This week EDWIN POUNCEY gets on the trail of Sub Pop, the label that brought you Mudhoney and who are about to unleash the ungodly NIRVANA and the bad, bad TAD.
Nirvana: Kills All Known Germs
TO REACH NIRVANA I first have to plug into the band’s main man Kurdt Kobain.
He’s hanging onto the end of a long distance phone line just itching to tell me his story.
“I started Nirvana because there was nothing else left to do,” he explains. “I didn’t like sports so a band seemed to be the last resort for something to do socially.”
Kurdt’s answer is casual enough, but hard to swallow when you hear the wonderful grungy pop that make Nirvana the next in line to the wildly popular Mudhoney. By the time they tour Europe with Tad this coming October, Nirvana’s future as the next BIG thing will be in the bag.
If that sounds like this particular power trio are nothing more than a rockin’ fashion accessory then listen to Bleach, the first Nirvana LP. While Kurdt sings tenderly of girls and lost innocence, of youth corrupted and defiled, the other members of Nirvana plough a furrow of straight ahead rock groove.
My first encounter with Nirvana was through their astonishing ‘Love Buzz’ 45, a limited edition release that Sub Pop pushed out through their Singles Club operation. ‘Love Buzz’ and its B-side ‘Big Cheese’ (the latter appearing on the UK release of Bleach) had all the sounds of ‘Pop Monster’ ringing through it. Kurdt looks back on ‘Love Buzz’ differently, however.
“I wish we could have recorded it a lot heavier, it was one of our very first recordings. We weren’t sure just what we wanted to do so it turned out kind of wimpy compared to our most recent recordings.”
One of the things that was left off ‘Love Buzz’ in its transferal to LP was a couple of seconds of cartoon show soundtrack recorded straight from the TV. This gave it a surreal and crazy quality that fitted perfectly with the opening bass guitar blows. Why did you decide to ditch it?
“Just to make it sound a little different I guess. Originally it was planned to have twice as much cartoon stuff included at the beginning of ‘Love Buzz’ but Bruce [Pavitt, Sub Pop head man] didn’t like that idea, he said it went on too long. I’m into children’s records… I collect children’s records and obscure things like that. I have a very small rock record collection.”
Nirvana were a four-piece for the recording of Bleach, but with the exit of their last guitarist, John Everman, they are back to being a trio.
“We’ve always been a three-piece,” explains Kurdt. “It’s definitely not personal difficulties involved here… it’s musical differences.” Currently joining Kurdt in Nirvana are Chris Novoselic on bass guitar and Chad Channing on drums, a position that is also somewhat subject to change… “So far, we’ve had four drummers within two years!”
Hottest item this summer has to be the official Nirvana T-shirt with the band’s logo emblazoned over what looks like a set of tree rings or perhaps a detailed cross section of a piece of bone. Neither of my guesses is right, however.
“It’s a graph of the third ring of Hell from Dante’s Inferno,” reveals Kurdt. “On the back of that shirt it says, ‘Crack Smokin’, Fudge Packin’, Satan Worshippin’ Motherf***ers’. Each member of the band represents one of those categories.”
So which one are you Kurdt?
“I haven’t decided yet,” he laughs. “We alternate!”
Meanwhile, if you hunger for more Nirvana after Bleach then be sure to pick up a copy of C/Z Records’ Teriyaki Asthma EP which features Nirvana’s three-year-old ‘Mexican Seafood’ contribution. Alternatively, wait for their upcoming promo EP that is soon to be released on Tupelo under the temporary title of Winnebago. Sounds like heaven to me.
Tad: Balling With God
“ASK HIM WHAT his favourite food is,” urges our Features Editor mischievously as I pick up the direct line to talk to Tad Doyle, the BIG man behind the Giant sound of TAD.
Without hesitation Tad’s reply comes through loud and clear… “By far, I would have to say that my favourite food is steak, eggs and potatoes… Oh, here’s someone else with a favourite food list.”
Onto the line leaps bass player Kurt Danielson, credited on Tad’s God’s Balls LP for Sub Pop as being in control of washtub, Homlite, harmonica and vocal stylings.
“I like to eat pussy!” he snickers. “Or a piece of good breast.” As you have probably worked out for yourself dear reader, Tad are one sick bunch of mofos. So how did Tad start, Tad?
“I started out as a drummer playing for various bands that are now history. I picked up playing guitar about a year-and-a-half ago and I’ve played guitar ever since. I wanted to be upfront instead of sitting behind everybody with the drumkit. I wanted to be out front and sing a lot, so playing guitar killed two birds with one stone. I’m also an exhibitionist I guess.”
Tad Doyle’s presence stomps through their God’s Balls record like a big grizzly with a swarm of hornets in its pelt. His songs refer to, “other people, other things and other circumstances.” One person he likes to sing about is legendary mass murderer and cannibal Ed Gein who features strongly in a Tad track entitled ‘Nipple Belt’.
Ed Gein was notorious for digging up female corpses and using parts of their anatomy to decorate both his home and himself. It is reported that he used to wear the flayed skin of his victims under his own clothes as well as owning a belt made entirely out of mummified nipples.
“‘Nipple Belt’ kinda describes who Ed Gein was and what he did… from his perspective,” explains Tad. “Although what his perspective was, Lord only knows. The cops that came and investigated his house at the time barfed up as soon as they went in, they thought they were dreaming or something. This nice little quiet man who wouldn’t hurt a soul ended up freaking out the nation.”
Tad intend to do the same thing, only instead of senseless slaughter and tomb robbing they simply want to turn their amplifiers up to the max. At one particular show in Chicago, home boy Steve Albini was sufficiently impressed to invite the boys over to his place to do some recording.
“He really liked it,” enthuses Tad. “He wanted to keep in touch. We called him up soon after and said, ‘Hey! Let’s do a barbeque!’ He’s ready to cook the goddam steaks!”
Tad plan to travel over with Nirvana (in the same bus!) for their European tour… Let’s just hope there’s a hall big enough to hold their enormous sound. God’s Balls is already available at a record shop near you via Glitterbest… Tad explains the record’s title.
“Kurt and I were at a friend’s bachelor party and we were watching a ‘stag’ film which showed this priest in his priestly robes, sitting back in a chair while a lady of the evening was sucking his dick. Suddenly he screams out, ‘GOD’S BALLS! That feels great!’. So that’s where that comes from.”
But how to explain Tad to the uninitiated? Here’s how the man himself describes the entire phenomenon…
“We’re like a big metallic grinding machine that sounds as though it’s going to blow up and fall apart at any moment. It needs oil real bad, but it never gets it… I guess that would do it.”
1. BLEACH … Nirvana (Sub Pop)
2. TERIYAKI ASTHMA EP … Various Artists (C/Z)
3. TWO LIVES … Vertigo (Skid Marks)
4. GOD’S BALLS … Tad(Sub Pop)
5. ‘LOVE BUZZ’ … Nirvana (Sub Pop)
6. ‘YOU GO TO (KEEP IT OUTTA MY FACE)’ … Mudhoney (Sub Pop)
7. ‘CHESS AND CRIMES’ … LesThugs(Sub Pop)
8. ‘SAD MILE’ … Das Damen (Sub Pop)
9. JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF CAT BUTTER EP … Cat Butt (Sub Pop)
10 AS YET UNTITLED NEW MUDHONEY LP! … Mudhoney (Sub Pop)
What’s going ON the NME stereo (Over my dead body – Ed)
© Edwin Pouncey, New Musical Express, 2 September 1989