Kurt Cobain has been dead for 20 years. Over the years we’ve spoken with people who worked with the man, who knew him and who were influenced profoundly by him.
Journalist Michael Azerrad said the first time he met the Nirvana singer, he felt a connection with him. After writing a book about the band, the writer took the audio from his interviews with Cobain and worked with director AJ Schnack to pair it with new footage of the areas described in the interviews. The resultant movie, “About a Son” came out in 2006.
I was very nervous about meeting him. He was a lumberjack who did heroin and screamed and smashed his guitars and I thought, “how am I even going to approach this guy?” and I sat down to interview him in his apartment in the Fairfax section of Los Angeles and the second I set eyes on him I was immediately comfortable with him and the second he began to speak I just felt like, “I know this guy.” Later on, he told me that he felt exactly the same. He was the working class guy from rural Washington, about to meet the bespectacled Rolling Stone reporter.
Darren Davis, publisher of a new graphic novel based on Cobain’s life, says he remembers having to pull over by the side of the road when he heard the news on the radio that Cobain had committed suicide.
He changed what music meant in the ’90s, he came up with a new type of music, which was the grunge movement. It was just such an amazing talent. I was thinking, ‘Who are the people that if someone were to die who would garner that much attention?’ or that iconic status, you know someone taken before their time in that iconic way? Michael Jackson was there, but can you think of anyone else, really?
John McCauley, the leader of the band Deer Tick had a similar reaction to Cobain’s death, though at the time, he was too young to have been driving. We caught Deer Tick’s set a few years ago at the SXSW Music Conference, where they played a set of cover songs under the moniker of Deervana. As McCauley said of the gig recently, “our manager thought it would be hilarious if we did at SXSW because it’s kind of basically the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do at SXSW.”
My mom turned me onto Nirvana. I was really young, I think I was 7 or 8 when Kurt died and I remember it. … I remember it being on the radio, and getting out of school that day and my mom picked me up. It was weird, because I liked a lot of artists that were already dead, but I didn’t know what it was like to love an artist when they’re alive and then they die. It was weird for me. … And I met Dave Grohl when I was like 10 at a Foo Fighters show. I had my copy of ‘In Utero’ with me and I had him sign it. He gave me a big bear hug. … Nothing about Nirvana sounds old or dated to me. I can’t really put my finger on it. I learned how to play guitar to their songs. It’s something I always enjoyed, since I was a super tiny dude.