Results for Kurt Cobain

interviews

Jon Brion

Jon Brion visits the show this week to perform and talk with Jim and Greg. Brion is mostly known for his production work with artists like Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and Kanye West. Brion is also responsible for the innovative soundtracks to Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist was in town to perform at Chicago's Intonation Music Festival, and he stopped by to meet with our hosts, as well as a live studio audience.

What listeners may not know is that Jon Brion is also an accomplished solo artist, albeit not a prolific one. He holds a residency at Los Angeles club Largo, where he performs a cabaret-style act. Recently, however, a severe case of tendinitis has prevented Brion from playing live much. Lucky for Jim, Greg, and the audience, he was able to play both the piano and the "taro patch" during the interview. You can hear Brion perform "Knock Yourself Out" from I Heart Huckabees and the theme to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the show.

One of the ideas our guest discusses with Jim and Greg is the art of the song. He finds songs to be“astonishing”and distinguishes them from“performance pieces.”Brion's example is the music of Led Zeppelin. He loves Zeppelin, but asks the listener to compare their melodies to that of someone like George Gershwin. Brion adds that one rocker who did manage to write wonderfully constructed songs that will stand the test of time is Kurt Cobain. Listen to how he plays Nirvana's "Lithium" followed by an old Cole Porter standard.

Go to episode 32

Robert Schneider

For this week's feature Jim and Greg dive into the psychedelic world of Elephant 6. For those new to this crazy universe, Elephant 6 is a label and musical collective that was started by childhood friends in Ruston, Louisiana. The bands that came out of this group of music-lovers include Of Montreal, Beulah, Elf Power, with the most notable being Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. Jim and Greg will focus on those three Elephant 6 acts, discussing why they're so important in the rock landscape and which tracks and albums you should check out.

Sound Opinions always likes to begin any consideration of a band, label or movement with the music. Here are the three songs you sample first (you can find a list of all other song titles at the bottom of the page):

  • "Memories of Jacqueline 1906" by Olivia Tremor Control
  • "Two Headed Boy" by Neutral Milk Hotel
  • "About Your Fame" by Apples in Stereo

One of the key players in the success of the Elephant 6 Recording Company is Robert Schneider. Schneider is the chief songwriter, producer and lead singer of Apples in Stereo and co-founded the collective along with William Cullen Hart and Bill Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. Jim and Greg wanted to find out from Schneider how so much great music came from Ruston, Louisiana. Schneider explains that because of the college music scene, he and his friends were exposed to a lot of great music. Schneider and Jeff Mangum took up music early as a way to escape mundane, small town life. Eventually all of these friends decided to start a label and call it Elephant 6.

Greg describes Schneider as the“pop craftsmen,”of the bunch and Jeff Mangum of the Neutral Milk Hotel as the“soul child.”The Olivia Tremor Control were then the trippiest. He and Jim discuss their debut release, Dusk at Cubist Castle, a double album whose subtitle,“Music from an Unrealized Film Script,”points to the music's psychedelic nature. The Olivia Tremor Control tried to capture the feeling of a live performance and made a dense album full of layers and layers of sound. This was also the case on their second album, Black Foliage, but OTC disbanded soon after that.

Next Jim and Greg discuss Neutral Milk Hotel, the band that probably has the largest fan base. In fact, Jeff Mangum holds a mythic standing among music fans that parallels only that of Kurt Cobain. Mangum went for a soulful, more stripped down approach that was moving and easily identifiable for many listeners. This is evident in the band's 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a concept album about tragedy, and at times, the story of Anne Frank. Mangum wanted the star of this album to be the acoustic guitar, his voice and his words. This sometimes caused conflict between the songwriter and Robert Schneider, his producer, but the result is one of the most innovative and important albums of the 1990s.

Go to episode 70

Jon Brion

Jon Brion Jim and Greg revisit one of their favorite interviews in the history of the show: a 2006 conversation with multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, and film composer Jon Brion. Brion has produced for artists like Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Spoon, and Kanye West and worked as a session player for Macy Gray and others. He's collaborated with filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Michel Gondry, and Charlie Kaufman, providing the score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch-Drunk Love, Synechdoche, New York, I ♥ Huckabees, and more.

But Jon Brion is also an accomplished solo artist with one solo album, Meaningless, to his name. Brion has grown a devoted following for his decades-long residency at the Los Angeles club Largo. At his shows, Brion improvises spectacular sets of originals and covers as he shows off his virtuosity on every instrument. He demonstrates his skills through performances of some of his compositions in front of a small audience. He also demonstrates to Jim and Greg the difference between the art of songwriting (as exemplified by Gershwin and Kurt Cobain) and what he calls "performance pieces."

Go to episode 574
classic album dissections
DoolittleDoolittle available on iTunes

The Pixies Doolittle

This week Jim and Greg conduct one of their patented Classic Album Dissections. They decided to focus on a landmark album in indie rock: Doolittle by The Pixies. As an added bonus, they're joined by one of the creators of Doolittle, Pixies singer and songwriter Charles Thompson aka Black Francis aka Frank Black. Charles and bandmates Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering recently marked the album's 20th anniversary with a tour dedicated to the record. While artists such as Kurt Cobain have cited it as a major influence, Doolittle was a slow burn record. After its 1989 release, it didn't achieve gold status until almost a decade later.

As Charles explains to Jim and Greg, his vocal style and lyrics were an amalgamation of his upbringing and the art and ideas floating around him at that time. It's a unique mix of preaching, surrealism and even sexual frustration. But, the songwriter warns against dissecting the lyrics too closely. He loves words for words' sake.

The lead singer also credits producer Gil Norton for the mix of“raw and fancy”that people associate with The Pixies. He polished up their sound, but knew well enough to leave a little roughness around the edges. Another component of the sweet but scary mix is Joey Santiago's guitar playing. Charles describes it as just like the guitarist's own personality-sweet and gentle like a little kid, but capable of smashing something to bits.

At the end of their discussion Jim and Greg ask Charles/Black/Frank to choose a favorite track from Doolittle. He goes with "Monkey Gone to Heaven," a song that encapsulates all of the album's elements-humor, darkness, violence, love, hope and references to the nautical and the mythological. Finally, Charles sees it as a great example of the yin and yang connection between him and singer Kim Deal.

Go to episode 217
reviews
Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (Deluxe Soundtrack)Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings available on iTunes

Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings

Music fans around the world never thought people they would be able to hear Kurt Cobain's work as a solo artist until now, but it certainly isn't how Cobain intended it. Recently his widow Courtney Love and daughter Francis Bean authorized a documentary called Montage of Heck. It focused on his life and featured old home movies, audiotapes and present-day commentary from Kurt's friends and family. The soundtrack album is called Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings, and many of the tracks are simply Cobain strumming on his guitar or messing around with his tape deck. As a big Nirvana fan, Jim compares the release as was grave robbery. He gives it a massive Trash It. Greg agrees, and notes the whole thing sickens him. The“album”never should've seen the light of day. Cobain sounds stoned, distracted and bored, not at all like how he lit up a stage with Nirvana. Greg says Trash It, as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 522
Album ArtSilence Yourself available on iTunes

Savages Silence Yourself

Last year, London-based quartet Savages burst onto the indie scene seemingly fully formed. Jehny Beth, Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton had been a band for less than a year when the UK music press caught on to "Husbands," the group's debut single. Critically acclaimed performances at CMJ, SXSW, and Coachella followed (In our own SXSW wrap-up, Jim declared he had“seen God”at Savages' set). So do they deliver on their Matador Recordsdebut Silence Yourself? Jim's answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" Not only does he stand by his previous claim that Jehny Beth is the most compelling rock frontperson since Kurt Cobain, he extends the Nirvana metaphor. Just like that legendary nineties grunge band, Savages take familiar ingredients (post-punk and minimalism) and make them fresh. Greg agrees. This is a serious band, he says, with the album cover manifesto to prove it and the songs to back it up. Silence Yourself gets an enthusiastic double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 389
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just SitSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit available on iTunes

Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has garnered attention over the last few years on the strength of a few buzzed-about EPs. She made a big splash at this year's SXSW and now has a proper album out called Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Greg loves how Barnett takes everyday details and turns them into incisive songs filled with fleshed out characters. She's also a fantastic guitar player with a distinctive rhythm/lead style. It's one of the best collection of songs Greg has heard in years. Jim compares Barnett to Kurt Cobain in her ability to mix the power of rock with the intricacy of pop melodies. Like Greg, he proclaims it one of the best albums of the year so far. Both critics give Courtney Barnett a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 488
dijs

Greg

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night”Nirvana

Greg wraps up the show by picking a classic MTV moment for the Desert Island Jukebox. He highlights "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," which Nirvana performed live as part of MTV's Unplugged series. If Greg had to choose a single performance by the band, it would be this one. The late Kurt Cobain pours his heart and soul into it, and the band's backing is incredibly empathetic. Of course, Cobain did not pen this tune. It was originally recorded as "In the Pines" in the late 1930s, and Jim and Greg discussed its evolution as part of a conversation with cyberlaw and free culture guru Lawrence Lessig.

Go to episode 36
lists

Valentine's Day Live

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Sound Opinions decided to have an intimate celebration — just Jim, Greg…and a couple hundred of their closest friends. They invited listeners to join them in a live taping at the Chicago Cultural Center. They were also joined by alt-country troubadour Robbie Fulks and his wife Donna. Robbie and Donna agreed to act as the Paul Shaffer of the show and perform the hosts‘ favorite love, lust and anti-love songs. They also treated the audience to some of Robbie’s own songs.

There are so many different types of love songs in rock and roll, that Jim and Greg had to divide their picks into 3 different categories:“Love Stinks,”"Endless Love," and“Carnal Love.”These hit all the notes of heartbreak, romance and lust that run through rock music. Jim and Greg picked out some of their favorite love songs and asked Robbie and Donna to perform them. Here are the selections featured on the show:

Love Stinks

  • Jim: Rolling Stones, "Dead Flowers"
  • Greg: Richard and Linda Thompson, "Walking a on Wire"

Endless Love

  • Jim: Mudhoney, "If I Think"
  • Greg: Smokey Robinson, "You Really Got a Hold On Me"

Carnal Love

  • Jim: The Troggs, "I Want You"
  • Greg: Amazing Rhythm Aces, "Third Rate Romance"

The audience also got a chance to get in on the action. Here are some of their favorite love songs:

  • Sebadoh, "Not a Friend"
  • Extreme, "More Than Words"
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, "In The Aero Plane Over The Sea"

Sound Opinions H.Q. also dug up some trivia on two famous rock couples. Biographer Michael Streissguth, who wrote Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece, believes that Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash's“song”would have to be "Meet Me in Heaven." While "Ring of Fire" encapsulated their relationship early on,“Meet Me in Heaven,”is a song the couple loved to perform together later in their life. The lyrics really expressed how Johnny felt about growing old with June.

Also, Charles Cross, who wrote Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, told us that Kurt and Courtney Love's song was an odd one. "Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks was a favorite of the punk-loving couple. This was the first song Kurt Cobain ever purchased on a 45, and he appreciated its origins. The song was based on a French story by Jacques Brel called "The Dying Man." He wrote it for the Beach Boys, but that band thought it was a little too dark for them to record. Sounds perfect for Kurt and Courtney.

Go to episode 63
features

Music of the Beat Generation

If you read On the Road in high school, you know a thing or two about the Beat movement's influence on literature. This week, Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll author Simon Warner wants to get you thinking about the Beat influence on rock. Forget the stereotypical bongos; Warner says Beat fathers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were most inspired by Harlem's avant-garde jazz invention, Bebop. Warner makes the case that the Beats influenced a whole generation of rock lyricists - Bob Dylan and John Lennon among them - to embrace a more surrealist, personal, and politically engaged approach to lyric-writing. Think of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," he says, as Beat poetry with a, well, beat. But while Ginsberg and Kerouac struck a chord with the hippie generation, it was Beat colleague William S. Burroughs who served as guru to the later musical avant-garde. 1970's punks Jim Carroll and Patti Smith, and alternative era stars like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, all made pilgrimages to Burroughs' NYC bunker-apartment to pay their respects to“Old Bull Lee.”Burroughs'“cut up”writing technique may still inspire wordsmiths from Bowie to Thom Yorke, but Jim thinks it's Kerouac whose legacy may ultimately be the most lasting. It's that writer's spirit of adventure, Jim says, that continues to motivate every indie band still "on the road."

Go to episode 398
news

Music News

At the beginning of the show Jim and Greg give an update on a news story they've been following–one of the biggest in contemporary music history. Last week they reported the planned merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. This week the heads of those companies spoke at a hearings before our nation's legislators. At the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, CEOs Irving Azoff and Michael Rapino were greeted with skepticism, even sarcasm, as they tried to defend their plan and its effects on consumers. Jim and Greg have a very different feeling after this hearing than they did during the Ticketmaster investigation in the mid-'90s. This time, they think the law might come down on the side of the consumer.

In other sad industry news, New York City landmark Manny's Musical Instruments will close down in May. The store, which was purchased by Sam Ash in 1999, has served such customers as Benny Goodman and Kurt Cobain over the years. Even our own Jim DeRogatis used to visit the store and“music row”in his youth.

Go to episode 170

Music News

Major labels made a bit of news this week, and allowed Jim and Greg to justify their use of the“brontosaurus hurdling toward the tar pit”metaphor. So what is driving this particular dinosaur into extinction? According to our hosts, it's technology. Universal Music appeared to recognize this hurdle this week when they announced that they were cutting costs of some of their online music in Europe. So if you want to buy something from their catalog as a digital file, rather than as a physical CD, you'll only have to pay around $10. Seems reasonable to us here in the States. The CEO of EMI Music reiterated this idea in a statement to the London School of Economics. He said,“The CD as it is right now is dead.”A bit of an overstatement perhaps, but it's entirely possible that the market will split between iTunes listeners and die hard collectors (who want vinyl). In the meantime, EMI consumers can expect more content packaged with their old-fashioned audio CD.

One artist who hasn't been hurt by extinction is Kurt Cobain. Forbes named him the number-one-earning dead celebrity, even ahead of The King, Elvis Presley. Cobain's estate earned over $50 million this year alone, mostly due to the sale of Nirvana's song catalog to Primary Wave Publishing. Fans have widow Courtney Love to thank for that.

Sound Opinions always loves when Bono is in the news (which is usually every day). This time, though, it's more U2's music than the man himself. Apparently 150 Episcopal churches across the nation have adopted a new service entitled the U2charist, which blends the band's songs with the traditional Eucharist. The service kicks off with a rendition of "Pride," and also includes a collection for Bono's campaign to eradicate extreme poverty and global AIDS. Of course rock + religion is nothing new. Al Green and Solomon Burke infuse their pop music into religious ceremonies with great success. But the real question is how Bono measures up to Mase.

Go to episode 49