Sunday, May 08, 2011

Nirvana - Nevermind Sessions

It took seven weeks and countless arguments about producers, mixing and fakery. Butch Vig tells Peter Henderson the story behind Nirvana's breakthrough album.

Nirvana were a promising live act in early 1990, but Sub Pop boss Jonathan Poneman had bigger plans: "They're going to be bigger than The Beatles," he insisted to the producer he was trying to secure for their second album. Butch Vig had attracted Poneman's attention via his production work for punk labels Twin Tone, Touch And Go and Mammoth; his Sub Pop recordings included work with Tad and Smashing Pumpkins.
In any event, Poneman's proclamation was unnecessary. Vig had heard Bleach, Nirvana's debut album: "I loved some of the stuff on there, particularly About A Girl because it had such a pop element to it - it could have been a John Lennon song." Without hearing any demos of new material, Vig agreed to work with the band, joining them at Smart studios in Madison, Wisconsin in April 1990. By now, guitarist Jason Everman, who had helped bankroll Bleach but had not actually played on the album, had departed in November 1989, initially to join Soundgarden; hence the band was now a three-piece, with Kurt Cobain on guitar and vocals, Chris Novoselic on bass, and Chad Channing on drums. Where Bleach was recorded in around 30 hours, with a studio bill totalling $606.17, the intended Sub Pop follow-up seemed a luxuriously leisurely affair. Over eight days they recorded seven tracks. "The first thing I noticed was that Kurt's songwriting was a lot better," says Vig. "The songs were very focused. What impressed me most is how hooky they were; Kurt thought of them as pop songs." The seven tracks were Lithium, Dive, In Bloom, Imodium, Pay To Play, Sappy and Polly. Vig considered the sessions successful, bar some problems with the rhythm tracks: "They struggled recording some of them, which did cause tension between Kurt and Chad."
Channing's light, jazzy touch had always been a cause of friction; after seeing hardcore band Scream with friends The Melvins in San Francisco, Cobain and Novoselic saw a promising replacement in their drummer Dave Grohl. Invited to Seattle for an audition in the summer, Grohl arrived with his drums in a cardboard box, and after playing together for a couple of minutes, Chris and Kurt decided the dynamic, hard-hitting drummer was exactly what they needed. By now, tracks that had been recorded for commercial release on Sub Pop were circulating major record labels as a demo tape in search of a big money deal - and the majors were biting. On April 30, 1991, Geffen secured its victory with a $287,000 advance, and above-average royalty deal. The necessary buyout from Sub Pop was achieved with $75,000- the band contributed half the sum - plus a two per cent royalty on their next two albums.
Geffen, keen to use an established producer, decided that the entire album should be re-recorded, suggesting Scott Litt (R.E.M.), David Briggs (Neil Young) and Don Dixon as contenders. The band pushed for Vig, and at one point a compromise, with Dixon producing and Vig engineering, was broached. "I had just finished Gish with the Smashing Pumpkins and a lot of people liked it, but Geffen didn't really know me," Vig explains. "I knew Don Dixon and I thought it might work well, but Don couldn't do it for contractual or scheduling reasons. So at the eleventh hour, a week before we were going to start, they said, 'Can you do the record?'"

MOJO #54 - May 1998. By Peter Henderson.

For the whole article with very interessting info on the recording proces of Nevermind, please refer to:
In deep information about the session itself:

I tracked down the best quality source from these sessions so what I'm uploading here is not the CD as seen on the artwork. I took the tape known by collectors by the name of SBH1H for the first seven tracks, SBH1F for track 8 and tracks 9-11 are from the bootleg CD. From what I can judge, both Aneurysm and Endless Nameless are the official versions. (Same goes for Polly, Dive, Sappy and Here She Comes Now on the bootleg CD). I named the track corresponding their source. They're all 192 kbps MP3's. Flac's are easy to track down on the net so If you like what you hear and you want the real deal, Google is your friend.

PW: smellthatharmonica


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