor takes the drums and Dave comes out on guitar and sings.
PS: I’ve always been really good friends with them since the In Utero days, and I’ve always felt like part of the band. That was a real trial by fire for me, and it really prepared us for what was to come afterwards. I really feel that.
TH: I may seem to have the easiest time of everyone, since I only have to play a portion of the shows, but I put my all into it every night. I’ve even done some nights playing drums on a lot of the songs Dave normally does that for, to really build my chops. It’s been quite an experience for me, and I’m grateful.
Q: Did you really think you’d be as influential as you’ve become?
KC: Not at all. I certainly didn’t expect that we’d grow to what we are now, and I certainly didn’t think we’d be considered the heirs to The Beatles at all. In my heart, no one can ever be that, and I’ll always feel that way even if the rest of the world says otherwise. Simply put, I never thought the band would be in this position, and I never once imagined myself as an entertainment industry executive. Springbok was not a reality to me, even after it was founded 20 years ago.
Q: Springbok is considered the greatest success story of the 21st century. What do you think is responsible for that?
KC: Finding the right people to work with, to control things, freeing you from being a company director. It’s basically the opposite of when The Beatles launched Apple Corps, which really is the precedent for Springbok. Apple was intended to become everything and anything in the entertainment industry, but it didn’t have a leader. John, Paul, George and Ringo were incredibly naïve about how a business could be run, lots of people were hired and paid to do nothing, and lots of people took advantage of the breaking in new acts that was intended by taking the advance money and running. Then you add the whole Allen Klein situation, someone who didn’t care for the integrity of The Beatles or Apple, who even personally was responsible for George’s plagiarism lawsuit for “My Sweet Lord,” because he also represented the other act. Apple was then only able to succeed as a brand, much as The Beatles have stayed on as a brand.
DG: I certainly could never have come up with an idea for something like Springbok, and I never would’ve tried. I just don’t care at all about business, I want to get out and play. I speak for myself and the other guys, that only Kurt could’ve made that leap.
KN: At least it hasn’t turned him into another suit, that’s the best part. You gotta respect Kurt’s integrity.
Q: Among the projects Springbok has in the pipeline is Clint Eastwood’s film Richard Jewell. Nirvana was performing at Centennial Olympic Park that night.
KC: I still have nightmares about it. We were just having a great time onstage, performing for the MTV cameras, which was a real historic part of Olympics coverage. The audience was definitely enjoying themselves, and it felt real magical. Then we could see that people were starting to move back, wondering what that meant.
KN: I was in the middle of telling a joke to the audience when the bomb went off. MTV even captured it in their broadcast, it was chilling. The panic started to set in, especially when we saw it came from a sound and lighting tower, and Dave immediately shouted out for people to stay away from it, that the tower was going to collapse.
DG: Thankfully it didn’t, because someone had nudged that backpack a few inches. If that hadn’t happened, regardless of what Mr. Jewell had done, a lot more people would’ve died with that tower coming down.
Q: Is it true that you’re going to appear in the film as yourselves to reenact the performance?
KC: Yes, because that’s part of what drew us to the script, a chance to sort of exorcise some demons, that and the fact Mr. Jewell’s story needed to be told, and I wanted to ensure it was told respectfully.
Q: I imagine that it was a bit of a titanic struggle, between you and Clint Eastwood.
KC: It had to be done, because Clint intended something very different. He was going to really tear into his political biases to basically say that the “dirty liberal media and Democrat-stooge FBI” were purposefully in cahoots to railroad Jewell, that Bill Clinton was pushing the thumb on the scale for it, and that the reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that broke the initial story was just a bitch on wheels who slept for sources and was personally driven to take Jewell out and make a name for herself. It was just beyond the pale, and I went right up to Clint and told him that he couldn’t do this, that it would be slander against a woman who was merely doing her job, and he would be doing Richard Jewell’s memory a disservice. Now he didn’t like that, and he definitely laid into me, into Springbok as a whole, in that way of his, saying he was going to pull the film away from us, from Disney, and get Warners to make it, since that’s where all his movies end up.
Q: How did you manage to come out on top?
KC: Jennifer’s really the unsung hero, she really went to the bat, and told the scriptwriter, Billy Ray, to try again and rework the material. She’s very blunt, and he basically made it clear that Clint’s reputation wouldn’t simply push into silence. She especially was going to go to the press and denounce the film quite viciously if he was going to pursue this path, and that we’d personally make it our mission to sink it. I think part of the reason he’s so hit and miss these days is because no one questions him, because they’re too in awe of his legend, whereas we dealt with him like a human being, took him down a notch. I’m glad we took on the project, because if we didn’t, he would’ve pulled out his blatant character assassination and smeared a reputable organization just to push his own agenda.
Q: Obviously, there are people who feel that you, Nirvana and Springbok have gotten too big, and that you’re ruining everything about our culture, that you’re overrated and need to simply die.
KC: Are their first names Matt and Trey? (Chuckles) No, in all seriousness, no matter who you are, not everyone will like you, and you’ve just got to roll with that. If you spend your time worrying about that and trying to win them over, then you become everything they accuse you of. Paul Stanley’s told me that time and time again. How do you think KISS is what it is, despite having legions of detractors or grizzled ex-fans who like to dogpile on them all the time? Because they simply don’t give a shit about complainers and know they’re a minority, when the real fans are the ones who show up every night.
DG: It’s a bit of jealousy too. They’ll never admit that, but it’s obvious.
PS: I read somewhere that during the French Revolution, a lot of them were actually envious of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the ruling class and wanted to be them, that they were just frustrated people who took their anger out to that extreme to compensate. It’s a very compelling theory.
TH: Meanwhile, we’re still rolling along, and this train ain’t stopping anytime soon.
Q: What do you think the future holds, especially in the next decade?
KC: I don’t have a fucking clue. I never have. That’s part of what makes the future exciting, not knowing what’s to come. If you do know, it’s pretty boring.
"Nirvana Backing Drummer Taylor Hawkins Dead At 50," by Kat Bouza, Rolling Stone, March 26, 2022
Taylor Hawkins, the jovial, ferocious second drummer for Nirvana for more than 25 years, died Friday at the age of 50. The band announced the musician's death in a statement but did not reveal a cause.
"The Nirvana family is devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of our beloved Taylor Hawkins," the group wrote. "His musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever." Nirvana are currently on tour in South America and were scheduled to perform at Festival Estéreo Picnic in Bogotá, Colombia, at the time of Hawkins' death, a rep for the band told Rolling Stone.
Bogota municipal government issued a statement Friday night confirming that the city's emergency services received a call about a patient complaining of "chest pain," the Associated Press reports. Ambulances were sent to the Four Seasons Casa Medina hotel, where the band was staying. Health workers "carried out resuscitation maneuvers" on Hawkins but "the patient was declared dead," Bogotá's Secretary of Health tweeted Saturday morning.
According to the Attorney General of Colombia, 10 substances were found in Hawkins, including antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and opioids. "The National Institute for Legal Medicine continues to conduct the necessary medical studies to ascertain the cause of death," the office wrote in a tweet on Saturday. "The Attorney General's office will continue to investigate and will duly inform the findings of forensic examinations in due time."
As news of Hawkins' death spread, numerous musicians and celebrities took to social media to honor the late drummer. "God bless you Taylor Hawkins. I loved your spirit and your unstoppable rock power," wrote Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, sharing a photo of himself and Hawkins alongside Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell. Miley Cyrus, a noted Foo Fighters fan, shared a photograph of herself and Hawkins to her Instagram stories, writing, "This is how I'll always remember you," and added that her upcoming concert would be dedicated to him. Slash wrote that Hawkins' death left him "devastated," saying, "I've no words to express all the feelings I have about his passing." Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, Ozzy Osbourne and producer Steve Albini were among others who also shared tributes.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Hawkins relocated to Laguna Beach, California, with his family in his early childhood. Following a stint with Canadian singer Sass Jordan in the early '90s, Hawkins rose to prominence as the touring drummer for Alanis Morissette during the Jagged Little Pill era. "The second I heard 'You Oughta Know,' I was like, 'I'm in that band!'" Hawkins told Rolling Stone last November. "I just knew." Hawkins also appeared in the music videos for the singer's hit singles "You Oughta Know" and "You Learn."
With Nirvana branching out to include more of drummer Dave Grohl's compositions, as well as for him to take lead vocals and additional guitar duties for those songs, the need for an additional drummer to play during these songs became apparent. Hawkins officially joined the band at the request of Grohl and guitarist and lead vocalist Kurt Cobain in 1996, and was first featured on Nirvana's album From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah-ha.
Grohl would later refer to the drummer as his "best friend and partner in crime" in his 2021 autobiography, The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music. "During his stint as Alanis Morissette's drummer, long before he became one of us, we would bump into each other backstage at festivals all over the world, and our chemistry was so obvious that even Alanis herself once asked him, 'What are you going to do when Kurt and Dave ask you to be their drummer?'" Grohl wrote. "Part Beavis and Butthead, part Dumb and Dumber, we were a hyperactive blur of Parliament Lights and air drumming wherever we went."
Throughout his career with Nirvana, Hawkins occasionally handled vocal duties, singing lead on the group's 2005 non-album single "Cold Day in the Sun" and "Sunday Rain" from 2017's The Adventures of SlyDan SmallHands. Hawkins also frequently sang cover songs with the group, both for Nirvana B-sides and during live performances — including a powerful rendition of Queen's "Somebody to Love" during a January 2021 show for fully-vaccinated fans in Los Angeles.
"He came into a band that was pretty scrappy, in general, and kind of acclimated to that for a second, and then was like, 'Hang on a second, what if we become good?'" Nate Mendel, bassist in Grohl, Hawkins and Pat Smear's assembled fictional band Dream Widow, said of Hawkins in the band's recent Rolling Stone cover story. "That was Taylor's thing, like, 'Why don't we learn how to be better as a band and pay more attention to what we're doing live?'" Hawkins also co-starred with Grohl, Smear, and Mendel as the fictional band Dream Widow in Grohl's horror-comedy film, Studio 666, released last month.
Outside of his work with Nirvana, Hawkins regularly collaborated with other musicians and groups, launching several side projects of his own. In 2006, he embarked on a solo career with Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, reuniting with his former Morissette touring bandmate and Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney. Hawkins would go on to release three albums under the Coattail Riders banner, tapping artists including Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor, Elliot Easton of The Cars, Perry Farrell, as well as Grohl and Cobain for collaborations. Hawkins also fronted cover band Chevy Metal with friends Wiley Hodgden and Mick Murphy, with the trio eventually releasing an album under the moniker Birds of Satan in 2014.
Most recently, Hawkins joined forces with Chaney and Dave Navarro for NHC — a supergroup formed during pandemic jam sessions at Hawkins' home studio in Los Angeles throughout 2020. "NHC was the first time any of us have been in a situation writing-wise where we just throw the ball," Hawkins told Rolling Stone last year. "It's like playing catch, literally. A writing session or recording session for us is all three of us playing baseball in a backyard." The band's debut album is slated for release this year.
"The drummer's seat is the hot seat," Hawkins told Rolling Stone in 2020. "It's the first guy to get fired. It's the first [guy] when everyone goes, 'We sucked tonight because he sucked.' The drummer is really the toilet of the band, but also the most important part on a certain level. Your job is to be the pulse of the band."
"Nirvana Cancel All Tour Dates In Wake Of Taylor Hawkins' Death," by Jem Aswad, Variety, March 29, 2022
In the wake of drummer Taylor Hawkins' death on Friday, Nirvana have canceled all forthcoming tour dates.
A statement from the group reads: "It is with great sadness that Nirvana confirms the cancellation of all upcoming tour dates in light of the staggering loss of our brother Taylor Hawkins. We're sorry for and share in the disappointment that we won't be seeing one another as planned. Instead, let's take this time to grieve, to heal, to pull our loved ones close, and to appreciate all the music and memories we've made together.
Kurt, Krist, Pat and Dave."
The band was on tour in South America and about to perform at a festival in Colombia on Friday when Hawkins reportedly complained of chest pains and died soon afterward. While no cause of death has been announced, local medical authorities reported that he had multiple drugs in his system and an enlarged heart.
Nirvana had been touring regularly since the spring of 2021 and were scheduled to be on the road in North America and Europe for most of the rest of this year. They were also scheduled to perform at the Grammy Awards this Sunday — an appearance that was announced the day before Hawkins' death — but presumably that has been called off as well, although it remains possible that co-frontmen Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl and other bandmembers could appear at the ceremony to pay tribute to Hawkins. A rep for the group did not immediately respond to requests for further information.
Hawkins, who joined the band in 1996 after a year as Alanis Morissette's drummer, was a vital element in Nirvana's latter-day sound and image. An imaginative and rock-solid drummer, he had the seemingly thankless task of playing drums behind Nirvana co-singer and co-guitarist Dave Grohl, who is one of the greatest drummers in rock history. Hawkins filled that role with aplomb, bringing his own muscular, time-juggling style to the band's straight-ahead rock sound without trying to emulate Grohl, even though they shared countless influences, primarily from hard rock, punk and new wave. He was indisputably one of the best rock drummers of the past 25 years.
Nirvana had previously announced their intention to eventually hang up live performances and become a studio-only band like The Beatles in their latter days, but had stressed they did not see that happening for a while yet, especially in making up for lost time after their 2020 tour dates were postponed by the pandemic. Now, Hawkins' death might potentially accelerate those plans, as the band asserts it is not breaking up anytime soon. Hawkins did fully record all his tracks for Nirvana's latest releases, both out this year, entitled Ixo, and a sequel to their 2013 album Tonal Tension, a collaboration record with Guns N' Roses.