When grunge classic ‘Nevermind’ is reissued for its 20th anniversary in September, it promises to take fans to a different kind of Nirvana entirely, with a mouth-watering arrangement of extras. But, Dave Grohl has warned NME, the deluxe and super-deluxe versions really will mean the end of the story.
Out September 26th, the special edition release will contain a massive haul of previously-unreleased material, including producer Butch Vig’s pre-album demos, the Smart Studio Sessions, and the Devonshire Mixes, an alternative take on the album from engineer Andy Wallace’s final version, mixed by Vig, alongside B-sides, BBC sessions and live tracks.
On his recent whirlwind visit to the UK, Grohl sat down with NME to reveal their plans for the landmark anniversary. Getting the package to bulge sufficiently was, he admits, a stretch.
“Unfortunately Nirvana didn’t have enough time to record album after album after album of unreleased material, so we really have to try to find things in the vaults that become really special” he told us. “For a hardcore Nirvana fan, the unreleased stuff is usually a welcome surprise in that ‘collectors’ type of vibe. But at this point, I think whenever we release something, it’s most important that it shines a true light on that memory or that legacy of the band.”
Two decades later after ‘Nevermind’ changed the musical landscape forever, Grohl readily admits that the album has become something beyond the comprehension of even him, a man who eats stadiums for a living. “After Kurt died and the band was finished, it sort of became something else you know. It’s different now from what it was, it represents something that sometimes I don’t really recognise.”
Having reconvened with former bandmate Krist Novoselic for the track ‘I Should Have Known’ on the Foos current album ‘Wasting Light’, Grohl was keen to play down his involvement, and play up the bearded one’s. He said: “Krist Novoselic I really believe is just as much an architect in Nirvana as Kurt was, because Krist has a certain mentality and aesthetic that is entirely Nirvana. So whenever I think of Nirvana I don’t just think about Kurt, and I don’t just think about ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. The identity is so much deeper than that and deeper in its chaotic fucking bizarre world that we were surrounded by and lived inside.”
Instead, Grohl remembers the band as a bunch of redneck weirdos. “The sense of humour that the band shared, nobody really else had,” he added, “and so [people] just thought we were weird. There were a few bands that Nirvana felt akin to, like the guys in Mudhoney or the guys in Frogs or a lot of the Olympia bands, and Mark Lanegan. But it was this really bizarre sort of, redneck-meets-subculture vibe. The two of them grew up in a really small logging town. So to hear them talk about their childhood, it was some Twin Peaks shit, it was some backwards logging town shit. But you’ve got Krist who was totally politically motivated and then you’ve got Kurt who was just such a brilliant artist that it was that weird conflict or dichotomy or whatever it is. Those two things shouldn’t really co-exist in a way, so whenever something’s released, usually to me its only authentic if it comes from Krist Novoselic.”
Sign up for the newsletter
“He still maintains [that spirit]. We haven’t changed too much as people, a lot has happened but we’re still the same people. He hasn’t changed a bit, so to hear him speak or to hear him tell stories or to hear him talk about Nirvana, it really brings back the feeling of being in the band because it’s just part of his soul.”
What happened to Nirvana, of course, is a less likely story than anything David Lynch dreamt up for Twin Peaks. But at a safe distance away from it, he’s ready to enjoy it. “We’ve talked a lot about what to do this coming September to make things special for kids, and you’d be surprised at some of the things we’ve talked about doing,” Grohl snarls with his trademark toothy grin, the tease, “and it’ll probably draw a lot of attention. It’ll be fun!”
‘NEVERMIND: THE TREASURE TROVE’
A run down of what’s in the extended re-release.
Smart Studio Sessions
The pre-album warm-up sessions from an era BG (Before Grohl) in the wilds of April 1990. Chad Channing was still on bass, ‘Breed’ was called ‘Immodium’, ‘Polly’ was called ‘Polly Peculiar’ and perennial rarity, always-the-bridesmaid Nirvana song ‘Sappy’, occasionally known as ‘Verse Chorus Verse’, was still in line for inclusion on the record.
Completists and stalkers will no longer have to waste hours trawling the ‘dark web’ to uncover scratchy versions of the likes of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ et al. Apart from that smash, in fact, all the versions, including ‘Territorial Pissings’, ‘Come As You Are’, plus rarities ‘Old Age’ and ‘Verse Chorus Verse’ are previously unreleased.
The Devonshire Mixes
A trip into an alternate reality, this version of the album, track-for-track, was mixed by Butch Vig at the Devonshire Studios in Burbank, and differs from Andy Wallace’s eventual version. We don’t know how yet, but considering he formed Garbage not long after, we’re wondering if it puts a ‘robot sex’ shine on proceedings.
Live At The Paramount Theatre (DVD)
This Seattle Halloween show from 1991 is apparently the only Nirvana gig ever to have been filmed. Apart from Reading 1992. And apart from MTV Unplugged. But you get the picture. This has the cream of ‘Nevermind’, plus ‘Floyd The Barber’ and ‘Bleach’. Nirvana were meant to be quite good live so this will probably be alright.
This article originally appeared in NME magazine.