20 Musicians Discuss Nirvana's Nevermind

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20 Musicians Discuss Nirvana's <i>Nevermind</i>

Nirvana’s Nevermind turns 20 this week, and many have taken the opportunity to reflect on its importance and influence on rock over the past two decades. The seminal album marked alternative rock’s breakthrough to mainstream music audiences, as the Seattle grunge trio managed to connect to an entire generation of music fans.

To celebrate Nevermind’s 20th anniversary, we turned to 20 musicians to share stories about the impact that Nirvana had on them as well as the album’s lasting legacy.

1. Gregg Gillis
Girl Talk

What age did you first discover Nevermind?

How did Nevermind impact your life?
Nevermind made me want to start making music. It also made me want to discover new music. Nirvana led to Sonic Youth, which led to the Boredoms, which led to Merzbow, which led to my friends and I starting to fool around on electronics and start our first bands. Nirvana is my favorite band.

2. Ian Saint Pe
The Black Lips

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
I was Age 13 when Nevermind came out.

How did Nevermind impact your life?
It made me realize that I could play music. I never could relate to those Big Hair spandex wearing guys… except for the chicks.

3. Peter Silberman
The Antlers

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
I started watching MTV about a month before Kurt Cobain died, I was 8 or 9 at the time. I had just begun buying CDs and Nevermind was my second. I listened to it every day and learned to play all the songs on guitar. Over the next year I accumulated somewhere around 5 gigantic Nirvana Shirts, the first being the Nevermind shirt.

How did Nevermind impact your life?
Nevermind was the first album I heard that I felt a personal connection with, the first music where I realized that was even possible (and important) in music. Nevermind pointed me in that direction for the future of every album I would eventually feel attached to.

4. Nicole Atkins
Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
I think I was 12. I remember finding a cassette single of it at Sam Goody and thinking how cool it was that the tape was white plastic instead of black. I remember bringing it to a birthday party and it completely changed the mood of everything.

How did Nevermind impact your life?
Nirvana taught me as a songwriter how to write a pop song but mix it with heavy noise and emotion. I also have a term i call “anti-cobain,” when referring to souless acts the music industry tries to push upon me and my musical friends.

5. Tiffany Lamson

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
In freshman year of high school so I guess around 14.

How did Nevermind impact your life?
I remember being infatuated with them: Dave’s drumming, Kurt’s lyrics… It was all a haze of obsessive emotions. I thought—these guys are fearless. I want to have that kind of empowerment.

6. Gil Landry
Old Crow Medicine Show

What age did you first discover Nevermind?

How did Nevermind impact your life?
I was in high school just north of Seattle. I remember going over to a friend Mo’s house where he and Tim & Phil Hanseroth (of Brandi Carlile now) were having band practice and they played “Smells like Teen Spirit.” I thought they’d written it and was blown away, I’d never heard a song remotely like it. I got a copy of Nevermind dubbed on cassette the next day and wore it out, learned every song! I’d moved a lot as a kid and Seattle at that time felt like a bit of an unknown outpost to the rest of the country and this album seemed to bring it front and center.

There was so much undefinable, raw, creative music in and around the city at that time from what I can remember and could explore of it at that age. It was strange, and vibrant, and suddenly it had dirtbag royalty. The fringe moved into the center and I recall it’s massive success gave a kind of validity and respect to all the thrift store, stoner, flannel, “ave. rat” existences. A defining anthem of the time of sorts. I also remember an increase in kids with thumbs holed green cardigans. I’d owned Bleach and had been listening to Mudhoney, Tad, the Melvins, etc… but Nevermind was an album that spoke so loud and clear sonically with it’s devil may care intangible lyrics and brilliant dynamics. It refined yet raw power.

7. Christian Zucconi

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
I was 14 when I discovered Nevermind.

How did Nevermind impact your life?
The first time I heard Nirvana I remember being caught off guard by how much I related to their sound, and how exciting that was to experience. The pain in Kurt’s voice and the way they exploded into their choruses made my stomach drop. I was suddenly alive—so I taught myself the guitar by learning Nirvana songs and then started writing my own—screaming my head off in my bedroom. It felt so good to feel something so real for the first time in my life.

8. Tony Ruland
The Lonely Forest

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
I can still remember seeing the “smells like teen spirit” video for my first time in my grandmas basement on thanksgiving in ‘91. My cousins and I were immediately sucked in. We jumped off the coffee table threw pillows, etc… One of my fondest childhood memories.?
How did Nevermind impact your life?
Nevermind was the first record that was not given to me by my parents. It truly felt like mine. For me Nirvana will always embody what is pure and innocent about music. Just doing it because it makes you feel better, minus all of the other bullshit. To this day Nirvana is still my favorite band. They’re the reason I bought a guitar.

9. Kevin Devine
Kevin Devine & The Goddamn Band

What age did you first discover Nevermind?
12, 7th grade, October 1991.

How did Nevermind impact your life?
I don’t think I would have gotten involved with the kind of music I play now, or potentially with wanting to start a band at all, if it wasn’t for that record. It was the skeleton key.

10. Ward Hayden
Girls Guns & Glory

What age did you first discover Nevermind?

How did Nevermind impact your life?
I was obsessed with MTV at the time. Guns & Roses, and Motley Crue were my 2 favorite bands and I remember watching the Top 20 countdown and they featured “Smells like Teen Spirit” in the Buzz Bin.

Within a few months Nirvana was so popular they were teaching the “Come as You Are” guitar lick in my junior high school music class.

Since then I’ve owned at least 3 copies of Nevermind. Everytime I rediscover the album it’s shocking how many great songs are on there.

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